Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap April 14th, 2019

Stand Up for Passion

If you missed the event last Friday at the Crystal Theater, you missed.

The event featured Arnaud Collery, Chief Happiness Officer with the quirky French accent, on his seventh workshop on the island, and while I heard his spiel before, it is always entertaining and enlightening.

The best part of the evening, six local professionals on fire, who spoke about their pet passions in a fresh and delightful way, rare in our more formal, constipated and repetitive public speaking culture.

Lionel Rummit described the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with working as a job coach at Trampoline pa Trabao with challenged clients, who find fulfilment at their job.

Nurianne Helder allowed us a peak into Diabetes 2, a long-term metabolic disorder, which she heroically doesn’t let stand in her way.

Diego Acevedo, inspired by his daughter, talked about abandoning the traditional corporate world to push for a positive change in the direction of Renewable Ocean Energy, while advocating for a Circular Economy and the often neglected three Rs – Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.

Theresa Montenarello, an ISA math teacher, described her resolve to introduce young kids especially girls to saws, drills and tinkering in an effort to lead them to STEM professions – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  

Joase-Ann van Der Biest, introduced her upcoming new, social, community project, Bazrrrrr, that will make her a Gallery Owner, and the supporter of the UN’s 17 SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals. 

Last but not least my adorable friend Indra Zaandam. She talked for two minutes flat and packed a huge punch. She got on stage in a cute red dress and surprise, what looked like comfortable, cushy sneakers. I noted it was a strange combo for a fashionista. But following her short, heartfelt confession, I get it. I am already in sneakers quite often, because I am a long-distance runner too.

What Indra said was poignant. She likened her work in the ‘public sector’ to a toilet, where things get dumped and thrown around, and she was tired, she said, tired of standing up and fighting for what seems obvious: nature, culture, heritage.

But she learned it is not about being slam-bang right. It is about a dialogue, a long, drawn-out compromise, which requires comfortable shoes, because this is going to take a while, to listen to all those conflicting points of views, and to work towards consensus.

With her two-minute pep talk she propped me right up. From now on if you see me in sneakers, you know why, I am tired, but not giving up, I am in the trenches fighting for what seems obvious, but I am not alone.

The evening was put together by Cornerstone Economics, a husband and wife duo, Rendell De Kort and Lay Hing De Kort Yee, both tireless and idealistic.

In the words of Roy Mezas: All we need to really experience meaningful change in Aruba is another 120 “Stand Up for Passion,” events, stirring 100 people into TRUTH, PURPOSE & PASSION, at a time.  

The simple pleasures of life include a clean car

In the old days, we had kids come to the house every Sunday with a vacuum cleaner, a bucket and detergent, they cleaned our cars and were paid monthly for their good services.

I recently heard from one of them, he is today the assistant chief engineer at the Eagle Beach Resort, a productive and reliable individual who got his start when he identified a service niche in the market and exploited it.

In recent years, I rarely washed my car. And I beat myself up for it. How come such a neat individual can be so careless, when it comes to her wheels?

The question is still open to debate. But as a rule, I keep my mind clean and my car dusty.

The other day Alex Lovera dropped an ad into my WhatsApp for a new car wash, Splash ‘n Dash, located on Sasakiweg, in front of Divi Links, in a new beauty-less commercial building.

My relationship with Alex Lovera has always been love-hate, he is hard-nosed but when he finally moves, he moves fast, which I appreciate.

I took note of his message, which proves – attention Alex — that advertising works!

Saturday, when I could no longer see through my windshield, I stopped at the place, and met Enrique, the supervisor, a killer-charming dude.

He took me through the process, simple, but tricky, because you are asked to relinquish control of the car, put it in neutral, take hands off the wheel, sit back and chillax.

I could not find neutral.

But then I did, and watched Enrique pressure wash the big mess off my rims. Next, the car glided onto the conveyer belt, which activated a giant soft blue mop that flopped, then sprinklers, swivel brushes, high-pressure water jets, soapy detergent, and air blowers.

I emerged on the other side, for the after-wash wipe-down.

It took just a few minutes, my antenna was knocked off, though, but otherwise my car has never been so clean, I could get used to that.

So, now I wanna go every Saturday. To see Enrique. Can I buy a frequent client card? 10 washes 2 free?

The dirt road hugging the car wash brought me back in reality. It’s like shampooing a dog, once clean mine want to go roll in the dirt.

