Arubans living abroad

Aruba Today is connecting to our beloved readers abroad who have a special bond with the island. We launched columns like Aruba To Me Is … and My Favorite Hotel Staff where our fans can send pictures and words that express their love for Aruba and its workers in the hospitality industry.

In these difficult times we also think about our Aruban friends living abroad. How they are doing and what is their life experience right now, we wonder. The first story in this series was published April 17 and came from Aruban Arturo Desimone who lives in Spain. Today we share the wonderful story of Jairo Loefstop who lives in Costa Rica. Thank you for sharing this amazing article with us Jairo!

My name is Jairo Loefstop. I am 35 years old and I have been living in San José, Costa Rica for the last five years. I am married to a Costa Rican national and we have a family of four. Also we own BerryStrong803 a functional fitness and boxing gym in Paseo Colon, San José. I work as a Business Analyst for an online gaming company. Around 17 years ago I left Aruba to study in The Netherlands. Five years ago I arrived in Costa Rica and have been here ever since. As mentioned above I also own a gym and we have a healthy café.

Costa Rica and COVID-19.
COVID-19 Started for us as a family business around 24th of February 2020. All of a sudden there was a huge drop off in clients to start with. This coupled together with low traffic peak hours. The week I am referring to is February 24th to March 1st 2020, during this week there were already rumors of people showing symptoms and various multinationals were taking early measures such as working from home. Our daily traffic halved to less than 10% by the date we closed on March 16th 2020.  Officially March 6th 2020 we had our first confirmed case which just like Aruba was a tourist. Just like everywhere else sanitary measures were taken, but already some websites like airbnb.com were taking massive cancellations and within days just like Aruba the tourism sector disappeared. The government acted quickly and made sure banks, real estate and other vital sectors of the economy were aligned. These plans have all been made as part of 3 month cushion that they are expecting that we need to return to a 100%. Unfortunately the country is not as organized as being led. There is a big grey area / informal part of the economy that won’t receive help. Estimates have not been mentioned public, but the signs after 45 days are not good. More people going through garbage disposal, food markets are empty. Some supermarkets have either too much food or no exported goods. All in all I am scared even though, because after month 3 what will happen if we don’t go to a 100%? Landlords, banks and other financial services will not be kept away forever. The good news just like Aruba infections have flattened, but we have not beaten this virus yet. I am thankful to be living in a country with good health care.

Aruba and COVID-19 in the eyes of an Aruban living away.
Watching Aruba going through this is horrible. On WhatsApp my mother send me a video of an enormous amount of tourists leaving from our airport. I must admit I was in tears and I felt completely heart broken. I have followed much of what has been going on in Aruba. I am worried about my island, seeing that 88% of our income is gone. In business terms for me that is plain bankruptcy. It worries me a lot what will happen to my family and friends. What is Aruba going to live off, what are Arubans going to eat, who will come up with great ideas to save the country. As that video keeps popping in my mind I am still brought to tears and it’s the worst feeling I have ever had and seeing the US handling of this from a Federal government point of view will make it even more difficult not only for Aruba, but also for us in Costa Rica. The reality is this virus proves how connected we all are.

Fortunately there have been good things happening. In the last month as a family we have connected more than ever. Getting closer to both my daughters and spending valuable time with my wife, business partner and life companion. As of this moment we have found a way to survive and have weathered the early storm through our fitness facility while giving virtual classes. We are doing our part, we have stayed at home and we try to help others when we have an opportunity. Hopefully our next step in business will be a success next week, because 20% of that business will go to people who need it more than we do at the moment.