Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap January 18, 2018

To dredge or not to dredge, that is the question

Over the last three to four decades with the increased use of the waters off Palm Beach the bottom of our ocean grew muckier and muckier, especially in the area between the Holiday Inn and the Barcelo Aruba.

Fine slippery gook under toes – some call it silt, is the result of organic material build-up in the warm water. Some experts say leave it alone, it’s seasonal, it comes and goes, let nature take care of itself; some experts would like to intervene, and find a system to strategically remove it from the areas used by swimmers.

Hence dredging.

Dredging excavates the seabed by sucking the stuff up and dumping it in the deep, a distance away, or picks it up with machinery, one full goliath backhoe at the time.

What’s with the dredging all of a sudden?

Why am I talking about it?

Apparently, most Palm Beach Resorts received a letter from the ministry of tourism informing them that effective Feb 9th portions of their beach will be closed for six weeks at the time for dredging, paid for by GOA who is apparently committed to do it, contractor paid, machinery on standby.

The shocking news was met with a mix of reactions from over-my-dead-body, to why-not-if-they-want-to-pay-for-it.

The nay sayers point at the high season, the high occupancy, the potential upset caused to guests and the fact that 2018 is a banner year as far as tourism is concerned and the vacay momentum should not be disrupted, by maintenance.

There will be a great loss of income to the hotels and consequently to GOA if the high season is affected.

Besides, where is the science that says that indeed dredging is the way to go?

And what is the long term environmental impact of dredging of that kind?

Surfside was recently dredged, did the situation there improve?

We have more questions than answers.

I believed at this moment, GOA agreed to hold off until May and the off season.

As a rule, decisions of this magnitude must be taken in consultation with the involved partners otherwise the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Venezuela – self destruction continues

The crazy head of state, across the bay, decided last weekend to close the frontiers between Venezuela and the ABC islands for 72 hours.

Why, is the question.

I personally think Maduro just realized what an avocado consumer I am and decided to cut me off.

Anyway, the dictator provided a quasi-explanation for the abrupt decree, citing his desire to curtail smuggling, and prevent the leeching of products and minerals, such as diamond and copper being illegally exported from Venezuela.

A recorded message from Rainbow Warriors, pointed out this weekend that it is not diamonds and copper Maduro is worried about but Coltan, a rare mineral mined in Venezuela that is used in the manufacturing of electronic products in the sensitive and volatile arms industry. But, only one problem remains, Venezuela is NOT mining Coltan and isn’t famous for diamonds.

So, we must conclude that Maduro was just picking a fight, making up a story, creating a diversion, taking attention off the fact that his people are dying of hunger on his watch.

Besides, whose fault is it that products are smuggled out? Not the buyers on our end but the corrupt customs officers on Venezuela’s end, who let products escape for a fee right into their hungry hands. We did notice that certain local websites are bursting with cheap Venezuelan products for sale. Our neighbors are desperate, and use their wits to survive.

One of my friends sent me a newspaper item which claimed that the move was designed to hide a clandestine fiber optic cable, being laid by a French company from Havana to Caracas, supervised by a secret military communications team of Russia. The total blackout was supposed to guarantee the strictest secrecy during the completion of the project, initiated by Russian-Iranian military forces, intent to manufacture long-range missile weapons!

Now that’s what I call a conspiracy theory worth repeating, involving the Cubans, French, Russians, Iranians and Chinese, plotting against the US and exploiting Venezuela.

The press release of noticiasvenezuelas.ord concluded with: The fight continues …

Here’s some more about Venezuela.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-economy/caracas-shops-mobbed-as-venezuelas-maduro-forces-price-cuts-idUSKBN1EV0K1

The crazy closing of borders is compounded by the threat of losing RDA, where the plan to dilute the useless Orinoco Gold into friendlier sellable products is fizzling away by the hour. If newspapers reports are true the PDVSA deal with Aruba, could be classified as Luft Gesheft, hot air, a business without a solid foundation. With all executive in jail in Caracas, we’re just sitting here waiting for the fat lady to sing. And the MinPres just announced that Aruba will be looking into the nitty-gritty of the RDA/PDVSA agreement and asking questions.

A politician who acts on his principles

The MinEd executed a classic maneuver this week. He gave an interview to a newspaper in Curacao, in which he shared some interesting personal details, that might have caused a hoopla here, but since the information came in second-hand via Curacao, it did not raise an eyebrow. Kudos to Dr. Rudy Lampe.

The Curacao newspaper reported that the MinEd, a former priest who was defrocked because of his political activities, had just entered a registered partnership with a Mexican national – the interview was carefully worded, not to reveal the male or female gender of the significant other — and that he will be starting a new life, living with a partner, abandoning the remains of his Catholic priesthood days.

In the event that the loved one is a female, the MinEd could have opted for marriage, but as a political statement, and in support of many who do not enjoy the freedom to get married in our society, the politician made an exceptional move, and should be commended for standing by his party’s principles and supporting equal rights.

If you recall, the registered partnership was passed in our parliament as an amendment to the civil code, but it was never put into action for fear of voters’ retaliation; one of the parliamentarians who voted pro, later came out with statements against.

But anyway, the MinEd forfeited his right to get married, in order to show solidarity for those who can’t.

In the event that the loved one is male, the amendment to the Civil Code here states that partners of the same sex have the right to legally register their union, making Aruba the first country in the Caribbean to allow that legally binding arrangement.

Among residents of European orientation, registered partnership is a big favorite, as an alternative to the old-fashioned marriage institute.

