Sorry for so abruptly abandoning you yesterday. Please rest assured that if you’re ever on a tour with me, I won’t do that to you.
So, where did I leave off? Oh yes – 10 a.m.
10 a.m. Training with church partners that will be visited by another tour arriving in a few weeks. We asked six directors to come but most of them are late.
When I start 30 minutes later, I can’t go fast due to the fact that this will be a visit to their centers and they have a lot of questions.
I give them examples of what to do and what not to do, and encourage them to ask questions.
They are very excited for the visit and have a lot of enthusiasm and suggestions. Great!
But still we have to provide several guidelines. For example about the food.
We need to avoid too much spice, raw salads or any other thing that causes problems, and at the same time, not eat chicken every day.
Luckily our food is wonderful and we have lots of choices, but we cannot serve guinea pig or our best seafood dish, ceviche. Not all visitors are so adventurous to eat an animal they would view as a pet, or raw fish with chili.
Besides food, there are other intercultural issues to manage.
Time is a more relaxed concept in Peru and in all South America. To be sure that both standards meet, I tell church partners to be ready half an hour in advance. This way, they are really ready when we arrive … most of the time.
I often call in advance, though, and sometimes I have told the driver to go slowly while I point out some interesting views on the road to gain some time.
Also, for home visits I’ve learned that “accessibility” is quite a different concept for center staff, who are used to going up and down the hills – though per the visitors report, I should call them mountains – without using stairs.
I have learned to be suspicious when they say that the house to visit is located “aquicito nomas” (or very, very close).
I ask them to provide at least one house that is really close and in a flat area. They tell me that all are accessible by mototaxi, (a motorbike that pulls small car with a seat for two people), but still I ask for the names of the children to be visited and give ideas for the grocery bags we will give away at each home visit.
Another difficulty is finding the best way to communicate our ideas to the center staff. They are very loving and committed people, but many of them do not have higher education. However, they have a lot of resources and are very creative. But still, I need to set clear guidelines.
1 p.m. Lunch with the center directors. They continue to ask questions about the visit, and Elia and I continue to answer. As we usually translate in lunches and dinners, we know the art of talking and eating at the same time, so this is no problem.
The center staff are very friendly and excited, so they talk a lot.
2 p.m. We continue with the training. The directors make a draft program for the visits; each one now knows what we will see at their child development center: Child Survival Program mothers and babies, new center, older center, kindergarten children, boys and girls, teenagers, workshops, Leadership Development Program students, former sponsored children, home visits, etc.
In this way, the visitors will have the whole screen of Compassion work. Some centers also have children who will attend the fun day to meet their sponsors.
Now the coordination is made and, God willing, all will be ready when we visit the centers in some weeks.
Then I get an instant message from the Global Ministry Center, but I explain to that person that I am in a meeting and I see if he can wait. We agree to talk when my training is over.
3 p.m. Back at my desk. I have time to write down clearly some of the ideas the church partners had in the meeting. This will improve the materials for future training.
Another instant message. I see what they need and answer. However, I am not ready to answer all of it, as some answers have not arrived from the centers yet. I have to ask for more time.
I try to make one urgent call to answer, but the center does not work today so I have to wait until tomorrow.
3:15 p.m. My manager calls to get an answer about the approval for a tour request for next year. Elia and I discuss it and decide to accept as it does not interfere with any other tours, any center closing, holiday or special activity. So he will send the approval right away.
We have received requests for two years in the future and it looks like we are a very popular destination.
We will have to visit more centers after this tour ends. We need to get more alternatives for visits. Some of the visitors come back to our country again and we cannot show them the same places.
Elia and I also decide who will be in charge of the tour so we start working. We help each other as a team, but one is responsible for the tour and makes the final decisions.
3:30 p.m. The country director calls us to see the final details of the tour that arrives today. We have to clear out some issues related to the program and the involvement of our staff. Questions about future tours are also made.
We discuss one interesting proposal that overlaps a tour we have already set for the future. We will try to adjust the dates, but we agree we cannot say no. The request comes from a big mission, and this tour could mean more sponsorships for our country. We will take it.
