Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, Aug 20th, 2017

A rainbow over Oranjestad: The island’s most important news item this morning, the opening of a gay club in Oranjestad

Jimmy’s place was always a favorite among locals and visitors, as a hetero-friendly gay club. We used to hang out at the bar and throw back B-52s, back in the days.

The club was a rundown smoky dive, on one of the back streets on town, but it had personality with Jimmy Douglas behind the bar!

Then it sort of disappeared from my horizon, perhaps because I stopped throwing back B-52s.

But it’s back in the news this weekend, in a stylish, sophisticated version of its old self, after 8 months of renovations, under new management, and it’s opens for dancing, boozing, flirting and cruising, promoting the Beauty in Diversity, of Aruba’s LGBTQ universe.

The club, powered by Aruba’s gay community, reopened under a fresh name, @7, and it hopes to attract the ying and yang of our human landscape, black and white, gay and straight, men and women, offering five distinctly different party areas: Le Club, with the main dance floor at the heart of the club, complete with a bar and VIP areas, featuring music, nightly parties, and performances by hunky divos and glitzy divas, who are “world renowned artists and DJ’s.”

Then there is the Gin & Olive garden, a specialty bar, serving you guessed: Gin and olives.

La Terrasse features fresh air, lounge music, cocktails, and relaxation, under the moon and the stars!

Not just one but two private VIP rooms are designed to attract the more naughty in need of discretion, those are called Les Salles Privées, in French, naturally, with a privately stocked customized bar option. Lastly, the roof-top pool, Piscine Sur Le Troit, but that I suspect is a plan for the future, a while down the road.

Lizzy Jansen is the general manager, aka: [email protected].  We met her first at CILO, at the Renaissance Marketplace. Then she disappeared, with the closing of that eatery. I now know she got involved with @7 and worked tirelessly to open this pocket of cool, this weekend.

The club owner, a Belgian entrepreneur, hence the French, first came to the island to run the over-the-top club on the second floor of Paseo Herencia, a few years ago. That task proved too much for him, but he became successful anyway, running vacation rentals and orchestrating parties with imported Dutch DJs, including Chucky, when he lived in Aruba.

I think I am still chasing him with an unpaid bill, but other than that he is a nightlife specialist, with a penchant for campy productions, and we expect the club to do well.

Finally! We haven’t had a club opening in years, and night owls may rejoice, on the occasion of a rainbow dipped old-new Club in Oranjestad with Tolerance, Diversity, Experience, and Unity, as its modus operandi.

Louella Brezovar, both an island girl and an iron lady

Our very own Louella Brezovar just became the hotel manager at the Ritz Carlton following the departure of hotel manager Tiffiany Holmes.

A female Aruban occupying a top leadership position at a top international, branded property, that’s something to celebrate.

It’s been a process that started with school then took Louella though various management positions with the Hyatt Regency, the Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino, the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Marriott Resort Curacao & Emerald Casino, and the Casino at the Ritz Carlton.

Sometimes at the beginning of her journey, she got married to super supportive Ross Brezovar and together they raised two high-achieving kids who just left the nest to go to the Netherlands to further their academic education.

I have known Louella for many years and she always openly declared her goal. She wanted to be a female Aruban occupying a top leadership position at a top international, branded property. She shared her goal with friends. It was only a question of time.

I guess having a road map is helpful, when you leave the house to go somewhere.

According to Louella, it all had to happen here, in Aruba and/or the area because as an only daughter she wanted to stay around her mom, my iconic neighbor, Sheila Lampe, who is a well-respected and well known member of our community, daughter of Wim Lampe, the island’s former Minister Plenipotentiary in the late 50s – 60s — that is as close as you get to island aristocracy, the well-connected, educated, and politically involved families.

So Louella stuck around in spite of many advice-givers who thought that in order to accelerate her climb up the corporate executive ladder she should do this or the other. She worked hard and juggled her family, her career, and the rescue and fostering of many pups, and just recently was announced hotel manager, answering to  Steven Redkoles, the General Manager, who also oversees The Ritz-Carlton in Panama.

As an empty-nester with the kids away at school, Louella says she’ll focus on work, no grief and loneliness sentimentality here. She is looking after 320 guestrooms, including 55 suites, the two Ritz-Carlton suites, the Club Lounge, on the seventh floor, the Ritz-Carlton Spa, with 13 treatment rooms, salon, boutique, the restaurants, Madero, Solanio, BLT, the Divi Lounge, the banquet operation, the ballroom and the casino, her old address, now under her supervision, last but not least the fabulous beach.

