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Archive for March, 2010

In Colombia, they love trees…

by Alex on Mar.21, 2010, under Blog

They must do.

Look. These trees are obviously ill and they’ve put drips in them to make them more betterer.

I’ve never seen tree drips before…

tree-drips tree-drip
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Cos I’m the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine

by Alex on Mar.20, 2010, under Blog

So, we’re sitting around on a normal ‘work’ day, chatting about architecting and the like when our mate Andy (owner of Cranky Croc, best hostel in Bogotá) calls. It’s not difficult to get involved in TV in Colombia as a westerner – the look is in demand and there are not many of us here. Andy is in a mall doing extra work for a telenovela (soap opera) and one of the agents there is looking for some white boys to attend a casting for a Timberland advert; they were after a rugged look.

Convinced of our suitability based solely on not having shaved for a couple of days and having done a fun run some time in the mid nineties we headed for the casting, arriving some time later to be greeted by a rather frisky agent and noting that we were standing out from the rest of those waiting not so much due to our western looks rather due to our lacking of tight t-shirts, large biceps and other stereotypical model-esque qualities. Oh well, it was all good banter.

A little while into the obviously long wait we noted that we were outside G d G Stunts, this would explain the noises of people being beaten up that we could hear coming from inside. I didn’t think that this had anything to do with our being there reasoning that there were castings for various things going on, us being 99% sure that the two girls that had recently entered the building were auditioning for porn (mum, obviously I’ve never watched porn, Travis told me they looked like pornstars)!

Our turn came and Travis, Lee and I went into the building along with a handful of westernish-looking Colombian lads; we were expecting some kind of photo shoot thing and to be probably trying on some Timberland boots…

…and found out that the noises actually had everything to do with us.

We enter a room with a matted floor and large scaffold set up at one end. I’m pretty sure that none of us had a trepidation level of lower than 4/10. One of the stuntmen then tells us that all we need to do is ‘this’. He then runs and at the scaffold, vaults over a bar, jumps up to grab a pole along which he swings hand over hand to the right-hand scaffold tower. Defty climbing up the side of the tower he steps down to the horizontal pole that links it to the left hand tower at a height of about 10 foot. On crossing the pole he stops half way and does a comedy look left look right combo before jumping to the left hand tower, sliding down a diagonal pole to the next platform, running to the edge, doing a 180 degree jump to the floor, commando role and then giving us his ‘victorious gesture’ (I love it how so many phrases in espanish could come directly from an Austen novel).

Travis and I gave each other a nervous look. To say the least.

In the end it was a good crack. The Latinos took it all very seriously but then they were proper models and it was their job, we were just there for the banter. We clapped our encouragement and dicked about where possible. After a practice go each we did it for the camera and then shot another ‘scene’ diving to catch a bottle of ‘Pony’ a quite aptly-named (if you know Cockney rhyming slang – pony = pony and trap = crap) local drink as if it were some object of great value. We then had to vault a waist-high pile of mats that was supposed to represent a moving car, look back in relief at our near miss and then turn to the camera holding that look of relief. Needless to say I found it hard to effect looks of victory and relief without pissing myself, I am glad that I’m never likely to see the footage.

Lucky though, Travis was caught on camera. Enjoy:

Trav we’ll call that one all for that very gay photo of me that you put in the Tiësto montage x.

For those wondering, the title is a reference to the early 80s show The Fall Guy.

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Getting a bank account in Colombia without a cédula

by Alex on Mar.07, 2010, under Blog

Go to the bottom of the page for the factual information to which the title of this post alludes.

A cédula (de identidad) is the ID document issued in many Latin American countries, including Colombia. It’s said that you need one to open a bank account here and in Colombia you cannot get a cédula with a tourist visa, which I have.

I reasoned that having an HSBC account in the UK, opening one here should be no issue. I can prove who I am with my passport and HSBC UK have access to pretty much all my banking history having opened an account with Midland Bank probably 25 years ago on the strength of getting a free sports bag – far more valuable in the ‘do I or do I not give this guy a bank account’ decision that the fact that I have an official ID card. I’ve heard such nonsense as money laundering mentioned as some kind of shit pseudo-explanation for this rule. Why might I be able to launder money now and suddenly find the need to stop once I have an ID card and Pablo Escobar most probably had a cédula are two ripostes that took me approximately 0.25 of a second to come up with.

Obviously the automaton with whom I spoke upon calling HSBC UK was no help, not that I expected anything but ‘rules’ being quoted at me – flawless logic meaning nothing in the face of rules. The frustrating irony for me is that there are not many who have not experience ‘rules’ being bent or even simply ignored.

Salvation though seemed to be at hand. A friend put me on to HSBC Premier and after a brief phone call we’d arranged a meeting to open a bank account. And get this: the guy was going to come to my apartment for the meeting. I was amazed to the extent of almost falling over – in a country where the buck rarely stops and where you can get inconsistent and often conflicting information from government officials working in the same position in the same office and queues at banks can go round the block with people selling umbrellas to those queueing on sunny days and it’s generally a pain in the ass to get anything done, someone was going to come to my house to open a bank account for me – bonus!

The guy turned up at 08:15, a quarter of an hour late yet about fifteen minutes early on Colombian time. Five minutes later his mate arrived. It is funny how things work here and funny can be replaced by many a word – so often so hard to get things done and then two guys come to your house to open a bank account for you. Once reassured of our business plans and that we intended to get business owners visas as quickly as humanly and legally possible, (and therefore be entitled to cédulas) opening a bank account without a cédula was not an issue. Many many forms were presented to us and brilliantly the guy completed them for us, just like in the olden days back home. I put my fingerprint on, without exaggeration, at least 10 documents – makes far more sense than a signature alone, being impossible to fake, probably. After two hours we’d finished the process and they’d contact us soon with an update. They’d need to contact HSBC UK to confirm banky stuff with them and they’d let us know.

That was about 3 weeks ago. I’ve not been proactively contacted by them and upon enquiring as to the state of the application am told that they are awaiting information from the UK. I wonder just how many calls per day they are making to the UK, chasing my info. My guess would be roughly zero.

Facts of the matter:

  • If you want to set up a bank account in Colombia and do not have a cédula, contact HSBC Premier
  • I imagine that you’d need an HSBC account in another country for them to help
  • To qualify for an HSBC premier account you need to actually/pretend that you will maintain a balance of 50,000 USD in that account – worth bearing in mind for the meeting
  • Update, 21st March:

    It’s now probably about 5 weeks since the great show that was two guys coming to the apartment to sort out the bank accounts. This is after many many phone calls and a chance bumping into of one of them. Sadly this, in my experience, is standard fayre in Latin America and anyone with ‘western’ standards that wants to do business here wants to bear that in mind. Allow long time frames and I suggest paying a lot of attention to the critical path of your business plans – you will be let down, a lot, it’s just part of life here…

    We had a very productive meeting with Bancolombia last week. If you are in a position where you need a bank account and do not have a cédula, and you have convincing business plans then get in touch and I’ll hook you up with our contact.

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