By Mariza Garcia
Imagine yourself in a foreign country, with hardly any money left at the end of your vacation, with no return date to your homeland because every country in the world has shut down… and the only items in your possession are your beach flip flops and worn vacation clothes.
Does that sound like fun?!
You may not even know, but for the last fifty days, we’ve had thirty stranded Argentine tourists on the island, abandoned by the airlines, and left to their devices due to pandemic confusion, inefficiency or just lack of kindness…
After the initial shock and disbelief, that they really couldn’t leave at the end of their fantastic March vacation, they faced the challenged of finding accommodations, as hotels, and apartments were closing. Some of them even imagined themselves sleeping on the beach, with their suitcases as pillows under their heads.
A few members of the group were very lucky, accepting the generosity of strangers, and securing free lodging, but most were greeted with a mix of solidarity, which was good, and impatience, which was difficult. Many locals just couldn’t wrap their heads around the notion that indeed these people were stuck, and they were NOT to blame.
Luckily, the chorus chanting “We Are All in The Same Boat,” drowned out the sound of the people who did not understand. One compassionate high-rise hotelier hosted a couple with their three-year-old daughter, while his hotel was shut down with just a skeleton crew left on duty. They frequently left food for the family and toys for the little one…
Two young couples, one who spent their honeymoon here, were offered a free apartment by two local families, who also shared their food with them.
The owners of Sasaki Apartments told a family of four, that included a fifteen-year-old teenager, that they could stay at the property, past their reservation dates. He hosted them for 40 days not charging them one dime.
Others found places to stay which charged the minimum possible, allowing for more and more discounts as the days passed and the uncertainty grew.
A local MD helped refill medicine prescriptions for the oldest visitor, and Balashi Brewery sent a gift of soft drinks and Chill Beer, on a number of occasions.
As the days drew long, locals would stop to give the stranded visitors rides when they saw them walking back from the supermarket, and in return, two Argentinians provided some college students with computers so they could attend online classes.
A lady working at Botica Santa Ana, took an older couple under her wing, crying with them when they experienced a bad day, bringing food to their apartment, to show her solidarity in many ways. Her name is Judith, and she is a woman of great compassion.
As a whole, the group presented a random mélange of old and young, with just one common denominator: They all came here on vacation, had a great time, then couldn’t leave, as the border closed.
WhatsApp and Zoom, came in handy to keep the team spirit high, and finally the apps helped the group find its voice, which they used to ask for help…
A special mention of gratitude goes to Claudia Ponson that was the motor behind finding them a way out…first she spent two days calling all her friends and contacts in Brazil, to see if she could organize a private charter and then she sat with the group and the Argentinian authorities to pressure those in charge into action.
It was not easy, there is no Argentinian consulate in Aruba…and strangely, the one in charge is the Argentinian Embassy in Venezuela. And that all together is another complication.
After numerous forms and dozens of pleas, the permissions from the Airport authorities was granted. It was a long process but it came to a happy ending.
The delighted and relieved group left last Saturday on a special flight that also collected 11 stranded Argentinians in Curacao and 6 in Bonaire.
ATA coordinated the pickup with De Palm Tours, for complimentary transport from their different accommodations to the airport, and provided some farewell souvenirs.
The stranded Argentinians, now safe and sound in their homes, are grateful for the unselfish and generous assistance and offers for assistance from: Anselmo Pontilius, Romina Martinez, Alex Cybul, Ricardo and Susana Gogorza, Julie Partosemito, Luciano Mazzeo, Lisette Geerman Gomes, Fernando and Carina Molina, Daniel Allende, Daniela Fernandez, Fernando of Mi Estancia Apoartments, Natalia Koolman, Claudio Martinez, Romeo Penacino, Myriam and Dante Leandi, Glennie Tromp, Cecilia and Aleco Molina, Cecilia and Marianina Leone, Carole Rivard Beeney, Paula Nupieri, Adelita Tromp, Jimena Molina, Mirta and Carlos Sonensein, Lise Heeneman, Hans Mulder, Peter Meyer, Marcela Millan, Luis Villegas, Daniela Emery in Miami and everyone who cared and helped during the crisis!