Friday, October 30, 2015

Days 15 - 19 - TV Interviews & Field Trips

Oct 19 - 23

This week is pretty hectic, between winding down our project, getting interviewed by local/national news and managing to go out of Bogota a couple of times for work field trips and sightseeing day trips, it's clearly a race against time..

I came back pretty sick, with a bad cold, from Medellin:-( What a way to start my week. Had to stay in the hotel for a couple of days to get over the cold and cough.

Meanwhile Divi and Rene hold down the forte at the SOLE office and represented SAP. Nice work guys!

Also this week, we have a cooking session in Sabrina’s room, this week it is Pasta night.. Yummy!

On Friday, we go to Cazuca (South of Bogota) for a SOLE session in collaboration with another organization called Fundacion Tiempo de juego. Cazuca is a neighborhood south of Bogota, this is one of the most dangerous and neglected sectors of Soacha. Regardless, the welcome that we received from the kids in the center of Tiempo de juego was so touching.

This is what we’ve been waiting for since we got here. I don’t even think words can explain our experience. We went with the Fundacion Capital group on this field trip. What an amazing experience… The kids were so excited to see us! At first we had an intro session and played some serious games with the kids… They are so full of energy!

After the games, the group was split into 2. 1 group went back to the community center for the SOLE session while the 2nd group stayed behind to play football (Soccer).  The SOLE session was very interesting and the kids were so enthusiastic about the session. It was so nice to see how much they were so into it. The BIG question was “Where did Football (Soccer) come from”? Of course this means, letting the kids loose on the computer to research and be prepared to present in front of everyone else. What a bunch Smart KIDS!

After the SOLE session, we went back to the Soccer field, played a round of soccer with some of kids. By 5:15pm, all the kids had to be sent back home as the curfew for kids to be home was 5:30pm. Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged. We were only there for a 3 hours but these kids really touched our hearts with their openness and smiles. 

We headed back to Bogota around 5:30pm and stopped at a restaurant for dinner and went on to the hotel. A few people went out on the town to celebrate the end of the week.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 13 - Coffee Plantation Tour

Saturday, October 17th

The day started at midnight for four of our Orchids. I am not allowed to tell any names but they went to BBC (Bogotá Beer Company) to have some hot chocolate. BBC is famous for their hot chocolate towers (3 liters).  Afterwards the group moved to a nice restaurant which is close to our hotel. There was a really good DJane who made some chilly music. Here the last four orchids had some hot tea shots and they finalized the day with a design thinking session about next steps in their projects. Maybe the night was a bit different but I can’t remember anymore J

Saturday started at 7:45 am. We all met in the lobby to drive together to visit a coffee plantation ( Actually we planned to be in the lobby at 7:30 am but we already got used to Colombian timing! A big van picked us up for our two hours trip to Avenida de las Palmas.
The way to the plantation was funny and potholes in the street made us jump and helped us to wake up! Fatimah didn’t drive with us because she doesn’t like us anymore. That is also the reason why I need to write this blog today – just kidding. Fatimah, Miss Colombia 2015, was in Medellin to visit a friend. But we replaced her with a friend of Divi. Actually I called him Fatimah a couple of times…

Around 10 am we arrived on the coffee plantation. There we recognized that it’s much warmer than in Bogotá which made us smile. First welcome we got from a huge black dog jumping on Sri (see pic below). Our guide came a couple of minutes later. He showed us a really nice garden and gave us some time to do pictures of trees, coffee plants and some nice flowers. The tour took around 90 minutes. We learnt who coffee plants look like, how many beans you need to pick on a daily basis, how to roast coffee beans and how puppies look likeJ During the tour we also made many pictures with us and a red vintage car. This is now the facebook profile picture of many of us.

At the end of the tour our guide made some really nice and fresh coffee to us incl. coffee liqueur tasting. We also had the possibility to buy some souvenirs like coffee and bracelets. Maybe because of the liqueur people got crazy and bought around 50 bracelets.

The way back home to Bogotá took 2 ½ boring hours. There was no A/C and everybody was hungry because we didn’t had lunch so far. We arrived in B-City at 2 pm and went to the center to a really good burger place. This was an excellent place for nine of us. But I think the 3 vegetarians still love us.

