Colombia : In the Field with Jonas Karlsson

Author: Jonas Karlsson

When I first joined Tripstigator I was talking to its founder Chris about possible Locals in Quibdó. Quibdó is the capital of the Colombian department Chocó, known for unique ecosystems, for having almost only afro-Colombians living there and for being one of the rainiest places on earth. It seemed like an interesting place, off the gringo trail! He didn’t have a solid contact with a possible Local to work with yet but was talking with some people. I on my part started searching the web for people who might be able to help connect us with locals. Having been searching for potential locals in Quibdó for three days I realized that I was already renting a room from one in Medellin! A woman by the name of Bertha who has a micro-business in her living room sewing high quality fabric products for babies such as crib beddings, perfect for selling on Etsy! At the time we met all her sales were done face to face.

Working with Bertha has been a lot of fun since she is always radiating positive energy! But it has also been difficult sometimes to find the time needed to introduce her to the world of online commerce. She is hard working running a successful company and a household so she is really busy. But we did find a few evenings/nights when we sat down and, step by step, needing more time than expected, opened her Etsy-shop!  For me this has been a challenge and good practice since we did all communication in Spanish. I truly hope that, even though she can only answer questions in Spanish and even though PayPal is not available for sellers in Colombia, that the quality of her products will make her store a success! We have done the first steps opening the shop, but there is still much to do with better pictures and better descriptions. That what she does successfully face to face with her customer, showing them the quality of her work, now has to be done through a computer screen! You can check out her shop here: www.etsy.com/shop/manitasdecorativas

But I hadn’t forgotten about Quibdó. We only had one solid contact in the city and that wasn’t very solid either but I decided to go anyway. Meeting the contact, he turned out to be a Spanish and English teacher who also was working with a local radio station. I explained the concept of Tripstigator and he seemed to like it a lot. I suggested finding someone who might want to work as a guide for tourists because I think the town really needs this to increase the amount of tourists in the town. Earlier when I had told a woman that I was from Sweden she asked me if I was a missionary. That’s how many tourists there are there. Anyways, Natanael wanted to introduce me to a musician. To keep it short, in the end this did not lead to a new Tripstigator project. Neither did talking to people I met being there.

Going to Quibdó was however valuable. To Tripstigator for making experiences about what ways of working tend to be successful and to me for meeting the people there. When I told a guy, sitting in a wooden shed restaurant that I was from the city of Gothenburg he replied, “That’s the second biggest city in Sweden, right?” And when I told a waiter where I was from he exclaimed “Alfred Nobel!” It turned out this man’s passion was science and chemistry in particular. He had never studied it in school but taught himself. Soon he was explaining to me, in detail, the patents which made Alfred Nobel rich and famous. Back in Medellin a woman who had lived in Chocó told me that the people of Chocó love to read. I believe her. It seems to me that Chocó should not only be known for poverty, rain and beautiful nature but also for people passionate about knowledge!