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September 2004
Working abroad: James Eder
Written by James Eder, AIESEC member
Campfire on the beach
Campfire on the beach

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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Stopped by the police again

The journey ended up taking a lot longer than expected. The promise of a direct route was more of a myth. At one of the road tolls near Santa Marta, the coach came to a stop and we were ordered by the police to get off the coach. As we were sitting near the back, by the time we had to get off everyone was lined up by the coach. I felt another sinking feeling - I really didn't want to get off the coach.

As we were surrounded buy sellers of local food and drinks, the police instructed women and children back on the bus and then - without questioning us - allowed the men back on. Supposedly, they'd checked the bus for bombs. We were allowed on our way. It crossed my mind that the search was to get all of us outside, allowing the sellers to market themselves to us. Either way, we were safe. I didn't feel unsafe but the uncertainty of the situation was worrying.

Sellers on the buses

During the journey, people selling different things came onto the bus (similar to the sellers on the local buses) some asking for money to sponsor children, some selling pens, some selling food and drink. Something we couldn't help but find funny was a man who stood at the front of the bus selling pills to improve sexual performance - and then people purchasing!

The wonders of Tayrona National Park

James in the forest
James in the forest

We arrived at the entrance to the park after a far-from-direct route. Those who'd worked in Colombia for year got discounted entry as they are considered citizens. The rest of us paid the full 20,000 pesos, just over £4. After paying, we were driven to the car park entrance and then we walked for 45 minutes up and down the tropical terrain to the coast and camp site.

Despite the cloud cover and thick vegetation, it was hot and humid. After the likes of The Blair Witch Project and other films, I never like walking through areas like this, but the path was clear and well used. However, I was pleased to see a clearing at the end when we hit the coast.

Shortly after arriving, we set up our hammocks undercover due to the surrounding clouds. Four out of the seven of us decided to play it safe, the other three left it till later to decide. The water where we were was too dangerous for swimming due to the strong undercurrent so we ventured further along the coast.

Ant motorways

Ant motorway
Ant motorway

We entered the forest again. Stopping every so often to take photos, one amazing aspect hard to ignore was the amazing network of ants at work which appeared to be following ant motorways extending further than the eye could see.

After a relaxing afternoon of snoozing on the beach, waking every so often to cool in the clear Caribbean waters we headed back to camp. The others deciding to brave it under the clouds. The decided to sleep outside in hammocks between trees. After dinner, we all met on the beach and sat up talking around our camp fire (see photo above) with fork lightening surrounding us. Luckily the rain held off apart from a slight drizzle which passed after a few minutes.

James and Juliet wait for sunrise
Waiting for sunrise

Due to my previous conflict with numerous mosquitoes, I was determined not to be bitten. I covered up as much as possible (trousers tucked into shoes and everything) and I climbed into my hammock. I tossed and turned, falling asleep for mere minutes. After a while, I felt myself being bitten again so I got a mosquito net out of my bag. Julia and Juliet couldn't sleep either. We started laughing - we'd all stayed quiet as we thought everyone else was asleep. After cocooning myself in the mosquito net, I continued to sleep until 5am, when I woke for sunrise.

Sunrise on the Caribbean coast


By the time I woke, most of the clouds had cleared. I took down my hammock from the shelter and suspended it between two trees on the beach less than 20 metres from the water's edge. As I went dozed, enjoying the view and taking photos, Julia came and joined me for a bit.

The big rock

After breakfast, we cleared up our things ready to leave later in the day and went down the coast to another beach where it was safe to swim. A number of people had already visited Tayrona before I arrived. They took us to a rock that you could jump off, with each of us attempting a different jump style.

James climbs the rock
James climbs the rock

I did a spectacular forward flip, but ended up only doing 1.5 flips, landing on my face. I thought I had given myself a nose bleed - - shark images and Jaws theme entered my head. I could feel the current as we swam back to shore. I was although my head was still a bit sore. We stayed on the beach until around midday, when the clouds decided to return and we heard the thunder in the distance.

Back to Barranquilla for the last time

The thunder increased but luckily the rain held off as we walked back to the main car park. On the way back, we met two people I'd met at the synagogue the week before. We advised them to stay at the second camp site and were on our way.

James and Juliet standing on the bus
On the bus

On arrival at the car park, there were two different buses that were going to what we thought was the main entrance. We were told we'd have to wait for the next bus because there was only one free space. After a bit of persistence, we were just told to get on. Stood up, surrounded by Colombians, I struggled to hold on as we went down the windy roads.

Getting home

When we arrived at the entrance to the park, it turned out that the bus was going to Santa Marta Coach terminal so we could get it all the way to there back! After a few minutes on the main roads, we were told to squat on the floor. I was a bit confused but it was because of regulations and the police - we had to appear out of sight especially when passing check points! It was another unnerving 20 minutes or so before arriving at our destination.

In Barranquilla, we ended up getting the slowest taxi ever back to Juan K's apartment with number hair raising experience. I was sitting in the front wishing the time away until we arrived back home. Dan Uno, Dan Dos, Juliet, Juan K and I had our traditional Sunday night session downloading our photos and sharing funny stories from the weekend.

I can't quite believe we only have one week left and less than that in Barranquilla. It was another truly great weekend and something that I wish more people could get to experience and see.

Written by James Eder

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James in a hammock by the sea
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