Bati Bleki Buzz Weekend Recap May 19th, 2019

Rumbles from the Mill Resort

The resort, almost 30 years old, has been chronically unlucky.

Repeatedly plagued by problematic challenges, mostly coming from the top, the Mill Resort landed in the headlines this week, and it wasn’t flattering.

Three years ago, after years of litigation, bankruptcies and uncertainties, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel.  

I reported on the resort in December 2016, when a previously unknown player by the name of Klaus Moser, announced that “we signed and are taking over the operation, lot of items to implemented and commencing with the property improvement plan to convert to a COURTYARD RESORT BY MARRIOTT.”

Note the ‘we,’ talking like a shareholder. He later became involved with a number of other developments on the island (and eventually faded into obscurity).

That is when I interviewed Willy Chin, in April 2018. He was back on his home-island, overseeing the renovation of the 193-room resort destined to become something under Interamerican Promo Hotels INC, whose President and CEO Klaus Moser, run some hotels in Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

I even toured the place. It looked promising.

Do you think the renovations of 193 rooms should take three years?

Anyway, Willy lucked out. He now lends his hospitality skills to Gold Coast Residence under a stable and sane management, away from the crazies, where the management company changed to TRUST HOSPITALITY.

I never trust any business that tell me how I must feel about it. Like a restaurant called Delicious. Do not dictate to me, let me find out.

Anyway. TRUST HOSPITALITY has not been trustworthy so far, and employees are restless, and upset. They released a video exposing the so-called owner as a cantankerous goat, and have been complaining of rude verbal abuse to most, preferential treatment to others.  

According to my sources the father son duo at the head of the operations are NOT in speaking terms, and as a result of internal turmoil, completion of the reno project is now pushed back to the end of 2019.

BY THE WAY: My source also tells me that the eternally under-construction AQUA Condominium, might become a Radisson Blue.

So it’s true what they predicted: For lack of condo buyers, all those building started as real estate developments convert into transient accommodations, when apartments fail to sell.   

Mon.O.Chrome art photography, pop-up gallery on Plaza Nicky Habibe

We were surprised Friday night with a mini event under the stars, at the end of the main street, an art show by three young local talents, housed in a shipping container, painted while, and logoed MON.O.CHROME.

Artists Anuar Habibe, Armando Goedgedrag and Cado de Lannoy, all three familiar names among hipsters on Aruba.

They each presented four or five works, very evocative, from three different starting points.

For Anuar, who also takes photographs in his professional life, people are at the heart of the image. He is an expressionist and reads content hidden beyond the visual aspect of his subjects. One of his pieces depicted a homeless addict, a broken down yet defiant man, in a broken down, dark world. Another image contrasts an isolated little girl in a polka dotted dress, she hardly takes any space, leaning against a giant linear architectural wall, she seems to be looking for something across the street, her hands behind her back. In another image Anuar contracts the order of colonial shutters and louvers with a slightly bent human figure trapped in the space in between.

He just has a talent to snapshot amazing contrasts, as he captured the immense joy of his son, jumping in the flood water inundating the beach, in the wake of a storm.        

Armando is a realist, a naturalist cum conservationist, a man with a mission across many art disciplines. His perfect turtle, organ pipe cactus and Shoco owl, all look at us sternly, as if admonishing us for violating their serene, eternal beauty.

Some of his photographs look like paintings, and some of his paintings look like photographs.    

The organ pipe cactus printed on an aluminum plate acquires an interesting 3D effect. Very cool.

Cado who usually captures dilapidated cunucu houses and what he calls the hidden treasures of Aruba, the often ignored and neglected corners of the island, explored surfing this time.

In his collection for Mon.O.Chrome he presented a light box, a surfer, sitting against the backdrop of a vast ocean, his back a canvas for the work of a tattoo artist, with a surfing theme. The light box made originally for the art fair, was displayed in its full splendor this time, backlit and luminous.

Also a special image he shot revealed what we hardly ever see. On a clear day, Cado managed to document the full outline of the Venezuelan coastline as seen from Baby Beach. We can sometimes see the peak of a hill peeking from behind the clouds but very rarely the complete topography. I did not understand what I was looking at, at first, because that image was unfamiliar, but the snapshot clearly demonstrates our close proximity to our suffering neighbor from the south.

Very enjoyable effort.

I also visited Circel that evening, they offer lunch as few times a week, as Fundi Bistro, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, expect Beef Bunny, Papaya Monster Stoba, and Minty Dreams, eat in or take out, Tel: 563 6300. Also a 16oz food container with bite size treats.

You pulled the plug on the wrong thing!