After late lunch Steffen and René went back to the hotel and the group of 10 went for sight sighing and shopping. I am not sure who spend the most of the money but statistically it’s Divi J
At night the glorious eight Gek, Sabrina, Gerda, Georg, Daniel, Steffen, Michal and René went to the rooftop bar Centrico. This place ( is in the 41th floor of a sky scraper and it is bloody awesome. It was difficult to come in but René had extreme got connections and he wore the same shirt like the waiters!

In Centrico we first had dinner together with a couple of cocktails. At 10:30 pm the restaurant turned into a club and the awesome eight started to dance. At SAP we learnt that connections are really important! So we decided to connect to EVERYONE in the club and to make this night unforgettable. Below you can find some funny pictures of this night. By the way the club is now renamed into “Bogotá Orchids”.

Later everybody took a taxi from the street (@Liza: ha ha) and we went back to the hotel.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day 11 and 12

2 Crazy daysss!

16 Oct 2015 (Friday)

Smartie Fati

The day began with an amazing interview with the explorers.
Explorers in SOLE Colombia are the trainers who train the ambassadors of each SOLE location,
Basically the train the trainer concept.

We were fortunate to speak to Laura, Sara, Pedro and Christian who had experiences from the Caribbean and the Pacific Coast areas of Colombia.
With the Explorers
The excitement we saw in them was palpable and contagious about the discovery of SOLE by the ambassadors and participants alike.
An explorer from Caribbean Coast mentioned " Everyday is an adventure, Experience to really get to know people. Beautiful people in Colombia - everyday. Each SOLE is different. Children were too perfect in towns. Rural area - very naughty children. People love SOLE because they can express themselves" 

What they also provided was the insight about the local communities from these regions and about Colombia. All in all a thoroughly knowledgeable session for all the SAP team listening to them,

We were pushed outta the conference room by the SOLE Colombia staff only because they wanted to plan a Surprise cake for Sanjay (MD Of SOLE Colombia) - it was his birthday! :D

Ice Cream makes world happier! 
After a yummy cake followed a yummier lunch at an amazing Italian restaurant (wonder how to find these places.. SAP team hardly seems to find them on their own) 

While Fati headed out to Medellin to meet her friend, me and Rene returned to the hotel. 
The team decided to go the Andino for some shopping. Me and Gek shopped like crazy at 70% sale :D

 The sad part of the day was that Gerda's iPhone was stolen at a Crepes & Waffles outlet near La Candaleria.. All the paperwork had taken so much time and Gerda, Srikanth were quite exhausted.
Still not exhausted enough to say thank you to the helpful policeman

15 Oct 2015 (Thursday)

Liza - Captain of the Day
 SOLE has been bustling today.. More kits to be packed and we are scuttling around the two rooms..
We also had a new captain for the day, Liza our ever cheery local consultant from Pyxera was here to meet SOLE.

The thursday of canvassing.. Armed with the additional knowledge about business canvas.. We were ready to discuss the canvas with sanjay.. The most simple thing was to fill up the 3 column venn chart with names - partners, customers and competitors

Yummy Khous Khous
Since SOLE had many partners who overlapped as customers too.. This exercise was good to differentiate the as is and the future plans.

I think we have been eating out and sampling a lot since we have arrived in Bogota.. Today we finally decided to try the restaurant opposite to our favorite sandwich place - el barrio..

The place was a Peruvian restaurant with some awesome food.. Divi's khous khous looked delicious :) 

Rene and his Antics

The mid afternoon was again dedicated to more data crunching and analysis.

Today evening was planned by the Social Sabbatical team as the Cook together day!
The supermarket shopping was done by a few of us and Rene's room was decided unanimously as the party hangout 😄

Daniel was the chopping expert and Gek was the expert for Stir Fry!
Divi, Srikanth with their Indian food and rest working great to make the salad and suppliments  😄

After we were hale and hearty.. A bunch of the people decided to go for a party with the entire PSF team 😎
The setup seemed like a real college hangout :) 
Oh.. Watta day! 😄😄😄 watta lovely day! :) 





Sunday, October 18, 2015

Day 9 and 10 - Back to Work



We've been quiet for a while, apologies..

