Thursday, September 26, 2002

Rex again: Let me tell you about the job market over here. I am an IT, which as a profession has never struggled to provide work for those who are prepared to spend their whole working lives in front of a PC and deal with arcana and ultra-logical thinking. Previous expats to these hallowed and ancient shores have experienced a shortage of supply and the resulting high wages and wide choices of work.

No longer, it seems. In keeping with Murphy's law, as soon as Phil and I decided to come over here (July 2001), the markets tanked, the .com's unbubbled, and general mayhem ensued. Projects were cut, staff numbers reduced and the demand for IT personnel shrank. In contrast with good 'ol SA, the first world doesn't have a shortage of graduates and any reasonably competant person is not guaranteed a job. So, how does one go about finding work ? Well, I registered with about 10 websites, including a couple of massive, internet-based, job advertisement websites. I applied for everything I thought I could do, but I got nowhere.

A couple of skills that those who are thinking of coming over here should have.
1) Financial services experience. This is a banking city and many jobs are in this sector.
2) Oracle database. I know M$ and Sybase, but oracle is the DB of choice over here.
3) UML (Universal Modelling Language), any architecture position absolutely requires a lot of experience in this. RUP (Rational Unified Process) is also very popular.
4) Java. Java is no longer good enough. Now you need J2EE, EJB, JSP, servlets. Of course, my pigdin java wasn't at the required level.

Let me say that you need to be really aggressive. Don't rely on the email / web forms to get you into the agent's good books. You need to phone them and bug the hell out of them.

Anway, at the end of it all, I got me a job. I am here, doing content management software consulting, which is pretty much what I used to do at Zen. I remember visiting the percussion website and targeting them as possible competition. Then I realised that we weren't in the same league when it came to resources. Funny how things work out.

Let me tell you one thing, though, living in London sure looks different when you are earning pounds and not living off your Rand savings.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Rex here: It's likely to be me posting for a while, because Phil has a job at ERM :)

So, how did that happen ? Well, eventually, our great travels had to end. This occured on 1 August, when we flew back from Pisa to London. We flew Ryan air for the measly price of 30 euros each (believe it, or not). Ryan air is a zoo ! There are no reserved seats, so everyone crowds and pushes trying to get the best seats, or even seats next to the person you are travelling with. So, when they checking opens, its a rush. I had visions of a rugby match. I was about to handoff one of my opponents, when I decided that we were in a good position, without resorting to violence. (See Nithia's post on anger management (2002-07-07)

When we arrived, the ground staff had forgotten to order some stairs for us, so we were stuck in the place. Eventually (20mins) one (1) stair arrived and we all left. Inside, our baggage was not around and only made an appearance after about 2.5 hours. The flight was shorter. To top it all off, we had to take the cheap option into London, by bus. 90 mins extra :) Luckily we weren't in a rush....

Saturday, July 27, 2002

(Rex):-- Hi All. Sorry for the shortage of posts. The Blogger posting issue, as well as the lack of connectivity in the midst of the Tuscan countryside has caused a lack of information flow.

So, where are we now ?? Firenze / Florence (depending on whether you want to be a pseudo italian, or just plain english colonialist). Just arrived today, after being on a week-long walking tour through the Tuscan country side. We met up with our friends, James and Philiipa (yes, another one)... It was so exciting. We met in Siena, which is a small town in the tuscan area. They were both coming, separately, from South Africa. Since Phil and I have left SA for a while, it was really cool to see some friendly faces again. We were literally jumping with excitement.

Then we forged off through Tuscany, using shank's pony, as it were. It would be difficult to describe how beautiful the area is, other than to say that it is not over rated, at all. Not many places you can say that about. All the pictures you see, are true reflections. The food is very italian, and very tasty. Walking 20km a day gave us a big excuse to eat our hearts out. Loverly.

Anyway. 2 mins left on the internet connection, so have to go.

Monday, July 15, 2002

As Rex says, Prague is a gem of a city. It is almost mystically beautiful, with buildings from every age still intact (Prague is one of the few European cities not to be decimated by bombing in the second world war). People are very beautiful in Prague. I am not sure what that is all about or why it is, but a lovelier set of citizens I have seldom seen. we undertook a couple of day trips out of Prague and into the pastoral areas beyond. Again, exceedingly beautiful. one of the towns we visited proudly advertised an ossuary. Now, I have to admit that in my igonrance I had no idea what that was. Queueing up at the local church to get into the ossuary didn`t enlighten me either. Neither did going down a large number of dusty steps. But what a sight at the end! The bones of 15 000 plague victims all piled up on top of each other in a dam and gloomy crypt. The dog-eared piece of paper explaining the history of the ossuary indicated that all the bones had been arranged and studied by a highly esteemed professor from Prague in the early 20th century. Personally I think he was cracked. His summations included:
1) identifying German skulls by the roughness of the bone surface
2) Arranging these skulls with the eyes facing towards the wall (he obviously had a thing about Germans)
3) Arranging a number of skulls in a large heart
4) Arranging some more skulls in a strange and incomprehensible latin saying

Very very odd. At least I now know what an ossuary is. Also, 15 000 dead people take up remarkably little for thought.

