Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, August 26th, 201

Paseo Herencia hosts the Second Annual Steelband Celebration

In Aruba the sound of steel pans is synonymous with James Edgar Connor who founded the Invaders Steel Orchestra in the late 50s.

Born in Aruba in 1939, Connor started his musical career in 1950.

His son Nico, a famous pan player himself explains that in an early photograph, his father is seen as a skinny kid, age 11, playing in a band, already smitten by the drums and the rhythm. He later became a passionate musician and craftsman also an equally memorable showman, appearing with his orchestra in all island hotels, for Carnival Night, and actively participating in the island’s musical scene.    

Both his sons Nico & Lee followed in their father’s footsteps, joined by another brother Eugene Jones. The first two, Nico & Lee, are legends on the island for their sweet pan music, recorded on multiple albums. Lee is also well-known for fathering a set of most adorable twins, who were the island’s poster children for more than a decade and are today very accomplished musicians.

I heard the third generation, Quincy & Wesley play for the first time at Paseo Herencia on Saturday night. Their sound is intense, they create a musical storm, a force of nature, and produce high energy, compelling and exciting tunes.

Edgar Connor’s tribute concert started with the appearance of the NorthStar Steel, the gold-standard of all contemporary steel bands, nurtured by our very own Freddie Tromp. 

The way Freddie tells it, he’s been playing steel pans from 1964 to the 80s. Then life took him away from his passion, his music. He returned in 1996 with what he calls Bush Pans, and in honor of the millennium, went to Trinidad and contacted the best pan makers on the planet. He has been upgrading his arsenal since then.

NorthStar Steel is a favorite on the island during Carnival, as the orchestra is a crowd-favorite on parades, for over 20 years. They open the Grand Parades each year, and the sidelines go crazy, taking pictures and cheering the group of two dozen panhandlers, expertly playing favorite hit, on instruments carefully hammered from 55-gallon oil drums.

Freddy started with an ordinary variety of pans, and slowly over time, changed and upgraded them all, to highly polished, much more expensive, Chrome coated ones.

The gathering on Saturday awarded Freddie a commemorative plaque for his great contributions to music on Aruba.

As Lee was addressing the packed Edgar Connor Amphitheater, he said it was the family’s duty to educate and protect its musical heritage. The Connors all share a responsibility to keep pan music alive.

After a stellar performance of NorthStar Steel and the honoring of Freddie Tromp and emcee Ruben Garcia, pan player Marver Guedez, 15, and keyboard player Eltienne Yarzagaray took over the stage, thrilling the crowd with the pop music application of steel band sound.

With Marver, handling pans so expertly despite his young age, it seems that continuity is now guaranteed.

For the Grand Finale the Invaders Orchestra made up of 5 members of the Connor family and NorthStar Steel jointly gave for a thundering recital, accompanied by additional local legends, Ivan Quandus and Angel Hazel with two Lead Steelpans, the Double Second, and the Triple Cello, in full form.

It was amazing to think that it all started with discarded oil drums, and evolved to represent the special joy of life associated with the region, blessed with palm trees, and sunshine.

HACKING: One of my friends informs

Our local bank account was hacked and drained of nearly 46,000 florins! It was done by bank transfer by 7 different transactions over a period of one week. Our money went to Mexico, California, Florida and Georgia (USA).

My husband was away last week and didn’t check our account.

I am not sure who you bank with, but we have been with our bank for 20 years and have NEVER sent money off of the island. We just use the account to pay our bills.

How did the hackers know how much money the account contained?

The hackers transferred almost everything out, and left us a whopping 129 florin!

Keep an eye out for hackers! Apparently, they are alive and well!!

My husband spoke to a bank representative. He said they are NOT insured against things like this!! I do not believe them. In the USA banks are required to carry insurance for security breaches.

How can they say, they aren’t insured and are not responsible for their online banking if hacked????

While they are investigating we went to police to file a report. My husband had to go back the following day because they were swamped and couldn’t attend to his complaint, in real time.

The two policemen on duty were astounded by the story!!

Meeting with the bank yesterday afternoon an IT guy was present. They said they have some information but are still investigating. Can’t share info with us because they have to inform the police, when the investigation concludes.

What’s the take away: I had a similar case happen to me with another local bank, as the investigation revealed it was a combo-hack, the result of malware and an untrained, non-vigilant bank clerk, who just followed instruction on phony e-mails.

I got the money back.

Bottomline: Banks cannot wash their hands off and walk away in cases of hacking, they are responsible for the safety of our deposits, and that is why bank charges are so high, security, we have to pay for their firewalls and hack protection.


The Summer of No Respect

Aruba is hot.

The heat must have scrambled everyone’s faculties a bit. Especially those in the digital media, chasing tragic accidents, depicting spectacular death scenes, and documenting the tireless work of the immigration police.

A lot has been written in the past few days about the local public’s insatiable thirst for outrageous video clips and sound bites. One of my more intelligent colleagues in the media labeled it correctly, as the pursuit of “likes,” on social media.

