Tarapoto Inbound Exchange

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Friendship Force of Tarapoto, Peru, visits Friendship Force of New Mexico

August 24-31, 2012

By Exchange Directors Anne and John Heard


The visit was deemed very successful by all participants – ambassadors and hosts alike. This was due to effective and enthusiastic collaboration by all concerned. All ambassadors, upon leaving, expressed unconditional praise for our management and support for the group. Our thanks were expressed to those that contributed generously to the effort. We have been invited to visit Tarapoto by all the ambassadors as soon as possible in the future.

Below is a description of the program. This is followed by observations and lessons learned.

The Program

Friday, August 24: The Tarapoto ambassadors arrived from Estes Park, Colorado, the preceding exchange, at the Greyhound Bus Station in Albuquerque at 5 p.m. New Mexico home hosts met the ambassadors and took them to their new homes. The evening was free. Host families provided dinner. Some hosts took advantage of the Latin Dance Festival held that evening in Old Town to take their guests and enjoy the music and dancing.

Saturday, August 25: This was a free day to give ambassadors time to relax and recover from their long trip from Estes Park the previous day. During the day, options for independent visits included Albuquerque museums, the zoo, the botanical garden, shopping, etc. That night there was a welcome dinner for ambassadors and hosts at the home of Ginger Grossetete with support from Berta Wagstaff. There were welcome speeches all around, and Tarapoto presented a PowerPoint presentation and a video on their province, San Martin. It was a lively, fun evening.

Sunday, August 26: At 8:30 a.m. We attended Catholic Mass in Spanish at San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town. Following the mass, we had a walking tour of Old Town with a Spanish-speaking guide. The tour started in the front hall of the Albuquerque Art Museum at 10 a.m., and included an explanation of the statuary in front of the museum in addition to Old Town itself. The docent leading the tour was very good. After the tour, we had a New Mexican lunch at La Placita Restaurant in Old Town at noon. In the afternoon, hosts took their ambassadors in various directions, including shopping, Albuquerque Balloon Museum and other museums, including Art and Natural History adjacent to Old Town.

Monday, August 27: This day we spent in Santa Fe. The group took the Rail Runner, leaving Albuquerque at 7:21 a.m. and arriving in Santa Fe at 8:59. We had round-trip discount tickets already purchased for 20 passengers. This covered the nine ambassadors and 11 hosts. In Santa Fe at the train station we were met at 9:15 by a private open-air tour bus that took us on an hour and 15 minute tour of Santa Fe, including the Plaza and other points of interest, such as Canyon Road and Museum Hill. The bus, pre-reserved, was totally dedicated to us. It had room for 20 people. The Peruvians thoroughly enjoyed the tour. The ED translated commentary and descriptions of points of interest. After the tour, ambassadors and hosts were free to explore sites and shops around the plaza area of Santa Fe. Most ate lunch at the La Fonda interior restaurant. Following lunch, ambassadors and hosts split up and visited various sites on their own in and around the plaza, including shops and museums. We returned to Albuquerque on the Rail Runner, leaving around 5 p.m.

Tuesday, August 28: The day began with a reception at 10 a.m. at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It was a productive visit in that the spokesperson for the chamber conducted a round-table meeting with ambassadors and hosts in which each person gave his or her background information and feelings about the visit. It generated lively discussion, and we all got to know each other better.

After the chamber, the group proceeded four blocks south to the National Hispanic Cultural Center for a visit beginning at 11:30 a.m. The center gave us a presentation and a tour of its facilities, all in Spanish, including the art museum and an explanation of the famous mural in the “Torreon”. The tour was led by Alicia Fletcher, native Spanish speaker and docent at the center. She did a fabulous job. Paul Bauman, a Peruvian businessman in Albuquerque running wholesale import operation for Peruvian artisan-handicrafts, joined us and contributed interesting commentary to his compatriots.

Lunch and the afternoon were free for hosts and ambassadors for activities their own choosing. The evening was also free. Some ate lunch at the Center’s restaurant, La Fonda del Bosque. In the afternoon some hosts and ambassadors visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and viewed native dances.

