Welcome back to ‘Humans of Kiwi.com’, the series that combines a revisited version of the ‘Humans of New York’ photoblog with a travel-themed Proust Questionnaire. Episode no. 2 features Customer Support Team Manager Catalina and her dog Argus. Catalina has been in Kiwi.com since July 2016, and she has shared lots of insights into life, work and travel.
What is your current state of mind?
[Silence] Right now? Well, right now I feel a bit… Weird [laughs] because I have never done an interview like this. I’ve had job interviews and things like that, but not an interview where I talk about myself.
When did you join Kiwi.com and what brought you here?
I started working here in July 2016, when my dog, Argus, and I came [to Brno] from Colombia. Just this week I was reading something about how one always tries to make a plan B for everything. When we came here, we didn’t have any plan B. We just put everything in that plan A we had and we said: “Let’s go to the Czech Republic and see what’s there for us.”
It was kind of a challenge, because for me it was big to just leave my country blindfold and move to a country where I didn’t even know which language they’d speak! But when I saw the opportunity of the Kiwi.com project, I said: “Okay, let’s see how it works out.”
It also had to do with my roots because part of my family is in Italy, so I, too, wanted to live somewhere in Europe. And I thought: “If I don’t like it, I can always come back.” But I’m still here.
Name one thing you like or love about your position
[Thinks about it] I studied education and I’ve always worked as a teacher. I have this teaching approach to everything. What I like about my job is that I can help people. For me, it’s more about them learning how to do things.
It’s also about making things better and at my current position, I can do that. I can say: “Okay, this is not working, let’s do it like this, let’s dig a bit more.” That is why I like it.
Maybe sometimes I try a bit too hard [laughs]. Being so passionate about what I do, I always try my best. I think you should enjoy everything you do. If you don’t enjoy it, you should leave it.
Name one thing you dislike or struggle with about your position
Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming or frustrating because I want to do many things but I cannot do everything. But then I take a step back and I say: “Hey, it’s just you, so establish what you can do, do it perfectly, or as perfectly as you can, so then somebody else can do the rest.”
Also, Team Managers receive information from everywhere and we act as filters. We say: “Okay, I have this, let’s see what I can do with it, how I can deliver the information properly, and how I can make it work for everybody.” That’s the hardest part, but it’s also great because somehow you’re channelling information and you’re working with it all the time.
What department or position at Kiwi.com would you apply to if you weren’t at your current department or position?
Okay… [Thinks about it] I don’t know if the position is still available, but once I was checking the job offers here, and I saw something that had to do with partner research and universities. It was so interesting. I did not apply but it was something I really liked.
[If I were to change positions], I definitely wouldn’t want to lose contact with people because I’m 100 per cent a people person. A position which does not involve being in direct contact with people would be weird for me.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grow up?
For a very long time, I wanted to be a doctor, because that way I could save other people. When I played with my toys, they would end up in the hospital, and I would save all of them!
I say travel, you say…? Three things maximum
Uhm… Enjoying, pictures, new cultures.
What is your ideal means of transport when you travel and why?
I like trains. Trains are different. You can do many things on a train which you can’t do on a plane. You can look at the landscape. Sometimes it’s not the most convenient means of transport because it takes longer to get to your destination, but I think it has its charm.
What is one thing you love and one thing you hate about your own country and why?
One thing I love about my country [Colombia] is the warmth of the people. Do you notice the difference? We try to be a bit more open and friendly. I mean, people here are super friendly, but you get to a point where you feel there’s a kind of a barrier you cannot cross. So maybe we have thinner barriers! It’s the approach that is different.
Something I don’t like is when people talk about Pablo Escobar! [Laughs] I think my country is often connected with a cocaine culture that goes completely against who we really are. We fight very hard against it.
At first, it’s funny but when people keep talking about it, it’s not so funny anymore. People don’t do it with bad intentions, so you try to explain a bit more about it. And some TV series help reinforce this wrong view that people have, which is a stereotype.
In fact, this common view on Colombia and cocaine also helped me understand why you should not necessarily take stereotypes as true. When you interact with people from other countries and cultures, you become very careful about it.
