Bogotá, Day 2

IMG_3774Day 2, March 8

Today we started our company visits with Camilo at La Gaitana.  Beautiful sites and smells, and a greater appreciation for the cultivation of flowers.

After lunch (including playing on the playscape) we headed to the American Embassy, also meeting with visitors from the American Women’s Club.  Indeed, one of our take-aways was the subtle meaning behind “qué pena.”

And we finished the day with the Alumni dinner, complete with flowers, cake, and nice exchanges with our visitors.

Talk about your observations, take-aways, and learning points for today.

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27 Responses to “Bogotá, Day 2”

  1. Brittany Rogers Says:

    This was my favorite company visit! I’ve never been to a foreign country and been able to, so tangibly, connect a product or service back to things I see in my daily life in the US. Camilo was friendly and very open with us on his business and operations. One thing that really stood out to me was when someone asked with it being International Women’s Day, what percentage of his workers are women? He opened up about his women workers, struggles to find and retain talent in the rapidly changing country, and some awesome benefits he gives his employees – like bringing in school supplies vendors to the farm or an optometrist coming out several times a year for eye exams.

  2. Tyler Hjalmquist Says:

    I learned that the US is extremely dependent on flowers from Colombia, and that a flower can survive 21 days in transit. I was surprised to see how progressive the flower industry is in Colombia ( I always assumed that there were some random flower farms in the US that provided us with flowers) whereas companies such as Camilo at La Gaitana are able to serve several different markets (US, Japan, Europe) despite their extremely different preferences and the seasonality of their flower demand.
    We also visited the embassy and learned what it is like to be an ex-pat in Bogota. It was interesting to hear an American perspective of life in Colombia (because so far we had only been exposed to our local tour guide’s perspective). Some interesting facts were that some American companies take extreme security measures with their ex-pats and some do nothing. Also, Americans seem to think that Colombian food is very bland. Most of all, the conversation at the embassy with the ex-pats gave me a new appreciation for people who have to move their family to a new location, and that it is not sufficient just to learn the language; one has to learn about the subtleties of the culture that they will be spending the next few years in.
    We learned about “que Pena”, a phrase that would come back to haunt us for the rest of the trip.

  3. Karen Madera Says:

    During the trip to La Gaitana, the fact that stood out the most to me was how the flower plantation met the demand for the Japanese consumers. They let us know that compared to the Western craving for already bloomed flowers, Asian consumers actually wanted to see their buds bloom before them. To accommodate, La Gaitana cuts the flowers before they bloom and send them overseas pre-mature. At the Embassy it was interested to hear the ex-pat stories and how they adjusted to living in Colombia. What I found interesting was that only 3 out of the 5 people on the panel learned Spanish — the others seemed to not be concerned with acquiring the language. Another thing I didn’t know was that depending on the Visa the ex-pats are given, their significant other might not be able to work.

  4. Destin Whitehurst Says:

    The sheer volume of flowers produced at La Gaitana is incredibly impressive, though the bottom-line tells the story of how difficult the life of a farmer can be. Fascinating that our hosts were so open and honest about their financial performance.
    Our embassy visit was quite interesting, as I took in the considerations for living abroad, both positive (language opportunities, travel, career progression) and negative (separation from headquarters, security issues). I’ll be living in Costa Rica this summer for my internship, and will surely experience both sides of the ex-pat coin.

  5. Laura Szymanski Says:

    The production and selection of La Gaitana’s crop – carnations – was facinating. In addition to learning about the various challenges needed to keep their farm running profitability, I enjoyed learning about the budding preference around the world. This makes sense why my Danish mom would select closed flowers when she gave me a bouquet, when I was used to the large open flowers here in the US.

    From an IOT perspective, I am curious to know in the future if having sensors in their containers improves their time to market and product to market capabilities as seen amongst banana growers also in this region.