Wednesday, August 29: This day was dedicated to a trip to the village and Santuario de Chimayó in Northern New Mexico. It was a beautiful drive up and back. The visit included the sanctuary and the Santo Niño Chapel and a site dedicated to native weaving in addition to a special reserved lunch — with a set menu of five excellent choices. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. The evening was free upon our return to Albuquerque.

Thursday, August 30: The day began with a visit to the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway. We had 12 discount tickets that covered all the ambassadors and three hosts. This was followed by a highly successful group lunch hosted by the Ambassadors at the Four Joys Restaurant on North Fourth Street. In the afternoon some went shopping. Others visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and other sites. The afternoon was free for packing, shopping, more site seeing, and other activities in preparation for departure.

In the evening a farewell celebration was held at the home and garden of Carolyn Sedberry. It was a spectacular affair with wonderful food and drink, speeches by hosts and ambassadors, live music and dancing and a special dance performance by the Peruvians.

Friday, August 31: The ambassadors departed in the morning for various destinations.

Observations and Lessons Learned

Overall, the visit was a major success. A principal lesson learned was that adequate, detailed planning and communication pays off and makes for smooth and effective implementation of the exchange program. The points below are designed to improve what is already an excellent process. Fortunately we had a strong management team for the exchange and great support from our co-presidents.

Itineraries: Get complete itineraries from all ambassadors prior to arrival. Despite repeated requests, we only learned departure times on the second to the last day. This made for a last-minute scramble to reconfirm all flights. Ambassadors had multiple flights and destinations.

Management Committee: Establish a management committee early on with defined individual responsibilities. In this case, it worked perfectly. John and Anne Heard handled overall management and communications with the incoming club, while Lenore Pardee handled program planning and Berta Wagstaff was responsible for the evenings, especially the welcome and farewell dinners. They all did an exceptional job, which is too demanding for one person to carry out properly.

Ambassador’s spending requirements: Make sure that ambassadors understand before arrival the amount of additional cash they should bring and how much they will have to pay for lunches, dinners, etc. We tried to inform the club regarding additional cash needs, but apparently the advice was not adequately distributed. Some of this may have been the result of heavy expenses in Estes Park, Colorado, prior to arrival.

Group checks for lunches and dinners: When taking a large group for lunch or dinner it is common and saves time to have one check for the group. Restaurants are accustomed to this and sometimes require it. All participants are then charged the same amount. There was some concern about this as some ordered more than others. The solution is probably to carefully explain to all what is going on and why. If someone feels strongly, they can order by separate check.

Events planning: Make sure the incoming exchange director informs the host director early on all plans for events the ambassadors may have in mind so they can be inserted in the program. We had a farewell lunch sprung on us at the last minute that was difficult to work in given competing plans of hosts and ambassadors.

Audio-visual equipment: Have adequate audio-visual equipment in place and tested in advance. We thought we were in good shape with a video projector, but we did not have the sound situation properly figured out. In the future we will have both video and audio equipped to work through computers for incoming groups that bring their material on UBS drives.

Language facility: For incoming groups from Latin America the host director must speak Spanish. This is essential for communications and planning with the incoming club. Estes Park had a difficult time with this and we frequently acted as a bridge for communications with them during the planning stage.

Confirmation of ambassador commitments: Tarapoto started with 21 visitors and ended up with nine. In the future, we should place greater emphasis on the need for timely and firm commitments from ambassadors and earlier purchase of tickets. This would have probably saved air fare for several in the group and would have facilitated planning and arrangements.

Timing of purchase of tickets for visitor activities: As it turned out we purchased some tickets too early for a larger group – Tramway, Rail Runner, Santa Fe tour. We could have saved money. It was worse for Estes Park, which purchased 21 bus tickets from Denver to Albuquerque.

Hot (picante or spicy) food: Some of the ambassadors were not enthusiastic about hot food. We should be more careful in the future to check in advance and provide guests with non-New Mexican food alternatives.

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