A great part of our business at La Cusinga comes from making ourselves available to various tour groups. This is just smart marketing, something my boss and good friend, Geiner Guzman, is very good at. We put ourselves out there in a number of small internet niches and our guest list reflects this. We have been jam-packed busy the whole month of July, normally a slow month, and have hosted bird-watchers, yoga practitioners, GPS classes and more. Additionally, a lot of our guests who are non-group affiliated come here from Europe, primarily Germany, where we are a big presence on Eco-tour websites.
And this is all great; groups come and groups go. We put on our best faces, put out our best food, show them how to get around and relish our position as hosts at what is a very special place in a very special part of the world. We provide directions and bag lunches for hikes, set up tours, cater to dietary needs and administer to insect bites and nasty sunburns. We answer a LOT of questions. Sometimes, however, it is easy for our ultimate "reason for being who and where we are" to be lost on us. I must confess to getting a bit caught up purely in the work aspect to be able to enjoy and/or appreciate the unique-ness of my position.
Thankfully, we are lucky to have a group or two come by who bring us back to the roots of what we represent and who we are. We had such a group last week and another at the end of May. Last week, Franco, a long-time friend and supporter of the Lodge brought in one of his bi-annual yoga groups for a week's stay. And what this usually means to the cynic in me is a lot of special dietary needs and a fair amount of cosmic woo-woo-ness; this has happened frequently in the past. This was not, however, the case with this group.
What we were lucky enough to get was, instead, a group that got us. We got a group that was so ready to love us, and where they were, that when they arrived in the pouring rain they stood right out in it with their arms outstretched to the skies. The lavished and sloshed in its "cleansing feeling". It was easy to see, from minute one, that these folks would be different.
I immediately referred back to my meal roster. The only person with special dietary requirements turned out to be Franco, the leader. And I already knew he was vegan and was ready for him.
This may seem odd, but we do indeed get groups of people who will come down for their first dinner with us and not say, "hello" or "hola" and not even make eye contact. It is an open kitchen and we are right there in their faces, but somehow they choose to ignore us. And odder still, we get guests who remain that way for the duration of their stay. There is really nothing that makes one feel more like "the help" that being ignored in such close quarters. Not these guys, though, they came down to eat and to have a good time with grins, laughter and smiles of greeting mixed in with their "Como esta"'s. These people came down dancing to the music I was playing in the kitchen. It was so refreshing.
Dinner that first night was consumed with so much gusto and appreciation that I couldn't help but understand how different this week was going to be. And as the week eased by, there never ceased to be smiles of appreciation and even wonderment on the faces of this group. It seemed as if every one of them stopped at some point to make contact, to express amazement at where they were, or simply to thank us for being there. Soon, it seemed as if I, at least, was seeing La Cusinga through their eyes. The views, the yoga pavilion, the rain, the sunsets, even the food I was cooking all took on renewed value and a renewed quality of "special" for me when seen through the eyes of people seeing it and falling in love with it for the first time.
So, I need to thank Franco and all the great people in his group for helping me, in the middle of a three week run with no days off, to revisit and recapture the magic and the wonder of the place I work. La Cusinga is one of the special places on this Earth, and I have the Greatest Job in the World. Thank you.