  6. hannahsierra2016 Says:

    What a day! The class was notably in good spirits at Camilo’s carnation farm. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful to have an outdoor tour. I personally journaled about the experience and began a consulting project with Camilo at La Gaitana Farm. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that I felt so connected with a business and its owners. I saw my family in Camilo and wanted to help him. With full time school and work in the US, I sometimes lose passion in life and so when I found the spark I couldn’t help by dive head first. Before I learned about the world of carnations, I had little respect for them as flowers. I am now proud to help provide research, analysis, and recommendations for Camilo this summer.

  7. Ashley C Tisdale Says:

    The company visit to La Gaitana was one of my favorites. Carnations are actually one of my favorite flowers so learning about their process was very intriguing. When we went into the actual plant facility, it reminded me of the Colombian movie, Maria: Full of Grace in which all of the employees were women and that their households depended on them for income. I was surprised how open Camilo was in regards to discussing his operations and informing us about how they were losing market share and how much they depend on countries like the US for profit. I liked how Camilo also thought it was a good opportunity to ask MBA students for assistance with his operations by offering jobs. At the American Embassy, I appreciated learning more about ex-pat life because many companies glorify that an employee will get to explore a different country but there are also challenges involved with that type of move. I was very impressed on how we celebrated International Women’s Day with the bouquet of flowers and chocolates from the hotel. I have always been aware of that day but it felt like a special occasion because we were American women engaging in international studies.

  8. Kyle Gabb Says:

    Today we got to visit Our first company visit, La Gaitana. I found our experience there fascinating. I have never put much thought into buying flowers at the grocery store. Sure it grows somewhere, but I go to the store, pick out the best looking ones, and pay. End of transaction. What visiting this “small” farm taught me was there is much more to it than that. From the selection of flowers to grow, the ever growing costs needs of using water and soil efficiently, keeping pests out, to harvesting, clipping, packaging and shipping these flowers – a ton of planning and work is involved. I found our hosts to be extremely open and welcoming (which continued to be a constant theme on our visits). I’ll never look at flowers the same again!

    Lunch was great, and I tried lulu fruit for the first time. It was delicious. I had a great fish and enjoyed the atmosphere at the restaurant. After lunch we headed to the embassy. The security protocol was very stringent. As we waited in a line to get in, we saw numerous vehicles be sniffed by dogs before being allowed to enter the premises. Once we were in, we had to be lead around by approved personnel. While I assume this level of security is left over from a more dangerous time in Colombia, it’s always better to be on the safe side. The expat conversion was very informative. While they started on the “being an expat is awesome” side, they eventually discussed some of the hardships of leaving family behind, adjusting to a different culture, and having your privacy limited by security measures. As my career will take me abroad, I was glad to hear both the positives and negatives of living as an expat. Also they taught us “Que Pena” which will stay in my vocabulary for a long time.

  9. Curtis Davis Says:

    Visiting La Gaitana was one of the more meaningful experiences of the trip to me. I thought it was important not only to learn about doing business in Colombia from a proprietor’s perspective but also to see the working experience of ordinary Colombians. During our tour of the facilities, we saw the type of demanding work that Colombians are performing to which many Americans are not accustomed. I think its important to see how people in other parts of the world live and work to give us a new perspective on our own lives.

    Visiting the US embassy was great because we got to hear about the experience of ex-pats living in Colombia. The dialogue was helpful because we got to learn what it’s like to live in Colombia as an American.

  10. Jessica Jozwiak Says:

    Our visit to La Gaitana farms was the company trip I was most looking forward to. For several years, my younger sister helped run a small farm in Savannah GA, and while I was living in Atlanta, I would make the trip on weekends to help her in their greenhouses or to sling greens at the farmer’s market. They used the same hydroponic growing technique for lettuce as La Gaitana does for their carnations. It helps protect the plants from the outdoor elements and allows the grower to control the pH of the soil. I learned how much the altitude comes into play when selecting which flowers to grow, as it was mentioned they used to grow flowers but their blooms cannot compete in the market so they stick to varieties of carnations.

