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Thursday 19 August 2004
Working abroad: James Eder
Written by James Eder, AIESEC member
Eating lunch
Eating lunch on the island

James Eder is sharing his business skills with local people in Colombia this summer.

He's travelling abroad with the AIESEC student organisation, and he's writing a regular diary on BBC Birmingham.


Stevie Cameron
Stevie's in The Philippines.
Diary 1
Diary 2
CSR Conference
Diary 3
Diary 4

Andrew Webster
Andrew's in India.
Diary 1
Diary 2
Culture Shock!
Diary 3
Diary 4
Diary 5

Jess Rudkin
Jess is working in the Czech Republic.
Diary 1
Diary 2
Diary 3
Diary 4
Diary 5

James Eder
James is sharing his marketing skills with local people in Colombia.
Diary 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Diary 6 - Aims
Diary 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11
Diary 12 - 13 - 14 - 15
Diary 16 - 17 - 18 - 19

Working with AIESEC
Jame Eder introduces the student organisation.

AIESEC in Birmingham
Amaneeta Shokur explains more about AIESEC and how she is involved.

Scheila came to Birmingham from Brazil on a student scheme run by AIESEC.

Students index

Profile of the South American country from BBC News.

Follow James' travels on this map of Colombia from Lonely Planet.

James' photos
Check out James' prints online.

Official website for the UK.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.



Population: 44.2 million (UN, 2003)
Capital: Bogota
Major language: Spanish
Major religion: Christianity
Money: 1 Colombian peso = 100 centavos
Exports: Petrol, coffee, coal, gold, bananas, flowers, chemicals, emeralds, cotton,, sugar, livestock


AIESEC (pronounced "i-sek") stands for the Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce.

AIESEC is the world's largest international student organisation with 30,000 members in over 86 countries.

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Out to the islands - Las Islas Rosarias
On the boat
On the boat

On the Sunday we went out to the islands for the day - they are around an hour away from the coast - we came to a stop around half an hour into the journey while a tour guide explained some history about the area.

While we were stationery, we all noticed some locals approaching us in small boats. There were three of them in vision getting closer and closer. I then turned around and realized that we were now surrounded by these small boats each containing two or three local Colombians.

Locals approach in small boat
Under attack?

What was going through my mind? I was questioning why we had stopped here and if it was planned so that they could come and take our valuables, or even worse, kidnap us.

Harsh reality

It then transpired that they were there to collect money. People began to throw money at them. They jumped and dived into the water to catch it, like circus performers. The reality is they seemed to get more money than the street kids at the traffic lights in Barranquilla who juggle and perform acrobatic tricks, hoping to gain change from drivers as they wait for the lights to go green.

It's difficult being in the office most days, working for a foundation trying to have a positive impact on these people and making a difference. Could I be having more of a direct impact? I know in reality, for anything to change, the groundwork has to be done first.

Beautiful beach and Caribbean waters

We set off again after not too long, with a relief and strange disappointed feeling for what just happened and the reality that many of the people Colombia face.

We were greeted by a beautiful tranquil island with a white sandy beach. Within the first few moments of setting foot ashore, we were targeted by the sellers: fresh lobster and a tour to the aquarium. As the day was an all-inclusive package, the persistence of sellers died down, leaving us to enjoy the sunshine and clear waters.

Dog and parrot playfighting
Dog and parrot playfighting

Lunch was really great: buffet style with fresh fish. A real treat (see photo at the top of the page). During lunch, our attention was drawn to a beautiful tropical parrot that at first appeared to be being attacked by a dog, but in fact the two were play-fighting, a funny sight to see.

A Bonice Moment!

On the way back to Cartagena, the boat stopped a number of times again, not voluntarily this time, but due to engine trouble. Not my idea of fun, with images of sharks and the music from Jaws entering my mind.

After a few more stops and starts, we were back on dry land, or not so dry: during the day it had clearly rained on the mainland and walking back to the hostel we had to dodge big puddles as the drainage system is not that advanced.

Dan Dos with an enormous Bonice penguin
Dan with a Bonice penguin

On the way back, Dan Dos converted all of us to the 'Bonice phenomenon', for a mere 300 Colombian Pesos, around 6 pence, you can get a very refreshing iced lollypop from the people roaming the streets with freezer boxes or giant penguins.

Rooftop bars

Rooftop bar
Rooftop bar

Our second and final evening in Cartegena was spent on the rooftop bar off one of the main squares. It's a really amazing venue in an old building with live music and a great atmosphere. We were all quite tired though, so in the end it wasn't a big night.

On the final day, we walked around the old city and went to Boca Grande near to the city. We ate handmade pizzas for lunch after we struggled to find a place to eat for over an hour because it was a national holiday and most restaurants were shut.

Dan Uno with another toy chiva
Dan with yet another chiva

I also bought my first Chiva model which I got personalized with "Pioneers 2004" written on the side, having been influenced by Dan Uno's continuing obsession.

"Follow that coach!"

Heading back to the Barranquilla, I fell asleep on the coach, only to be woken up by the others saying we were getting off the coach before the station as it was closer to where we live. Confused, because I had just woken up, I thought they were joking. Still in a daze, we got off the coach.

As we were about to set off home in the taxi, Juliet frantically searched her bag. Her wallet wasn't there. She tried to remember when she last had it and concluded it must be on the coach. As a result of trying to save some money by getting off the coach earlier, we were now in a taxi in a 'follow that coach' situation!

We arrived at the coach station and luckily found the coach that we had been on, just as it was being locked-up. Juliet and Dan Uno got on to have a look and found no sign of it.

We left the police our contact details and got a taxi back to Juliet's place. The taxi driver charged us time and a half claiming it was due to the public holiday. I'm not really sure if that was the case, but we paid it all the same. Juliet only had one debit card in her wallet so once her bank was called, we all decided to go and treat ourselves to ice cream on the corner of the road where I am staying with Juan K.

Too good to be true

As we sat and spoke about the weekend, Juliet got her ice cream and told us how the person who served her had commented on her amazing blue eyes, something that is very different here.

My phone rang: it was Juliana informing us that her family had received a phone call from someone who had found Juliet's wallet, saying that they would keep it for her until she collected it from them. Luckily, Juliet had written a list of contact details and her address in her wallet only a few days earlier.

Another great weekend

After a couple of days delay, due to trouble getting through to the woman that had the wallet, Juan K's mother took us to the address and Juliet was given back her wallet, and not one thing was missing: all the money was there, over 120,000 pesos, the debit card and everything.

We could not believe it, everyone saying that would never have happened in England. Challenging stereotypes and generalisations, finding good honest people is not country specific.

Written by James Eder

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AIESECers in the Caribbean sea
AIESECers in the Caribbean sea
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