Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

September 12, 2008 at 8:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The artisan association is falling apart. I wish I could get a better perspective on what has been going on and know if this is a phase, or if this is something I should be legitimately concerned about. For the record, I am extremely concerned. I suppose this is the point of working a two year stint in Peace Corps. Right when you think you have all the big problems solved, the books are immaculate, the fair invitations abound, the artisans can finally pronounce the ‘th’ sound, a whole new crop of problems pop up, just in time for spring. There have been several nasty intra-association arguments over the last few weeks which have led to the resignation of the president, constant threats from management at the museum, and the apparent rapid deterioration of the association that I have dedicated much of my life to over the last year.

I think the problems stem from the fact that when the artisans get angry with each other, they don’t try to work together to find a solution. They constantly are looking for an authority to lay down the law. They have looked to me and I have tried to stay out of that role; I don’t want to be sheriff of this town. When the president deliberates and comes up with what was in my eyes a good solution, inevitably someone gets upset and goes running to museum management, sidestepping the association all together and inviting real problems. Once the museum director gets involved, she makes decisions that no one is happy with, but because she is the authority figure to so many of the artisans, they comply. We are left with bad decisions, unhappy artisans, and devoid of a leader.

My plan is to use the director’s decisions to rally the group to unite, to come up with reasonable solutions that appease everyone, and to try to reestablish some semblance of order and authority. I think it is back to square one with the leadership, confidence, and team-building workshops. At least this time around, I’ll have a more substantial foundation to base my activities on. “You are part of an artisan association, products are disappearing from the store, blame is flung left and right, you have to find a solution: GO!”

Maybe we have to reach bottom before we can make our way back to the top. Two weeks ago the association was one of about 20 groups to be invited to participate in a fair at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Council) SME (Small and medium enterprise) conference in Chiclayo. I went along to work as a translator, but it was great to see my group there among some of the best artisans in Peru. On the outside, through our work over the last year, the artisans have achieved local, regional, and national recognition, a huge accomplishment for a country known for its handicraft. Nevertheless, internally we are a mess, and its only a matter of time before it starts to show on the outside.

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