  11. David H Chung Says:

    Taking a tour to the farm was definitely one of my interest, since I worked for agribusiness back in Korea. I didn’t noticed before that Colombian floriculture industry has developed to such level. It was impressive to see Colombian carnations imported to a lot of foreign countries, including the United States and Japan. The co-founder of the farm also mentioned that they used to import flowers to Korea.

    It was very kind of them to show very specific part of the farm, including cafeteria for employees, husk recycling plant, and greenhouses. I could see how the carnation farm was operated, how they managed watering system, and how they manage the fertilizers.

    Visiting the US embassy was also very interesting experience. I used to be living in the United States as a foreigner, but now I could see that how the United States people living in the foreign countries. They also met a lot of cultural challenges and struggling to settle in Colombian culture and people. I agree with their perspective that living in the foreign country and learning from them is a huge privilege.

  12. carlisland Says:

    This was the day that I began to understand how the devaluation of the Colombian Peso over the last year has impacted business in the country.

    Visiting La Gaitana was interesting because (from my understanding) they are one of the few Colombian businesses who export their products. Talking to other businesses it became apparent that Colombia is heavily reliant on imported goods. I found this interesting when considering the macroeconomic trends of the country. Exporting goods had been great for the country while they were on the rapid growth path of the last 6 years but now that gas prices had depressed the colombian peso the cost of doing business in Colombia was inflating.

  13. Kent Kronenberg Says:

    Camilo and La Gaitana were an excellent introduction to family business in Colombia, and how closely intertwined business and the local community are. These were important themes in our visits to several of the companies.

    Two of the biggest problems we had heard about in Colombia came to a head at La Gaitana: drought and the devaluation of the currency. The adverse effects of both on the company were very much influencing business decisions and how the company would move forward. I found it interesting that it was using a hydroponics method but wanted to get away from it because it was too expensive. The innovative farming techniques and use of technology were interesting to hear about.

    The U.S. Embassy talk was a lot more fun than expected. It was definitely not as dry as one would imagine an embassy visit could be. Having been an ex-pat in Korea for 8 years, I enjoyed their talk about that lifestyle and really wanted to jump up on the panel myself to share my two cents. A warning to all: not being able to find almond butter is not something to complain about while living abroad…

  14. Bryan Benson Says:

    La Gaitana was a great experience. Camilo was so open throughout the whole visit in regards to talking about the business, both positives and negatives. I also had no idea how big of an exporter Colombia is when it comes to flowers – I guess it’s not an industry I regularly think about,

    The U.S. embassy visit was awesome. I found the panel very relatable and very forthcoming about the challenges (and joys) of being an expatriate. When I walked away from this session, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted an ex-pat opportunity.

  15. Yeony Bae Says:

    This day was full of flowers, which I really enjoyed. We visited La Gaitana flower farm and we got flower to celebrate ‘International Women’s Day’. My mind was blown away there is something like ‘International Women’s Day’ and it is actually widely celebrated in Colombia. However, I couldn’t stop wondering how widely it is celebrated. I gave my flower to a lady who sells candies on the street, and she was extremely happy – maybe too happy, which almost made me feel sorry. That overlapped the fact we discussed in La Caitana farm – Colombians don’t pay enough for the flowers. I thought these beautiful flowers produced in Colombian land are almost exclusively sold abroad. I just hoped Colombia’s economic plan goes well so that all Colombian women can get beautiful Colombian flowers on International Women’s Day, whatever communa they are from and whatever social level they are in.

  16. Ivo Fink Says:

    I really enjoyed our visit to La Gaitana Farms as well as the openness of Camilo in showing us around the property and answering all our questions. Walking through the greenhouses and flower processing facilities was simply beautiful while the explanations of Camilo and his team provided me with a good understanding of the key economic drivers of the cut flower business. Some of the aspects that impressed me most were the huge difference in customer preferences across countries (e.g. USA vs. Japan), the challenges faced in the context of international distribution (air vs. sea freight, customs clearance, cooling, etc.) as well as the fact that La Gaitana runs its own soil recycling facility.
    Meeting up with a couple of expats on the premises of the U.S. embassy in the afternoon was definitely another highlight for the day since it provided us with first hand information on what life as a U.S. expat in Bogotá looks like. Personally, I was quite surprised to hear how security measures provided for international employees vary from firm to firm (cf. bullet proof cars and bodyguards vs. bicycle and no personal protection).

