(Approximate reading time: 7 minutes)
Today I’m very proud and have the honor to dedicate this blog entry to an extraordinary character and personality. This article was actually first published in December 2017 on my old blog, but I decided now to rewrite the content and reprise the attention to the mentioned character.
Close to the Brazilian border in the nowhere of Paraguay lives a tour guide who doesn’t only have a vast knowledge about the Alto Paraná district and all the things he should know concerning his job. He is as well a caring and warm-hearted person with a high dedication to his visitors and one of the main reasons why I scored the highest grade of the whole course in the Master’s Thesis.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Please let me introduce Mr. Jakob Savoldelli or Mister Paraguay. Some people in the small district of Minga Guazú might also know him just as “El Profe”, because he taught the community English for several years.
¡Al servicio del turismo y de la patria!
I saw Jakob only for four days in August 2017 and although our age is separated by decades, although we are different generations, although we have two complete different life stories to tell and although we grew up in different societies and surroundings, I need to admit, that he still means a lot to me. It seems like, that we understand each other and trust each other. I am inspired from his attitude and think, that his WhatsApp status tells much about his appreciation for tourism in Paraguay:
For me personally, Jakob is one of the real heroes I met through my time in Paraguay. One of the few who thinks in solutions, not administrating problems. Who shows the right dignity and professionalism to his job. Who is ahead of his time and the one-eyed king in the country of the blind. In Paraguay, it would be Jakob with his sharp eyes.
Some of you people know, that I was working for my graduation assignment for the Paraguayan National Secretary of Tourism (SENATUR). Woah, sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Reality showed itself unfortunately a little bit different, I had maybe the worst supervisors and managers in my entire life that one can imagine. Both are directors of their departments (Statistics and Strategic Tourism Planning), but unfortunately equipped with zero expert knowledge, dedication to their own job and beyond that completely incompetent. Their omission would be worth an own punitive blog entry, but this one here shouldn’t be dedicated to the wrong people. It’s for the good people like Jakob.
Anyway, I was busy with my Master Thesis and liked what I had to do as a topic, although it was a real challenge. I wrote my thesis about…
“Restructuring the strategic tourism planning from a centralistic macro-based method to an individualized micro-based approach”
The challenge wasn’t the topic itself. Although the title doesn’t tell anyone a thing what was really the content, I can tell, that it was about the strategic change of tourism planning in Paraguay. I would need more time and beer to explain you the details, but for me it was quite interesting to observe and describe how a country tried to change their strategic tourism planning. I liked to write about it, but came very soon to a dead end because of missing information. Yes, Paraguay is a real desert regarding liberal and digital information. Unfortunately there weren’t many articles and information about (tourism) in Minga Guazú available and the one who were responsible of the project (Naiman Miserlian, Director of Strategic Tourism Planning of SENATUR) was so goddamn unprofessional and be out of place that I didn’t receive any valuable help from her side.
Although it was her own project and quite pioneering for Paraguay’s future tourism activities, she didn’t show any dedication or deeper interest to really get things going in this country. For me as an outside observer it was a shame and pity at the same time. With more professional, passioned and responsible people for the project with the right background knowledge, it would have been great to see things growing. But with the leadership of some managers of SENATUR, a project can be messed up, before the outcome even will be launched.
So I came to this dead end without anything I could write about. Luckily another diligent and helpful colleague of SENATUR, Señora Asunción Azcona, told me about “an old tour guide who is an English and German native speaker in Minga Guazú”. When I heard that for the first time, I could hardly believe what she said. Everyone who ever visited Paraguay knows about the – let’s call it basic – level of English of the population. But how can someone of a 79.783 community be an English AND German native speaker AND a tour guide of the area I was in need of? Dawn of hope was shining in my eyes whilst I imagined that he could be the key to my missing information and the missing puzzle piece.
