One thing you learn when you talk to Joel Consing is that, when on a safari, it's not the elephants or the lions or the rhinos that kill the most people: it's the hippos. These portly vegetarians can't jump, look mostly harmless, and are the mascots of restaurants and diapers, but walk into their territory and you learn that an aggressive hippo has massive jaws and can charge at you at 30 kilometers an hour.
The other thing you learn from Joel is that, while on the job, he's traveled to places that people believe are far more dangerous than a safari. Only, they aren't, and they're hardly more dangerous than Manila. Joel is the Senior Vice President and CFO of International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), a company that owns and operates over 31 end-and-origin shipping terminals across 18 countries, mostly in emerging, frontier markets. What this means is that he's basically seen the ends of the world from the ground, and at places that are likely on the travel warning list. Joel's work has taken him from Iraq to Pakistan, from Mexico to Columbia—all with quite a bit of reputation in the news.
Still, you probably have a greater chance of getting trampled to death by a hippo in Africa than you are of getting hurt while traveling to these countries. But while there hasn't been any actual trouble for him in these places, they have been more than a little interesting.
What experiences have been the most exciting ?
I would say my initial visits to Pakistan. Many of these countries I have heard of or I have read of only in newspapers. Therefore my impression flying into these countries was quite different than what I had when I finally landed. That has been my experience in literally all the countries I have been to. So I've never had a "scary" experience.
So there's not been any trouble but there have been adventures I guess?
Yes, like for example, when I flew into Iraq. First of all we were the only airplane that landed that day.
Why was that?
Well, not many people go to Iraq, right? (laughs). And the terminal that we had in Umm Qasr was about an hour away from the airport. We had to take this car with the security convoy passing right behind us en route to the port and from my perspective, I was telling myself that if you're looking for a target, then that would be us because there were no other cars on the road, only tanks and soldiers and that's what you see on the way to the port.
Fortunately nothing happened?
Correct. Another experience was in Colombia, in Buenaventura. I wouldn't use the word "hotbed" because that's too strong a term but they did have issues of insurgency. Ecuador was okay, I did not feel threatened at all. Same with Mexico, even with drug and violence issues. Again, just don't find yourself in the wrong side of town. As long as you stick to the central part of town I think you're gonna be okay.
Portrait by Paul Del Rosario
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue 24 2018.