I believe Splash ‘n Dash will take some of the bao palo car washes out of business and they will have to identify another gray economy service sector. Once you have a tax-free business, you always wanna have one.  

Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino Named 2018 “Hotel of the Year” at Hilton’s Americas Leadership Conference

Aruba’s most-loved beach-front hotel, Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, was recognized with the coveted “2018 Hotel of the Year” award at Hilton’s Americas Leadership Conference hosted in Orlando, Florida. The hotel took home a first-place ranking among the Americas portfolio of full-service managed hotels ranging in size from 351 to 750 rooms.

During the conference, where annual excellence awards are presented to resorts and hotels that excel in performance and hospitality, Hilton Aruba also received the area’s 2018 Most Improved Profitability award, and a special recognition for landing the #1 RevPAR rating in the full-service category. Following the event, the hotel team had further reason to celebrate when learning that their Director of Revenue, Jennifer Bolstad, also landed the Circle of Excellence Award in Revenue for hotels with less than 500 rooms.

“The Hotel of the Year Award is reserved for winners who receive top scores based on a formula measuring key components such as profitability, improvement year after year, a leadership index score, and overall guest satisfaction experience,” said General Manager Hans Roehrbein. “We are proud of our team and their consistent focus on performance and extending hospitality to ensure our guests have the most exceptional experience. I thank them and applaud their collective accomplishments.”

To celebrate the accolades, Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino surprised team members with a special welcome arrangement at the team member entrance, where they received a warm welcome by managers lined up on a blue carpet, live music, a festive breakfast buffet, snacks and pastries. All team members were also invited for the monthly recognition event where team members, supervisors, and managers of the month are announced.

The recognition event was made even more special when a brass band appeared in the lobby followed by Carnival dancers in extravagant costumes, guiding team members to the ballroom, in appreciation of the colossal “Hotel of the Year” award. Festivities continued in the Morris Lapidus Grand Ballroom over tasty snacks, refreshments, certificates, and tributes to team member winners. The event concluded with a heartfelt thank you note from Hotel Manager, Jacques Monteil.

RETIRING, veteran hotelier Gerrit Griffith

When I got the recent press release about his retirement I called, Griff, I said, forty-three years, is that all? What will you be doing? Going back to school?

Yes, he said.

Apparently, some lucky seven-year-old granddaughter will get her grandpa to drop her off and pick her up from school, feed her lunch and do homework together.

And that’s the plan, he said. Bring on the grandchildren.   

I tried to review those 43 years with Griff, which one was the best.

They were all great, he said like a true politician that he is, some crazier than other.

Gerrit Griffith graduated Cornell University in Ithaca NY along with a group of other local kids, who are all still working and enjoying good careers. Upon his return he was hired at the 75 room Tamarijn Beach hotel as assistant manager. Those were the days.

He then moved on to manage the hotel as it expanded into a resort and during his years with the company, he left his mark on Divi, the Dutch Village, Divi Village, the chain’s Flamingo in Bonaire, and its hotel in St Maarten, finally he served as GM at Divi Phoenix Beach Resort.

Somewhere in between he went to Barbados, and immediately came back to Aruba. He enjoyed diverse settings, and personalities under just one employer, and will be leaving it all behind September 1st, 2019

So, what stuck in your mind, I asked.

We built the Alhambra Casino in 90 days, he laughs, working triple shifts, the first free standing casino on the island. ALBO, with Henk Bijen at the helm was our favorite construction company partner. They busted their you-know-what-s and got it done.

We knew nothing about casinos when we opened. The place was packed. Hopping. Our barefoot president and chairman of the board cut the ribbon with island politician Betico Croes, and we had just two dollar and fifty cents in the vault, but we were in business.

We didn’t know anything about timeshare when we opened the Dutch Village. But the sales office was packed. Hopping.

Most new designs and fresh ideas were found in the morning, on cocktail napkins, conceived at happy hour the night before. That was Bijen’s big specialty: The ability to read construction plans off a cocktail napkin.

And when a tail of a Caribbean hurricane threatened Tamarijn Beach Resort one stormy night with the ocean roiling, swollen, leaping over the boardwalk, Gerrit Bosch, a bigger than life Dutch-born contractor, drove his forklift through the lobby, knocked down the wooden stairs, and saved the resort from extensive damage by dumping boulders into the crazed waters, he worked all night, as he did on many other occasions, a dedicated and fondly-remembered partner.

Griffith enjoys the memory of those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants days. But he also likes to talk about the little touches that catapulted Divi to fame and fortune.

