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.