Scott Hanselman

South Africa 2008 – My Passport is Full

December 9, '08 Comments [81] Posted in Africa
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My passport is nearly out of pages, and that nearly kept me from entering South Africa this weekend. South Africa has a strict rule that your passport not only expire more than 3 months in the future (which is common) but also that it have at least TWO full blank pages left.

The Situation

I knew this, but didn't worry about it because I have exactly two pages (23 and 24) left. However, when we arrived in Johannesburg Airport and started going through passport control, the young lady at the desk announced:

"Your Passport is full."

"Ah, well, it has two free pages at the back."

"NO. It's full. Those pages are for amendments, not Visas."

"Really? I didn't realize that. I'm not sure I know what an amendment is. Can we just use those and I'll promise to get more pages when I get back home?"

"No."

"Well, what can be done? Is there someone I can talk to?"

"What are you saying exactly?"

"I'm wondering if there's someone who might be able to help out with this problem."

"Are you implying I don't know how to do my job?"

"Um, no, not at all, I'm just trying to understand what the next steps are."

At this point, I'm literally stunned. The anger and negative vibe I'm getting here is really greater than ANYTHING I've ever felt before. We've had stones thrown at us by hooligans and had years of stares and negativity, but I'm really sensing that this lady HATES me, and I'm only a few sentences into our interaction here.

Then a older white guy comes over (the angry passport person was a very young Black lady) and asks what's up. It's clear that he's a peer from a job perspective. NOT a boss. In fact, there doesn't appear to be a boss anywhere to be seen. I'm used to some kind of passport overseer around.

Anyway, this guys says, "No, no, there's a new rule - there was a memo - that it's now OK to use the Amendments page on American Passports." This new rule is apparently a few months old.

I've been silent since my last sentence...but now the older guy and the young lady are starting to get into it, in front of me. He's saying that he'll take the responsibility/fall and sign whatever to get me my visa. She's saying no way. Then he snatches my passport from her and walks away sharper, declaring "...and now I have to do YOUR job."

The young lady is now mumbling under her breath in isiZulu about what an asshole both this guy and I am. But she's continuing to process the family's passport. A VERY long ten minutes pass and Older Guy comes over all apologies and light, saying he's sorry for the confusion and the trouble. He leaves.

The Young Lady gives us our passports and I say "Siyabonga sibili sisi..." She starts a little, but there's still steam coming out of her ears. But, we're through.

The Analysis

My wife is pretty steamed at this point, but not with Young Lady, instead with me. She feels I handled a very African situation in a very American way. Rather than being instantly and extremely submissive to the Person in Power, I was logical, and implied that perhaps a supervisor could break the impasse.

My brother in law feels that Americans in a service capacity (like a Passport Control Officer) typically don't want responsibility, preferring instead to defer to a supervisor who would ultimately take any heat from a decision. Africans, on the other hand, will assert any and all power that they have, almost a societal game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. A bus driver may be a "societal nobody" but he's still King of the Bus and he can kick Hobos and Presidents alike off the bus. This woman, for whatever reason, was asserting her Power, and when I didn't back down and say something like "Oh, my, I'm so sorry, I had no idea...can you help me?" I had already lost.

This interaction put a REALLY bad taste in my mouth, as it was an interaction that totally didn't go the way my mental script had laid it out.

As much as people are the same, cultures are VERY different. Now I realize that this Young Lady might have just broken up with her boyfriend or been oppressed by Whites her whole life. Or, maybe she just had a bad day and I got caught in the middle. I'll never know, but I do know that I was a biscuit away from being turned around (or calling the US Embassy) and came dangerously close to a ruined trip.

What's the moral of the story? I've travelled all over, and I think I'm pretty thoughtful, knowledgeable and even charming. This usually works great for me (has for 35 years) in interaction with folks. However, even after more than a half-dozen trips to various African countries, I'm reminded that I don't know much at all. I'm not quite sure what I could have done to make this interaction more successful, short of living in South Africa for more than a month at a time.

