Another dream, that luckily became true
I’ve already touched on it briefly in the previous story. During my semester abroad, I fell madly in love with South America. This emotional connection to an entire (sub-)continent naturally sounds lurid and cheesy. Especially because I wasn’t allowed to travel to all countries there are on this continent. But things can always change and my day may come.
The first half of 2014 was probably the most style-defining period in my entire life so far. For the first time, I was outside of Europe, for the first time I was completely responsible for myself, for the first time moving out of my mom’s house. And these were just the most distinct examples. In fact, there were many more things that I was able to experience for the first time.
In order to prevent misunderstandings on the subject ‘for the first time’, I would rather like to draw the reader’s attention to other things. Namely those extraordinary things that were waiting for a pretty regular guy like me in South America and that make life worth living at a young age.
Characteristic seductions of South America
On the one hand there is the mentality, which is as diverse and multi-layered as I could never imagine before. Or the strongest, spiciest and most aromatic dishes that ever sought the favor of my initially skeptical but then joyfully dancing palate. The breathtaking nature and wonderful travel destination that I was allowed to go to. A varied and expressionistic culture with lots of music, dance, artwork and above all non-stop communication, which is often misunderstood in Europe as a trivial quick chatter. Ultimately, however, additionally the contacts and friendships with many unique and polygonal characters that I was allowed to make and some of which still continue today. The most beautiful and attractive women I have been able to admire up to this point. Above all, however, this unique feeling of freedom to be able to do and leave everything in pretty much all areas of social life that we cannot even imagine from the over-regulated European everyday life.
Now every story has an end, disregarding how extraordinary and seemingly thrilling and beautiful it may have been. In my case, that was of course the end of the semester abroad and the subsequent return to the dreary student life at this time.
But maybe one of my biggest problems is that I don’t want to agree on certain irrefutable things and accept them as they are.
Especially not when a truly great time is coming to an end. Maybe it’s a psychological obsession with no real addiction. Because then I always want more and more of these moments and experiences. But of course, knowing early enough that certainly the same moment can’t be ever repeated. Even so in a different way.
The dream of returning to Latin America grew out of this unforgettable semester abroad in 2014. Of course, no longer as a student, but as an adult and mature man who wants to live and work on this exciting continent.
I chose my master’s degree based on my interests and talents. I had already studied “International Marketing” in the Netherlands and then specifically selected “Innovation and Marketing Tourism” in Spain. My motivation for my studies was to develop, promote, market, sell, etc. sustainable tourism in South America at some point with the knowledge to be acquired from it. No matter in which country, but something semi-abstract and semi-concrete in this Latin-American direction.
As I wrote in the previous dream, there was a unique opportunity for me to go to Paraguay. There, I was participating in a project that involved the strategic development of a tourism plan on a national basis. Well, imagine that there was no such strategic development plan in Paraguay by 2017. If you realize that. you can also roughly imagine how far behind Paraguay is in development and how neglected tourism is treated in this country.
After I had finished my master’s thesis and my master’s degree in Paraguay, as already mentioned, there was unfortunately no possibility that I could legally stay and work in the Ministry of Tourism afterwards. But unfortunately, as I said, I can’t just come to terms with something that easily and agree about destiny. I was faced with the decision to go back to Europe and try another country.
3 extreme intense months in Ecuador
And that’s exactly what I decided to do. To not flee back to Europe after the changeable period in Paraguay and try it again. But try it in another country. I found a job in Quito / Ecuador in a completely normal travel agency that wanted to employ me. Very poorly paid with a low net salary per month. One cannot have everything. Unfortunately, these are actually more or less the average earnings on this continent when you come straight from university and don’t have the legal papers.
I entered the country with a tourist visa in October 2017. The plan was to settle in well in the capital, Quito, and then apply for a work visa. However, this never happened for three different reasons, that gave me really hard times.
The first reason happened during my initial inspection in the deepest Ecuadorian jungle. I became infected with a bacterium that probably infested my body during a morning swim session with a droplet infection.
In my entire life, I have rarely been seriously ill. But this bacterium depleted me extremely, took a lot of my physique strength and ate up about 7 kilos of my body in less than 10 weeks. At least that was the weight I had lost in that time that others gained through nine months of pregnancy. Nowadays I achieve the same thing about losing weight through disciplinary intermitted fasting and a lot of sport, but that’s another story.
