Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Campaign in Panaxchaj

So today was my first campaign. At campaigns, the interns (us) help our an acessor team (the Guatemalan entrepreneurs) sell products to local communities. Our campaign was about two hours outside of Xela in the gym of a small town called Panaxchaj. Like many things in the third world, I could not have possibly predicted anything that happened at this campaign. In short, the campaign was a giant parade of disasters ending in small, but infinitely rewarding victories.

Disaster #1 (the main disaster)

The accessor in charge of the campaign forgot the eye exam. Because the "main" attraction of the campaigns happens to be the free eye exam, this was a huge, gigantic, big-foot sized issue. So at 8:45, 15 minutes before the start of the campaign, the accessor and Devin (another intern who 1. happens to have a stomach bug and 2. is the only other intern beside myself above an intermediate level of Spanish) left to go find a printer (difficult) and wifi (impossible) in the next 15 minutes (yeah, right). 

So, Alicia, Tim, and Emily and I were left by ourselves to run the campaign. Shit.

Disaster #2 

Because I'm a half-awake idiot in the mornings, I forgot to bring the surveys for our new product (agro-drip...see last post for more info) to the campaign. Not that it really mattered because Devin, the most fluent spanish speaker in our group, was gone on a wild-turkey chase (there are no geese in Guatemala)

Disaster #3 

Devin and the accessor get lost, can't find wifi, and are now 1.5 hours away. It is 10:00, and people waiting for eye exams are getting antsy. We have distracted them with presentations about our water filtration bucket (Alicia rocked this job, she had a script prepared and everything), our solar lamps, and our light-bulbs. This did not work (Guatemalans are very perceptive, my home stay mom knows when I'm hungry, when I want a shower, and why I didn't come home before 6...scary). The group of locals pulled the metaphoric "cut the shit" card and asked, in ernest, when the exams would start.

The Solution 

To steal from one of my favorite T.V. Persoalities Tim Gunn, it was a "make it work" moment. I called James, our regional coordinator (who was on the other campaign with Annie) and asked him to describe to me the approximate sizes of the letters on the close-up eye exam (we had the far-away exam, but we only provide reading glasses so the close up exam was key to the entire operation). So, using a pen for a measuring tool, I drew the letters. The highest row was "a tiny bit bigger than the width of the pen" and the smallest was "about as small as the tip of the ballpoint". Granted James and I could have been holding completely different sized pens but hey, when in Guatemala... It was around 10:15 and we began using my makeshift eye exam. (Luckily Tim and Emily have both had glasses since elementary school and were therefore Jedi masters at eye exams.) They showed me the ropes and I proceeded to give the exams. Devin and the accessor were now one hour away with the real eye exam. In conclusion, we gave over 30 eye exams and I sold 15 pairs of glasses (we sold 22 in total, an incredible day ordinarily, Herculean on this particular day.) Alicia also succeded in pitching and selling a water filter, our hardest sell (another incredible accomplishment given the circumstances). We also sold 6 eye drop bottles, 8 packets of seeds, and 3 light bulbs. My "fake" exam turned out to be surprisingly perfect, a very close match to the real one. Guess me and James had similar pens after all.

Anyway, the moral of the story is first, you can never predict how things are going to turn out, and second, you should always, always carry a Bic ball-point pen :) 

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