#6 - Weekend in Joao Pessoa
About: Allison, 26 years old from Philadelphia. Works for a large corporation headquartered in the US. Her company sent her to Brazil to manage one of their manufacturing plants.
I work for a large manufacturer in the U.S. and even though Iím relatively young Iíve managed to work my way up the corporate ladder. After a couple years as a middle manager at a plant in Philadelphia, my boss asked if I would like the chance to go to Brazil and manage our plant there. Iíve never been to Brazil, or most other places outside the U.S., so I jumped at the opportunity. The Brazilian plant has been lagging, so they thought I could go down there and work with the locals to figure out how to improve production. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for me.
When I got down there I noticed a few things I could do to increase production. The locals were a little leery of an outsider coming in to manage, so it was difficult to get them to listen to me. The problem was compounded by being a woman. I think many of the men in the plant resented taking orders from a woman, especially one who was still in her 20s.
The person I feel closest to at the plant is my admin named Ana. Ana is in her early 20s and a free spirit. Sheís a lot of fun and keeps me sane on bad days. Sheís popular with the other workers, so being friends with her has made things a little better.
Last week Ana invited me to take a weekend trip with her to a city called Joao Pessoa. I havenít seen much of Brazil other than the small town where the plant is located, so I agreed to go with. I needed something to get my mind off work. The city was lovely and we had a room at a hotel near the water.
Saturday morning, we slept in a little, then Ana said we should go to the beach. I went in the bathroom, put on my modest swimsuit under my shorts and shirt and packed towels, lotion, etc. and we traveled to a beach. The scenery was unbelievable in that area. When we got to the beach there was an entrance with a man standing guard. I wasnít sure what that was all about. As we approached the entrance the man said it was a nude beach and that you are required to be nude to enter. I told Ana we should find another beach as I do not plan on getting naked, especially being told that I have to. Ana told me I needed to lighten up. This would help me forget about work and all my problems. We are a few hoursí drive from anyone we know, so it didnít matter. This was our Thelma and Louise moment.
OK, I still didnít like being told I had to strip down, but I did anyway and put my clothes in my bag. The guard eyeballed us from top to bottom like he couldnít easily see we were completely naked, and then told us we could enter.
The beach was amazing, and had lots of other naked people, most over 40 years old. I tried to tell myself this was OK and normal as I walked the beach. Ana suggested we get a few drinks, so we walked over to the bar area. I felt a little funny talking to the bartender completely nude. Then we found an area to put our towels down to get some sun. At one-point Ana said it was time to get in the water and we did a little swimming. It tired me out and I we went back to our towels to get more sun. I fell asleep for a while when I heard some voices talking to Ana.
I opened my eyes to find a few of the plant workers on the beach standing in front of us talking to Ana. Two of them were guys I didnít really get along with. All of them were as naked as I was. Holy crap, what do I do now? These are my employee. My first instinct was to get dressed, and walk off the beach, but I didnít want to show that I was uncomfortable. At that point, I noticed that my legs must have spread while I was sleeping and I was giving them a view normally reserved for my gynecologist, so I moved my legs together to give me a more modesty. I said hi and started talking to them like it was perfectly normal even though I was dying inside. Ana invited them to drop their towels by us and hang out. Really Ana, come on. After a few minutes, the conversation died down and I turned over on my stomach. We stayed for about another hour and then got dressed and left the others.
I talked to Ana afterwards about this and she swears it was a coincidence and she didnít know anyone else was coming, but Iím not sure. I donít think sheíd purposely invite them to embarrass me, but she probably knew they might come and didnít mention it because I wouldnít have gone if I knew there was a chance anyone I knew would be there, especially people who report to me. Itís hard to maintain authority after your employees have seen you butt naked. I donít know if Iím imaging things, but since this happened the people in the plant have been friendlier towards me, treating me like Iím one of them.