I will explain more in an article soon, but I will need to be relatively brief with my coverage of the GPUG Amplify South Africa 2018 conference. Needless to say Jennifer and I had a fantastic time in South Africa.
From my perspective, it was wonderful to have my wife along for the trip so she could meet some of the great people I work with… my “Conference Buddies”. That’s what I call my friends in the Microsoft Dynamics GP community that I only catch up with at conferences.
The conference was held at The Canvas Riversands complex in Johannesburg on the 21st and 22nd of May 2018. Most of the visiting guests (from Australia, United States and Cape Town) stayed at the Sun Square hotel in the Montecasino complex.
Jennifer and I flew in on the evening of Wednesday 16th May after two long flights from Perth via Dubai on Emirates. Maybe next time I will fly Perth to Johannesburg direct even though it costs more. I suppose that decision comes down to how much you value your time and your sanity. Mariano had arrived from the US a few hours earlier and I spoke to him in his room before Jennifer and I went to our room and got some much needed sleep.
Thursday was spent chilling around the Montecasino complex which is designed to look like an Italian village from the Tuscan region. Once inside the main casino building it still looks like you are wandering around a village with complete buildings inside the main buildings and a ceiling painted as sky (one side is day and the other side is night). It would be very easy to lose track of time inside the casino building which had shops, restaurants, a movie theatre, a game arcade, laser tag and of course a casino… but I suppose that is exactly the idea.
We did escape the Casino and Adriaan played chauffeur and dropped Mariano, Jennifer and I to Sandton City and we had lunch and wandered around the shops and Nelson Mandela Square.
In the evening, we caught up with Alicia Weigel (from Rockton Software) and Angie Ryan & Katie Froeber (from Dynamic Communities, the people behind GPUG). Pieter Cornelius (from Braintree) joined us for pre dinner drinks but did not stay for dinner at the Hussar Grill (across the piazza from the hotel). I had a wonderful beef fillet steak and that set the theme for most of the dinners in South Africa. Jennifer heard it mentioned that “South Africa is where meat is meat and chicken is salad”.
On Friday, Mariano and I spent time at the conference venue (Riversands Incubation Hub) with the development team from Braintree running a workshop where we covered various topics related to Microsoft Dynamics GP development, Dexterity, Source Code Control, Visual Studio as well as some of the cool “stuff” Mariano saw at the recent Microsoft Build conference. Jennifer took the day to relax and visit the Bird Gardens within the Montecasino complex as well as plan a tour for Saturday. We had planned on having dinner out, but the jet lag caught up with us and we ended up crashing and going to sleep instead.
So on Saturday we (Mariano, Jennifer and I) had a private tour guide for the day who took us to the Lion & Safari Park in the morning and the township of Soweto (Wikipedia) in the afternoon. Jennifer and I had both been on Safaris before but Jennifer had not petted lion cubs or a cheetah like I did last year, so I persuaded her that a visit to the Lion Park was worth it and she was not disappointed. We also did a tour on a truck with our driver and guide, Princess, and got to see many animals including (in no particular order) adult Lions, Cheetah, African Wild Dogs, Hyenas, Leopard, Ostrich, Guinea Fowl, Giraffe, Springbok, Gnu, Impala, Porcupines, Meercats, and Nile Crocodiles.
On the way to see Soweto we stopped at the Orlando Towers. The towers are all that remains of the Orlando Power Station and are now used for extreme sports: Free falling into a net and bungee jumping. At the base of the towers is a traditional Braai (South African BBQ) eatery called Chaf Pozi where our guide and driver, Pike, and us had lunch including trying Pap (similar to Polenta but made from maize) for the first time.
Soweto was really interesting as it was the location for the start of the anti-Apartheid movement and the homes for two Noble Peace Prize winners, Bishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela. We also visited the memorial for Hector Petersen who was one of the youngest children killed during the Soweto student uprising on 16 June 1976. While all life is important and valuable, Hector is specifically remembered because he was photographed by Sam Nzima as he was carried away wounded. Visiting the memorial was sobering and helped me see how far South Africa has come and how far it still has to go. It will take generations for the shadow of Apartheid to fade.
Dinner was at The Rock in the Design Quarter mall with Pieter and all the international visitors. They had something for everyone on the menu and it was a great way to finish off the day… stuffed with food. 🙂
On Sunday we had a late start and met Adriaan Davel & family, Ben Strachan, Mitch Holfeld & family for brunch. We were also were joined by Miguel Lozano (from TitaniumGP) who had just arrived from the US. After brunch Mariano and I got together to start working on our presentations… just kidding. We had prepared, but had not sat down together to plan how we would present the materials. We had seven sessions to go through and for some of them the material was new to one of us.
Time caught up with us and suddenly it was time for yet another meal. This time, all the international visitors and local sponsors ate at an African themed, buffet style restaurant called Chief’s Boma. Someone told the staff that it was Mariano’s birthday recently and the staff sung a very aggressive “Happy Birthday” to him and then force fed him some cake. I brought along some Tim Tams (as usual) and managed to persuade almost everyone to try a Tim Tam Slam. Tim Tams are available in South Africa but are quite expensive as they are imported from Australia.
After dinner everyone retired for the night as the conference proper started the next day.
This article was originally posted on http://www.winthropdc.com/blog.