Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, December 15th, 2018

Welcome to Monday

Today is Human Rights Day, treat each other extra nice.

And talking about treating each other nicely.

I asked a few of my friends the following

Q: Why do you think did the Dutch let the AVP government go on spending for 8 years, as it pleased, and is now cracking down so hard on the MEP government, enforcing an unrealistic recovery plan, that perhaps Aruba cannot meet?!

A: I think they have been pretty lenient with MEP – they cracked down on AVP much harder. But AVP managed to duck and finagle. The crux of the issue is the cutting back of GOA’s personnel, which no party wants to touch, they are afraid of reduce staffers. And unless cost is slashed, they will never be able to balance the budget.

A: I don’t know.

A: The former MinPres made so many promises to the Dutch that he did not keep — to everyone in fact — now the Dutch don’t believe GOA anymore. Right or wrong that is how it is, and the former MinPres is to blame.

A: New men are in charge now, harder, more no nonsense, more PR savvy, they are losing patience, I suspect that the current MinPres always promised in backchannels that she would be tough, but it is hard to deliver on that promise. GOA only raised taxes, and did not cut personnel expenditure. One year later and fundamentally NOTHING CHANGED. Time is running out.

A: They raised taxes, and I hear the MinInfra is making noises about wanting to further raise the Environmental Levy by 1.5% – To date we do not know what they do with the money, for sure not spending it on the environment – the hotels cannot be burdened any further, with any taxes, or tipping fees. Enough. Cut back on wasteful ill-run GOA institutions.

A: They were told to streamline AruParking and get rid of ARUBUS, that’s huge savings, the buses run empty anyway, let the private sector take transportation over, with more efficient mini-buses. They can also get rid of some redundant government departments, let the garages certify cars for road worthiness and shut that technical department down.

A: They cracked down on AVP too. Remember ENSURE? They will go harder and harder by the year. And if we don’t act, they will step in. The trend of hiring people continues unchecked, and MEP has added to the payroll. At a certain point they will have enough. It’s only logical. The former MinPres was maybe smarter and had his cronies in the Netherlands. He perhaps had more friends in high places than the current MinPres.  

So, you see people don’t always answer questions, but they give pretty good answers.

The Ritz Carlton In Paradera

 Deborah de Weerd and Henk Steenbergen are celebrating the silver anniversary of Paradera Park Apartments an exclusive tropical escape set in the heart of Aruba, in Paradera.

Twenty-five years ago, a pair of visionary European vacationers decided to set up a modest apartment resort in a sea of cactus, boulders and divi trees, off the beaten path in Paradera.

At the time, 1993, most visitors stayed at the seaside hotels, and the vacation rental industry hasn’t been born yet. In fact, the island only had one or two apartment clusters but Deborah’s parents were undeterred – so now you know, Deborah’s parental unit, was the visionary European pair. They set up a charming ten-studio complex which they successfully ran for over a decade.

Paradera? Really? How do you get to Paradera?

Those were the days, before GPS, Waze and Google maps.

Then past the Millennium, the idea of selling the property popped up. Apparently, the de Weerd wanted their freedom back, and oscillated between their love of the island and their desire to travel. They shared their conflict with ‘The kids’ Deborah and Henk, here on vacation from their successful careers in the Netherlands and the seed was inadvertently planted.

Deborah explains that the plane ride back home was long and soul searching: How can we let Paradera Park go, they thought.  It was like giving a baby away, they felt, and eventually came up with a plan to simply replace the senior pair, step into their shoes, move to Aruba and assume the ownership role of Paradera Park, full time.

Deborah, a designer by profession, and Henk, a technical man, knew little about hospitality, but were quick learners, and translated the boundless love they had for the property and for the island into a successful business, now in its twenty-fifth year, a full-service tropical oasis.

Overtime they expanded into a seventeen-room boutique style resort, and the garden, now famous for incredible blooms became a passionate pastime for both Deborah and Henk.

What is the secret to success, I asked:  They both agree that personal service is the key, and keeping the traveler in mind is essential, making sure he/she experiences Aruba on a very deep level, and that the island gets under their skin. 

As a privately owned and managed property they are proud to welcome back many return visitors each year, whether traveling for business or leisure, and gladly share their island knowledge to help them explore and enjoy the uniqueness of Aruba.

They insist on comfortable beds, superior linen, and updated modern bathrooms, Illy espresso machines, all utensils and appliances, though they explain, most guests enjoy having the option to cook, but rarely do!

With Henk in charge of maintenance and Deborah at the front desk, their total immersion is further amplified because they live on property, and are always available to make sure vacations at Paradera Park are relaxing and carefree.

