My 2nd attempted mugging

I was on my way home last night. I stopped my motorbike to read a text message. It was just next to the central train / taxi station. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot a guy crossing the road towards me. Not in front or behind me, right towards me. I stuffed my phone in my jacket pocket. The bike was in 3rd gear. I dropped to 2nd and twisted the gas. It starts slowly in 2nd. He was running by now. He got to me just as the bike was moving off. His hand went straight for my pocket. He was on my right hand side. My right hand was on the accelerator. My left hand just managed to keep him out of my pocket. As my speed picked up he dropped off.

Close call.

Gotta love South Africa baby! 😉

Back to Mzoli’s

I’m going to Mzoli’s again today. Last time my trip to Mzoli’s prompted me to give up alcohol. The following morning I started counting my drinks from the night before. I drank somewhere between 15 and 18 beeers. I felt fine in the morning. Well, perhaps not fine, but normal.

This prompted me to question my alcohol consumption! I decided to give up alcohol for the rest of the month. I made an exception after my attempted mugging, but otherwise I haven’t had a drink since.

Today should be fun. Sober fun no less! 🙂

Oh, and no kilt this time. I don’t want to over-excite Gugletu! 😉

Cape Town Facebook Developers Garage

I was at the Cape Town Facebook Developers Garage last night. I have the badge to prove it!

South Africa Cape Town Facebook Developers Garage My ba

It was an interesting evening. Pizza was generously provided by Butler’s Pizza. If I’m not mistaken their delivery staff arrive wearing a tuxedo shirt (whatever it’s called) and a bow tie! Fantastic. Drinks were supplied by Joyent (I think I got the link right).

There were a few interesting presentations.  Jacques Marneweck spoke about memcache. He looked pretty nervous, but had some interesting things to say. He talked about starling, a memcache based queue server developed by Twitter and some other highly techy stuff. His slides were missing due to a format issue. I think the slides would really have helped the presentation, maybe he’ll post them online.

I’m meeting a few of the same people at most of the tech events in Cape Town. There seems to be a few interesting businesses going on down here. It feels like a small tech community, with a few “big fish”. Reminds me of Edinburgh.

Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch

Last Sunday I was at Kirstenbosch gardens for their weekly sunset concert. Last week McCully Workshop were playing. They’re a popular South African ’70s band and the concert was excellent.

Yesterday, Ismael Lo was playing. The concert set a new Kirstenbosch record selling out all 6’000 tickets in 6 hours. Ismael Lo is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonicist.

He really is a great performer. The whole band were excellent. They worked the audience well. By the third song people were already standing and dancing in the garden. By the end the whole audience was upright. It was a great afternoon.

They made an announcement at the beginning of the concert asking for no videos or photos. So the following are brought to you illicitly. 🙂

Here’s a shot of the stage early in the concert:

South Africa Cape Town Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch Early

Now here’s a shot of the crowd later in the concert:

South Africa Cape Town Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch The cr

Then a shot of the stage again nearing the end of the concert:

South Africa Cape Town Ismael Lo at Kirstenbosch Nearin

Finally, a short video of the closing seconds of the whole concert, after the 3rd encore, when the crowd were at their most excited:

My first attempted mugging

Long Street is the main backpacker hang out in Cape Town. It’s very much down town, a street lined with bars, restaurants and hostels.

I was walking along Long Street on Friday night. It was just before 6pm, so still daylight. A guy approached me asking for change. I responded with my usual “not on yer life pal” look. As he got closer he said “Don’t make me use my knife” and moved to block my path. The he turned to his friend, who at this point was behind me, and said “Give me the knife”.

I managed to skip around the accomplice made my escape along the road. I resisted the urge to run. I decided the street was pretty busy, they were unlikely to chase me.

All in all, it was a remarkably calm situation. I didn’t loose my cool. They didn’t try to stop me getting away. It was fairly unsettling though. The guy threatened using a knife in broad daylight. On a quiet stretch of an otherwise busy street.

The incident won’t stop me going out in Cape Town. I will definitely be more careful on that stretch of road though. I’m sure I’ll also be more cautious in general, particularly at night. Perhaps I’ll avoid future hassles because of this first contact with Cape Town trouble.

A trip to Guguletu

Guguletu is a township outside Cape Town. Answers.com defines a township as “A racially segregated area in South Africa established by the government as a residence for people of color.” Another word might be a ghetto.