Speaking of discipline: I did my job until my tourist visa expired. For the remaining 10 – 11 weeks, the bacteria unfortunately went undetected by many Ecuadorian doctors who like to rake in money in but rarely perform any good. I spent in total more than my low monthly wage on the poor medical care in Ecuador. Ultimately, I was cured in the best clinic in the country with a high-dose penicillin injection that effectively killed the vile bacterium.
Sounds like a really easy treatment. But if all the doctors haven’t had any idea about how to properly conduct a medical examination, even the simplest penicillin injection can’t be found.
Reason number two was the bureaucratic hurdles with the work visa. The Ecuadorians are smart and only want to have highly qualified specialists immigrated to their country. That was me with my master’s degree, but I was missing the important documents of my university.
Of course, documents in Spanish were requested for the immigration process. This is a great advantage if my Spanish university can also issue these documents in Spanish. At least in theory. Because the UCAM (Universidad Caótica San Antonio de Murcia) took a whopping 9 months and three incredibly amateurish and failed/invalid documents to finally issue an internal documentary wipe and send it to my home address in Germany.
That, of course, then crossed my plans chronologically with the Ecuadorian work visa. These sloths from Murcia were simply too slow to do their job. As a funny side fact, I can also mention that I am still waiting for my official master title 2.5 years after completing my studies. The King of Spain must officially sign the official title of every graduate from a Spanish university. After that, the whole thing has to be processed by the Ministry of Education, is sent to the university and then passed on to me by a courier service.
If you have always imagined the Latin American continent and its systems to be completely chaotic, unreliable and unprofessional, I certainly cannot contradict you from my own experience. At least the insane conditions and processes in the Spanish authorities are eagerly competing for the worst and most inefficient bureaucracy worldwide. My honest congratulations for that doubtful award.
The third and last reason is easy to explain. My job was simply not the right one for me. As a hungry and ambitious master’s graduate, I was simply unchallenged and suffered from bore-out-syndrome with the daily dull tasks in this travel agency. For this reason and for this job, a work visa would ultimately not have been worth it. Casting pearls before swine.
These three essential and decisive things – health, bureaucracy and a slow-moving job – ultimately motivated me to turn my back on Ecuador and head towards Peru. But of course, not everything was bad. I met really great people in Ecuador too and I don’t want to miss the time.
But even these short 3 months were more than formative for me. I was able to admire one of the happiest moments of my life in Nanegal:
Anyone who has ever seen hummingbirds knows about the wonderful and unique feeling arising inside of you. But this strange situation? Hummingbirds can become jealousy about food as well? How sweet is that? Absolutely priceless!
My time in Ecuador was unfortunately far too short…
Lima – Second attempt
So now came the second try in Lima. And the third country in a row in South America. This time, however, not as a party student, but to find a job there. I was relying on my small advantage, that after 4 years I still had one or two good contacts in the Peruvian capital.
Quite emaciated from the Ecuadorian jungle bacterium, I took it easy at first. The difference from Ecuador to Peru is roughly the same as from Germany to the Netherlands. or from Spain to Portugal. Very similar, but totally different. With the big bonus that the two neighboring countries in South America even speak the same language.
The life of a dream hunter is arduous, but comes with many rewards. I traveled through many provinces again, learned a lot of Spanish and was able to enjoy the officially best gastronomy and the best dishes worldwide. I also shared a safe accommodation with a young lady who I had met four years earlier. Susan has remained one of my best friends to this day, despite all the distance.
She has a great and distinctive character you can rely on. I already dedicated an article to her on this blog. And to her obese and lovely cat Lugh as well, whom I would count as one of my best friends until today. I also dedicated him an article and even a film to Lugh about his dubious misconducts every day.
But all this great time still felt incomplete. It is probably the fault of a dutiful German that he lacks something in life without work. Unfortunately, I do not speak freely of it and can’t enjoy to be unoccupied for a long time. All of the Latin American serenity acquired over the years cannot replace what was there before. Even the dreamy man-child’s head with its abstract ideas about VW’s T2 or a life in South America cannot be replaced by the virtues I learned before during my childhood.