Henk often tells the housekeepers, and the occasional service providers that he is running the Ritz Carlton in Paradera, and that the level of service expected is six stars.

Paradera? With time they reflect, has become their biggest selling point, away, authentic, quiet, birds and lizards, island living at its best.

From the website: Paradera Park is also home to the Loretti Design Studio, the contemporary jewelry & product designs are sold in the giftshop. In addition, you will find a unique collection of home products, fashion, design & art, designed by local artists.

La Linda is there for you until December 31st

The decision to close the iconic store on the main street could not have been easy. Or perhaps it was very easy, a relief, to finally admit that times have changed and that La Linda’s particular kind of shopping experience has been made obsolete.

I stepped into the store yesterday, the inventory seemed low, or maybe the store is enormous and no amount of merchandise could fill it. I was told a sale is coming, pronto.

I wanted to ask a few questions, but Aaron Hochman told me to submit them in writing. I did. I hope he answers one day. But a one on one conversation would have been better.

This is what I know from previous columns: Haim Hochman came back to La Linda a few years ago, as his mother asked him to take an active role in rebuilding the business that started more than 85 years ago, by grandpa, carrying merchandise to the far corners of Aruba on the backs of two donkeys.

A wooden shack behind Aruba Bank came next, which led to the no-longer-there triple-decker in the middle of the main street, consumed by flames years ago.

We’ve had a few fires, Haim shared, including a big one in Dakota, in the warehouse.

Haim must be the world’s best employer because his employees never leave. That business has zero turn-over. Some of the ladies have been there for over 50 years.  The oldest employee according to Aaron, is 80 years old.

Through thick and thin La Linda stocked clothing, household goods, fabric and shoes for every member of the family, all under one roof, and over the last few years while the shelves were loaded, the store remained quite empty.

Clients, explained Haim, have little expendable cash, besides, it is difficult to get to La Linda, with the parking situation and all. In the old days, clients would be dropped off by their kids at the door and picked up after shopping, now with the tram running, the access to the store is inadequate.

The main street Haim thought, became better-looking, but very impractical.

He also lamented that his plans to build a nice four-story parking facility in the back weren’t approved.

The government wanted to dig in a parking facility and build a park on top, a super expensive and ambitious project, digging into coral, below water level. But until they find the money to do it, clients are welcome to park anywhere they find a spot and come in anyway, there will be lots of good bargains and deals in the coming days.

The store’s last effort to energize its client-base was via a membership card connected to an automatic 20% discount, and a full color magazine, remember, we used to get it in our mail box, but that attempt fizzled.

One month ago, I bought upholstery fabric at La Linda, it was very reasonably priced and of good quality and Michael Douglass helped me make a crazy decision, bright orange and lime green for my dining room chairs. They look great!

Memory Lane

We hosted a terrific party at Imeldahof yesterday afternoon and WheninAruba.com will be posting a story and images about that super successful event. Thank you, friends and sponsors, for helping out, and making so much fun possible.

Imeldahof Children’s home is probably 65 years old. And back in 1994, I wrote a short column about it. Part of my Island Life book, available for sale at bookstores and at T.H. Palm & Company at Playa Linda Beach Resort.

“I was invited to the 40-Years Anniversary Celebration of Imelda Hof Children’s Home. On stage, four grandmothers accepted framed pictures of the early Children’s Home next to the Church of Noord. It was a token of appreciation for their years of selfless dedicated service, there. Standing in the glaring lights, the four surviving Sisters of Bethany bid Aruba farewell. They were finally leaving after FORTY years!

It must have taken immense courage in November of 1954, for seven young women to turn their backs on the familiar safe Dutch Order, to come to the Caribbean and backward Aruba to care for troubled and unwanted kids. Big on discipline, education and love, the Sisters made a considerable contribution; they jump-started the Children’s Rights Movement on the island. With Imelda Hof now managed by highly qualified Arubans, the elderly educators will be returning to Holland with a deep sense of loss, mixed with profound satisfaction.

Another unsung hero, Frere Caspar, who for four-decades had taken the kids to the beach every Thursday received a thank-you pin. I admired his commitment. While it initially seems such a wonderful, fun idea, imagine STICKING to it, and enduring TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHTY outings, accompanied by fifty screaming, wet monsters! Selfless service, indeed.”

Uncivilized discourse, on the radio

I listened to the midday news broadcast with Dilma Arends, on a much-appreciated station, HIT 100FM. She played a sound bite from a press conference by the former MinInfra, who sounded rabid, foaming at the mouth, like he was going to pop a vein, something he thought outrageous about, who else?!, the current MinInfra.