I was told there’s always a good feast on a Sunday in the townships and some friends invited me to head out there with them. Being the proud Scotsman I am, I accepted so long as I could wear my kilt. It was set to be quite an adventure! 🙂

We left Cape Town a little after noon and caught a minibus taxi out towards Guguletu. It didn’t quite take us all the way, so we walked the last mile or so. It was obvious that we had left the “white” South Africa behind. For example, the hairdressers were in shipping containers.

South Africa Guguletu Hairdressers in containers

We arrived in good time to get a table. Later in the afternoon it’s next to impossible to find a seat. The place sells meat and ice, but no drinks. So you head to the local liquor store to stock up on beer, which we promptly did. Here’s a shot of Zim behind our bucket of beers.

South Africa Guguletu Zim going for the Amstel

Here’s a picture of me while I’m still (fairly) sober!

South Africa Guguletu Callum at Sunday meat

Zim ordered the meat, and some hours later, a tray of chicken wings arrived. I forget the name of the white stuff, but it’s made of maze meal I believe. Despite the fact it looks terrible, it actually wasn’t bad!

South Africa Guguletu Chicken wings on Sunday

It was hard to capture the essence of the afternoon with a still photo, particularly the pounding music (I had my earplugs!). So I shot a few videos, and I think this one sums it up best.

There was dancing, I think our table led the charge on the front actually. There was eating, drinking and much merriment. More than a few people asked me what was under my kilt and I gave my standard response to all of them. “To answer that question involves a woman and a blindfold.” Alas, no takers on this occasion. 😉

These girls did pose for a photo though. It seems to be the only picture of the day which actually shows I was wearing my kilt!

South Africa Guguletu Scotsman in the ghetto

Thanks to the kind Unathi, our friend with a car, we were able to stay out past the last taxi at 5pm. We got back into town around 11pm after stopping at a house in another township. Then three of us came back to my place and I think I finally crashed out somewhere between 1am and 4am. It was quite a Sunday!

It was really interesting to see a real South African party. The townships have a reputation as being dangerous, mainly because they’re poor areas. My experience was entirely positive. Everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. Several people had to be sharply corrected for confusing the words kilt and skirt, but everyone took it in good spirits. 🙂

Overall, it was a great day out. I’m sure it won’t be my last visit to the townships.

South African Internet

I hadn’t fully appreciated just how undeveloped the internet would be in South Africa. All internet connections down here are all bandwidth capped. Bandwidth costs about 70 rand per Gb. That’s about $10 USD per Gb.

Let me put that in perspective. A movie is around 700Mb (at the quality I download them), so that movie costs me around $7 to download. On the other hand, I can rent a DVD from the local store for 10 rand, which is about $1.50 USD.

Suddenly piracy takes on a whole new cost vs benefit equation. It’s cheaper to rent a damned DVD than to download it.

When Fedora 9 comes out, it’ll cost me around $50 USD to download. That’s just crazy. Still, the beer is cheap and plentiful, so I suppose it’s all just a matter of balance! 😉

First impressions of Cape Town

I began my journey from New York to Cape Town on Tuesday night, around 3am (technically Wednesday morning!) and I finally arrived in Cape Town on Friday morning around 11am. It was quite a journey!

Naturally, a little celebration was in order on Friday night, after a little sleeping. It turned out to be rather a lot of celebration actually, as we chased the party into the wee small hours of the morning.

Saturday night saw a little poker tournament at a friend’s place. The Scottish charm worked a treat and I walked away as the champion of the evening. Viva Scotland!

Then Sunday morning I watched while some friends took a morning swim in the ocean. It was a pretty beautiful spot.

South Africa Cape Town Good morning swim

Safety in South Africa

I’d heard stories that Cape Town was dangerous, although not as dangerous as Johannesburg. Every house I’ve been in has bars on the windows, and tall, locked gates. There are signs on many houses advertising that they are protected by an armed response service.

So it’s clear that crime is a problem here, or at least a perceived problem. However, I haven’t felt unsafe on the streets at any point. I’ve spoken to people in lots of different places, on the local minibuses, on the train, on the streets, in bars, and I haven’t felt unsafe with anyone I’ve met.

I have heard stories of muggings and robbery though, so it’s clear that there is a danger. I’ve been told, and I believe, that if you keep your wits about you, use common sense, and avoid certain dangerous situations, Cape Town can be enjoyed in safety.

Weather

It’s nice to be back in a warm country. The weather is very pleasant indeed. Warm sunshine, a cooling breeze, and cooler at night without being desperately cold. A light jacket and a tshirt is enough at night, so long as you have something to break the wind.