May 17th | Bogota Colombia– Service Learning Update

I didn’t get much sleep. Sleeping was difficult as there is a mixture of excitement within me to experience this country and to be honest; the city is noisy with buses, car alarms, honking horns, and people talking on the street throughout the night.

I finally got up at 5 am to check the internet connection and still no connection. For some reason my computer does not want to talk to the hosts internet connect so I am limited in my online time while at the apartment.

My schedule is fairly packed today:

At 8:00 a.m we headed to Emmanuel School for breakfast with Paula Nabia at the Emmanuel School.  They are a partner with Visionet and run an entrepreneurship program there with grades 7 to 11. For breakfast we had juice and Empanadas – these are small pastries filled with the best tasting beef I’ve had in a long time. The leaders of the school asked me many questions about leadership and entrepreneurship. I was most impressed with the vision of the founder whom started this school over 30 years ago. I was given a tour of the school and was escorted into the classrooms. This is a private school and the rooms are small but functional. The children are in uniforms and when we enter the room they all stand until told to sit. I spoke through interpreter to these children about why I was here and they asked many fascinating questions about where I live, who am I and what, do I do for a living. The most inquisitive class was the seventh graders. The most striking thing I notice was that there were no computers in the classroom and yet these children had some command of business.

Next stop, we traveled to Cerro Norte which is a poor barrio in the north part of Bogota. Bogota is a contradiction. There are modern looking state-of-the-art buildings I’ve ever seen. I dare say that these building rival some of the architecture of even the United States. But, right next to these areas of prosperity is factions of poor and extremely poor conditions. Cerro Norte runs up the side of a mountain as if someone threw paint of a wall. These are mostly squatters and the homes are, well…built with materials as they can obtain them. The road up to the top of the mountain is very steep and the switch backs are tight (I will tell you about the driving here in a moment). These people are very resourceful. These building spring up from the side of the mountain and in some cases are stacked on top of each other. Once you can look past the realities of poverty here the view off this mountain is stunning.

At the top of the mountain I stood in awe! I was standing at 6,000 feet above sea level and overlooking the valley below that is covered with a vast city. The view is breathtaking. Even my pictures do not do it justice. I was left speechless at the awe and beauty. In the distance I could see other mountains and before them I could see the flower farms where many of the flowers we purchase may come from. There are a lot of fresh roses here in Bogota.

Now a little bit about the drivers in Bogota. I have been shuttled from one end of the city to another. Riding in a car in Bogota is like riding a rollercoaster with pot holes. Cars, buses and motor bikes weave in and out of traffic in some kind of crazy dance that seems to work. I’ve never seen anything like it. People use their horns a lot here. I have to say that I’ve not felt in danger or at risk in anyway. To be honest, if people drove like this in the US we would have many many accidents. But here, I’ve yet to see a single one.

Next on my agenda was lunch with Edgardo, the founder of Visionet.  We ate at a place called Crepes and Waffles. Bogota is the leader in Entrepreneurship worldwide. The ideas that I am seeing are astounding. This restaurant only hires single mothers. Yes, you read that correctly the servers are all single mothers. The food was absolutely amazing. I had a beef in some kind of white sauce served in a bread bowl. The coffee was the best I’ve ever tasted. The coffee here is not bitter at all. I found that I only had to use one packet of sugar in my coffee. I finished my lunch with lime sorbet.

One note on the security of Bogota. As a result of the drug kingpin days, there is a great deal of security around the city. Honestly I only saw two military guards up to this point and that was because we were close to an area where the wealthy and politicos send their kids. There are security guards on the streets, in front of banks, in stores – everywhere. Despite the level of security, I have felt extremely safe here.

Before our next agenda item, we stopped in what I would call a big box store called “Exito” which means success. I was most impressed with the store. Columbians are genius in their marketing techniques. Vibrant colors and the use of photography is a refreshing change of the blandness of the US marketplace. I think marketing companies could learn a lot from their colleagues here. I found a mountain bike I really liked (not sure how I would have gotten it back home). It was a reasonable 690,000 pesos. Oh.. I’m sorry – I meant $300 US.

Finally we ended up at the University Bosque for a meeting with the Dean of Education and several other important members of the faculty and staff. My role was as Ambassador for Regent University and to introduce myself and even my company to them. They asked me several questions about my education and about coaching and mentoring. They are interested in launching an Entrepreneurship center in Bogota and this would be the first in its country. They held a particular interest in how I might help them with some aspects of the future program.

The meeting ended with the Dean hosting myself and Visionet for coffee in the courtyard.

The conference began at 7pm and was well attended. Students on up to business leaders attended the conference. It was a slow go and we had a few technical glitches. It also took me about an hour to get used to working with an interpreter. After the break we left the lights up and continued to engage the audience. This time they were more engaged in the conversation. I had many good question about the information presented and I am now looking forward to our next session on Friday night.

After the conference, we drove around and dropped off some of the people in our party.

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