  17. Elizabeth Sickler Says:

    I had never heard of National Women’s Day before this day. I must be very Americanized in my holidays because many of those on the trip were surprised I didn’t know about this holiday. I loved the celebration from getting chocolates in the hotel room to flowers and cake at the alumni event! Definitely want to bring this holiday back to the US!

    Visiting La Gaitana was one of my favorite company visits. I was surprised about the combination of modern and ancient technology that has led to the company’s success. At one point in time, our tour guide was showing us a specialized air-conditioned container for shipping the flowers to Japan as a horse and buggy rode pass, taking flowers from the field to the warehouse. There were many women in the building hand sorting the flowers while other machines sheared the steams. As an operations professional, I kept wondering how the company decided what to modernize and automate and what to keep legacy.

    I can’t finish this summary without addressing qué pena…was this an introduction of the term or a curse for the trip? The ex-pats were a wonderful way to learn about working and living in Colombia. I was intrigued by the talk of security guards for the oil and gas family. After our time in the country I am even more surprised about their necessity because I felt relatively safe most of the time.

  18. Ibk Ol Says:

    We had our first company visit at La Gaitana. It was amazing to watch the way flowers are grown and the struggles he faces. There were a lot of really cool things regarding the assembly line and his plans to add more technology to his plant. Lunch and the embassy were fantastic. It was great to hear what it would be like to be an expat in Colombia and the challenges and rewards they face. We ended the night at the alumni reception where I got to talk with our local tour guides and challenged myself to what was an incredibly difficult Spanish only conversation.

  19. Anna Knyazhitskaya Says:

    I like to think of this day as “ex-pat” day; in the morning we were given a tour by a Dutchman at La Gaitana, followed by a panel with Americans who have emigrated to Colombia for work, and the day concluded over drinks with UT alumni residing in Bogota. This is the day that I realized that I would not move to another country for a job or a spouse’s job, regardless of the perks. The cultural benefits would not outweigh the sacrifices that I’d be making in moving to a different country; I am grateful for the panelists for being so open about the pros and cons of life in a foreign country.

  20. Kavita Rangaswamy Says:

    La Gaitana was definitely one of my favorite company visits! I found it interesting to not only see how and where these beautiful flowers were grown, but also learn more about how different countries like flowers bloomed to different degrees.

    Visiting the embassy allowed us to see the ups and downs of living in a different country. It was refreshing to hear about the expats’ experiences prior to living in Colombia and now, and hear about how their perspective on living in the country has evolved over time.

  21. Adriana Penalba Says:

    I am sad that I missed the visit to La Gaitana, but was very happy to finally be on my way to Colombia! I experienced no flight delays, and when I arrived in Colombia, I had to recall my unused Spanish to get through customs where the customs agents told me that I spoke “perfectamente” which was not true, but nice to hear. Unfortunately I didn’t see anyone waiting for me at the airport, but I know I must have just missed them. I was able to order an uber and again use my broken Spanish to successfully arrive at the hotel and go straight to bed. I lived in Nicaragua for a few years and visit often because that’s where my dad is from, and I was expecting a more undeveloped city similar to Managua. Instead I was surprised by how safe Bogota felt and how developed it looked. People seemed to follow most traffic laws, it was very clean, and there were police everywhere.

  22. Victor Okocha Says:

    It was interesting learning about the flower growing business. I didn’t realize flower growers use different techniques to slow down the blooming process during shipment. I also noticed a chart that displayed pictures of flowers at different stages of the blooming process. This was shown because each country prefers their shipment of flowers bloomed at a different stage which was cool to learn about. We also got to talk with the expats and hear about their experiences living in Colombia. It was great to hear about their experiences and seems like something I might be interested in doing at some point in my career.

