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-"You just have to enjoy it" - The Daily Columbian

In a computer near you:

You are welcome to the third report out of Colombia. However I am waiting for a response from you about and the stories from over there.....

I am old! I have more than a month in Colombia. That is more than anyone here from Sweden, except the two oldies.... Well, we presented ourselves at the embassy. I organized the visit (I am the project leader) and we were five at the embassy. Another two people did not come and the embassy was shocked.
We registered with names and relatives etc., just in case.... We chatted a bit about the situation here. The embassy had written a description of were to go and were not to. It is because of some guerrilla activities in the mountains in certain areas. There are also groups of more or less bandits to watch out fore.

Unfortunately the two Swedish workers were taken, by mistake, by agroup of bandits loosely connected to the political guerrilla. They are easier to handle. They have political motives. The bandits stopped a caravan of 6 buses or something and some cars. They kept two Swedes. Now they are surrounded by the army, more or less, while robbing banks or things using the Swedes as shield. They know that if they give them up, they will be attacked by the army. That is the situation at the moment. I have no idea of what the four diplomats are doing at the embassy besides that. My contact, the first secretary, is Jan Janonius.

The most important information we got was that, about the Hash harriers. It is an athletic organization, supervised from the English embassy in this country. Apparently it is one of the worlds biggest athletic organization. You sign up for a hash which is possible every other week. Someone, who is organizing the run, goes before and lays out a track of flour (mjol) or anything else that is somewhat visible.
They drop the participants at a certain point and we begin to look for those clues. As they appear you continue running. Sometimes you get lost, or lose the tracks, and have to run back. That is how the leaders of the chase always changes during the race. The race usually about an hour. The most important part is the goal where there is beer for everyone. Usually there are two tracks so the families or other walkers can participate also. Most of this information is from the hash I participated in, in China. I will have to see how it works here.

Good news for June. Both McDonalds and Charlotte, my now former girlfriend, are coming to Bogota. How swell. McDonalds with there small burgers, will have some problems with the local variants which are really good. We go to the El Corral for lunch sometimes. Excellent burgers of meat or chicken or anything with guacamole and papas fritas (French fries for those who speak English).

About the plate on the car that was stolen. The new theory is that is fell off. It is because it hangs down a bit and there are really ruff roads at places. The theory is that is sprung off when I was going to the extra cheap market place in the middle of down town Bogota. Also a robber would not steal just one plate.

I had a nice Easter. We were 17 Swedes going to the finca. A translation of finca is farm or gard in Swedish. Everybody loves to go to a finca outside the city for the weekend. Que rico, how rich, is the expression when I say I am going. First though I have some different news. I is dangerous to say that I spent the weekend with the Swedes, con los seuces. There is an expression here: Hacerse el sueco, which is equivalent to Pretend not to understand or worse To pretend to be stupid. You see the danger in saying you are Swedish. I have switched to: I am from Sweden.

Back to the finca. In Colombia the fincas have or have not cows and pigs and other animals. Those who have not, would be called a summer house in Sweden. the others are farms. Here they do not have summer so...

The plan was for the three families to plan for the food and for us youngsters to shop what was needed to drink and in between meals. One important part is fresh water because outside Bogota the water can be bad. There has been some cases of amoebas and things there. All food are done on fresh water. Olle B, who has been here before, organized the shopping and thursday morning we met with four new small white Mazdas Coupe to drive off.

It is a trip of about 75 km so it takes about 1.5 hours or more on the highway to Medellin. It is almost like going down the hills in Austria with the endless curves. The finca, which is called Las Brisas - the breezes, is on an altitude of about 1500. It is much warmer, difficult to sleep and with cockroaches. We ate, played pool or billiard, table tennis, the stereo and took some sun at the swimming pool. Unfortunately it rained a lot. Under the roof over big outsides porch is huge!, We altered between Cuba libre and beer.
The biggest event was at eleven every morning when we could start drinking beer.... They have two horses. I found out that my horse abilities leaves nothing to hope for.... The other guy quit after five minutes. I continued but the horse tried to through me off. Well the horses are different and more like the states, so they are really easy to drive, just move the hand to left or the right and the horse follows. At least in theory. They were also rather small. Since the finca is in a hilly place there are no flat openings to use either. We decided that the horses had had enough and quit.

We took a trip down town to Sasaima, a pueblito of 8000. The Easter celebration were going on and a procession passed us. All photos turned out rather bad, due to the development process here, nothing else. They can be found at Charlottes if asked nicely.

Another, totally beside the point, thing is the number of new credit cards I have received sofar. Before going I got two cards regarding world wide health insurance and Ericsson safety. I can call 24hours a day and get medical and hospital help through a company in England. In Colombia I have received another card with identity and phone number for calling in case of emergency or illness, because the English connection does not work.??

For the car I have received two cards. They are however a little bit bigger than normal cards. It shows I am the owner (of a leased car) and that I have registered and paid taxes on it. The third card is for calling when your car has broken down or a flat tire or something.

[C.C ]
Of course the Ericsson card is not ready yet so I have a temporal one. From the bank I received two new cards with Visa connection. I am still to figure out why the two. One is for the cash machines.... In total it will be 11 including the ID-card for foreigners and the drivers license. The latter does not seem to be that important somehow. Here is my Cedula or ID card:

I have some sport news. I was watching the local sports channel, it is just as fascinating as the Swedish one, when an interesting peace from under-water-rugby in a town called Cali turned up. It turned out to be a final between Sweden and Denmark and it was the world cup. Sweden won, but I can tell you, it is not a public sport.

