When people ask me to describe what I do, it sounds kind of boring. Ummm, well, I answer emails. A lot of them. Some of them take a lot of conversations behind the scene before answering. Some of them are pretty complicated. So, yeah, lots of emails. I know, it sounds pretty boring. I help people a lot, too. When people don't know where or how to do something, they come to me or my co-worker and we consider it part of our job to help them. A lot of what I do, because it's personnel (human resources), is confidential, so I really can't talk about it much.
So, if you ask me what I do, my answer probably leaves you thinking I have a pretty simple and boring job. Which really isn't true as almost every day is different and challenging in new ways!
One of the things that the personnel team (two of us in Niamey and one in Galmi) do a lot of is to prepare for new arrivals. One of us makes sure they have a guest house room reserved and that somebody is scheduled to meet them at the airport. If they have just an overnight in Niamey, we make sure they have a plate of food at the guest house that they can warm up and something to eat for breakfast. Oh, and yes, the inevitable packet of paperwork to read and sign. :) If they end up needing to spend a few days in Niamey, we withdraw local currency from their account for them or take them to an ATM machine to get money so they will be able to go out to eat or to walk down the street to buy some food. My co-worker will often take them grocery shopping. One of us tries to go over to the guest house to make sure they are ok, that they understand how to use the air conditioner, and that they know which water is filtered and safe to drink.
If they will be living in Niamey, we need to get housing ready for them. My co-worker does the housing for the short-termers and me for the long-termers, but we help each other out a lot. If they will be moving in to a house or apartment just vacated by another short-termer, the set-up is fairly easy. The furniture, linens, and kitchen equipment is already there, so we just need to make sure it's clean, which usually involves hiring somebody to clean. It usually means great amounts of laundry, as well. We try to make sure they are invited out for meals for at east three nights and we put some basic food supplies in their house for breakfasts and lunches. That way they don't have to do a major grocery shopping the day after they arrive.
Other times a long-termer is going on home assignment and will let a short-termer use their house while they're gone. They'll usually leave out their furniture and appliances, but we need to then set it up with kitchen equipment and linens.
A more complicated set-up is when we get a "new" house or apartment that has just been vacated by another missionary family and it's in fairly good condition. We'll have the painter come to give it a fresh coat of paint, get repairs made that are usually minor, and then move in furniture, appliances, kitchen equipment, and linens. For short-termers, we provide furnished housing. For long-termers, if we have enough furniture and equipment, we'll let them borrow stuff until they can get their own.
And the most complicated (and perhaps rewarding) set-up is when we go house-hunting and then set up a completely new-to-us house. I really enjoy the process of finding the house, seeing what it can be like, and making it happen. I've blogged about this in past blogs: Here, here, here and here.
When we get a brand new house, it's seldom up to the standard we want. We recently rented a house for a long-term couple returning to Niger, but changing location to Niamey from another location. We found the house back in May and felt like it had a lot of good potential, though we weren't aware of all the problems at that point (all you home-owners out there are smiling at that one, I'm sure!). The "real-estate agent" assured us that the owner would make all the repairs we pointed out. So when I returned from my trip to England in early June, I assumed the house would be more or less ready. Ha! ha! Our office had changed the water and electric meters to SIM's name, so we were good on that one. The landlord had painted the house. And that's ALL he had done! So one of the first things we did was make a list of all the repairs that still needed to be done. Here's my two-age list.
I lost track of how many trips I made to the house to meet with the landlord. We argued for a long time about him repairing the screens on the windows and putting screens on the windows that had none, but he adamantly refused to do it. So that meant I had to hire somebody else to do it. I asked him to take down the ceiling in the guard house and toilet because it was rotten. That took several trips out there and reminders to get done. Some of the jobs were simple and quickly done, such as making sure the windows actually shut. He claimed he had cleaned the trash from the yard. Yes, it looked better, but sorry, my friend, that is NOT clean! I finally just hired somebody who did the job properly.
We're still waiting for him to repair the roof.
Setting up this particular house also meant meeting somebody at the house who was delivering furniture the soon-to-arrive missionaries had bought, and going out and buying a fridge and stove for them, then meeting the delivery guys there. I needed to also arrange for cleaning and servicing the air conditioner in the bedroom, make sure somebody cleaned the house, and hire a guard (that was quite the drama as every guard we thought we had fell through). My co-workers moved in some borrowed furniture and equipment and helped make sure the new arrivals had food for their first few days.
I am sure grateful I don't have to do all of this by myself! I have the best co-workers and team. And I'm also thankful to my Father for giving me a job that I enjoy and find fulfilling. I admit it is often tiring, but as a friend said once after a long day of work, "it's a good kind of tired".