  23. Krista Fischer Says:

    This was one of my very favorite mornings in Colombia. I grew up in the country and my grandparents were farmers before retirement. Just outside of Bogota, there was a certain peace to this place for me. This was also one of the first family businesses we would visit while in Colombia. La Gaitana is in its second generation with Camilo as CEO. I joked if I ever needed a sabbatical, I would call Camilo to ask if I could clip carnations in the greenhouses. He also introduced us to a gentleman from Holland who lead my tour group throughout the farm and indoor operations. Apparently, Holland is the innovator of the world when it comes to flower farming. He is a former civil engineer who met Camilo and ended up in Colombia.

    The expat panel at the U.S. Embassy was definitely interesting. While living and working in another country could be very amazing, there are also many, many drawbacks especially if you are close to your family. Your relationship with your significant other would need to be incredibly strong to make it work. The level of security provided to some of the panelists was also very eye opening. One couple on the panel has someone shadow them exactly like a secret service member. Pretty sure I could live with a driver, but being restricted on if I could even take a spontaneous walk would definitely not fly.

  24. David F. Says:

    La Gaitana was very cool! Seeing Camilo talk about the his business in such an open and honest way was very refreshing. It was also very interesting to hear more about the flower export business and seeing the factory where the flowers were packaged in person. The working conditions actually appeared to be much better than some of the other factories I have visited before in Asia.

    The Embassy visit was my favorite part of the day. I enjoyed hearing from each of the different US citizens and how each of them were adjusting to life in Colombia. Their experiences seemed drastically different depending on employment, company size, spousal employment, cultural/language awareness, and many other factors.

  25. stephanielmoten Says:

    As discussed in class, in an indirect culture, people’s attitudes towards explicitness in communication allow others to save face and ensure that no one is made to feel uncomfortable publicly. Whereas, in a direct culture, people will often say exactly what is going on in a given situation. I found Colombia to be more indirect than direct. During our trip, we visited the American Embassy in Bogota and met with Foreign Service officers and expats who talked to us about their experiences living in Colombia. They told us that something they had to learn was how to realize when people’s verbal language and body language did not match because it was unreliable to take people at face value. For example, one American businessman working at his company’s office in Colombia talked to us about an experience he had in gathering quarterly performance results and being blindsided despite having regular check-in meetings with his staff throughout the quarter.

  26. mikeramirezblog Says:

    The visit to La Gaitana was definitely eye opening and for me was the most important learning point for the day. Once we arrived to the farm we were welcomed with a very nice spread of coffee, juice, water, bread, cheese, and ham. Apparently in Colombia ham and cheese is pretty normal for all times breakfast through late night snacks. I got to learn so much about the flower business by listening to Camilo. He was a very committed person to the product and interestingly was open about the financial state of the company which is not really something most companies would do. After walking around the farm and seeing the workers I took many pictures because it was interesting to see that on one side of the factory there was a brand new machine that basically is suppose to wrap and seal the carnations about 12 times faster than the current employee can do. I asked Camilo why this expensive and new product is slowly rolling out. I was surprised to hear that he is steadily bringing it to use as the transition would in my mind reduce cost. The workers looked very happy to have a job and in a very good condition out of the heat or elements. I was amazed that he gives so many benefits to the employees like bringing doctors out the farm to conduct eye exams.

  27. Paolo Boero Says:

    La Gaitana was a great way to kick off the company visits. It was a beautiful day and the in the backdrop of the farm were the mountains that gave me an idea of just how beautiful the scenery is in Bogota. It was amazing to hear the story of family owned business and see how the flowers were grown (8 months is a long time to wait). After a long day I was a bit weary of the embassy visit, but really enjoyed hearing the speakers input on living in Bogota. Martin could not wipe the grin off his face when he answered every question. He was clearly having a great time living in Bogota

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