Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 2: There is Much to Learn from Hondurans

This morning, Jesus picked me up and brought me to his house to eat breakfast. He has been incredibly accommodating and hospitable since my arrival. Southern hospitality doesn’t compare to the genuineness of Latin America. Most Southerners would hate to have a relative stranger come to their house for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but Jesus and his family have treated me as one of them. What an honor and a blessing.

At work, I am continuing my study of CJM by conducting interviews, reading the business plan, and observing what happens in the office. The environment does not feel like a work environment, which in some instances could indeed be an advantage, but in this particular case, I feel it is too informal. I listened in on one of Jovel’s sales calls and was shocked to hear him ask the client if she could send him a copy of the quote that CJM had given her. I told him that they needed to develop a process for keeping track of all their customers. I also told him that in my opinion, he should not receive commission for selling projects that were below the actual cost of the service. While, he is quite passionate and has the makings for being a good salesman, Jovel needs to work a bit on his professionalism. That being said, he has been incredibly open to constructive feedback and admits when he is wrong. It has been exciting to see his light bulb turn on several times during the last couple of days.

At lunch, the group took me to eat Arroz Chino, a local specialty. Over our meal, we discussed the huge presence of the maquiladoras, or foreign-owned factories that dot the North. While the salaries are better than what people make in rural areas, it is still quite exploitative. According to my friends, workers work four days each week in shifts of 12 hours. Unlike what has occurred in China and other countries traditionally known for cheap labor, Hondurans have not left factories in order to pursue education. As a result, there is incredible demand for factory jobs, which has kept the cost of labor quite low. If only China’s 15% increase in salaries could happen here. The average Honduran worker only makes around $300 per month.

I must admit that my first inclination toward CJM was that it was not a good idea. Now that I have gained a bit more information, I am convinced that the idea of offering multiple technical services is a good one, especially given the social focus of CJM. As they say, the devil is in the details and poor implementation is what is killing the bottom line.

On a personal note, I am really enjoying living in Latin America once more. I feel much more relaxed simply by being in an environment of patient people. This evening, the electricity went out in Colonia Buena Vista, but instead of pitching a fit, most people came out of their homes into the street. I met two of my neighbors who were also passing the time outside their home. Life in the US is so much more confined. By in large, people stick to themselves and stay within their house in their yard. Here in San Pedro Sula, on the other hand, people are constantly interacting with one another, whether it is to buy some last minute items from the local pulperia or speaking to the armed youth who is guarding the entrance to the neighborhood. There is much to learn from this supposed developing country.

Joel Montgomery

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1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I'm glad you're keeping your blog up to date - I've been wondering how its going this first week. It sounds like you have your work cut out for you. I loved your comment about the pace of life there and the sense of community - I miss that here.