Serving gringos in the bush

The jungle is pretty primitive. There are no sockets that grow on tree barks, neither does money grow as weeds do

Ramon and I were living in Honduras and were working in a hostel with an adjoined restaurant.
It was called Via Via. This chain company started in Belgium and nowadays you can find them everywhere in the world. The companies’ philosophy is to provide an establishment in a remote part of the world where travelers and locals can meet, intertwine, drink Belgian beers, and learn from one another. Respect is the most important pillar of their foundation.

For tourists, this entails the flexibility to adjust to the specific surroundings. The jungle is pretty primitive. There are no sockets that grow on tree barks, neither does money grow as weeds do. It comes down to, not expecting a full bar internet connection in the forest, eating food that’s in season and that’s native to the country one might find himself/herself in.

Because of shortages in the dry season in some parts of the world, care must be taken when utilizing the water supply. You might think this is all very logical and travellers take this into account when visiting these countries with limited infrastructure but I can guarantee you, there are aliens on this planet who believe they always can have whatever they wish, regardless of their location and the presence of sufficient sources.

Because of shortages in the dry season in some parts of the world, care must be taken when utilizing the water supply.

First job

Ramon and I arrived in Honduras with almost no funds. We were young and had a dream; travel the world. We would do anything to achieve it. Whatever the costs, we found a way, and looking back now, all these years later, we always did and still do. We get many comments that we are lucky and don’t have kids, etc so many people think it is easier for us to have this existence. I believe there is a difference, it’s just a choice you make and how brave you are.  The first opportunity arose in Honduras. My mum had called me and suggested I should go and visit a Flemish guy in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. He had a restaurant/hotel and a little travel agency called Via Via.

We were going to ask him if he needed employees, that way we would have some pieces of eight coming in. My mum knew about him because she saw an interview with the owner of Via Via on Belgium television. Ramon and I took our chances and went over. Geert; Gerardo for the locals, hired us for two months.

It was interesting to work there. All our colleagues were from Honduras. Working together stimulates a good bond and opens up a new world. As co-workers, you depend and rely on each other. We learned many things about Honduras; culture, traditions, and customs.
In Central American countries, people are outgoing and passionate, contact is easily made. Whereas Asians are super reserved. They don’t show emotions, in their opinion and according to Buddha, this is weak. Read blog Emotions in Asia. (coming soon)

We learned many things about Honduras, the culture, the traditions and the customs”

A hamburger without the burger and the bun, please

We learned to speak Spanish very fast and our colleagues almost spoke fluent English after the two months we worked there. We enjoyed our time with our new colleagues. The only moments we got aggravated was with the never-ending demands of the tourists. Nationality didn’t matter, though some nationalities like Americans were the worst. No offense meant my American friends. It’s just statistics.

All our Latina and Latino colleagues were shocked when Ramon just refused to serve a big group of Americans at one point. He couldn’t do it anymore. It already started when they tried to order, it took ages. They would keep on talking with each other for 30 minutes while the restaurant was packed and we wanted to serve as many hungry mouths as possible. After all, it is a business that wants to cover the overhead costs.

All our Latina and Latino colleagues were shocked when Ramon just refused to serve a big group of Americans at one point.

There were many options you can choose from on the menu. Of course Americans like their burgers, but one wants it without a bun, the other one wants two buns, a half slice of tomato and cucumber but without the seeds.  “And oh, uh maybe I should take something else?” It went. We would tell them to take their time and we would be back to take their orders.

After returning for the fourth time to the same table, someone might run out of patience. Normally I am that person, but in this situation I’m ok. Probably because I grew up in restaurants and bars.

Pushing their luck

Ramon on the contrary, as the straight forward, logical Dutch guy he is, had a very hard time trying not to torture them.

He took their orders and didn’t leave any time to alternate it after the 5th time he tried to get their order in. Once he served the food, imagine carrying three steaming hot plates. In order to serve these plates, customers need to leave some room for the waiter. This crowd would get in your way, it almost seemed they did it on purpose. Once they had their plates, the faces would change in a big question mark. “I asked without a bun and you gave me one.” Our reply would be: ”Just take it off and give it to your friend who wants two buns.”

They answered: “That’s not what I asked for, by the way, is this cutlery washed with drinking water? Why is this napkin on the left-hand side of my plate and not on the right side, did your Latino cook have clean hands when he handed the plates to you, did you wash your hands before serving us? What about these chairs? They are so uncomfortable, and what about the air conditioning?”

“Are you deaf? Get out now, I am not serving you anymore, go and look for other slaves who might.”

Put the gringos on the spot!

That was it, Ramon snapped. This was just downright disrespectful. He passed on the message: “We are in the jungle here, this is not a 5 star Hilton hotel, otherwise the prices would have been way higher, have some respect! The girls in the kitchen had never even had the chance to eat a hamburger in a restaurant, let alone go to a restaurant to eat.

Who the hell do you guys think you are? Kings and queens of the whole wide world and even though, wrong address ungrateful nitwits! Now get out here and never come back.” The entire restaurant grew quiet to witness the scene.

The Americans were flabbergasted and highly offended, they didn’t know how to react. So Ramon repeated: “Are you deaf? Get out now, I am not serving you anymore, go and look for other slaves who might.”

Finally, they left and the other tourists that were waiting for a table took their place. When I went to their table they told me they only wanted to be served by the grumpy guy. All the locals, which were almost all drug lords or involved in the mafia in one way or another applauded for Ramon.

Even our boss came down from his office -this was a small separate area in the restaurant- to ask what has happened. Ramon apologized to him and if he wanted to fire him he would understand. But our lovely boss was amused and agreed with Ramon. He said: “If you wouldn’t have done it, I certainly would have.” From that moment everyone loved -or was it feared- Ramon.