While Googling Sheila Lampe, I found a cute story published in the Saba islander, written by Will Johnson in goes the following:

“The reason why Aruba’s Juancho Yrausquin was given credit for the Saba airport is the following. He, Wim Lampe the Minister Plenipotentiary and Lampe’s daughter Sheila had been visiting Saba and were returning to St. Martin on the sloop the “Gloria” of Capt. Matthew Levenston then also Commissioner. They struck up in a storm and were all nearly lost. In his book “Buiten de schaduw van de Gouverneurs”, Lampe describes the whole happening.  People claim that Juancho then made a promise that if his life was spared that he would make sure and get the necessary funds to build an airport for Saba. He was Minister of Finance then, of the Netherland Antilles, and entered a project to Holland and the airport on Saba was the first project financed by Holland to these islands (1960). Up to that time the islands were dependent on money generated mostly on Aruba and Curacao. The cost of the airport was around six hundred thousand guilders and was money well spent.”


Minimum wages and Tax increases and a citizen on a war path

Minimum wages and Tax increases

We were told last week that effective Aug 1st the minimum wages will be going up in Aruba. That is clearly a populist move, elections are just 38 days away, and our government must show how caring it is.

The Aruba Trade and Industry obviously protested the extra burden, but the MinFin announced, he already told everyone in March and that commerce was adequately informed.

So, midyear, just like that, voters of a certain demographic enjoyed an unexpected windfall.  Same thing happened by the way in Venezuela where the president also showed how much he cares by augmenting the minimum wages by 60%, but because of that country’s crazy inflation this only amounted to $46.70.

My friends in the car rental business just shared that they have an increase coming. The car rental industry has been paying $1 a car per day, as an environmental fee and now GOA wants to impose a second $1 a day for parking. These fees, by the way, are paid quarterly whether a car is rented out or not. It’s a flat fee of Awg  96.75 x the number of V-permits you have, and it must go to  Goa’s coffers.

Consequently, a tourist renting for 2 weeks is now paying $14 environmental tax and will be required to pay an extra $14 for parking, and this gets expensive fast, because our average tourist doesn’t go downtown that often, perhaps once. Is it worth $7 a week in parking fees? We understand the rental companies will be obliged to pay it whether the car is rented out or not.

Question remains: Is the environmental levy collected going toward environmental protection?

Your guess is as good as mine. Where does the environmental fee go?? Towards the printing of elections propaganda?

One of my friends writes, and I am compelled to give him platform:

Private citizen on a war path.

After previous well-documented reports to the Office of the Public Prosecutor by private citizen Jan de Ruyter in the (a) case of fraud concerning government lands, starring the MinInfra and (b) trading of land lease properties, by a local businesswoman (c) a fraudulent business created with the exchange of work permits for cash starring the former MinLabor, now a forth (d) case has been handed on July 31st, 2017, involving the MinEnergy and the MinPres concerning WEB’s oil hedging deal, which entailed 100% hedging at US$90 per barrel, three times higher than current market level.

According to De Ruyter Valero oil Company was dropped as a supplier and a new locally owned company was incorporated which did the hedging deal supplying WEB at US$90 per barrel and purchasing on open markets for about a third of this amount, thereby making a HUUUUGE PROFIT…In the past WEB purchased oil directly from Coastal and later from Valero.

It is incredible, says my diligent friend, that a citizen has to do all the prep work for the public prosecutor . . . it’s almost as if you have to convince them to do their job . . . that they can’t deny all the facts and the truth is staring them in their faces . . .

Then one of my lawyer friends replies: If you file a claim it has to be substantiated else there is no ground for investigation. Additionally hedging was done by an entity after following the relevant procedure. It will be very difficult to find the MinInfra criminally liable. A director was let go, perhaps the wrong director, but that story is a wash, in spite of the fact that it cost the island 304 million florins. Incidentally, tell you friend he should ask the court to impose a fine for every day that they don’t comply with any resulting verdict.

The 8am buzz at 9am

I have promised myself to visit Gino Frans, at the Eliezer Foundation posada in Paradera. Yesterday was the day.

I stopped at the Chinese market and got three packs of mini carrots, and while feeding the rabbits, the pigs, donkeys and mule, learned about the rehab-detox place, accepting male clients — come as you are — addicts who sometimes get off the street to live on premises and enjoy counseling by a social worker and by Gino, who shares from his past experience and how he turned his life around from being a heroin user to a role model in the addiction field.

Gino calls his foundation Eliezer, god is my helper, because by the grace of god he got clean, and by his grace his vision of a detoxification and rehabilitation farm for alcohol and drug addicts became a reality.

Gino founded Eliezer Foundation when he came back from the Netherlands in 2009. Then he met Fred Wappenaar who offered him the land required for his dream sanctuary.

“You gotta want to change,” Gino explains, “turn your life around, do things differently. If you don’t want it, we can’t help you,” he states.

The posada is a project in the making. A new dorm will be built in the near future, with 20 rooms, in an effort to make it nice and comfortable for residents on the mend.

