Julie’s Practical Guide to a South African Safari

We just got home from my personal dream trip.  We had a chance to go to Johannesburg for business and were fortunate enough to add a few days to the beginning of the trip for a safari.  My sister and her husband had been before and recommended Mafigeni lodge to us, what a great choice!

What we have now is from our experience and my practical guide to anyone wanting to head to South Africa.  Some of my pictures are here.

  • You can plan forever or just go for it.  Based on our circumstances we did not have a ton of time for planning but still wound up with a great trip.  Be careful not to over plan, you will regret it.
  • With that said, you WILL be tired.  Sleep when you’re dead.  I was too tired twice and missed a newborn hippo on a morning drive and a leopard on a night-time drive. 
  • Drink lots of water, eat when it’s offered, sleep 6 hours or so.
  • My suggestion is don’t bring kids younger than teens, even if you travel a lot with them.  They will be too tired and you will worry more about them.
  • We went in the summer.  It was hot and the vegetation was thick, so a bit harder to see animals.  However, we had tons (no exaggeration) of baby animals to see and there were no crowds.  I would like a trip another time of the year, but am glad for what we saw now too.
  • During the day, comfort and sunscreen are most important, at night it’s anti-mosquito all the way.
  • Make sure you have plenty of clean undies and socks.  The shirts/pants you bring should be comfy, fast to dry and versatile.  Pants that zip off to shorts, great.  It’s amazing how fresh you feel with clean drawers, socks and a fresh tooth brushing, shower or not.  Comfy shoes are good, keep in mind when you are hot your feet swell, the shoes will get tighter.
  • When out in the bush (away from big cities) shake it before you wear it or use it.  There are creepy crawlies.  A few more than in other warm places and we are not familiar with them.  Shake your towel before you use it, your clothes before you dress and your shoes before you put them on.  Keep your suitcases closed unless you are using them RIGHT NOW.  Again, creepy crawlies.
  • Be adventurous with what you eat.  Unless it’s still moving or you know you’re allergic, just eat it.  I would never had chosen to eat impala or wildebeest on my own, but it was dinner at different times.  Impala was very yummy (had impala stew and a roast).  Wildebeest, not so much my thing.  We also found Oreos, waaaaay out near the Mozambique border, so they have “real” food too.
  • Find a great guide/company to work with, we used Mafigeni. They took care of everything.  Picked us up from the airport (5-hour drive), fed us, drove us to and around Kruger Park, laundry, overnights at their lodge and in the park itself, our own personal guide for days AND made us feel like part of their family while there.  They are a small company, but nothing short of professional.  (5 days 4 nights all inclusive transport, food, accommodations, guide, etc for 4 people for just over $3k, good deal too)
  • What medicines to pack….anti-malaria, Advil (better than Tylenol with anti inflammatory), sunscreen (SPF 50), mosquito repellent, anti-itch/aloe/Benadryl, good all over moisturizer, lip-balm (with SPF)
  • plenty of memory cards for your camera (duh, I know)
  • from our experience South Africa was no more dangerous than other places we’ve been to.  Just like anyplace where you are the visitor, keep your guard up, try to blend in and don’t be a loud stupid American.  You are a guest, act like it.

xRMvirtual.co.za meeting huge success

A while back Dylan Haskins contacted me about his interest in starting an xRM group in South Africa.  If you're reading this, then you know me well enough to know that that just pleased me to pieces and I wanted nothing more that to help him any way I could to have some xRM love in South Africa.  He'd been working on forming the group off/on between work and life obligations, but hadn't quite cemented it, but not for lack of want.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when my hubby was asked to teach a VS2010 class in Johannesburg, to which I repsonded "cool, I'm going too dear."  I emailed Dylan, it had been a while, to see if by chance they would be having a meeting while I was in town.  I really wanted to see them in action.  He quickly responded that they wanted to have a meeting if I was going to be around and tadah, they scheduled one.  Thinking back to the start of my xRMVirtual endevour, I needed that final push from my buddy Shan McArthur to get that group going.  What are firends for, eh?

When I say they scheduled a meeting, that is underselling what he and the others in South Africa accomplished.  They got the word out and had a membership drive, membership opened 8 days ago and they have over 100 members already.  The room today was filled for the meeting.  The content was great, prefect intro to see what the group wanted/needed.  I was honored to be asked to say a few words.

The local Microsoft folks, like Paul Slade, have an initiative for xRM rock stars, the xRM Rangers.  It's like a stepping stone for the awesome folks we all know will one day be CRM MVPs representing South Africa.  The first group of Rangers were announced today as well.

Over the years I have worked with several groups getting started, including my own.  Most of them start their first meeting with 3 guys huddled around a single laptop, not a full room and rockstar lineup of speakers.  These folks deserve a huge pat on the back.

Thanks so much to the group, Dylan, Paul, Sean, John for your hospitality and for making this girl with a funny accent feel welcome.  I look forward to another trip to South Africa.


The xRM Rangers, v1.0
Johan Lotz, Dylan Haskins, Yolanda Du Preez, Kieth Hertz, Sean Vowles and Paul Mare

Our full room. 

