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This is my 4th report from Colombia. Again it is rather long. I am still waiting for somebody to visit me. I am glad to say that I will meet Charlotte, my now former girlfriend, on saturday June 10th when she is coming for vacation.

Here we go:
We went to another restaurant one Friday lunch. It was an Mexican and rather nice. They said that it is usually slow regarding service. In this case, slow means that the clients are supposed to take it easy, not that they do not know about service and keeping the customers happy. Because, the first thing that happened was that two girls came up to the table.
They had holster and broad leather bands across the chests. But, they were wearing Tequila and small glasses, not pistols. They started talking and my friends answered yes after a while. As I understood it, they were promoting Tequila Sauza and asked if we wanted a test. Apparently we had answered yes.
They took a small glass and poor about a third with tequila. Then they added sprite. Then she took the glass and covered it with a cloth and banged it on the table. The two liquids get mingle really quickly and you drink immediately and totally. They served everybody, one at a time. It was delicious and it is called Muppet. After having drunk the glass the girl takes your head between the hands and shakes it a little. I do not know about the aim of the last procedure, but I did not get dizzy anyway. I managed to get a refill of this a little later. We tried for a third time but they never showed up. This promotion was for free by the way. We must go there again.

I am going to mention a lot about security and please try to understand the difference between what I have experienced and what apparently can happen. First all the things that has happened to me so far: I lost the number plate at the back of the car..... Also I scratched the car just a little against a police jeep (that was parked..). Nobody noticed....
That is it for me.

However there are lots of things that can happen. While driving... You are supposed to drive with the doors locked. Why I wonder when the windows are open...
There are some dangerous parts, or part of streets that have a higher degree of possibility of problems. I heard from my neighbor that she accidentally went to a wrong area in the south part, with her Mercedes 280. That was an area where the police do not dare to go. She could see the scarred faces of the people looking at the nice car. She had a terrible time and was crying and praying she would make it. Luckily she did. That is not a good way to test your faith. When driving at night you do not stop at crossings or red light. The is possibility of getting robbed. Also very late at night from 2 or 3 the drivers have a higher degree of alcohol in their blood. That could be dangerous. Just to let you know. I drive against red light at least once every evening or night. From around midnight the one-way streets change to two ways for those who are in a hurry. For taxis all day.

A visitor from Stockholm, who is from Colombia but has been in Sweden for 25 years, came here for a weeks meeting and handing over a few projects. He could not get a taxi to the hotel one night so he took a bus back from a restaurant at about 10 or so in the evening. The bus stops at the other side of the building complex, and not at the hotel doors which are guarded. He went up the stairs, as I always do every day to go between the buildings, and was robbed by three men with a knife. Since he spoke Spanish and was local, more or less, they did not bother with trying to fool him as they sometimes do with foreigners.

This is the normal way the fool foreigners as they did an Ericsson guy who walked from the hotel to the office on monday morning (his first day in Colombia). Another 'stranger' walks up to you and asks if you know about the city or the way etc, very nice. After talking a while a 'police' in plain clothes shows up with badge and asks about identification. The first guy obeys and the swede also. Then their is a question if they can support themselves here. Do they have some financial backup? The first guyshows his money and the swede also. The 'policeman' accepts the 'gift' and the two robbers leave. He did not have a chance.

During a week in may, they had more or less the following incidents around the city. Wednesday one guy from Ericsson was robbed. Thursday morning the guerrilla had placed a few bombs in some shops around the office area. Saturday there was a small earthquake. I have never felt any earthquake yet. Sunday some other guerrilla attacked a police station and a few police were killed. They managed to catch three of the seven involved. That is not normal. Usually they are found dead or not found. There are never any wounded or caught. On Monday, just outside a very big shopping center, a gas line exploded and almost the whole building went down. It was an incredible blow and a few people were killed.

I had a discussion with my Spanish teacher regarding living together when you are young. They do have a word for Sambo (un- married couples) here. It is called Union libre. To live with your boy/girlfriend before you are married is not common. Therefore they go on dates. But to go out for a date is also complicated. The only way to have some 'fun' is to rent a motel for the night. The most common used excuses are: I have to study with some friends for some days at the summer house or I am going to a party and will not be back until 7 or 8 in the morning. The last excuse is really no problem, because the parents do not want their children to try to take a taxi in the street in the middle of the night. Especially since everybody is driving home really quick and often drunk.
It could happen that on the way the taxi stops, the driver pulls a knife or a gun and tells you to all the money and step out. It happened to somebody we know at Ericsson in a street, that I use for going to work. It is therefore better to call the taxi before, and always use a taxi that has radio. When calling a taxi they ask for the telephonenumber (which they can already see on a display) and that gives them the address and apartment number.

