Lately, I have fallen in love with Colombia, it´s people, culture and food. If you read my previous post (which you probably should before reading further), you know how I prepared for this travel, and you know how I felt about it!
Being prepared is as vital to traveling, as it is to security. I was prepared for danger, possible disaster, and a hard time, while what I experienced was the exact opposite.
Let me share some of my experiences with you: Upon first arriving in Cali, after spending more than 26 hours traveling, I was tired, jet lagged, scared and very much alone – with my skills in habla espanola equaled exactly “Una cerveza, per favor”, I was welcomed with fellow passengers offering to help with my luggage, to find me transportation and offering kind and honest advices.
The Security Zone 2013 team (a part of it) picked me up at the airport, and my first impression of Cali and Colombia was enforced – nice, smiling, caring and kind people, so eager to make me feel like I belonged in this country. We met the other speakers, I had the pleasure to meet some new infosec peeps (@f1nux, @revdrproxy, @alexheid), as well as to hug Georgia again.
After a couple of days of adjusting to the new timezone (I never shaked off the jet lag, though), the conference started. I was introduced to the Vice Minister of ICT, Maria Isabel Mejia Jaramillo (@marisabelmejia), and Jorge Fernando Bejarno Lobo (@jfbejarano). When the Vice Minister named me in her speech, it started to dawn on me that at this conference, I was the VIP.
From then on, things only got better!
That afternoon, I did my talk Hacking Your Mind, where I briefly explain how personality types may interfere with security, and how to counter it as a security professional. As I roamed the room like I usually do, some ice was being melted. The Colombians liked my style, even if I think they where a tiny bit shocked at first.
Needless to say, I had a good time. Since I had my keynote at 0800AM the next morning, I skipped the party, and tried to get some rest. Of course, not without having flirted with the locals, including Daniela, who was there to serve us Bogota Beer Company beer. She vouched for the beer, and since I trust her, so do I! (No, they did not pay me – they should!)
As Colombia is sort of an outpost of South-Europe, Latin time applies. I was not very surprised that the conference center was almost deserted when I arrived there the next morning at 0745AM. Good for me, it gave me more than enough time to set up and test the audio, as well as the video recording system.
Something happened during my keynote. Somehow, I touched people with my message, so much that several participants approached me to have my autograph. This has never happened to me at a security conference before, except when signing my books. I was touched to the heart.
Since my duties as a speaker were done, I ventured over to the Bogota Beer Company booth, and enjoyed a beer. At some point, Daniela decides to give me a sign of compassion, and this is what I get:
At this point, I could not take it anymore – my heart was lost in this country, the people, this girl, and the amazing hospitality and kindness they all showed me. I knew I was in love.
Lucky as I am, my flight out of Colombia was still a few days away, and I got to see the sights. Saturday was spent in the mountains surrounding Cali. A gang of geeks playing in the tea-fields, riding horses, exploring the mountain roads from the back of a pickup-truck. The crux of the day was when we visited some of the finest houses in the region, being introduced to some very amazing people.
At this point, I had totally accepted being one of the VIPs, and just enjoyed the ride!
Sunday, I sat course for Buga, a city some 60 kms from Cali. I went there to do a communication training for the local JCI Chapter, JCI Buga. The training, Coach 2 Lead, a training I must have conducted in more than 30 countries by now, created an impact not only on the JCI Buga members, it changed the perception of Juan Carlos of what I am, what I do and how I do it, to such an extent that he proposed to bring me back to Colombia to do more of this!
You think I said yes?
Of course I did!
We then went on a sightseeing, over the mountains, which gave me plenty of opportunity to enjoy one of my many weird hobbies – trucks. Not those small ones, I like the 18-wheelers. I promise, I will never again complain about poor road conditions in Norway, nor about crazy driving. The Colombian truck drivers drive like there is no tomorrow, overtaking each other on narrow and cranky mountain roads, forcing each other into the ditch and off the hill.
One thing I have not mentioned yet, is a social experiment. We dubbed it #holakai: we made it a challenge to see how large a group of people we were able to get to say Hola Kai on video. I will discuss this in a separate post, and of course at some point in the future, you will be able to watch the recordings on the Intertubes2. I hear they have highly advanced layer 2 systems, even if I prefer the layer 8 myself.
I am very grateful to the Security Zone 2013 team for inviting me (and possibly more important: accepting my terms), and bringing me to Cali. You have given me a life changing experience. Georgia Weidman, Arron Finnon and Ian Amit are great people, insightful speakers and I enjoyed meeting you! Alex Heid and Chis Snyder, both of Hack Miami, was the golden nuggets for me – I had no idea they existed, and the stories, ideas and conspiracy theories they had – well, I loved it all! Thank you guys for making my stay a memorable one!
The global infosec community is a bunch of great, amazing and knowledgeable people. The world need you, and I love you! Just not as much as I love Daniela, Cali, Colombia and the Colombian people!
– edit: typos.