Not to ruin the good vibe in my car, I switched stations.

Same sound bite, on a different location on the dial.

Two things came to my mind.

I already asked the former MinInfra to please refrain from airing his views, we do not want to hear, not even a peep, from his direction. Let him count his millions and enjoy his pseudo-retirement, while on the opposition benches, which he rarely occupies, anyway.

The other thought was: They all buy their news from the same source, they procure their information from just one man, the amazing Speed Andrade, who only reports on his clients, naturally, he is a kind of freelancer, and that is why we rarely hear about current MinFEC or the current MinInfra, we just hear about the people dear to Speed’s heart, on all radio stations, every day.

In a discussion with a fellow media personality we agreed that we get what we deserve.

The radio stations/newspapers do not collect their own news, they have no budget for that. Advertising rates remained the same on the island for the past 25 years, and with stagnation in advertising rates, and a tight business community, that refrains from advertising, and sees no value in that, news collection relies on symbolic budgets.

Young people on Aruba who are educated and free-thinking, shy away from journalism, they want a cushy government job with all benefits, and will not stick out their necks for minimal wages, in dingy press rooms.

Besides with the island being so small etc., if one sticks out one’s neck, it gets chopped off, and uncomfortable questions remain unanswered for fear of losing valuable sponsors.

Or perhaps the owners of the media outlets got used to making a comfortable living, and refrain from hiring costly talent, what for, the cash had better stay in their pockets.

So that is why a rabid sounding, foaming at the mouth, former MinInfra is allowed to air his toxic views on not just one but ALL radio stations.   

GRUPO DI BETICO celebrates golden anniversary

Grupo di Betico is a family ensemble with deeply rooted Aruban musical and cultural ties, they have been promoting the family’s musical heritage for decades, while headquartered in Santa Cruz, in the home of Francisco “Panchico” Croes and Maria Luisa “Mimita” Croes Lopez.

All kids growing up around that home and neighborhood played musical instruments and sang.

In 1959, when teacher Betico Croes returned to Aruba after finishing his studies in the Netherlands, he livened things up at home with his charisma, and the infectious sound of his accordion, especially around the end of the year celebrations. At that time, all family members pitched in, offering their extended social circle a joyful musical greeting, and blessings for the new year, in the form of Aruba’s much-loved Dande.

In 1968, brothers Rudy and Tommy return from school, and before long Betico and his group, which is their name now, count on siblings Rudy, Aiky, Tommy, Efrain, Hendrik and Adison, Chichia, Mary, Didi, plus uncles and cousins, to support and contribute to the merriment.

In 1986 with Betico’s tragic passing, the musical group changed its name to Grupo di Betico, and continue to dedicate time to folklore and culture, as was his wish for them, and his legacy.

As the years go by, the group benefited greatly from the musical leadership of the late Hildward Croes, Maiky & Ada’s son, who pursued music professionally, and gave the groups many of its hits. Musical giant Gus Oduber is band leader, and he often recruits outside talent to arrange and direct.

You should know that three original members are still playing, that’s 50 years of music.

Three members today are no blood relatives, but feel like family.

In the last five year, the group has been active year-round, not just for the end of the year celebrations.

I talked to architect Jouel Croes, an enthusiastic member of the band, he told me a fun story about his grandpa, Janchi Werleman, who played Dande with Betico and his group.

At the time Betico’s political career was in full swing and the group used to take off before New Year, travel from house to house, performing Dande. They came back home on January 6th, to nurse the world’s biggest hangovers, and finally take showers, to grandma’s great chagrin.

Jouel continues the tradition. He sings and plays guitar, he composes music; when he drinks, he says, he tells jokes.

I talked to him about the recent Golden Anniversary Concert.

Grupo di Betico sold 1,400 tickets to the Renaissance Conference Center. It was the first time that the folkloric group blended in with a classic orchestra, that means violin, viola, cello, and played twenty-five of the group’s most popular songs.

The list of performers who supported this musical effort sounds like the Who’s Who on the island: calypsonian Claudius Phillips, his brother Teddy, singers Landa Henriquez, Sharon Rose, Roderick Franken, and Jeanedy Semeleer, with Ruben Garcia and Sandra Croes as emcees, musical star Izaline Calister from Curacao, and Franklyn Granadillo as musical director. Apologies if we omitted a few, the list is long.

The band is managed by a foundation, dedicated to the promotion of culture and folklore.

 Most popular song? From 1990, Hildward Croes’ Paranda Arubiana.

Their other classics include: Ban Celebr’e Y Festeh’e, Añ ‘Nobe Awe, and Arubianonan.

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