Tag Archives: trip

Trip to Bogotá, Part I

So, my trip to Bogotá is now done and dusted, and I must admit that it wasn’t as traumatising and difficult as I thought it would be. My original fears of having to use my Spanish in a professional environment and using it in a technical way did materialise and I struggled a tiny bit in a couple of occasions, but overall I survived.

There are two main aspects to my trip to Bogotá that I want to talk about: Business and Pleasure. Today I will talk about the business side.

I was very pleasantly surprised about the level of professionalism that I saw. It’s not that I was expecting anything less (well, maybe I was), but Bogotá is a city with so much contrast that you can’t help but marvel at how seriously business is conducted there.

We visited several offices of several people (lighting designer, integrator, light fitting manufacturer, etc) and everywhere there was a sense of  seriousness and of  “we know what we are doing”. Colombians don’t muck about when they are doing business. BUT, they will always maintain a very relaxed atmosphere and conversations may quickly change to a more lighthearted topic temporarily.

Something else that impressed me was the tidiness of all the offices we visited. If you came to my office in England, something that would strike you straight away is how untidy it looks. As my boss would say, it is a functional office: everybody has big desks with space for big A1 or A0 drawings and this space is definitely used. There are drawings and papers and other materials laying around and it gives the impression of a cluttered and unkempt office (exactly what it  is).

The other side of the coin of this, however, was the building site that we visited. There is no sense of Health and Safety and I was stunned to see so many irregularities (so many of them that in England that building site would have been shut by the H&S authorities in less than one minute). I talked to my Colombian host about it and his answer was so unbelievable that I am still struggling to believe it: He said that labour is so cheap that if someone gets hurt it’s easier to just replace them rather than waste time to make them safe in the first place (!!!).

No safety barrier for a whole in the wall

This proves something else that I found interesting. Colombia has got a very defined hierarchy system. Social strata is something so common that nobody questions it. I noticed it during the first five minutes of the first meeting that we had. Jorge, our host, called his assistant and she replied “Si, señor” (yes, sir). This happened many times in that first day, that made me start paying more attention to those little details. And I was in for a shock. People will call you “doctor” when they don’t know your title. So if you look like a professional person but the person who is addressing you doesn’t know your title then they will call you “doctor” or “doctora”. In the professional field, people will address each other by their job titles (in formal situations). So if you’re an engineer, people will call you “Ingeniero Pérez”, for example. If you’re a lawyer, you will be called “Abogada Crespo”, etc.

Also, the great majority of people will speak a decent amount of English. In the professional environment this is quite a given, and we only came across one person who didn’t speak it, but did understand it. Obviously, I still had to translate backwards and forwards, especially when my boss used dark analogies (he loves analogies), or Spanish people were trying to translate literally from Spanish and the meaning got a bit lost (particularly with sayings and proverbs).

That Colombia has had (and still has) a problem with security in the streets is a well known fact. But nothing can prepare you to the sight of armed security personnel everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. Every office has their own security guard, and most roads in the business districts and centres have got police and dogs (the dogs are for bombs as well as drugs). It is a shock, but it did make me feel more secure, and I take it that’s the whole purpose of it (as well as catching criminals!).

All in all, it has been a good experience – work-wise, and who knows if we will have to go back some time soon!

The visit to Bogotá

It seems that I will be spending my birthday in Colombia. I will be there for a week for work at the end of February.

To be honest, I didn’t fancy going at all. We leave on a Sunday at silly o’clock, arrive in Colombia in the evening and start work on the Monday morning for the next 5 days non-stop. Then we get a few hours free of the next Saturday morning, get the flight back and arrive in London again on the Sunday in the afternoon. It’s going to be a killer…

The other negative is that the reason that I am going is because they want me to act as an interpreter. I have told them again and again that I am not comfortable doing that. Several reasons, the most important one being the fact that all the work-related vocabulary that I know I learnt in English, I do not know those words and phrases in Spanish and trying to get me to translate would be as useful as having a dictionary with you – I may get the immediate translation but it may not make much sense in the context.

In addition to all of this, our parent company has got very strict rules when it comes to travelling to certain countries. They have put Colombia under “amber category”, which means that they don’t think it’s a safe place to go to, so they have put all of these systems in place that seem a bit ridiculous to me. For example, all taxis have to be booked by the local office and we are not allowed to walk around on our own, least of all at certain times of the day.

But I’ve started to come around it. Now that the tickets are booked and I have no way of getting out of it, I am trying to see the positives.

To start, we are travelling business class and this is going to br my first time ever! (and probably the last time too, judging by the prices). The plane and the service looks awesome and I am kind of hoping that those 11 hours fly by quickly (forgive the pun). I also have a window seat in all four flights (London-Paris, Paris-Bogotá, Bogotá-Paris and Paris-London). And the on-board entertainment looks good (I’ve already checked the films, and they have “Melancholia“, which I’m looking forward to watching)

Whilst in Bogotá I know that we will be looked after by the local office, and they will probably take us to decent restaurants and all, and with it being my birthday while we are there, I am pretty sure that it will be fun.

And the third positive about the whole thing is that I will be getting two or three days off in lieu.. Not bad 🙂

I suppose I will write a bit more about the trip after it’s happened; hopefully I’ll get to take a few pictures!

Roadtripping

Maybe I’ve seen one too many American films, but the thing is that I’ve been wanting to do a roadtrip for quite a while now. I love travelling, I love visiting new places, and I don’t mind car journeys that much (as long as you have plenty of good music to sing along to). If we put all those ingredients together, we get a lovely road trip as a result.

The ultimate road trip has to be a West Coast to East Coast of the United States. I’ve been daydreaming about it for a while, but since you’d need something like 3 months to carry it out properly (due to the vast land mass and huge amount of “must-see” places), I believe it is out of reach until we win the lottery. Or maybe we just have to befriend Stephen Fry and ask him to take us with him in his next Black-Cab-Around-The-States TV Series.

I’ve been consulting it with Google and apparently it would only take us JUST two days to do Boston to San Francisco (no stopping even for a piss, though)

Roadtrip

2

But since none of this is going to happen any time soon, I thought it would be a bit better for my own sanity to try to get a more achievable target in mind. So I came up with the idea of Ireland.

I’ve felt quite curious about Ireland for a bit now. It all started when I read the book “Dublin” by Edward Rutherford (it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as his “London” one), the descriptions (especially the ones of the Wicklow Mountains) really captivated me and I have felt like I had to see all of that beauty with my own eyes ever since.

I’ve been having a look at the “Discover Ireland” website, which is quite good compared to other tourism websites I’ve seen, and they even have a section on “Getting around by car” – exactly what I was looking for!

There are lots of different trip ideas and multiple routes according to your holiday needs. From Castles and Cathedrals, to culinary coast-to-coast tours. Mountains or Cities. Coast or Wildlife. Anything, really.

The one that has caught my eye is the “Medieval Ireland” one, with Castles and Cathedrals and all that really photogenic scenery.

medieval

So! We have the plan, the route and the willingness. We just need the time off and the money to pay for flights, accommodation and car rental. Anyone wants to give us a hand here?