An Expatriate Tour
in El Salvador
source: This case was written by Susan Bartholomew based on personal interviews. Names, dates, and details of situations have been modified for illustrative purposes. The various economic, political, and cultural conditions described are presented as perceptions of the individuals in the case; they do not necessarily reflect the actual conditions in the region. The events described are presented as a basis for classroom discussion rather than to illustrate effective or ineffective handling of a cross-cultural situation. December 10, 1998: The Job Offer
John and Joanna Lafferty had just opened a bottle of wine to share with friends who had come to see their new apartment in Toronto when the telephone rang. John, a lanky, easygoing development economist, excused himself to answer the phone in the kitchen.
Recently married, John and Joanna were excited to be building a life together in the same city at last. As a development economist specializing in Latin America, John Lafferty’s work had taken him to Peru, Bolivia, and Guatemala on a series of three- to four-month assignments over the previous three years. While he loved the challenge and adventure of this fieldwork and had come to love the people and culture, he also wanted a home base and steady presence in Toronto, where Joanna worked as a human resource management consultant. Just before their wedding six months earlier, John accepted a position with a Toronto-based NGO (non-government organization) focused on research, fund-raising, and government lobbying on issues related to Central American political refugees. Throughout the 1980s, tens of thousands of refugees had fled political persecution and human rights abuse in war-torn Central America to seek political asylum in Canada; John’s field experience in Guatemala and his natural diplomacy were invaluable to the Canadian organization. He was passionate about his work and quickly gained a reputation for being a savvy and politically astute advocate of refugees’ cases.
As Joanna went to get some wineglasses from the kitchen, she could overhear her husband speaking in Spanish on the phone. Joanna had studied Spanish in college but had difficulty following the rapid, one-sided conversation. However, one phrase, “Me allegre mucho,” and John’s broad grin as he said it, was impossible to misinterpret. Joanna returned to her guests in the living room:
“It sounds like good news.”
John’s work with refugees in the Canadian NGO had caught the attention of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, headquartered in Geneva, and he had recently returned from a one-week visit and series of interviews. While John had not been searching for a new job opportunity, the Geneva invitation had been too exciting to resist. John walked back into the living room with a huge smile:
“Forget the wine, I think we should open some champagne. The U.N. has just offered me the most incredible job.”
“In Geneva?” Joanna asked excitedly.
John’s smile grew even broader. “No. In El Salvador.” December 17, 1998: The Decision
The El Salvador assignment would be for two years, as a Program Officer responsible for organizing the repatriation of Salvadoran refugees from various refugee camps back to El Salvador and developing programs to ensure the protection and well-being of such refugees in their return to Salvadoran communities. The position would report to the Charge de Mission of the El Salvador office. While this office was based in the capital city, San Salvador, the job would also require frequent travel to various field offices and refugee camps throughout El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. The challenge of the assignment excited John tremendously; he also believed that this was an exceptional opportunity for him to make a real difference in the lives of the refugees of Central America. He certainly wanted to accept the job; however, he would only go if Joanna would be...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document