Rewind a little bit:

A little  background on the different roles and people that help make SOLE run. We have the participants (in business sector, known as end users), they are the kids, youths, adults and retirees in rural, remote and undeserved communities, who are looking to explore opportunities, learn new things and to be empowered. We have the ambassadors who help set up the SOLE sessions and provide the space for the participants to learn and grow. These sessions are held in Schools, Libraries and  Kiosks (set up by the Ministry of  Information and Technology - MINTIC). The computers in the Kiosks are provided by the ministry to encourage people to  be empowered to learn and be technology literate. Then finally we have the explorers. These are the ones who help train the ambassadors on what to do. How to create an environment where the participants can learn, to encourage dialogue and research, to explain what and how SOLE works in different environments, communities and space. In other words, the explorers are the beginning of the SOLE chain. They really are explorers because they do go to places that are not easy to reach, to do what they really believe in.

This week has again gone by so fast, as much as we miss our families and friends we also wish the days will not fly this fast :-)

Our first day back to the SOLE office after a long weekend was pretty productive! I think getting away for the long week, got our creative juices flowing. We revised a couple of items on our SOW based on feedback from Liza (Pyxera).

Usually on Tuesday evenings, after we get back to the hotel, the whole Bogota Orchids Team gather for a meeting in the hotel conference room. Today also happens to be the day for the Colombia vs Uruguay game and it was raining so traffic was not pretty. Our ride usually takes us about 15mins to and from the office  but today it took 1 hour 15mins! not a good start to a Tuesday evening meeting.


No rain, no game, no traffic! What more could we ask for?

Today, we worked on the Business Canvas and also we got a chance to interview with the SOLE office team. One of the things we are looking at was helping SOLE align their operational functions to their strategies. Getting insights into everyone's duties and functions was very helpful. I can't say enough how much dedication the team in this organization has. GO TEAM SOLE!

Once we came back from the office, we met up with a couple of other team members for dinner and had a few laughs.

Another thing that's so great about this experience is the fact that we get to literally be with each other day morning, afternoon and night (about 12 -15 hours everyday!) and we are still able to keep our sanity and sense of humor.

After dinner we adjoined to Rene's room to review our Business Canvas with Georg (from Team FC). We realized that we needed a little bit more direction and guidance on this and Georg was kind enough to offer his help! This was an amazing session and very helpful.  Danke Georg!

Tomorrow, we will meet the explorers as they get back into town. This will be our first time meeting with them and also our chance to see/hear about the SOLE sessions from the trainers.

Stay Tuned...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 6, 7 and 8 - Cartagena!

Oct 10th, 11th & 12th.

We are off to Cartagena!

Monday the 12th is a holiday in Colombia (Dia de la Raza), so before we came to Colombia we decided to spend the long weekend in Cartagena. It took hours of planning but it was definitely worth it! So for the next 3 days we explore Cartagena and enjoy it's many different faces..

We left the hotel at 5:30am on Saturday Oct 10th to catch a 8am flight out of Bogota. Went through security pretty fast.

Bogota Orchids
Landed in Cartagena at around 9:45am but had to wait a while for the tour driver to pick us up. Cartagena is pretty hot and humid, we have definitely arrived to the Caribbean! While bogota weather is a bit like Europe in the fall, Cartagena weather is very much Caribbean weather.

Cartagena is a city in the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region (Cartagena De Indias).

We arrived at the hotel and had only an hour to freshen up and get ready for day 1 of our tour. Our tour guide from Destino Bogota arrived on time (shocking!) and we were on our way to explore the city! Cartagena's old city is by far it's principal attraction, especially the inner walled town, consisting of historical districts of El Centro and San Diego. We walked around and explored the hidden gem that is Cartagena.

The table is turned and we get to take a picture of Steffan

Lucky for us, we have a professional photographer and videographer in our group (Steffan), who was kind enough to capture every moment of our trip.

Team Spirit!!

We also visited the Convento de la Popa (Link) which is really beautiful! The Views from here are outstanding and stretch all over the city.

We ended the day back in the old city, watched a dance performance (Cumbia) in the square and headed back to the hotel for the night. Some went back to the old city later on for Dinner while some had dinner at a nearby restaurant close to the hotel.

Day 2 in Cartagena.

Another early morning start at 8:30am, we were picked up in a Chiva (Colombian Bus) and arrived at the port to board the boat for Rosario Islands.  

Rosario Island is reachable only by boat and is known for it's coral reefs and scuba diving. So beautiful and Serene.