I took a high encouragement from these information and the first phone call with Jakob Davies Savoldelli. Although we are age-related decades apart from each other, I felt during our first conversation a good vibe and respectful interest for each other. He was directly willing to help me out and told me, that I he would guide me through Minga Guazú if I would visit. Wow, what a nice and attentive person. Jakob is of half English and of half German origin, but embodies everything you would expect from a hospitable and welcoming Paraguayan.
‘Nuff said, I booked a bus ticket early September and three weeks before my deadline to Minga Guazú. Jakob told me on the phone that I should tell the bus driver to get off on KM18 on highway 7 “where always Mister Profe steps out of this bus”. A little confused about his instruction I shared the bus driver these information. Lo and behold: The big bus company of the capital of Asuncion knew where the tour guide of Minga Guazú always steps out of the bus to take a shortcut home. Either the world is a small place OR Jakob has made a lot of good and valuable contacts in the past.
I took the bus at 11pm and drove over night for six hours to my weird destination in the middle of the highway. Quite overfatigued I stepped out on KM18 on highway 7 in the middle of the night and nowhere. It was around 4am and Jakob told me that I should just call and wake him up. So after maybe 30 – 45 minutes of walking in the dark I found his place and although we both were very tired in the early morning, he welcomed me at his place and offered me a Tereré, the typical Paraguayan drink. The first good impression and connection I made with him on the phone was directly confirmed by the first personal conversation we had. We talked for more than two hours in the sunrise of his garden and disturbed as well his honey bees – One of Jakob’s hobbies is beekeeping.
In the middle of the night I arrived in Minga Guazú without having anything else than his phone number. I didn’t even reserve an accommodation for the four nights I spent in Minga Guazú and laid all the faith and hope I had in the hands of a stranger – Up until then I didn’t even had personal contact to him. How often did you get disappointed of other people, friends and acquaintances who are even closer to you when you trust and rely on them?! I wasn’t disappointed from Jakob and my sense and intuition for the right people was working frictionless. Jakob was so kind and organized not only for me an accommodation. He also took me to several places, events and introduced me to the skeptical population of Minga Guazú. Without his help it would not have been possible to receive all the missing information and interviews with the local person in power for my Master Thesis. He was due to his experience and recognition a real door opener and the missing puzzle piece to my deeply needed information. I soaked up everything like a sponge he showed me, explained me and mentioned during these four days. I took several photos and shared my collected information as well at Google Maps. Paraguay as an isolated island within the continent is in general not really modern and digitalized with information and Minga Guazú is even worse. But I was quite successful with sharing a part of my information and reached within less than three months a high audience:
Jakob fed me with enough educational nutrition during my time in Minga Guazú, that I could easily continue writing and vanquish the writer’s block. At the end I wrote in total 212 pages and scored a 9.5 out of 10 for my thesis. I know, that Jakob wasn’t responsible for scoring that mark. But he is responsible as the key to my success and assisted me as the fuel serves the car to get to a goal.
I regret, that I could only spent four days together with him and I am pretty sure, that I could have learned more when I would have more days in Minga Guazú. Neither wasn’t I during these student days solvent enough to reimburse him properly for all his services. But Jakob is a proud and diligent man and would have probably denied a considerable sum. Jakob, if you read that, I would like to thank you again for all the help you offered me. Without your self-sacrificing manner and devotion for your job I would have been lost in the labyrinth of ignorance of SENATUR and could not have finished my Master thesis as good as I did. You understood in contrast to many other people in Paraguay what tourism is and really means. As a customer I am more than happy and satisfied with what you showed me and how you showed it to me. And more than that: I’m pretty sure, that I found in you a friend whom I can trust. Whenever I will have the chance to see Paraguay for a couple of days again I would be happy to visit you and your bees again.
Whenever you are in need of a tour guide in the Alto Paraná region or you want to find out personally more about Ciudad del Este or Minga Guazú, please contact me and I would be glad to connect you with the walking library and excellent tour guide Jakob Davies Salvodelli. I’m pretty sure, that you won’t be disappointed and will have a highly dedicated and motivated tour guide!