Let me preface my blog about my first day at the Strengthening Ecuadorian Justice Project (SEJP) by recounting my experience at the Center for Human Rights and Environment (CEDHA) last year. That should give you a sense of my expectations for a South American NGO operation.
At CEDHA, I only worked in the office about half the day, four or five days a week. This was because the office we had was 6 desks in two rooms, and was way too small an operation for the 40-plus people working as a part of the CEDHA team. Thus, we had office shifts. So I'd stroll into the office at 10 or 11am, stay till 3 or 4, and do the rest of my work from the comfort of my apartment couch. Most people helping out were univerisity students, so they were often in classes or could work from the library; I, on the other hand, lived alone, and actually loved coming to the office and socializing with co-workers. We all hung out, in our jeans and tees since there was no dress code, and chatted. For lunch, we ordered the daily special to the office from a nearby restaurant, who would bring up our plated meal and would come back to collect the glass plates about an hour later after we'd eaten silently at our desks. A pretty casual atmosphere, but I suppose that might have had to do with the planet-saving, environmentally focused nature of our work, and with the sometimes laid-back Latin American culture.
I contacted Patricia, the SEJP Director, who told me to arrive at the office for my first day at 9 a.m. I hedged my bets and wore business casual for the first day, figuring I'd get the style of things when I got there. Good thing, too - nearly everyone was in business casual, and the things I wore to CEDHA wouldn't have flown at the SEJP. I also learned that work hours are 9:00-5:30, with a half hour lunch break. At SEJP, everyone brings a lunch and the team sits down at the conference table at 1 p.m. to eat and chat together. I, unprepared for such a charming lunch ritual, brought no lunch and so I strolled downstairs with the Office Manager Juan Diego. He showed me a nice place to grab a huge traditional lunch to go for $3.40 and I brought it up to eat with the rest of the crew. I've got my own desk and nice computer there, and the office is nice and spacious. I'm glad I have my own computer - that means I don't have to lug my old IBM in a messenger bag down to the office every day, and I'm always slightly afraid with my purse and too many other bags on my shoulder I'd be a prime candidate to get one of them cut off by a thief.
Don't get me wrong - by no means am I complaining about anything above. I came here to work, and I thrive on structure and formalities. I'm also very excited to be in Quito. It was just interesting to me to be a part of such a different work environment.
The morning of my first day I read lots of the proposals, quarterly reports, brochures, and other information about the SEJP. I spent the afternoon beginning to translate the website, which is my first project. I thought this wouldn't take me long but it turns out I'm putting a lot of effort into word choice and the proper phrasing and meaning of translations. I plan about writing a lot more extensively about the SEJP in a blog post upcoming in the next few days.
At the morning meeting of the team Patricia introduced me and mentioned that I was looking for a place to live. This helped me find a few leads. Around the middle of the day Gary, who handles the finances, took me to a long-stay hotel down the block. They rent out nicely furnished apartments and provide hotel-like services to the residents. Unfortunately, given all the niceties of the place, it was just WAY out of my budget. The administrative assistant, Clara, told me that a friend of hers may be interested in subletting the apartment she keeps in Quito. Hopefully I will hear about that tomorrow.
That's all for today, I'm going to go rest a bit now before my early morning tomorrow!
See below, a shot of me at my desk in the office. It's all cleaned up at the end of the day. It's a shame the blinds are closed so you can't see the gorgeous view of the park that's out the window behind me.