What do YOU think, Dear Reader? How do things work in your country between People with Power and People without? This might be as simple as an interaction between a customer and a waiter, or a loan officer, or a customs agent.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 141 - Coding4Fun with Dan Fernandez and Brian Peek - Wiimotes and YouTube

December 5, '08 Comments [1] Posted in Coding4Fun | Podcast
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My one-hundred-and-forty-first podcast is up. I talk with Dan and Brian as they turn the successful Coding4Fun blog into a book. Brian shares how to interface with the Nintendo Wii's Wiimote, and Dan tells us how to download and convert YouTube videos in one click.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show!

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET and Windows Forms. Enjoy the versatility of our new-generation Reporting Tool. Dive into our online community. Visit www.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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South Africa 2008

December 5, '08 Comments [29] Posted in Africa
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Mount KilimanjaroWe try to go to Africa every year if we can. We went there to get married and negotiate lobola. We took our first son there to meet his Grandmother, and now we head back to introduce Son #2 to Gogo.

We're all packed and the house is safe in the hands of the house-sitter. We've got about 25 hours of travel ahead of us with a 1 year old and a 3 year old in tow.

If I'm connected at all on this trip, it'll be to blog about our travels, so temporarily, this blog will turn into an Africa Travel Blog, as it has every year (or every other year) in December, so be warned. If you're not interested (as Jeff is not) in such gripping topics as Black Hair, "Waiting for Death's Sweet Release" or Finding a Fundi, then I'll see you in January. If I get a chance, we'll podcast from the other side of the world as well.

One other thing, I'll be stopping by two User Groups while ekhaya, first on the 8th at 6:30pm in Gauteng in Johannesburg, South Africa:

When: 8th December 2008 18:30 - 20:30
Venue: Microsoft Auditorium 2, Bryanston (
directions)
Topic: Probably MVC and very open Q&A - Vote here.
RSVP: Please RSVP including your full name as Microsoft security now requires this upfront.

Then in Cape Town on the 17th at 1:00pm in Mowbray:

When: 17th December 2008 13:00 (sharp) (yes, that's 1pm)
Venue: Microsoft Cape Town -  Golf Park 3, Engen House, Raapenberg Road, Mowbray

Topic: "Building a Real Website with ASP.NET MVC: Suffering and Pain and Joy" and (very) open Q&A

RSVP: Please RSVP including your full name as Microsoft security now requires this upfront, at hilton at giesenow.com or at http://dotnet.org.za/sadevelopercapetownevents/

Please feel free to spread the word if you're in RSA, but remember that RSVP'ing is needed. See you there!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 140 - Rob Conery learns about Domain Driven Design

December 4, '08 Comments [7] Posted in Podcast | Programming
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My one-hundred-and-fortieth podcast is up. Neither I nor Rob Conery are experts in DDD (Domain Driven Design.) We hear a lot about DDD, but we hear very "Zen-like" and "soft" terms. As concrete (or fairly so) thinkers, Rob and Scott try to get our tiny minds around DDD. Is it a fad? A religion? Some kind of software design cult? Rob Conery has decided to learn for himself, and I join him for the trip in this episode. We likely accomplished nothing, but we've taken the first step.

The premise of domain-driven design is two-fold:

  • For most software projects, the primary focus should be on the domain and domain logic; and
  • Complex domain designs should be based on a model.

Also, check out Eric Evans on .NET Rocks!

Subscribe: Subscribe to HanselminutesSubscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show!

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET and Windows Forms. Enjoy the versatility of our new-generation Reporting Tool. Dive into our online community. Visit www.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 139 - Moonlight (Silverlight on Linux with Mono) with Miguel de Icaza and Joseph Hill

December 4, '08 Comments [0] Posted in Open Source | Podcast | Silverlight
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Mono Project Logo My one-hundred-and-thirty-ninth podcast is up. Scott chats with with Miguel de Icaza and Joseph Hill, the folks behind Moonlight. It's Silverlight on Linux with Mono and it's Open Source!

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show!

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET and Windows Forms. Enjoy the versatility of our new-generation Reporting Tool. Dive into our online community. Visit www.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.