This is a true story about how I got my dream job in the Dominican Republic. It’s a story about being in the right place at the right time… 15 months earlier.
My supervisor was leaving for a job in the Caribbean, opening a new animal interaction park. What I heard was my dream coming true… for someone else. But it didn’t discourage me, it gave me a goal, a dream I wanted to turn into a reality.
After the aquarium I worked for announced it filed for bankruptcy, my living expenses became too much to bare. I stayed on as long as I could, but eventually I had to move back to Orlando and take a job as a day care photographer (yes, there is such a thing and its horrible). I felt like I hit rock bottom, but I never gave up hope that one day that new park would call offering me a job. I emailed my former supervisor every few weeks and attended a conference where I met the Director of Operations. He informed me that I should brush up on my German and start learning Spanish if I really wanted to impress the big boss, who was in fact German.
It was Monday and I was sitting in my car after soliciting a new account for the photography company. The rain was coming down, mirroring my feelings and I was wondering, “What was I doing?” when I got the call. The call I had been waiting for. Fifteen months of dreaming and rehearsing what I would say and do. Three days later, I was on a plane ready for my interview.
The owner of the park picked me up from the airport personally. He was an old, white-haired man, didn’t say much, but looked to be in relatively good shape. We drove past huge fields of sugarcane, gorgeous views of the coast from the Malecón, and small pockets of civilization. We arrived at the construction site where I was to meet with various personnel including the animal management team, which were all Americans. I stayed in a gorgeous one bedroom tiled apartment with a kitchen and fresh water, dined with the owner, and toured the facility.
During one of our many talks, the owner and I discussed future plans for the Rainforest area which would include the birds and tigers that I would be responsible for. Some of my ideas included a free flight bird show and a dolphin/tiger swim interaction show (no people allowed). He laughed nervously at both of these ideas.
“Won’t the birds fly away?” he asked.
“There is always the possibility of birds flying away, but I can teach them to come back.”
“People like birds on bicycles.”
I cringed. This was such old school thinking, but I didn’t want to insult my future boss. “I’ve never trained a bird to ride a bicycle. All the behaviors I’ve trained have been extensions of natural behaviors and flying. People like to see birds flying.”
He didn’t seem very open to the idea, but luckily, he still offered me the job! I was now the Supervisor of Birds and Tigers at Ocean World in the Dominican Republic. This title was too long for Human Resources, so we shortened it to the Rainforest Supervisor. Now it was up to me to turn a plot of dirt and a shell of a building into something grand, not only for the public, but for the future residents of the Rainforest Department.
Stay tuned for more Dominican Moments….