Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage

Nov 09

What we’ve got here… is a failure … to communicate

Posted: under Uncategorized.

This is a part of my presentation where I have everyone in the audience participate in an exercise to demonstrate how difficult it is to communicate even the simplest information when the person on the other end of the communication lacks the context to understand what kind of information it is that’s coming his way. Anyone who’s ever gotten into an e-mail squabble because the person on the other end of the message didn’t figure out that you were being sarcastic – no matter how many silly little sideways emoticons you stuck onto the message – knows that this is a problem that web-based text communication has only exacerbated.

This is a lesson that we have had to learn a little ourselves – despite our trying to tailor our message specifically for each paper that we’re presenting at, we’ve found that at every stop along the line so far, we’ve had people come up to us and ask questions that have taken us completely by surprise. This despite the fact that we painstaking constructed a web-based survey for the gerentes and directores of the newspapers we’re presenting at to take.

Each time I have done this little exercise, I’ve seen the journalists and editors come out of it nodding their heads, a little more open now to taking in and processing my “Conversations” presentation. I guess it takes a children’s game to really bring home how much we take for granted, and how difficult it really is for another person to grasp the essence of what we’re trying to impart.

The journalists here in Colombia are a tremendously earnest, eager group, and the change in the conditions that they refer to here as “La Seguridad” (and you can hear them capitalize it when they say it) is starting to wake this whole country up. You can see it in the streets, you can see it in the businesses that are really starting to gain traction … the sad part is that the U.S. still sees Colombia as the place where terr’rists and thin-moustached villains out of “Miami Vice” lurk in every shadow. The locals have a couple of theories about exactly why the U.S. State Department refuses to take this country off the “Do Not Travel” list, but that will have to wait for another blog post.

Over lunch today, you could see how proud the people here were about the progress that this country has made; they spoke about the dark days only 5-6 years ago, when people were prisoners in their own cities, unable to leave to drive even a few miles out on the highways to go visit their relatives for fear of kidnapping or murder. The guerrillas and just plain old banditos controlled the roads, and anyone hoping to ship even a truckload of hay bales out to the dairy farm had to hork up a hefty bribe. While the open roads might have hit the small-plane aviation sector hard, you can see the salutary effect that this has had on people here; they are in no way as scared and traumatized as they were the last time I was here, back when Pablo Escobar was setting off 47 pipe bombs in one night in Bogota to show the city how pissed off he was and how he could really fuck with them if he felt like it.

The Meridiano paper chain that we worked with today, and where we are going to be for the next two days, is in a real growth area. The ground around here is so fat & fertile that if you accidentally drop a couple of seeds in a field, you have to duck & step back, because the plant springs up so fast it’ll hit you under the chin and knock you out on the way up.

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Nov 09

The Road to Barranquilla

Posted: under Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,

…and no, this is not some forgotten Hope & Crosby "Road" movie, co-starring Ginger Rogers & Betty Grable.

This is a "Guest Post" by Janine, and I’m running it here because it’s well-written and also because I’m so frickin’ burned out right now that I would have great difficulty stringing together an account half as coherent as this about some of the surprises we’ve encountered here during our "World Tour 2007-8" of Colombia for Andiaros and the government agency SENA.  Earlier today, I was able to show the roomful of very young journalists here just how easy it is to use the TypePad software to post something to a blog (BTW – the pic that appears there was take about 2 months ago, in Moscow, at a restraurant located on "Clean Lake" across from the Moscow offices of OLMA.)

Anyway, here’s Janine:

This picture was taken by Dave through the window of a military checkpoint that we hit on the way to  Baranquilla, a medium-sized city about an hour’s drive from
Cartagena.  WDsc00684_0810
e hit a nasty rainstorm on the way here so it took us
nearly two hours. As we drove, our driver told us about how the road was
impassible only a few years ago because of the Guerillas/Narcotraffickers.
Now there are Colombian military stations every several kilometers along
the way that protect the road and have made it possible for people to make
the drive without fear.

To help us appreciate how things have changed, he told a personal story
about a bus trip he took to Bogota a few years ago. Part way there, the
bus was stopped by guerrillas who boarded the bus and demanded everyone’s
Cedulas (the national ID). They then consulted the laptop they carried
with them, looking up each person’s name in a database to see if they were
related to anyone rich enough or powerful enough to make them worth
kidnapping.(Dave and I noted this was an impressive use technology, albeit
for all the wrong reasons.)

As the Guerrillas checked IDs, they had one of the children on the bus go
around and collect everyone’s shoes, which he explained they did routinely
to make it harder for anyone to run away, especially when they are being
led through the jungle at night and stepping off a path in the dark could
cause serious damage to bare feet.

But what really amazed us about the story, was that apparently the
guerrilla’s radio discussion about the bus was picked up by the
US-supported Colombian army, which then called for a Black Hawk helicopter
to be sent to help them. That radio message was in turn intercepted by the
guerrillas, who took off once they realized they’d been discovered and
that the helicopter was on the way. (An interesting case of spy vs. spy,
and a moment that I think represents well the turning point that led to
these roads being so much safer.)

Unfortunately for the passengers on the bus, the guerrillas had already
poured gasoline all over the inside of the bus, which they planned to set
on fire before they left. They didn’t take the time to burn the bus. but
the passengers had to  ride to the next town in a bus full of gas fumes so
strong it made most people sick. Still, I’m sure they all agreed it was
better than being kidnapped and walking barefoot through the jungle.

Today, he said he drives down these roads without fear, happy to see the
Colombian military on the side of the road. And I have to admit, Dave and
I both appreciated the soldiers a bit more after his story.

For my part, I’ve been amazed by how much more peaceful things are here
than they were just 6 years ago the first time I came to Colombia.
Everyone we’ve talked to about security has commented on the improvements,
how President Uribe has made such a difference by cracking down on
corruption and guerrilla activities, and how great it is that they can now
go out at night and travel the roads around the country without fear.

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Nov 09

Demonstracion en Monteria

Posted: under journalism.

Este es una demonstracion de cual facil es escribir algo nuevo en un blog.

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