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October 2004
Working abroad: James Eder
Written by James Eder, AIESEC member
At the airport
At the airport ready to go home

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.

View a printable version of this page.
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Welcome to Bogota!

When flying over and landing, Bogota looked a lot greener than I expected it to. One great security feature in Colombia is that whenever you fly, you are not allowed to leave the airport before your bag tags are checked with the receipts that you are given when you check in your bags - we all were really impressed by this and do not understand why it is not internationally standardised like that! We were greeted with a cold rain, which felt strangely refreshing, I knew that feeling would not last.

Time limit on number-plates

The rest of the day was spent in and around Bogota. We had to drive to a shopping centre in time before we would be fined! In Bogota depending on your number-plate there are different times of day you drive, to restrict the congestion problem. I remember they also have similar laws in the Philippines.

If you are caught driving in these restricted times, you can face a fine of up to 300,000 pesos equivalent of around £60. We were so close to being liable to pay this fine that, instead of driving around the horrendous one way system, we ended up reversing a good few blocks and entered the car park with minutes to spare!

Bogota Beer Co bar
Bar in Bogota

Bogota really surprised me. I'm not sure what I was expecting - perhaps I thought it was going to be similar to Mexico City. It was cold however, between 10 to 16°C. The city is also around 2500 metres above sea level which meant during the day we seemed to be surrounded by the clouds. Dan Uno met us in the afternoon, arriving from staying in Menizales with Jen. We walked around what seemed to be a lively bustling city. There were lots of bars and restaurants like Covent Garden in London or Brindleyplace in Birmingham.

Warned to stay away

Friends and family had specifically warned me to stay away from Bogota and my original plans were not to even spend the few days that I did there. However, it was a great way to finish my trip in Colombia and it would have been such a shame to have missed it out.

I was reminded of the dangers when I was told to put my camera away in the mall, due to security reasons, photography was forbidden. The mall we were in had been bombed a few years earlier.

Trans-millennium bus

Narrow street in Bogota
Narrow street in Bogota

Our only full day in Bogota was spent touring the city, visiting the old streets. The trans-millennium bus service was an amazing aspect of the city, with two dedicated bus lanes for this service. I think it runs in less than half the city currently but it's still in its infancy. In areas that it doesn't serve, there are free buses that take you to the nearest stop. The system seemed to be far more advanced and modern than anything I've seen in Europe.

Hot chocolate & cheese anyone?

Hot chocolate.... with cheese
Hot choc.... with cheese

While walking around the old city, we stopped in a café for a warm drink. We ordered a hot chocolate. It was served with cheese! I was hungry, so it went down well but I was a bit surprised when it arrived!

As I walked through the streets filled with typical street-sellers that you'd find across the world, it was strange to think that in 48 hours this adventure would be over and it would be back to the daily university life.

AIESEC in over 80 countries

Last night
Last night out

The later part of the afternoon we visited one of the universities where AIESEC had just recruited their new members - it was really great as we were part of a role play to explain the exchange process - which is the core work that AIESEC does. It was great to see local people training and people learning about AIESEC.

Last night in Colombia

Last night
Dancing on the tables

Our last night in Colombia was celebrated in true style in a club up in the hills overlooking Bogota. The atmosphere was amazing - we were in a crowded amphitheatre-like room, dancing the night away on tables to all our favourite South American tunes that we had come to love, one after the other.

Hot dog
Late night hot dog!

The night ended with a customary stop at a late night local fast-food place. We stayed at Cesar's one of the local Bogota AIESECers. Both he and Andres another local AIESECer were very helpful during our final few days: greeting us at the airport and letting us stay with them, organising our leaving party as a social for the AIESEC members as well as showing us the city and finally saying goodbye to us at the airport.

Did somebody say Business Class?

On the last day in Bogota, we packed up our things and went to Yvonne's house for lunch. Yvonne was another local AIESECer from Bogota.

Dan in Colombia kit
Dan in subtle Colombian kit

Dan Uno and I were flying out on the British Airways sponsored flight in the afternoon; the others went to a local football game. We checked in, with the prospect of problems because we had stand-by tickets. Originally, we weren't sure if we were going to be able to get on the flight - but it was amazingly simple and we were issued with none other than Business Class boarding passes!

Jen and Shane were also booked on the same flight unfortunately arriving slightly later were told they had to wait until check in was closed for the flight. Andres, Jorge, Cesar and a few others arrived at the airport to say final goodbyes along with Juliet and Dan Dos (see photo at the top of the page).

It was time for Dan Uno and I to go through. We hoped the others would get on so we waited in the departure lounge (after getting some Colombian coffee for family and a final bottle of Colombian rum for friends). I saw Jen approaching the security desk and could not believe it - all four of us were on, and in Business Class! Due to the donation of the flights we are given whatever class is available on the flights! Lucky us!

We shortly boarded and were on our way, landing in Caracas Venezuela to pick up the remaining passengers. We were informed that they would be spraying the plane with pesticides before we took off again - it was a bit strange they then walked through the cabin with handheld pesticide canisters... We were on the ground for about an hour.

Hot chocolate - this time with cookies

James in his business class seat
Relaxing in Business Class

Dan and I spent the 12 hour flight reminiscing over the last two month and what we were going to miss. We enjoyed the comforts of the plane and claimed our hot chocolate and cookies in the early hours as the sun rose over the Atlantic.

I was greeted at the airport by my elder brother. It felt good to be home yet strange saying goodbye to the others who I'd been so close to and shared such an amazing summer with.

Back to Birmingham

Back at university now, it seems all but stories and memories. It's already a few weeks in to the first term I really miss Colombia and the friends I made, the Latin American music and clubs, the food and atmosphere - I know I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to see such a different culture and reality.

Many people questioned me on my return about how safe it is and why I went to Colombia this summer. It's difficult to convey. On so many occasions while away, I wished people could have seen where we were and what we were doing. The bomb in Jakarta before we came home unnerved me. We flew back on 12 September - I could not help to wish that I did not have the flight home. Where are we really safe? With a policeman having been shot in Birmingham a short time before the end of the summer semester, is it simply the unknown that makes people afraid?

All I know is I had an amazing experience this summer and I would want to live it all over again if I had the choice. Before I left, family and friends were unsure why I was going to Colombia and why I couldn't go somewhere else. I did not choose Colombia, it was chosen for me because I applied for the AIESEC programme.

I feel that life is to live and is not a rehearsal. Pushing the AIESEC experience to the extreme: crossing cultures, living and working in another society, understanding local and global issues.

I hope by sharing my stories with you that you are open more to the idea of visiting Colombia or other far off places that previously you never considered. If not now, then when?

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by those that you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Mark Twain

Written by James Eder

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