A little old man whose name we forgot, used to cruise the gardens in the early morning hours, pushing a large coffee urn on a cart with a tiny bell. If you heard the bell, you could crawl out of bed and receive your first cup of coffee, at your door step, free of charge, and climb back into bed.   

The breakfast trays, hoisted by rope to the second-floor rooms of Divi Dos, later on they were replaced by little trap doors, where you could find your breakfast croissants waiting for you at sunrise.  

Griff is found to talk about the army of Portuguese gardeners, they were all 90 years old, and answered to the exact same name, being all related, but they worked like horses, stallions, he adds, without speaking a word of English. The gardens were always spectacular!

And talking about characters, Griff sums it up. ‘I always tell HR to hire 80% personality and 20% knowledge. Because if you have the personality, we can teach you anything.’

At the end of the call Griff takes inventory: We had an amazing gallery of personalities he says, from Wally Wiggins down to the directors, the executive housekeeping, the miracle workers at reservations, Big Roger the Casino Greeter, the head bartender, Coconut Charlie, they all enjoyed long careers with the company, I guess there is something about DIVI. Once Divi, Always Divi.

Gerrit Griffith is the recipient of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.         

Help Wanted

I keep hearing from my friends in retail and my friends at the hotels that they are very short-staffed, with all the dire implications of not being able to provide timely, quality service, in almost every sector of the market.

No housekeepers, no cooks, no sales associates, and if you get people with a decent resume, they are the kind that doesn’t give a hoot, AND they don’t really WANT to work hard!

My friends wonder where all the extra hands will come from, especially in view of all the condos/stores/restaurants under constructions preparing to imminently open.

On the other hand, my sources at the airport tell me that yesterday on COPA 505 departing at 13:14pm, nine Venezuelan nationals were deported, via Panama. I also heard two of them had filed for political asylum and/or political refugee status, and were granted a stay.

Of course, we do not know, because the process is not transparent.

I also understand that COPA denied them access on April 9th, but for reasons unknown to me their departure on the 11th was authorized.

Incidentally, I will also be posting the a-la-first-grade letter they are presented with, by which they promise Immigration to be good, and not offer any resistance to the deportation.

But that is not what I am saying today.

What I am suggesting is perhaps yanking our heads out of the sand, and taking inventory of what we have on hand.

We have an unknown number of illegals/somewhat-legal cooped up the island. They are trapped, the border is closed. They can’t leave, they can’t stay.

They have no access to health care, and/or social support, they exist in limbo. There might be some worthy professionals among them that can be put to work here, if given some kind of documentation, outlined in treaties, ratified by Aruba.

I am not advocating the blind opening of doors; I am advocating a careful inventory.

It will have a positive effect on our tight-labor market, and it will alleviate the immense pressure of being nobody, jobless, homeless and orphaned. From a humanitarian point of view, it is the right thing to do.

It will also crack down on petit theft, break-ins, and drama. Make One Happy Island even happier.

Thoughts about Contemporary Art

I recently met a young woman by the name of Ana Maria Hernandez, with deep ties to Aruba, she describes herself as an art historian, but she is an artist in the broadest sense of the word.

She wants to change the world, and has already met with Aruba’s officials regarding her comprehensive plan to make art part of every school’s curriculum here.

But until then, she already developed a few grass roots initiatives that would grow into an art program, one of them at a youth facility in Dakota.

Ana Maria doesn’t believe in importing a ready-made program, she wants the curriculum to grow intrinsically.

Very cool and progressive chick with a solid academic background!

She writes passionately about art, especially Contemporary Art, and she gave me one of her written pieces, which she submitted to one of the newspapers, yet was never published.

I decided to publish on line, you may read it over coffee this morning.

She is right, obviously, it would be intellectually stimulating to have a museum of Contemporary Art. If you build it, they will come!


Three simple reasons why we should talk about Contemporary Art.

Ana Maria Hernandez

Contemporary Art is the lens through which I navigate life. As an art historian I write about it, read about, talk about it and think about it on a daily basis. Through my work, I have seen and understood how important art is and has been for our societies throughout history.

This is why I believe in fostering strong relationships between communities and art, especially art being made now and by local artists.

From the earliest remains of advanced cultures of ancient societies, we can find, it is clear that humanity has always found a way to express how they perceive their reality. Think for example of the Lascaux Caves paintings created around 20,000 years ago where this community depicted the animals they hunted and the nature in their surroundings. Art has always played a role in how we develop our communities. No society has ever developed without art, no society has ever functioned without it, no society has ever existed without it.