When I got home last friday the phone did not work. I manage to report it but I am still waiting. It rings but I can not talk to anybody. There is no tone when I lift the receiver. Sofar I heard that it can take anything from now to months before it is fixed. We will see in the next report.

About the lunch place El Corral where I bought a burger last Friday. I ordered guacamole to the chicken burger and the others did not. I did not eat more than tea in the evening and before eleven I was stomach sick. Food poisoning I reckoned. I was trembling and took a hot shower to get warmer. I could not sleep, well almost not, the whole night. I did not through up but the diarrhea went on all day. I did however take the car shopping and things. It was not that bad.
Also I had to post a birthday card for Charlotte. My neighbor, the lady from the Peruvian embassy, was very nice and she gave me soup and more tea. I still felt things in the stomach during Saturday evening but slept well.
On Sunday we went to a book fair. They had all sorts of books not only in Spanish but all sorts of languages. I bought five books in Spanish. Good huh? It was 1-5 Calvin and Hobbes. It was my friend Rikard who showed me the ways of Kalle and Hobbes. It is really great, even in Spanish. I am translating it slowly, poco a poco as it is called here. I even have a T-shirt which was a gift from Charlotte...
We stayed at the fair all afternoon and I came home just before eight. I was supposed to go to Olles party and when I looked at the invitation it said 6 o clock. Well I went to Olles and had some fun. He had a guitar and there was a guy from Norway who also could play. We sang Thomas Ledin and all the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. I was talking to a girl from the office and she thought that the Swedes complained a lot.-"The bank is closed/the phones are out/ the copy machine is broken/ the fax machine also" etc. First I rejected the thought but she may have a point though. All Swedes probably complain a lot about the service or the complexity of things here. I told her she was probably right and that I would think about it before doing it next time. Maybe stop with comments like -"Shall we meet in five minutes or in five Colombian minutes..."

By the way. I did not eat anything on sunday either. But I had a quantity of Cuba libres during the whole evening and night, purely for medical purpose. When I got home the phone rung just as I was about to go to bed. Who can that be at 4 o,clock in the morning I thought. I could not answer of course, it was still out of order. I pulled the plug and went to sleep.
Next day, May first, I borrowed a phone and called Charlotte. Of course it was her who had tried last night. Eleven o,clock in the morning her time. I have now signed up to a world wide service. You call a local number in any country and they connect you and bill eurocard. It is cheaper than useing the operators to call to Sweden. It is through MCI in the states. I will receive my code number in four weeks....

How to change money at the bank.
I had the following problem. I am supposed to pay my air ticket, which I paid with Eurocard, in Sweden. I did the travel expenses here and was supposed to receive about 3 000 000 pesos, i.e. 30 000 SEK. After a long while, four weeks, I got it into my account here last week, the same day it was signed. That was a favor of the money guy here, which I pulled. Otherwise every fortnight. I asked how it worked to transfer money and after a day I knew that they took up to 20% commission and forgot it. I would give the money in cash to a traveler to Sweden instead. So I prepared to go to the bank, Friday, to take out the money. I remembered that we had a Gofor guy who does errands like that. I signed the cheque and gave it to him. Last time the cheque bounced because my signature did not correspond to the papers in the bank I signed earlier.

In the afternoon he came back and told me that he needed my passport for such a quantity of money. I had no more money for the long weekend, May first. On Tuesday after lunch I went with Gustavo instead and asked about the dollars. They answeered that I could not change in the afternoon. Had to be morning. I took out the money anyway. 3 000 000 pesos in 10 000 and 5 000 bills. 400 bills. It looked like I was carrying a gun or something. Wednesday I asked about changing the money at Ericsson and the secretary told me there were possibilities with Ericsson. She tried to asked but there was no answer. The cash place for bills etc. at Ericsson did not do it. The day passed. Thursday I went with Julian to City bank. They had cheaper rates for foreigners, without tax. The rate was 857 and they wanted a photo copy of the passport. It was very expensive. We went to an underground toilet, which turned out to be a exchange place. They wanted 840. At my bank, Anglo Colombiano I got a first rate of 836, and I did not need the passport to copy. But they could not change more than 1 850 000 pesos. I said yes. After a while it turned out that they first thought that I wanted to sell USD, but now changed to 880 for me to buy. I said no and went to take a copy of the passport in a shop nearby. With the copies I returned to City bank they wondered what I was going to do with the money. I said I was going to Sweden and could not use pesos. After a long while they had filled the form in the computer and I signed three equal originals. By the way the rate had changed to 855 during this half hour? At the cashier the money was counted and I was given the dollars. It was just one week after I started. And they say we are complaining.....

Next week I will have moved to new offices in another building nearby. More about the move, and how long it took before the connections to Sweden were functioning again, in the next report.

Now I will end with a small part in Spanish. Disfrutela:
Fortunatamente llegara Charlotte a Bogota en junio. Me alegre mucho. Nosotros comeran comidas tipicas de Colombia pero sin carne, porque ella no come. Tambien vamos a Leticia, la ciudad mas sur en el pais. Alla vamos a visitar la selva en la zona de amazonas. Sera chevere. Tengo tres semanas de vacaciones por la primera vez in junio. Saludos a mis papas y todos mis amigos, suecos y otros.

The very best from a life form far away

PS I got my new business card today.

Title: Asesor de Proyectos
Translation: Project assistent

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Last updated: 26 JUL 1997 by Johan Stjernberg.
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