Name one place (city or country) you’ve visited which blew your mind
[Thinks about it] Two years ago (or was it last year?) I met with this friend of mine, and we went to Greece. One place that really surprised me was Thessaloniki. It was so warm, so beautiful. I felt like l could live there. It was so nice just walking down its streets, it wasn’t too crowded, and the atmosphere was so friendly. I loved that feeling.
Name one place you haven’t visited (city or country), which you believe, expect or know will blow your mind when you go there
I’ve always had this feeling about the Maldives. I don’t know why. When I have nothing to do, I sometimes look at pictures of the Maldives! So maybe one day I will go there.
What trip or travel have you loved?
In 2015, I visited my grandma in Italy. Then I went to Paris, Prague, and I went back to Italy. It was so great, because I’d never been to France, and Paris was… Oh my God. Everybody says Paris is beautiful, and it is beautiful!
During that trip, I also went to the Czech Republic for the first time. I was staying at a hostel in Prague, and you know that feeling I had when I went to Thessaloniki? I also felt it there. And one year later there I was, moving to the Czech Republic. Careful what you wish for!
What is one thing you couldn’t leave out of your luggage when you travel?
Argus. I’ve left many things behind. I’ve sacrificed shoes and clothes, I was willing even to leave my luggage behind — but never my dog. Argus is the most important part of my luggage.
You have to pack up: trolley, suitcase or backpack?
What travel incident will you never forget?
[Thinks about it] When I moved to the Czech Republic, I had a very complicated trip. When I landed in Madrid, I lost my connecting flight to Prague, because I had to wait for Argus. When I got him, we ran from terminal to terminal, and we had to take a bus. At some point, I let go of the leash, and Argus was literally running after me! [Laughs]
But we lost the flight. After that, we spent five hours in the queue with the other people that had lost their connections. By the time we got to the desk, they shut it down. They told me to come back the next day. I cried like a baby for two hours.
My friends and family were texting me and asking how the trip went. I was halfway there, but I didn’t tell anyone: I didn’t want them to worry. And of course, I started thinking: “Why did you leave in the first place?” and: “You should go back,” and the like.
I eventually realised I had to ask for help (which is something very hard for me to do). I called a friend and I told her I needed a hotel where I could stay with Argus, and that I also needed a new flight for the next day. She helped me with that. Despite that, and despite the fact that the people there spoke Spanish — so there was no language barrier between us — I couldn’t stop crying.
The next day my flight was delayed by seven hours, so I missed my bus from Prague to Brno again! While waiting there, I met a woman who was taking the same flight to Prague. She had no money and she hadn’t had a thing to eat. I told her: “Let’s go to KFC!”
Her daughter was in Pilsen. When we arrived in Prague at midnight, everything was closed. The woman’s daughter came to pick her up, and they drove me to my hotel. The next day I finally took the bus to Brno, and I slept for three days. I started the journey on Monday, and I arrived in the Czech Republic on Thursday.
What is your favourite sport?
When I was 14 I practised skating. At 18, I had a little accident and I had knee problems, so the doctor told me I couldn’t skate anymore. I missed it a lot. When I go ice skating, I love it so much! It feels like going back in time. I also like jogging.
What is your favourite bar game?
I like chess a lot. My dad used to say that I was impulsive when we played together because it would take him a long time to make his move, and I always thought: “Oh come on, I know what I’m going to do next, just play!” But it does take time because being too quick doesn’t let you see what you need to see.
What is your signature drink?
In Colombia, we have a beer called Club Colombia. It goes from light to red to dark. I love the red one. It’s my favourite. Here I like Radler very much.
Where is your favourite place in Brno?
I really like Špilberk Park. I go there for walks with Argus. I love it there, even more than Lužánky Park. I used to love Lužánky but Špilberk is even better. In summer, they also have an open-air cinema there. The problem is that some films are only in Czech, so I don’t understand a word, but it’s great all the same! [Laughs]
What’s your favourite question from this questionnaire?
My favourite question… The one about the most important part of my luggage!