CSJF 2019 cancelled

I remember the shock I felt mid-2017 when a press release from Percy Pinedo announced that CURAÇAO NORTH SEA JAZZ 2017 CANCELLED. The release said: “The Curaçao North Sea Jazz will not take place in 2017 after all. This has been decided, with a heavy heart, by Fundashon Bon Intenshon and Mojo Concerts. After a renewed effort, sparing no trouble or expense, to realize a high quality program, it turned out that no main acts were available for the festival weekend.”

Wow, I thought, the issue is not the issue, they must have run into money or political problems, otherwise why abort an incredibly effective, island-wide, money-makers.

I did not feel like that when I heard that Aruba’s beloved Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival cancelled for 2019. It was never a money-maker, and in terms of ROI, return on investment, it didn’t add up, but it was a source of incredible artistry and memorable moments. It consistently delivered a much-needed cultural experience, all other crazy music & drink fests failed to bring.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York suffers from that same plague, in terms of ROI, the sacred return on investment, things don’t add up there, especially after paying world-class musicians, chorus members and prima donnas.

So?

You cannot judge the vibrant Metropolitan Opera House, on Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, in strictly economic terms, you have to take a broader view and look at it in terms of its cultural, civic and social contributions to the society in which it operates.

We must make room for Performing Arts, because of their related added-value, namely cultural, civic and social contributions to the society in which WE live.

Year after year the CSJF delivered an opportunity to connect, to feel-good, to have a bonding experience, to network and to forge strong relationships among local concert-goers. It also brought in a modest number of tourists who wholeheartedly enjoyed the immersion experience.

We left the arena at the end of the concert walking on air, feeling good about the island, our friends, and life in general. We felt elated.

Take this away, and replace it by long lines at Ontvanger, road blocks due to road construction, rising gas prices, unchecked proliferations of UTV/ATV, incidences of spousal and child abuse, the off-season, lack of zoning laws, millennial apathy, scarcity of workers, the long wait at the ER, the heat, pis-pis and ticks, and you got yourself a fit to be tied bunch of local residents without a concert-weekend to look forward to in September, for relief.

Bottom-line: I am sure it hurt when Eric Eman and the organization of the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival had to announce the unfortunate cancellation of this year’s popular series.

He is a consummate music lover and did an excellent job at consistently upgrading the experience over the past 13 years.

He is working on a smaller Jazzy Festival format, to be held at the Casibari Music Café September 20 & 21.

Question: Did his last name play a role in the decision to cancel the sponsorship and pull the plug on the subsidy?! Just asking.

Because if it did. You pulled the plug on the wrong thing!

It is difficult to trust anything anymore, especially when it comes from a politician.

Compliments, we really have a hard-working MinPres, but I am not sure what she was experiencing in DC.

It is difficult to trust anything anymore, especially when it comes from a politician. Why would the World Bank get involved in RdA’s complete mess?

The World Bank, one of the most bureaucratic organizations in the universe, wouldn’t get involved. I don’t believe any of it. For some reason every time a politician goes on a trip, and comes back with a “fruitful,” declaration, I get worried.

I hear fruitful, I start to sweat.

I remember the fruitful declarations under the previous government, as they zipped to all these meetings, all over the globe. They did not shy away from leasing private jets, you know.

And today the World Bank is interested to help?

Help with what?

While the USA is shutting down all flights to and from Venezuela, the World Bank decided to get involved? Not.

The most annoying news items are the ones by the PREVIOUS MinEnergy, when he has the AUDACITY to criticize the current government for not doing more on the refinery front.

What is he smoking?

Or does he assume that we’re all idiots, and that we believe his nonsense.

Venezuela is in the toilet.

Deep toilet.

And the former minister still thinks it’s the current government’s fault?

I understand he was told, years ago, not to do it. His party’s former Lider Maximo was warned too, but they were having too much fun with the loaded Chavistas from Venezuela, that they could not stay away.

The AVP party should go into hiding and shut up. And thank you, former Lider Maximo for staying under your rock, you are the last person needed here.  

Blame RdA’s fiasco on the MinInfra’s wish to build a resort? Really.

Does anyone reading this poop ever give it credence?

The previous government cooked up a fabulous deal, and the reason it is not working is the present administration, not doing enough, not trying hard enough?!

Everything going on in Venezuela is somebody else’s fault??!!

Whatever you’re smoking it is severely clouding your judgement.

We’re calling for help regarding the UTV/ATV situation.

One of my friends writes: I have a hunch that the UTV/ATV operations found a weakness in terms of the law because in the existing legislation UTV/ATVs fall in a category of cars. That is why they can get license plates and can even get V -plates and can be rented out to individuals.

Recently we noticed a new UTV/ATV business in the neighborhood of Salina Cerca, and a new tour company in Pos Abao.

All other companies augmented their fleets considerably.