On request I will tell a little about what I do here at Ericsson. I work for the project department. There are two major parts, Ericsson Telecom (the normal public lines) and the Radio or Cellular as they call it here. There are about 250 people working for Telecom and about 80 for Radio (mobile). Totally in Colombia Ericsson employs over 450 people.
The most important, to me anyway, departments, outside, installation, support, plant engineering there are marketing, product marketing and projects. We receive the contracts when they are signed and continue implementing the agreements in the contract. Comparing with China, (former job) they have more of different products here, like Transport network (SDH), fixed radio telephones (RAS) and network handling software products (TMOS, FMAS, SLMS) etc.
There are about 25 clients from every major city and some nationals, which is good compared to Venezuela who only have one client, who does not buy at the moment.....

I have started with presenting the Swedish organizations we are working with. We are now responsible for the projects here and the old department in Sweden is not helping us anymore. That is new here. They have to talk English (big problem) and they are communicating directly with the delivery centers and the factories. We have established agreements with Sweden but there are lots of trouble getting access to our orders and to normal project handling as we did in Sweden. Also nobody, here or in Sweden, follows the agreement and it is lots of communication problems and questions.
The result was of course that there was no orders or deliveries of anything during a period of months. We have now lot of delays. I am trying to inform Sweden about the organization here and who is doing the different projects. It is difficult. We have created a binder with instructions for how to organize a project, but I have to start from the beginning and presenting everything. However, for not knowing who to talk to and in what way, the people here are doing very well in getting the things done anyway somehow. My friend Manual always comes to me in the morning and says, Buenos dias, amigo. Really nice chap with 25 years experience. He is now in Sweden for six months. Julian is the one who helped me in the beginning. He and his wife Gloria has been in Sweden for four years and speak Swedish! I met Gloria after a couple of days here and I could not speak a thing of spanish. Next time I met here we were speaking for a while before we commented about if she thought I had improved or not. She had not even thought about that we were speaking in Spanish... I was a little proud..
Julian is a big help and knows about the products and how it works in Sweden. When I need to explain something I say: No, this is the way we have to do it.......Julian, please explain what we must do......! Real easy!

Karl-Johan Petterson, a Argentinean, Colombian, Swede. His parents, from Colombia and Sweden work for Ericsson as well. He speaks Spanish and English and when we are alone we speak Swedish as well. It is really difficult to know what language to speak sometimes. We could go on for a while him speaking Swedish and me nodding and answering in Spanish.
In my group we also have the two sardinas, Maria Helena and Marta Elena. We also call them Las Helenas. They have a mind of their own and it is very hard to get them to change. I guess I have to learn about how Colombians work..

Also there are lots of people coming from Sweden to do some part of installation or an offer to a client or for some time helping in different projects. Right now arrived a guy who will help my department with order routines and the computer systems. Since I am off on vacation we cannot work together. He came here with lots of manuals and instructions. The only problem is that we cannot access the system due to that we have no access to our orders for some reason, and everything is in English........

At the moment lots of my colleagues approach me with problems or questions. Sometimes I have to sit in front of the order system to run through the whole project because they have know access to their orders and no information from Sweden. Then I present where they are, and what products have been shipped. This is however not what I should do. I should show how to do it and improve the processes. But since the project has been dumped in their laps here, there has been some time before the action has started and lots of things are late. I am starting to work with processes and to make the general way of working easier by simplification. Normally it gets more complicated for everybody because they discover things that has not been done and is desperately late.

Fortunately I am off on vacation as of Friday 10 June. I will not be reached by memo or anything during 12-17 June and 23-29 June when Charlotte, my now former girlfriend, and I will be visiting the jungle (amazons) and the paradise (Caribbean coast) in that order. More in the next report, if there is any time over to write them.

I hear that the snow finally disappeared at the end of may. Sounds like a normal climate in Sweden. Here we have 20 degrees almost every day, but lots of rain. At night it gets much colder and at midnight there is about 12 degrees. I fear it will be much warmer in the jungle.... Last sunday we played golf on a public course. In spanish the game could be described as agricultura or an advanced way of farming. Also I got burned on my head during the few hours. We only played nine holes because of the poor result. Maybe next time.

About the spring in Colombia. Here it is always spring, more or less.


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Last updated: 1 SEP 1996 by Johan Stjernberg.
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