We are now in Budapest. I have yet to form an opinion of the city, but will share it when it has distilled a little. We are going to the Hungarian baths tomorrow, where we will mingle with the scores of naked, aged hungarians who apparently spend much of their days there for the health benefits of the spring water.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Rex Here.

I have managed to set the keyboard from Czesky to Angliky, so here goes....
I am not intending to carry on Phil''s academic debate. That stuff seems a bit beyond me :) Actually, with the price of connectivity here in Prague, I'll have to be brief.

We made our way here from Athens, which was incredibly hot, crowded and not the greatest place to visit in the Summer. We had to fly there after realising that we were running out of time and had relaxed too much in the Greek Isles! We realised that Prague is bloody far from Athens and it would take two or three days of solid travelling to get there. So, we decided to fly. Cost us 310 euros each, but we gained a few days. Priceless once on is on leave from work.

By the way, the guys at Swiss Air ( regularly have the cheapest flights, barring those originating from London, as long as you are prepared to route through zurich.

But, before I get to the joys of Prague, let me tell you about Hostel Festos. We traipsed all over Athens, looking for a place to stay. Now, with a backpack on your back and another on your chest, your bargaining position is quite weak. We eventually found hotel festos, and for the pricely sum of 50 euros, he would let us stay in his "hostel"and I use that word lightly. Besides being the most expensive accom we found, it was also the worst. Shared bathroom facilities is OK, but the place turns out to be on one of the busiest streets in Athens. Now, this is not a problem, except there is no Aircon and the room is absolutely sweltering. So, hobson's choice: Die of heat, or try to sleep with a din that sounds like it came from the depths of Hell itself. We resolved to move the next day. Luckily, we hadn't paid in advance, and with some manouvering, managed to only pay for the one night. Yea Gods, hope that doesn't happen again !

More on Prague later...

Thursday, July 04, 2002

Hi there, Phil here, with a less testy (but also less amusing) keyboard this time.

I have been musing over the nature of tourism, and of the strange practice of packaging bits of psuedo-culture for the purposes of consumption by sweaty foreigners in hats and suntanlotion with money to burn. Most people who class themselves as 'travellers' (as opposed to 'tourists') i.e. those who sweat a little more, spend a little less and don't buy package tours, seek the 'genuine experience, whatever that is. This is mystically believed to be found in the backwaters, in places requiring a ride on the back of a donkey to reach it, sleeping in a cave, or any other gritty but satisfying experience. It is not to be found in the "Turkish evening" including 'real emotion, bellydancing, hookah pipes and three genuine Turkish dishes' at 30 Euros a shot. However, I am not sure what the 'genuine article' is or how it is found bar going and living and working in a palce for a while. tourism is tourism, no matter how you choose to package it. A 'real Zulu dance' will be contrived as soon as it is presented for consumption by an audience of tourists. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't upset me. I really enjoy tourism activities, including dances, museums, food etc. Funnily enough one can learn as much through these activities as quietly sitting at a local market for a couple of hours and watching the trading interactions. Fascinating stuff indeed.

Rex and I are now on the island of Paros, a luscious place dedicated to pure escapism of the simplest sort - sun, sea, food and alcohol. It feels good to revel in that simplicity! We resisted the temptation to hire a moped (I came acropper with a simillar endeavour in Greece 6 years ago - very costly to have a moped accident). Instead we hired bikes and pedalled our way around the island. Such a wonderful feeling to fly down the hills that we sweated blood to get up (the knowledge worker's body is not made for these things).

Monday, July 01, 2002

Rex Here again.

We are now in Samos, an Isle in Greece. We had a wonderful time in Turkey. It is certainly a different place. People have been living there for a long time. Many cultures have had turkey as one of their possessions.

They even had two periods of being the top dogs themselves. The sultans up until about 1600 and the ottomans up until the end of the 1st world war. Not bad, really, probably better than most other nations (Like the kurds, who were never at the top, as far as I know).

We went to Goreme which is in the middle of Turkey. Its a small place, but it is truly amazing. The people there used to (and still do, a bit) live in these hollowed out rock houses. The geography works such that there are these little huts of rock that are hard on the outside and soft on the inside. You dig into the rock and you can make your self a pretty little housie !

They did this with fervour, all over cappadocia, which is the region. There are even underground cities which can house 1000+ people. Dug into the rock, to hide away from invaders. they must have been desperate.

The Turks are a friendly bunch, and seem to like tourists. Really. Not just to fleece them. They are quite helpful and not at all resentful if you don't want to visit their carpet shop (there are about 10 000000000 on every street).

They have a fantastic bus system which seems to have taken over the role of trains between cities. You catch an overnight bus for about 15 USD per person and then you are 12 or 15 hours travel away. Incredibly cheap, and you save on one night's accommodation (viva the Rand viva !)

We visited Efesus, which is an ancient roman ruin, with many of the bits still standing. The romans were incredible engineers and had central heating and running water. So much of their carvings and buildings remain, including a 25 000 seater stadium, with perfect acoustics.

Right, that's enough for now.