Can we fault the local distributor for the tour operator’s cheap and easy market-entry, and the tour operators for the irresponsible manner in which these vehicles are used??

With daily accidents, it has become clear that we need strong legislation to curb the use of these vehicles, last year a girl lost a limb and everybody was horrified for a couple of days and then nothing changed. This week we heard the sirens again, a quad racer overturned behind the lighthouse, and you can see on social media the eternal question pops up: Are these vehicles ever inspected??

Finally, last month we heard from DTI, they are trying, they are talking, they want to see, KPA needs to help. Basically, going nowhere.

The only positive move so far was the closure of the Shete park entrance. But it DOUBLED the pressure on the San Fuego neighborhood. A neighbor writes: I live in San Fuego and after closing the Shete entrance to Parke Arikok we have to deal with 200-300 buggies and quads, on a daily basis. And we are confronted with several people from the government with all different stories and changing promises. Can you publish about this huge problem? People have health problems, we have to keep doors and windows closed till 7 pm. Meanwhile they asphalted all, even dead-end roads at Marawiel. It does not make sense at all. Is it all about who you know?

Dear neighbor, it’s economic. There is a lot of money in this business.

These vehicles rent for $150 – $180 per vehicle, running 2 tours a day. During peak season some tours have 12 vehicles per tour, 2 tours a day. Taking an average price of $165×24 = that’s $3,960 a day.  They work 6 days a week, that amounts to $23,760 a week, this sums up to Awg 41.580 a week. Even if they run only 8 weeks out of the year at full capacity that will gross them Awg 332.640. And that is a lot of money. I do NOT think their expenses are very high. Even if they lease these vehicles from the distributor, pay 2 guides, buy a couple of water bottles, there is still a lot left over.

And operators are not committed to the Aruba product and environment.

Neither are legislators.

So far nothing is happening.

We must start a conversation, to encourage more self-regulation, and hopefully a long term solution will follow with sensible regulation that keeps offering a fun product demanded by visitors, and makes money for locals, respecting traffic laws, public roads, and the environment, at the same time.

ALL EQUALLY IMPORTANT. You cannot sacrifice one for the other.

This and That

Ground Tax

The MinPres said my considerably increased ground tax liberated 12.000 under-privileged home owners on the island from the burden, and reduced the burden on additional 16.000. A total of 28.000 citizens are happier, the press release stated.

When I looked at the bill, it was no consolation. It sounded like a small increase as a concept, but on paper, it stings. First installment was payable March 31st. With the Ontvanger’s lust for boetes, watch out!

Lust for Boetes

Not long ago I received 23 naheffingsaanslag in the mail. I took a weekend off and spent time playing detective, determined to prove them all wrong. I collected materials, wrote polite letters, photocopied, stapled attachment and went to FMA Noord on a Friday to hand the evidence over. Not good enough. Submissions are only accepted at Ontvanger, and you have to stand in line roasting in the sun under the glass roof, with the rest of humanity.

I did. What choice did I have? BUT, we’re not living in North Korea, and we are free to protest the inefficiencies of our beloved tax collector. I basked in the glow of my attitude of gratitude.

If you were considering a mini market for a business, fuhgeddaboudit

The moratorium on mini markets has been extended to May 23rd, 2021. Apparently we already have 187 of them in different shapes and sizes. In a survey of 1,800 residents, 94% agreed we need LESS of those stores and 74.5% indicated there is no need for any more in their barrios. Applause. How about food trucks? Car washes? Hardware stores?

Congratulations Masters of their Craft!

I had the honor of serving as a judge for the in-house culinary competition among Marriott’s F&B culinary associates. The winner Miguel Angel Coronado, 10 years in F&B, 3 years with the resort, will go on to compete in the regional and later hopefully the semifinals, culminating in the Crowning of the Master of the Craft, in the fall in the presence of Mr. Marriott.

Miguel Angel prepared a fish dish, he cooked and seasoned it perfectly, the presentation of the plate was gorgeous. In my secret diary he got a few additional points for looking like Maluma.

The idea was to create a dish using the mystery ingredient, which was the Concomber di Aruba, yes, the humble cucumber.

Chris Webbs, had a fantastic fish dish with mango, with just 4 years in F&B and 6 months as an associate. He cooks with abandon, and confidence, and the sparkle in his eyes reveals the formation of a celebrity chef.

Nasir Soeratini, the only woman in the competition, 20 years in F&B and 6 months at the Marriott used the cucumber in a tasty ragout, and Jose Castillo, who finished the challenging contest first, 3 years in F&B at the resort, used the cucumber in a pesto.

Congratulation to Arturo Delgado for a great emcee job and competitors Adrian Florez, & Leandro Orozco for surprising us with such tasty dishes in just 40 minutes.

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May 19, 2019
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
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