This past week has been full of firsts. First time training new asesoras, first solo trip to Antigua on public transportation, first monthly meeting, first Guatemalan earthquake…it’s been hectic, but as always, it’s been exciting.
On Tuesday, two new potential asesoras stopped by our office in Solola for a follow-up training session with Juana and I. I was a bit unsure of the process to begin with, but it ultimately went incredibly well – Juana took the lead in teaching them about our product offerings and then we worked together to demonstrate how to give eye exams – one of the most important parts of our work. With only three active asesor teams in our region, one of our priorities for this fall is seeking out new asesores to increase our reach, and I’m happy that we’re hitting the ground running.
Then on Wednesday, I headed off to Antigua for my first monthly meeting. I left around 2pm for the three hour or so trip – when the rain was unfortunately so heavy that I was completely soaked just from the walk from the office to the bus stop. I traveled on camionetas (the “chicken busses,” Guatemala’s unique, colorful public transportation system), and transferred three times – in Solola, Los Encuentros, and Chimaltenango. Each time I boarded a new bus, I’d squeeze in wherever I could find a space – usually, we travel in Guatemala with at least three people per seat, prompting the commonly heard phrase “donde cabe uno, cabe dos…y donde cabe dos, cabe tres” (which means: where one fits, two can fit, and where two fit, three can fit) – pay the ayudante my bus fare (usually after conferring with a fellow passenger to make sure I’m not being ripped off as a gringo), and crane my neck to at least attempt to see out the window, in fear that if I wasn’t paying attention, I might miss my stop. It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable trip but still relatively painless, and I made it to Antigua by late afternoon.
We started our monthly meeting bright and early on Thursday morning, with meetings lasting through Friday afternoon. Since most of our work is done independently in our respective regions, monthly meetings are really the only time (outside of summer) when we’re together as an entire team, both our gringo staff and chapin staff. Much of the time was spent working in regional pairs (myself with Juana) on a new client tracking document – coming up with desired objectives for each of our asesores, sales points, and partner organizations, and determining specific indicators to measure our progress towards those desired outcomes. Juana and I also took some time to look at our progress towards our yearly sales goals – it was a little overwhelming looking at how far we are as a region from meeting are sales goals (for example, we have sold about 20 stoves this year so far, and our yearly sales goal for stoves is 70!). We talked briefly about our plan of attack on reaching our sales goals, but I know that this will be a major focus of our work in the next few weeks especially.
I made my way back to Pana on Saturday morning, after some co-worker bonding, birthday celebrations for Anna (happy 26th!), and a pretty scary 6.5 magnitude earthquake that shook the walls and rattled the windows of our Antigua office for about 30 seconds. As always, life here has its highs and lows. There are days when everything seems perfect – the sun comes out, work is productive, I feel happy and healthy. But few things are really easy here. From earthquakes to leaky windows to pickpocketers to the constant threat of stomach sickness, it’s a far cry from the relatively easy, comfortable life I was living in Berkeley or Bethesda. But it always keeps me on my toes… 🙂