Creative expressions have helped develop and construct the systems, values, ideas, and concepts that defined the societies we live in today. In the time of the Roman Republic (509 BC – 27 BC) for example, busts and portraits would be used as the main visual form of propaganda for the Roman rulers and promoted their policies and authority. Later, in the medieval times, it was through visual representations such as fresco’s and beautiful stained-glass windows that the Catholic church could communicate the messages of the bible to a folk mostly illiterate. Today, art still plays a major role in how we develop as communities through the work of contemporary artists.

When we talk about Contemporary Art we talk about art of our time. Contemporary artists create snapshots of what it’s like to live in the here and now and preserves who we are and what defines our culture for posterity. Artist Ai Weiwei, for example, illustrates the often unknown ‘side-effects’ of today’s obsession with social media in his work ‘Hansel and Gretel'(2017). In this immersive installation (a kind of work where the experience and space created, is the artwork), Weiwei creates an experience for the audience where the loss of privacy through our use of social media becomes visible. The viewer is led through dark halls and end up in a dark room filled with a network of infrared sensors and drones which track the viewers every movement. The live footage was then broadcasted to different locations in the gallery and also streamed online live. This simulation of constant surveillance mirrors the surrender to a large extent of our right to privacy. What the viewers do with this realization is up to them. The work documents the experience and constructs a reflection on a characteristic of our current society.

Contemporary Art can also reveal new ways to look at things you considered familiar or normal. Weiwei’s installation did this by brutally exposing the viewer to the realities of constantly putting ourselves out there on the internet.

Another approach is to draw links between the current and our histories. Artist Kara Walker, for example, addresses our complicated relationship with sugar in her work ‘A Subtlety’'(2014). The work consists of a large sculpture made out of white sugar; a mixture of an Egyptian Sphynx and the Southern Mammy archetype.

This large female figure with exaggerated, caricature-like features is surrounded by smaller molasses figurines of boys with baskets full of bananas and straw. Sugar, once so expensive it as a luxury reserved only for the wealthy few, became accessible to everyone in part largely due to slavery and colonialism. Nowadays, its heavy advertisement and promotion have brought upon an epidemic of diabetes and obesity that largely affects low income-households. It is clear that the cycle of abuse and exploitation has not been broken but transformed. Walker confronts us with the different parts of sugar’s history by bringing together symbols from the past and the present. It shows us that sugar is more than what sweetens your coffee in the morning.

With this ability to reveal new perspectives of the known comes Contemporary Art’s ability to highlight social issues and challenge people to think. Contemporary Art is not always political (comment on or address social issues to evoke change), but when it is it can be very powerful. Tania Bruguera’s performance ‘Tatlin’s Whisper #6’ (2009) for example, challenged censorship in Cuba by allowing the people to speak freely in a public space for the first time in years. In the performance, which took place in Havana during the 10th edition of the Havana Biennial in 2009, Bruguera invited the public to step on a podium and speak freely into a microphone for one minute. No topic was off limits. The speakers would get a white dove placed on their shoulder during their speech, which referred to the dove that stood on Castro’s shoulder during one of his first public addresses after he had won the revolution. In both cases, the dove stood as a symbol of freedom and makes us reflect on its fragility while at the same time being a reminder of courage. When the minute was over, two actors dressed as guards would kick off the speaker from the podium bringing us back to reality. By addressing the issues that affect us in the now, Contemporary Art has the ability to mobilize and unite: it allows us to see, reflect and encourages us to act.

Of course, Art alone cannot bring about change or defend values, but it is a powerful place to start.

In short: We should talk about Contemporary Art because it can preserve, expose and mobilize our cultures. At its most basic level, Contemporary Art is the soul of our societies. It’s a reflection of our desires, needs, emotions, and concerns. Contemporary Art should not be seen as something for the selected few because it is a reflection of all of us. It’s important to include ourselves in the discussions of Contemporary Art and support the voices in our communities. When we support our local Contemporary Art artists, we create a space in which our stories are told and preserved. We also create a space where WE are the ones telling those stories. This, of course, does not mean you will relate and be interested in every single piece of art you find along the way. It’s about engaging in the act of being aware of the different perspectives in life and ways of understanding it. It’s about looking, thinking and most important of all asking questions, any questions!

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April 14, 2019
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster