A challenge was issued. The place? Guatemala City. The event? Copa Positiva (Positive Cup) and Miss Genesis.
Let’s begin with Copa Positiva, an annual soccer tournament hosted by Genesis Empresarial. Guatemala is divided into four regions, and Genesis offices compete within each region, producing four teams that complete for the glory of the Copa Positiva in Guatemala City. This year, I had the honor of accompanying my host office in Santa Elena to the finals in the capital.
Fast forward to a turf field in an urban jungle buried deep in Guatemala City and you would find this gringa on the day of the event, sporting a cape adorned with the Genesis emblem, a red wig, and a poster with the Genesis logo coming out of her head, in full face paint…and dancing Zumba with a couple of mimes. That’s me!
Why? Well, the steak was just one part of it.
This year was the first that Genesis issued a contest calling for the best fan, promising that whoever came out to support their soccer team in the most decked-out of garb would win a free steak dinner. I don’t even eat steak, but I had my reasons for participating, as you’ll see.
As soon as we arrived at the pitch, I spotted about 100 people dancing Zumba. Excited and decked out in full Genesis costume, I joined abuelos and abuelas and soccer moms and dads in what was actually a pretty difficult dance. Soon after, a few mimes followed suit. The Santa Elena team was warming up amid the swelling squeaks and honks of Genesis fans with their whistles and noise horns. After the Zumba mob left the field, the mimes stayed to mock the beginning and duration of the soccer match. At half time, the score was 2-4, with the opposing team Rabinal (an area in Guatemala known for their delicious oranges) ahead. Santa Elena had the most support with the sidelines flanked with fans, though, and we had even won over the majority of the park mimes. The whistle blew and the game continued.
Eventually, the game ended with a score 2-8; Rabinal won. But we still had a pretty good time! I normally spend all of my time at work with the capacity team, but the Genesis footballers were only loan officers. So, by the end of the game, I felt a lot of camaraderie with them, and during our team picture, I was so caught up in talking that I didn’t hear my named called when they announced the best fan award. Steak dinner certificate waving in the air and surrounded by a gaggle of mimes and their fake cameras, I didn’t realize that the best was still yet to come.
The night ended with the Miss Genesis competition. Miss Genesis is like a beauty pageant, except it selects the most positive and participative female Genesis employee through a series of events. First, the women presented traditional trajes costumes, made using only recyclables. Then came the talent portion, where candidates belly-danced and sang Latin love songs. The night ended with elegant ball gowns and the interview portion. The winner, Gardenia, now holds the title of Miss Genesis and with it the responsibility of presenting herself at each Genesis office in Guatemala when they announce next year’s goals for the loan officers and capacity trainers. Miss Genesis has the opportunity to get to know all of Guatemala and all of Genesis.
After capping the night off with four hours of salsa, cumbia and merengue in a downtown club, I was ready to return to my hotel. With paint residue on my face and only the steak left in the takeout box near my bed, I reflected on what the weekend meant to me and what it means for Genesis.
The weekend was not really about microfinance and neither is this post. The work that Genesis does on a daily basis is hard, the roads to clients are difficult, and the expectations are high. That is why remaining positive through company-wide bonding events is just as important as the actual work! As I made a part-time fool of myself, soaring in my cape around the soccer field, I knew that I hadn’t just proven my enthusiasm for steak: after a month of work, I had finally become a real part of the Genesis team.