“Work represents the half of your life,” as my grandmother used to taught me. Without having the essential occupation that nurtures me, it was maybe better to draw the line and try to live elsewhere. Unfortunately, after almost 8 months, I was unable to find a good job that matched my qualifications and interests in Peru.
Ultimately, in my retrospective, I have to admit that I may have stayed in Peru too long. It was difficult to get out of my pleasant everyday life there and head to a new country. I was too happy to be in Lima and my memories of Peru are 120% eternally embroidered with many wonderful experiences.
However, my life received one of these unforeseen twists again and I got another of these unique opportunities. And if you get a relatively above-average job offer on a Caribbean island, then you shouldn’t refuse it!
“The Caribbean Dream” in the Dominican Republic
I just want to state that “The Caribbean Dream” deviates from my own two dreams. The Caribbean was never my dream. Many people have this dream of vacationing in the Caribbean. I could even work and live there. But it was not “where others go on vacation” and unfortunately, I wasn’t lying swinging in a hammock all day with my laptop and a cocktail in a coconut during my working hours.
This Caribbean dream of many people is probably based on the basic imaginations of mile-long palm beaches with azure water and sunshine all day long. Basically, people are not so wrong, because I’ve had the same imaginations:
The Dominican Republic is an unparalleled paradise. In most cases, however, this only applies to those tourists who don’t want to ask too many questions during their vacations and don’t want to take a curious look behind the scenes of a perfectly equipped and shiny vacation destination.
For everyone else, Caribbean everyday life turns out to be loud, chaotic and dirty. This can be very disappointing and sobering. Especially when the oldest city on the American continent turns out to be a disorganized cesspool of iniquity in which the residents really don’t care about anything, not even about themselves or each other.
The perfect Caribbean vacation backdrop acts as a kind of misplaced mockup, from which the color crumbles off easily. This is especially true in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo.
And that’s exactly where I lived for about 1.5 years. It has about as much to do with the Caribbean dream as Santo Domingo has with the German traffic code. I once wrote a small article that critically observed Santo Domingo from the urban perspective of an immigrant and weighs all the pros and cons of living there. Definitely worth reading and recommending.
But for me it was most important to finally establish myself professionally in a professional company and finally to exploit my great potential, which is dormant in me. What is needed for this purpose is a professional employer with an expert management and ambitious goals. Developing, promoting, marketing and selling sustainable tourism in South America was the motivation for my master’s degree. This can also be adapted to the Caribbean.
Surprisingly, I came across a German-speaking company where I was able to work as a marketing and product manager for almost a year. Unfortunately, the venture turned out to be the same dazzling façade and misplaced dummy as the previous example.
A decline in tourism due to self-inflicted deaths of US citizens in Punta Cana caused to weaken the Dominican economy. The Dominican Republic is economically dependent on the drip of the United States and if the US has a cold, the DR will get sick. After all, the mass media has triggered real hysteria among the US population and caused many cancellations. Thousands of jobs in the Dominican tourism sector and other related industries have been cut.
I was one of the lucky ones too. First come first serve. Whoever comes last goes first. It is an unwritten law that also applied to me. And then the corona virus came anyway and caused a worldwide standstill and lockdown. It was then only a matter of time before tourism was reduced to zer0 and pretty much everyone in the industry lost their jobs. But hey – after all, I lived and worked in the oldest city on the American continent for a year. In other words, I lived the dream of someone else who imagines the Caribbean to be illusory and enchanting.
So, it could have been a lot worse. The Dominican Republic is a wonderful travel destination. No matter whether you want to overindulge yourself at the all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana and get a sunburn on the beach. Or would if you like to head for the much more exciting travel destinations for individual tourists during a round trip by car or as a backpacker. The Dominican Republic has much more to offer than the typical Caribbean beaches. I once wrote a small and informative article about this that may inspire you when choosing your next holiday destination.
Anyway, I always had fun when it was about leaving Santo Domingo and traveling into the authentic DomRep. One trip in particular was representative of a pretty cool weekend on the Samaná peninsula.
I will never forget these times outside of work and off Dominican capital, as well as the few good contacts from this time. Perhaps with increasing age, the wheat is being separated from the chaff and few good contacts select from the many other new faces.