Alvaro, Attorney at Law

By now it’s old news that my time in Lima hasn’t exactly been going to plan. The biggest divergence from my well laid plan- I’m six weeks behind the date when I was supposed to start work. Although this was incredibly frustrating at the beginning of my time in Peru, I have learned to accept it as just one of the struggles of moving to another country. Alvaro and I have spent countless hours trying to figure out what went wrong. Did we not plan correctly? Is it the Institute? Is it their employees? Is it Peru? Perhaps all of the above?

The most frustrating part about this experience is the lack of direct contact that I have had with anyone official. It seems most logical to me that when being hired, especially as a foreigner, I should be speaking with Human Resources or another department experienced with hiring procedures. Instead, I have only been in touch with one woman, who is the Manager of Instructors at one of the area institutes. Though she is well qualified for training, monitoring and managing instructors, she is not well qualified to answer my questions regarding a work visa, tax rules or contracts for foreigners.

About six weeks ago, at the peak of my frustration, I called my contact and asked to speak to someone in Human Resources. her reply was this, “Human Resources can’t hire a new instructor without the approval of another instructor. So by calling them you won’t make any progress.” That was it. No name, no contact info, nothing. Every time I spoke with this woman, it was another excuse about someone being sick or the Holidays or how “they’re going to do it soon,” which doesn’t actually mean “soon” in Peruvian.

I conceded. I gave up and decided to wait and wait and hoped that things would work out. Several weeks ago I began my two week training course followed by a week of observations. At the end of my training I was told that I could sign my contract on January 10th. That day came and went without a contract. Today we were determined to change that.

I received a phone call today and they asked me to bring all of my paperwork to Human Resources because they wouldn’t draw up my contract without them. Cecilia, Alvaro’s sister, is graciously handling the legal aspect of my paperwork and had received “completed” versions of my contract earlier this morning. Except they were incomplete and full of errors. Alvaro took me to hand in my paperwork this afternoon and brought the faulty contracts with him.

We told the receptionist that we needed to meet with someone in Human Resources, and she instinctively told us they were all in a meeting. I was determined to not leave unless we had spoken to someone and I then told her that they were supposed to be expecting us, just a small stretch of truth. She walked off and then came back a few minutes later and took us into a small, chaotic office. We were introduced to the woman at the desk who didn’t look away from her computer when making our introductions. Our voices we muffled by the Spanish love songs coming from the radio next to her desk. We handed her our papers and she nearly hurried us out the door. Alvaro, however, had another plan.

He opened the folder with the incorrect contracts and began asking our new friend questions about the errors. For example, why the contract says it is for a “man with British citizenship” and also why she decided to simply omit three of the obligatory clauses? She didn’t have any answers.

We were shuffled around the office until we landed in the office of the General Manager. Finally, someone with a little bit of power. We sat in front of his desk and once again made our introductions. The Manager looked at Alvaro and asked, “You’re her lawyer?” and without skipping a beat he replied, “Yes, my firm is representing Señorita Gwaltney because she is very close friends with one of our associates.” I had to tilt my head and use my hand to cover my mouth in order to hide my smirk. Alvaro, my lawyer, and the Manager discussed the particular clause in question and then we left the room so he could consult with his law firm. A few minutes later, he told us the new clause and all seemed well.

Until Alvaro called Cecilia, my real lawyer, and told her of the addendum. “That’s illegal,” she replied, “the Ministry of Work will never accept that clause.” Alvaro walked back into his office, “Excuse me, but I just spoke with my “colleague” (synonymous with “sister” in this case) and she informed me that the Ministry will not accept that clause. Is that how your lawyer advised you?” His reply: “Oh, no, he didn’t advise me on that. I just made it up.” How typical Peruvian.

Nearly defeated, we left the Institute and were told to come back tomorrow morning in order to sign the papers. The Manager assured us that everything would be ready in the morning. Upon our departure, my “lawyer” Alvaro, told the Manager, “Unfortunately I have another appointment in the morning, but one of my colleagues will be here to assist Señorita Gwaltney.” And just like that, he earned his degree.