The Faces of Crocodile Bay Resort – Maria Soto Carrillo – Waitress
Tell us about yourself:
My name is Maria Soto Carrillo, I am 36 years old, and I have worked here at Crocodile Bay Resort since October 2002. I have lived my entire life on the Osa Peninsula in the small village of Gallardo, which is 10 km’s from Puerto Jimenez.
When I was only six years old, my father worked as a gold miner in Corcovado National Park. Gold mining was prevalent at that time. But in the late 1980s, the government took action during a resurging gold rush and prohibited gold mining in the park. In return, all gold miners were given land to leave the park peacefully, and they were encouraged to cultivate their new properties. My family received 5 hectares of land, as well as the materials to build a house, and I remember as a young girl being so excited to be moving into our “first real home”.
However, due to the deteriorating economic situation on the Osa Peninsula at the time, my father continued to mine gold illegally. He would leave our house and travel into the rainforest for up to 8 days to pan gold. My mother and I would wait patiently until he returned with a little gold so we could buy food, because at that time the small grocery stores had scales so you could buy things with raw gold or money. After a few years, he was able to switch to agricultural work, while my mother was cleaning houses to help keep the family afloat.
My family didn’t have electricity or running water for my entire childhood. My dad would take his bicycle from Gallardo to Puerto Jimenez to charge a small car battery. With a charged battery we would have eight days of electricity, which we mainly used to watch TV (primarily the news and some soap operas).
Before I started to work at Crocodile Bay, I was working at a small local restaurant and bar. But the salary was not very good, and at times I wouldn’t get paid at all. When I started at Crocodile Bay I got a good monthly salary, and it was very stable work. One of my first purchases, from my very first paycheck, was to install electricity and water at our family’s house. From my next few paychecks, I would buy household items for my mother, such as a washing machine, a fridge, and a new TV. We were finally able to afford things that we never could before.
What is the most unusual request you’ve ever had from a guest?
One day a guest from Britain asked me to prepare an avocado smoothie with condensed milk, like an avocado milkshake. I never heard of that before and thought that was quite unusual. However, it did taste great!
What is the most challenging experience you’ve ever handled at the resort?
Later on, during the recession in 2009, I switched to be a bartender. From one day to the next, I had to learn all the different cocktails. It was a challenge for me to start working as a bartender because I have never had to make cocktails like piña coladas, mojitos, etc.
What’s your most significant professional accomplishment?
One of the best accomplishments in my career at Crocodile Bay Resort was improving my English skills. It is the best thing that could have happened to me. I love being able to speak English, and finally being able to understand the clients fully and share in the jokes with them! Crocodile Bay pays the University of Costa Rica to give university level English courses to all the staff at Crocodile Bay Resort as a scholarship program. It is entirely free for our Crocodile Bay staff, and it’s such a blessing to be receiving this great help. I only have two levels left before I begin the highest advanced English level, and that makes me very proud!
The best career advice you received?
Always smile and be happy at work.
What do you love most about your job?
I love to get to know people from all over the world. You make a lot of friends while working at Crocodile Bay. Our returning clients are always so happy to see us again year after year. Sometimes they write to me personally on social media, letting me know that they’ll be visiting the resort soon. Even though I always work in the restaurant and bar, every day is different because of our guests. I enjoy contributing to their great experience at Crocodile Bay.
What are your plans for the future?
In the future, my dream is to attend the University of Costa Rica to continue my English education and even become an English teacher in the future. That would be a dream come true!