A guest post by Gart van Gennip
It was one of those hot February nights when the life-changing email casually dropped into my mail box, while I was doing some trivial stuff on the computer. A life-changing email! You don’t get many of those; not nearly as many as those promising mega-fortunes, extra inches to your manhood, or ever-lasting erections.
A guy named Cato had come across one of my colorful postings on this very blog. He thought I might be the guy to ask for help. Cato was building a lodge and needed a manager, because his financial resources had all but dried up, and he needed to go back to his native Norway and make some more money. “What an unusual story!” I thought.
Cato was looking for someone he could trust, who spoke English and Spanish and who had experience in tourism and hotel business. Did I know anyone?
“Me! Me! ME!” I yelled at the screen! I had been teaching English in Iquitos for over four years and recently found myself getting a bit restless. Routine tends to do that to me. So this mail unexpectedly offered me a new opportunity.
I immediately mailed Cato back, and as he was still online, we were soon email-chatting about his lodge and the frustrating and costly road he had already travelled. Half an hour later we met at El Cyber.
We immediately hit it off, and soon landed at Bill’s Dawn on the Amazon Café terrace on the Boulevard, the place that has already been the setting for many a historic or fateful meeting, chance encounters, emerging friendships and blooming love affairs, ayahuasca stories, cheerful hellos, tearful goodbyes, tall tales and, like in this case, job interviews!
It didn’t take Cato long to realize that I was the man for the job; manager of the San Pedro Lodge in –guess where!- San Pedro, on the Rio Nanay, not far from the airport. For me, it was a golden opportunity, to be able to combine my experience in tourism and hotel business with my love for our precious rainforest, and, finally, to be able to move there, leave the busy city life behind in favor of a life in the serenity of the jungle.
Cato was a joy to work with. His youthful energy and lust for adventure were inspiring. And I needed inspiration; I went from a 4-hour to a 12-hour workday in one day, and soon found out I wasn’t used to that anymore. For six weeks we took all the bureaucratic hurdles it takes to start a legitimate business in Peru. Most of that time was spent waiting. Waiting in line, waiting for permission, waiting for a stamp or a signature, waiting for copies to return, waiting for someone to call us, or for someone who was late for an appointment. If they showed up at all.
We went from the bank to the Public Registrar, from City Hall to Civil Defense, from the lawyer to the notary, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Sunat, and from the printer to iPeru. I will spare you the details of the bureaucratic roller coaster you go on, and I won’t complain, because Cato did all of this with a smile and a joke, with optimism and joy. Not a complaint came across his lips, and mind you; he was doing this for the second time. Yes, folks, he did this TWICE! Why, you ask?
Because Cato is a nice guy. Probably one of the nicest I ever met. He came to Iquitos with a bag full of money and a dream, which is often a fruitful combination. But Cato ran into some local people in need of a friendly stranger to help them out, and he jumped at the opportunity. He decided to help them out by going into business with them. They would start this lodge together, which would provide jobs and incomes for an entire family.
But guess what? As often happens in these parts, the very people he was trying to help couldn’t seem to wait to bite the hand that fed them. Pretty soon, Cato’s business partner tried to separate Cato from his money as well as his business and it took lawyers and a court case for Cato to buy out his business partner, eliminate the business and start all over. A good deed never goes unpunished and Cato lost his business and his shirt, but not his cheerful disposition.
Unfortunately, his contractor also turned out to be a crook, just like the bum of a neighbor Cato hired to work for him. The bum eventually got fired, but it took a handful of money to get rid of him. The crooked contractor took Cato’s money, but failed to pay his workers. When Cato found out about it, being the nice guy that he is, he loaned the contractor the money, so he could pay the workers their back pay. The contractor signed an IOU and promised to pay back the 4-digit amount as soon as possible. You must be shocked to learn that Cato to this day has not received a penny.
Of course, as might be expected when you work with a crooked contractor, all kinds of flaws in the construction are now coming to light, and it becomes more and more obvious how this guy filled his pockets by cutting corners and basically just doing a lousy job. So it will take more money to iron out the glitches and the flaws and to correct the mistakes and the Ef-ups. So, it isn’t surprising that Cato’s funds dried up and he had to leave before he was able to see his beautiful lodge in business. That pleasure –and honor!- is mine.
This story is hardly unique in Iquitos; every gringo-resident has one, me included. I only wish I would have met Cato back in August, instead of in February. I could have saved him a ton of money and frustration, and the lodge could have been even more beautiful than it is now. We could have opened back in September!
But no use crying over spilled milk; we are open for business and looking to the future, which looks bright and promising. You can find out all about our place under the sun by visiting our website at www.sanpedrolodge.com. We offer comfortable lodging, and various day trips, tours and jungle expeditions at very affordable rates. The San Pedro Lodge is easy to reach at less than 2 hours from down town Iquitos and less than one hour from the airport.
I am looking forward to welcoming you to San Pedro. Drop me a line, or give me a call!
The San Pedro Lodge
Gart van Gennip
968 956 909
Hi, Bill Grimes here. I’m president of Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises. Gart is a friend of mine. If you think this is a good story, read his “other colorful postings on this very blog” by clicking these links;
I wrote this review of Gart van Gennip’s unique web site back in December 2008. Since those times it has grown up into a force in our virtual Iquitos community.