Residents are required to work, feed the animals, clean their rooms, work the farm, cook and participate in community life.

A small, technologically-advance green house now grows fancy lettuce, as a pilot program by Happy Ponnicks. That company is building a humongous green house in the center of the farm where in collaboration with the Posada, commercial quantities of fancy lettuce will be grown and sold to local hotel and restaurants.

Hopefully, before the end of the year, Happy Ponnicks will provide work for the Posada clients while they live on premises, and when they feel that can return to their families, they can continue to hold on to the job, a real money paying position, in a safe, supportive environment.

This life close to the land and close to the animals helps reintroduce addicts who want to turn their lives around to our society; it brings them back to earth from the drug induced universe they have been occupying. Then the foundation provides the spiritual support and guidance.

We visited the Garden of Prayers, a beautiful natural piece of wilderness with a huge rock formation and I met two of Gino’s older kids, and his wife Monica, the kids are great looking, and Gino reports they are excellent student.

The place exudes hope, and that is what we need when dealing with addiction. Gino is a powerhouse, how he got GOA, Cede Aruba, Royal Dutch Charities, and Happy Ponnicks to collaborate, the man can move mountains.

Political Hooliganism or Political Bullying, both ugly

The unchecked behavior of young AVP supporters, made Political Hooliganism appear publicly, on our political landscape for the first time, last night, during the second political debate.

The disruptive and unlawful behavior of the group in the back of the room, which emcee Ruben Trappenberg did his best to restrain, can also be called Political Bullying, but whatever you call it, it is ugly, and I believe it was fully endorsed and paid for, by the green party campaign machine, who borrows its handbook from Venezuela.

It was obvious from the start that AVP supporters were up to no good!

I have to say, that the points raised by all leaders were eye-opening, they were all talking facts while the MinPres stuck to fiction.

As a voter I was satisfied the MinPres had to hear: Awg 200 million a year in interest payments; it will take the economy 27 years to recover; national debt at 110% of GDP; half of the country’s budget is spent on interest payments and personnel; the need for a tax moratorium; the fact that 99% of borrowed resources were wasted; just 1% investment visible.

Of course Ricardo Croes’ lecture to AVP supporters was priceless. They are blind.

The question remains, and Holmo Henriquez made a good point, we cannot trust any of the old players, but will the new players save us?

Thank you KVK for a visually excellent presentation.

A recent nostalgic e-mail exchange, a slice of island history

The tireless, local historian Evert Bongers writes:

Hi Rona, how you doing?

I have a question. Back in the days, Roger Coster and Jan Hubert designed a residential community behind Quinta del Carmen called Mangoteca Plantation. I know nothing came of it, but my question is: Where did they get that name? Was there a plantation of that name there? I tried it out on Google but zero results! Hope you can give me the clue. Evert Bongers

Dear Evert,

Not sure, I will check with lawyer Johan Sjiem Fat, or Caola Pinxter. I also believe I still have an original brochure. They were elegant condos for sale, in the cul-de-sac, on privately owned-land, behind Quita del Carmen. Dutch-born, local Architect Jan Hubert designed a residential community, with a sales office on premises. They were ahead of their time. Condos were new to Aruba in 1989. The developer was CDC, Coster Development Company; with three partners, Henk Bijen from ALBO, Johan Sjiem Fat and hotelier Roger Coster. They sold some units, but not fast enough, then they folded. Liz van Meeteren and Carola Pinxter worked in the sales office. Carola continued in real estate after that, with Prima Casa Real Estate. That’s all I know, but I am not sure about the name Mangoteca…

Dear Rona,

Ask any of the Luidens, they lived in the area. Evert Bongers

Dear Marjory,

I was asked and I didn’t know the answer: Do you remember that Mangoteca plantation was under construction next to the cul de sac of quinta del Carmen. Why was it called Mangoteca? Was there at plantation there or a mango tree??? What was the reason for the name. This is Rona Coster. Xoxo

Hi lady,

There was a mango plantation there. Opposite Quinta del Carmen. It belonged to the Luidens family. When they redirected the rainwater, all the big 200 years old mango trees died. And when the whole area was passed to the next generation, they put it up for sale. My father asked for a parcel. He got it, situated in front of Arubiana Inn. It was my father who gave it the name Mangoteca Plantation. We used to go there in the weekend. Later my parents built a little house on the terrain and were living there. Recently, a big hotel company bought the rest of the land to build the next “Oceania Residence on Bubali.” We were also offered to sell the property. My sister Faritah and my mother’s house are still there, but Mangoteca has no more mangos trees, and I thank you Rona, for asking.  Love, M.

To quote Johan Sjiem Fat: “This goes to show that there is history everywhere. You just have to look for it, thanks for sharing.”

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August 20, 2017
Rona Coster