We got into the habit of getting upset, fast and furiously, then moving on to the next story, with our emotions spent, for zero results.

Outrage for the sake of the adrenaline rush, that leaves us spent, until the next episode, without accomplishing any resolution of change.

Two explicit, brutal videos awoke the local public’s sensitivities. That of the 8-year old, badly injured in the UTV accident on Malmok, and that of an addict by the name of Ski, sprawled on a chipped, wet concrete floor, behind the Oranjestad fruit market, possibly already dead, from internal complication resulting from a gunshot wound, received a few days prior, for being at the wrong time at the wrong place.

The community protested the disrespect, robbing victims of their dignity, and the intrusion of privacy. The so-called journalists spent two entire days defending their positions, and painting themselves as saviors of the day!

Then I got a WhatsApp message from one of the MinPres PR funnels. He jumped on the band wagon, identifying a golden opportunity to settle the score with the often-unfriendly online media source: This is your opportunity, the message said, to show your support of norms, ethics and values by ‘unliking’ the ambulance chasing online media source, 5,000 people already unliked them yesterday, join the movement to demonstrate that we’re against gutter journalism. Unlike their FB page.

Needless to say, a politically motivated call for action. These days everything is politically motivated.  

I visited our two biggest online news providers, 24Ora, with 55.8k likes vs MasNoticia with 45.7k likes, indeed the first one shows a 5% drop in ‘likes.’ The campaign was effective, though their engagement rate is double, which is what counts.

Both websites posted a whopping 250 posts this week, they are hard-working people, no doubt.

I found a great resource on line, with quaint and old-fashioned information

The professional journalist code of ethics goes the following:

Seek Truth and Report it

Minimize Harm

Act Independently

Be Accountable and Transparent


Chef Nicolas Lopez at the Marriott, this weekend

We were introduced to lanky Argentinean born Chef Nicolas Lopez in the lobby of the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino. The chef would be taking the kitchen over at La Vista restaurant on Friday & Saturday for a 5-course culinary adventure with exceptional wine pairing, by Pepia Est.

Chef Nicolas met success early in life. When he flunked out of high school, his mom put him to cook every day in the family kitchen under the tutelage of his dad and grandma. What started in failure, resulted in an aha moment. He soon discovered he had a culinary intuition and embarked on a career that is product focused.

In search of professional opportunities, he went to Caracas, where his talent blossomed, and then on through the continent, including Mexico, Chile, Colombia, where he opened Villanos en Bermudas restaurant, with another like-minded chef. They hit #40 on the Latin America’s Best Restaurants List, fast, then opened another crowd-pleaser, “99” restaurant in Chile, which got listed among the best 50 restaurants in Latin America, and “Tres Bastardos,” a famed establishment in Bogota.

Chef Nicholas is cool dude with a big head of unruly black curls, and facial hair. Tattoos go without saying. Especially a prominent one on his arm, about team work in Norwegian, a cultural Scandinavian staple. He worked in Norway and was deeply affected by their way of doing things.

His approach to food is minimal, he doesn’t mess much with god’s creation and most of his dishes have no more than three ingredients, but he has a knack for pairings flavors that both contrast and complement.

His equally tall and curly restaurant partner, Chef Sergio, admits some of the food combinations by Chef Nicholas are weird, but they always work and open-minded foodies will regale in scallops for appetizer with avocado, caviar and wild rice, paired with a Sauvignon Blanc; Oysters, with a spicy coconut mango sauce, chased by a Moscata; Shrimp with foie, green apples and edible flowers, paired with a top notch Riesling and Duck breast, hazelnut cream and shitakes with Spanish Ladron.

For dessert, Grapefruit curd with caramelized almonds, olives and capers, yes, you heard it right, olives and capers.

I told you to keep an open mind.

(Chef told me about his cauliflower and chickpea ice-cream, that’s a hit, but I have to travel to Bogota to have it.)

Admittedly, he hardy makes anything twice, the recipes come to him and change frequently, no two dinner experiences are alike. He mostly uses fresh vegetables, herbs and seafood, and in honor of the dinner at the Marriott the freshest seafood has been imported from the Boston fish market.

Because Colombia doesn’t raise great cattle, his restaurant, Villanos en Bermudas, serves weekly-changing 10-course vegetarian / seafood tasting menus, and was named one of the ten coolest places to eat in 2018 by Forbes.

Director of Food & Beverage Teddy Bouroncle reports the opportunity to work with a word class hip and cool chef is welcome in the kitchen of the resort where he hopes the brigade will pick up all of Chef Nicholas’ tricks, over the next few days, to refresh and inspire their own path.

* Limited seating is available and reservations are required at 520-6343 / 520-6652 / 520-6670. 

* Price: US $125 per person


Solid Vision

I needed some assistance in Legalese recently, a snappy letter to the government, and my favorite pit bull was unavailable on the phone.

So, I called a friendly, retired lawyer for a pro bono consultation.

Don’t think twice, he said, call Nancy Gravenstijn, this girl moves fast.

I did, on a Friday afternoon, almost five pm.