XRM Virtual User Group Upcoming Events

Yup, we took a bit of a break through the holiday season, but we’re back.  Really back.  Our first meeting of the year had record attendance.  Details and recording are here. Dynamics CRM MVP Mitch Milam shared UI Tips and Tricks and made sure to answer all the questions and there were many of them.  Great job Mitch!


Coming soon…

I am heading to Africa next week and while there will have the wonderful opportunity of attending the xRM User Group in Johannesburg.  The meeting is on January 27th at the Microsoft office Johannesburg.  Their group site is here.


All meetings are at 9 am PST and all meetings are recorded for later viewing.  Watch for tweets from /xrmvirtual to know when the recordings are posted. You can register on the site for any of our events.  If you want to present or want a topic presented, let us know!

January 28 We have SDK gurus Jim Daly and Peter Hecke sharing with us their tour of the SDK.  We hope to answer any lingering questions you might have and show you some hidden gems as well.

February 2 Corey O’Brien, CRM guru, author and all around smart guy, brings to us an advanced session on plug-ins.

February 25 Anne Stanton shares with all the things you can do with CRM without having to write a line of code.

XRM Virtual User Group - Home

#CES the de-brief

I waited a few days before writing this up because I was waiting for my opinion to change.  Since that still hasn’t happened, here it goes.

I didn’t like it all that much.  I didn’t dislike it.  It was eh.

I think it was way overhyped.  I am already inundated daily with shiny objects all around me. Were there some cool things?  Sure.  Could I name them?  No, not really.  Were there some awesome things?  Not from my perspective.  The closest thing would be that 2-monitor laptop I saw.  It looked pretty physically fragile, so hopefully a couple of iterations from now, they’ll have it perfected, it’s a great idea.

My thoughts for improvements….

  • Be more selective on your vendors, go for quality over quantity.  How many different flat-screen tv wall brackets can one really see before just ignoring all of them?
  • Cap attendance.  Yes, you make money from vendors based on attendance predictions.  But if you are more selective on the vendor side, you can raise the prices for a vendor to participate because the ratio of attendee/vendor will shift.
  • Take charge of where vendors are placed on the show floors.  By this I mean take the “big” guys and spread them out a bit, sprinkle some of the “little” guys around them.  When you have huge company A right next to hug company B, no one sees anything but the mad rush of people that are pushing each other around trying to get a look.
  • Ask your keynotes (or insist, depends on your contracts I suppose) to show new stuff, not recycled stuff.  It’s no secret that I am a fan of Microsoft technology, but Steve Ballmer’s keynote was a big ole yawn for me.

Vegas is fun.  I got to see some friends I hardly ever see.  Got to have a date night with hubby to celebrate our anniversary, he proposed in Vegas, so it’s a special place for us.

Do I want my money back?  No, I was given blogger credentials and admitted free.  Ironic, huh?

#CES 2011?  Eh, not so sure for me.

2009 was the year of xRM

I admit to having a skewed view on the topic, but it really seems to me that I see/hear about xRM almost daily.

xRMVirtual took off like wildfire.  We had high hopes.  We talked about wanting big numbers.  Who doesn’t?  Well, we met those goals.  Meetings  always well attended.  Recordings viewed over and over.  It was great and the new year looks great too.

Dynamics CRM5.  Not much has been let out of this bag yet, but everything we see screams “xRM!!!!!!”.  At PDC there were a couple of labs, one about Solutions.  With this addition of the concept of a Solution, it opens CRM up to so many more products/customizations.  ISVs will now have the ability to have their own protected/managed solutions, versioning is possible, integration with customer’s customizations, more than one solution provider.  Really a huge move for xRMy things.

xRM got it’s own VPC and a great story to go with it.  What better way to teach the concept behind xRM than with a side by side comparison with CRM?  I’ve had many many hits on my blog from folks looking for that VPC (here’s the post, you have to have partner credentials to access it). 

xRM user groups are sprouting up everywhere, I’ve got 4 continents covered on my last list. So if you’re in North America, Africa, Europe, Australia, head off to a meeting.  They are too far away to be practical?  Let me know you’re interested, I’ll help you get started.

xRM is becoming more mainstream,  In another part of my life I work in the .NET community.  I work with INETA groups and also organize regional community events.  I am organizing the 2nd annual Rocky Mountain Tech Trifecta and we got some unsolicited session abstracts for xRMy topics.  I promise I didn’t set them up, they were organic.

So what do I see in 2010 for xRM?  My totally made up wish list is….

  • a separate sku of some variety for xRM.  Will give it more street cred and it’s earned it.
  • xRMVirtual continued growth, with CRM5 coming out in 2010, why wouldn’t it just keep going?
  • More on ground xRM user groups, not just CRM groups with an occasional xRMy topic (those are good too, but we have enough to talk about now, that xRM warrants its own focus).
  • World Peace.  (nah, just checking if you were paying attention, we’ll never have world peace, we just need to make sure the conflicts are fair).

Happy New Year!