We also talk to the partnership facilitators about more tours. Some mention that their centers are willing to welcome us. However, we have to check several details: location, security, programs available, and if they have been visited before.
The partnership facilitators help us a lot. They are the ones who recommend the best development centers for visits and encourage the rest to improve in order to get visitors, too. We know visits encourage the centers a lot.
4:30 p.m. Back to my desk. Elia and I make some final calls to the centers that we are to visit in this tour about to start.
Also, to be sure that all the children will come on time, we pass all the information needed to the partner country staff that will help us.
One more memo to the translators, some other memos to the project facilitators about some last-minute visits for the tour, and that’s it.
I start to get ready for the tour office visit tomorrow.
One final review to see if all is OK and if I am missing anything. Elia does the same, and we both take our laptops home with us.
During the tour, we will connect at home in the evenings to check urgent messages and answer others. This way, we do not have a bunch of e-mails waiting for us after the tour.
5:15 p.m.. As I am about to leave, a final phone call gets in. The center with the child who had to travel just learned that the father has decided to stay in the jungle with his family. It is a remote area and there is not a Compassion-assisted child development center in the area. So the center will send the child departure form in the following weeks.
I sit down and write a memo to tell this to the sponsoring country. With an upcoming sponsor tour, I will be out of the office the rest of the week so it is important I send this now. I know this will be very disappointing for the sponsor.
I pray over the e-mail before sending it as I usually do for any difficult situation. God is in control and He will continue to care for the boy.
6 p.m. Time to go home. I take the welcome boards and the small souvenirs we give the sponsors upon their arrival. The water bottles are also placed in the taxi as they will go with me to the airport, too.
I look forward to my mother’s food. I will be having lunch with the tour and perhaps some dinners. So it seems to be my last chance for homemade food for the next several days.
8 p.m. After dinner and some talk with my family, I connect to the Internet and check the arrival of the sponsors’ flight online. We have had a lot of fog during the last days, but tonight all looks normal and the flight is confirmed. But it will arrive one hour late.
The group is not that big so hopefully they will clear customs quickly. Elia and I talk on the phone to agree at what time I will pick her up. I can hear the voices of her children as I talk to her.
9 p.m. I wish I could take a nap, but I know if I get to bed I will fall asleep. So I check once again the flight and call the driver. He should pick me up at 10:15 p.m., as we have to load the water back into the taxi and then pick up Elia on the way. As she lives close to the airport, she will have enough time to put her children in bed.
10:15 p.m. In the taxi, I remind the driver about the children who will arrive from the province the next day for a fun day. He will have to pick them up from the bus station and take them to the hotel.
10:30 p.m. I call Elia to let her know we are very close to her home. She will be there when I arrive, and then we head to the airport together.
10:40 p.m. Elia gets in the taxi. We are dressed the same way, with our Compassion T-shirts and jackets.
Elia has already coordinated which T-shirt we will use every day. This way, we always give the same image and are easy to identify.
Elia tells me about her children and their last adventures in the school. She is very proud, especially of the little 2-year-old boy.
11 p.m. At the airport, to welcome a new group.
Thank God the plane wasn’t delayed further and it was clear enough for the plane to land without any problem. So, let’s smile and get ready for another tour week.
The tour leaders are new so we talk briefly and introduce each other. With good luck, I will be in my bed at 1 a.m. Or perhaps not.
The luggage of two of the visitors has not arrived. So Elia goes with the group to the hotel, and I stay and go with one of the tour leaders to the airline desks to ask about the luggage and fill out documents.
The airline says they will send the missing luggage to the hotel next day. We arrive at the hotel 20 minutes after the group, and I take one of the sponsors without luggage to a 24-hour supermarket nearby, to buy some basic things needed.
I am back home at 2 a.m. Not too bad as I don’t need to be in the office until 8 a.m., and the first day is always easygoing, usually containing an office visit and a city tour.
But that is another day and this day has officially ended, so I will stop here. Just before bed, time to devotion and read the Bible. And then to sleep!