Imagine, she picked up the phone, listened to me, accepted all docs via WhatsApp, and asked me to come by her office Monday morning 9am for the customized, polished and precise document, which I had to deliver with umpteen copies, stamps and signatures, that day.

It was a flawless experience, and it confirmed we have been friends for more than three decades.

I remember, in the 80s, I used to run a cocktail party every Monday afternoon at the Alhambra Bazaar, attempting to attract guests from the Divi & Tamarijn across the street, for shopping, and later on perhaps a bit of gaming.

The highlight of the cocktail party – rum punch, anybody? – was a fashion show in which young school students from Aruba got to strut their stuff in bikini bathing suits, wraps and beach coverups, from the stores, showing off their merchandise. You know what I mean.

The show was always popular as my shapely, exotic amateur-models got quite professional at walking the virtual runway among guests, in the Roseland plaza.

To spice things up I used to tell guests about them, sharing biographical notes, letting visitors know they are not just pretty faces.

My favorite line, when Nancy emerged all gorgeous, was to tell the audience about her plans: Ladies and Gents, I used to say, this is Aruba’s best looking future Legal Eagle, this girl is going to be a lawyer, not just any lawyer, but the best.

Nancy used to nod gracefully in agreement, turn around slowly, show off her flawless figure and the pretty bikini; she was dreaming about a bright future, and we confirmed it to ourselves every week, on Monday, 30 years ago.

Advocatenkantoor mr N S Gravenstijn is today located in an iconic street, right next to the court house, in a historic building that used to be the practice of Notary Faride Tjong Ajong.

The building is elegantly painted, gray purple, and Nancy reports she changes the exterior color every two years to complement contemporary taste. It is fully renovated and flaunts a glass staircase, oversize panoramic windows, and original artwork on the walls.

It is a successful law practice and it took off on the wings of an ambitious 14-year-old, who used to model for pocket money.

She comes from a humble background, and remains humble and gorgeous, naturally. She can also cook very well, and her Surinam recipes feed two teenage kids every day.

Why do I like this story so much? Personally, I did not have a clear path, I did not know as a teen where I was headed, and it is remarkable to me that a path charted early on in life, held up, and that a teenager can come up with such a solid vision, that sticks.


ATIA’s Women in Leadership Conference pushes for more Female Power and Engagement

The 6th annual conference was a sold-out event, starring a well-dressed crowd of mostly power women in fabulous shoes, and a few forward-thinking men who graced the ballroom at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino with their presence.

We received a warm welcome by Michelle De Groot and heard a five-star address by Ronnie van Trigt, saying all the right things in the right tone, but he shared the limelight with two charismatic women, Evelyn Wever Croes and Kelly Ann Tomblin, so while his address was important, my focus was on them.

The MinPres is not a flamboyant speaker, and not a typical politician. So now that I stated what she isn’t, I have to say that she’s easy to listen to, she sounds genuine and un-rehearsed, and she is especially appealing away from prepared materials when she is herself; she reveals a self-deprecating sense of humor and warm compassion.

What she said was also important.

She explained the significance of women’s roles as peace makers, negotiators, bridge builders, and conflict solvers. She urged more women in the audience to join politics, not to leave education and healthcare in the exclusive hands of men. She stated it was the responsible thing to do, with tangible gains for our democracy, to get involved, and be proactive, despite the considerable personal price tag.

She then spoke at length about the need to encourage more women to pick new career paths, in the STEM academic direction — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and asked the members of the audience to encourage the young women in their lives to close the gender gap in the STEM demographics by urging young women to pick non-traditional careers.

An entire campaign will be rolled around it in an effort to bring women into STEM fields.

The MinPres then talked about her own equilibrium and her need to balance Family, Spirituality, Work and Service to the community, her four foundation pillars, and drew considerable laughs when she emulated a flight attendant: In the event of cabin pressure loss etc. the oxygen masks will drop. Her well-taken point was that women should learn to take care of themselves first, in order to in turn be of service to their environment.

She took some questions from the audience and talked well about the dignity of stray dogs, she shared about raising three kids, and having a grandson, experiencing immense grief at a loss of a brother, and the comments she gets about her legendary uncle and how much she is or isn’t like him; she talked about personal changes she made in order to become more approachable as the MinPres of this country, and even though Elmar NV fell apart, and the electricity and sound went on and off, it was an excellent event, and ATIA should be commended for making it happen.

Keynote speaker Kelly Ann Tomblin was a roller coaster of information and emotions and was very well suited to speak in Aruba in front of that specific female audience, because she too came from an obscure little place and made it big in the corporate world.

If anything, I will take her THINK BIG, with me, we often think too small. Otherwise I walked out considerably happier than how I was when I walked in. Tomblin made us pledge to be true to ourselves, have a higher purpose, use our imagination, navigate well, gain knowledge, tap into our innate knowingness, seek novelty and mostly step on it, expedite, Just Do It.

Women in innovation, getting it done, gave us plenty to think about, and a stylish red wrist wrap to remind us to be brave.  

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August 25, 2018
Rona Coster