Again, there were so many choices of what to do. Scuba diving, visiting the aquarium, hiking into the village/taking a canoe ride and just relaxing by the pool or on the beach or even just laying down on the hammock. 

After the hour of activities, we had some typical food from the area. Fried Fish, rice, fried plantains, friend cassava and salad. In case you didn't notice, fried food is the staple in Cartagena and Rosario.

Fried Arepa with Egg

Typical Meal on Rosario Island
the last couple of hours were for us to use to either walk around or just hang out until our return to mainland Cartagena. At night for dinner we went back to old city, and the ladies in the group enjoyed a horse and buggy ride around the walled city and of course got a bit of history lessons. What a busy day!

Day 3 - Return to Bogota

Well, the mini vacation is over today. We went to the old city one more time, had lunch and walked around for last minute shopping and sightseeing. We returned to the hotel and boarded the bus to the airport... Goodbye Cartagena! You are definitely special!

Back to Bogota and back to work on Tuesday (the real reason we are in Bogota!!)

As I write this, I reflect on what an honor it is for us to be a part of this adventure with other team members (who we've mostly never met and didn't even know existed until a couple of months ago). To be here together in Colombia working for various non profits while really experiencing and exploring a new culture/food/people etc. Words are not enough to describe what we are feeling and experiencing.. Thank you SAP CSR and Pyxera for this adventure!

With that.. I say good night... Buenas Noches!

Day 5 – Project Plan & Revised SOW


It seems we don't have enough hours in the day to go to the office (clients), have our daily planning sessions, discussions, lunch, leave the office for the hotel, decide on dinner, come back to the hotel room, do a quick recap of the day and then write on our blog!. Time really does fly! We are already on day 5! Where is the time going?

At least I can say we did accomplish a lot today, we finished our Scope of Work and also created a complete project plan with each person's deliverable and timeline. We are now pretty much focused on what we want to achieve.

We decided to take a chance and go back to the India Restaurant (Dhaba) that was closed the week prior and thankfully it was open! It was actually pretty busy! I guess Colombian like Indian Food.

Back of the Menu explaining all the different spices they use
Well, I can understand why, the food was delicious! Now we just have to try and stay awake after eat all that. 

 Sanjay (Client) also invited us to his house for dinner with his family. Which was really great. 

Table Spread
 He and his wife (Marcella) were such wonderful hosts and so welcoming, we ended up staying and chatting until 11pm! Yikes! We enjoyed the company so much we ignored the fact the we had to leave our hotel at 5:30am the next morning to catch a flight to Cartagena with the whole team.. It was a good evening with great company..
Sanjay's Self Portrait.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Day 4 - Mentor's Day @ SOLE

October 8, 2015 - Ulf @SOLE!

It's our fourth  day at SOLE and we all had a lot to think about owing to the brainstorming session last evening. I guess it has gotten everyone's minds running overtime about the things which SOLE has the power to do :)
Today, we also had additional support - our mentor Ulf Brackmann decided to spend the entire day with us at SOLE (because he felt this project is really cool B) . Ulf is from Germany and was a part of the Fundacion Capitol project last year at Colombia Social Sabbatical - 2014. He passionately advocates the SAP CSR Strategy and represented the SAP CSR team this time in Bogota.

When we started reviewing the Business Canvas today with him - he helped us to stress on a few important points. Like what is really the USP of SOLE? Maybe not just the ones specified in the Business Canvas.

 Rene has really tried to get the special tool to reflect the data - he's grumbling about the crashes, slow performance and Fati has this smug look - "Ha Ha, I told u so"

We also needed to review the Financial Structure of the organization with Sanjay and were already running late. So the best idea were to grab the delicious sandwiches from La Despensa del  Barrio and have a working lunch. 
Rene was so hungry, that he felt like trying the food he got for Arrack.

Poor Ulf - missed his Soccer Match and Cerveza to sit with us and eat the sandwich :)

Sanjay met us again since he had thought more on the topic of Where did he want to see SOLE in next 12 months?  The concept boiled down to sustainability and community growth.

 Need some viral marketing and growth hacking campaigns for this social enterprise to achieve its goals <thinking thinking>

Didi Fati checked us all into the airlines and gave us our boarding passes :D

Rene and others dined at La Bifferia while Fati and Divi wanted a quiet night out.
Divi has somehow not been her insomniac self lately and sleeps too much :P

Day 4 ends - No Pressure