Last week was the inauguration of the OMM (Oficina Municipal de la Mujer aka Women’s Office). This is the office I am technically assigned to work with and had been sitting around for a full month before anyone told me that it was never legalized. As someone who was sent to these offices to help make them more efficient and effective I probably should have realized a little bit earlier that the office I was in didn’t even really exist. How embarrassing.
But I told myself “better late than never” and did my best to help them plan the big event. Which really just consisted of me asking what I deemed to be legitimate and entirely logical questions and them either politely writing down my concern/idea and then ignoring it or them completely flying off into a frenzy of “Oh my god you’re right, what are we going to doooooo?!?!??” And while I feel like I have a much better understanding of how things get done (or, more often, don’t get done) here, I would say this first experience in Guatemalan “event planning” has only raised more questions. Like why not figure out how many invitations you need overall, make them and deliver them all at once rather than making small batches constantly for the two weeks leading up to the event and sending them out sporadically up until the day before? Or why, when the program is still not set and we’re two hours from it starting, is cutting fruit for punch still the main priority? Why doesn’t the municipality own a ladder and how safe is it to use a rolling basketball hoop to hang balloons? While I’m glad you took my suggestion to order an office banner, who decided it needed to be so damn big?
Does the mayor have a reason for being late and thus delaying the event by two hours? Why, during an event meant to signify a new age in women’s empowerment in the municipality is the stage mainly occupied by men? More importantly, men who are not paying attention and cracking jokes the whole time? Why is the volume on the sound system set to ear-drum exploding levels and the MC speaking in a manner more appropriate to sporting events? Why did we prepare a variety of events for the kids (piñatas, prizes, etc.) to do outside only to not do them and allow the kids to run amuck inside during the program? Why, when I’ve clearly been around during the entire planning process, did no one tell me beforehand I would be expected to speak in front of the 400 assembled women?
How did we end up running out of food when the food was the most agonized over aspect of planning? Is it normal for office workers to hide a large portion of the food to take home even when we run out during the event? Why aren’t there any trashcans anywhere and won’t this make clean-up about a million times more annoying?
While I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer most of these questions, I do think I have gained some important experience and feel more prepared to offer input next time around. And I should really send my high school student council teacher a thank you as I’m pretty sure my experiences making signs and putting on dances helped me more during this experience than anything picked up in undergrad or learned through grad school coursework.
Clockwise from top left: T-minus two hours and we’re still cutting up apples, the mayor and his jokester groupies, feverishly working to feed the masses, an impressive turnout, raffle prizes and the beautifully decorated and almost empty salon at 2pm… when the event was scheduled to start.