Question: Having entered into a registered partnership, will the MinEd manage to obtain a residence permit for his partner? I am not sure. He will probably have to commute and split himself in two.

I recently reported on a lamentable case in which a house doctor, a physician employed by the local health insurance provider was forced to leave the island because her registered partner did not qualify for residence papers.

The fight continues…

To refresh your memory: Dr. Rudy Lampe, Pader Lampe at the time, participated in elections for the first time in 2005 landing a record number of 2,334 votes in support of his progressive ideas which ushered him into Parliament. In 2009, he suffered a loss of many votes but still managed to secure 1,360. The downward spiral continued in 2013, resulting in just 613 votes. In between election-defeats he strategically stayed away, working as a university teacher abroad preparing for better things to come. Some of my friends insist he was politically ostracized and couldn’t find employment on the island. In this year’s election, the party he founded enjoyed a resurgence and in a surprise move, candidate Ricardo Croes, with 3,359 votes to his name, became eligible for a ministerial position which he gave up in favor of Dr. Rudy Lampe, who then became our MinEd — though he only secured 455 personal votes this time. Life is full of surprises, twists and turns.

The Governor’s NEW YEAR’s reception, set the tone for a sober and serious leadership style

Last week, the Governor’s traditional cocktail reception in honor of the new year was modest in size and in culinary offerings.  Unfolding at the Hyatt Regency ballroom, the elegant room was nicely lit but understatedly decorated, no dramatic laser beams, no state of the art audio-visuals; it looked like a friendly gathering of people, with enough illumination so they could see each other and with barely-there background music so they could hear each other, and just talk.

It was unusual in the age of electronic innovations: A cocktail reception supporting and encouraging conversations.

Having been personally greeted at the door by the Governor and his gracious wife, I did the rounds, and met a ton of interesting people!

The Governor of Aruba, His Excellency Alfonso Boekhoudtin office since the beginning of 2017, reviewed some of the events of the year as he addressed his guests, and asked them, and the people of this island to go back to basics, help their neighbors, be available for charity organizations, find happiness in people, not things, and return to the ancestral values which made Aruba such a great island.

His Excellency asked every single person in the room to become a role model, starting with his own office, staging a restrained New Year’s reception with some wine and beer, no hard liquor, in solidarity with GOA’s financial challenges.

When reviewing the events of the year His Excellency lingered longer on the unfortunate fate met by two young brothers recently, and called for social reforms and immediate action in cases of suspected child neglect or abuse.

The main point of his address, I thought, was an anti-materialistic pitch in favor of spiritual and emotional growth, and in pursuit of intellectual and cultural values.

I noticed 3 or 4 press members, no social media, no crazy photographers. On my way out the door, the ever courteous and cultured Director of Cabinet suggested snapping a picture with his phone, we even posed for a selfie, the pictures are tremendous, and a nice souvenir from a genuinely-enjoyed event, without an ounce of hoopla or hype.

I greeted four lovely young ladies, who graced the reception with their presence, the Governor’s daughters. We can be very proud of our First Family!

The Copper Saga Continues

A video circulating this week stated that Aruba is the Caribbean’s largest exporter of copper without having copper mines. Then I asked around and found out it is about one container per week that’s heading to Europe, no big deal in terms of the Venezuelan copper industry but definitely surprising in view of the fact that we have no mining industry.

Scrap Copper, says my friend in the biz, is most always stolen. It comes into the scrap-yard in the form of mangled pipes, half painted. Don’t ask, don’t tell. You know they were attached to the side of a structure and were peeled off to sell for pennies by homeless or other opportunists in our society.

The scrap metal biz is never glamorous. I would have opted for gold at $1,331 an OUNCE and not copper, that fetches $3.2 a POUND. Besides, most of the time the scrap yard only pays HALF of the market value.

If you’re into smuggling, you should go for gold, stick it in your suitcase and tada, you made a lucrative profit! (Let’s say one kilo: $1,331 x 35 = $46,585 for gold VS $7 for copper)

So, we found out this week, that Aruba has been exporting copper, legally, we did nothing wrong here, thus Maduro has to look into the MO of his customs agents and navy, how come they inspect and patrol, patrol and inspect but never find boatloads leaving Venezuela, destination Aruba, stuffed with junk.

Something else that came to mind was the so called human drama summarized in the Noticia Cla item, as more than 200 Arubans got ‘stuck’ in Venezuela after the New Year holiday. Our MinPres declared it a difficult situation: “Aruba a pasa door di un situacion hopi dificil y ainda e ta dificil y molestioso caminda cu tabata tin casi 200 pasahero pega na Venezuela. Gobierno di Aruba na e momento cu a wordo señala cu e motibo principal di Venezuela pa tuma un medida asina drastico, cu ta e importacion di koper, a duna e siguridad na e gobierno Venezolano cu lo atende cu esaki. Esaki a resulta cu Venezuela a kita e medida aki y nos a logra pa nos hendenan bin bek.”

It made me laugh. What difficult situation? Politician take advantage of all scenarios to look like heroes.

This is what the MinPres should say: We have been telling you for years not to go to Venezuela. You went. You got stuck. Now take a taxi to the border of Colombia, or Surinam, head to the closest airport, use your credit card like a big boy, and book a one-way return flight to Aruba.

Why does the government have to bail you out? This is ridiculous. This is what you have a credit card for. For emergencies. The borders with Colombia or Surinam are open, you may fly home from Barranquilla, or Paramaribo.

I especially want to know what one of our ministers, Labor and Social Affairs, was doing in Venezuela over the change of the year, most locals like to be home for New Year’s, with their families. Must have been a social affair. But I would still ask questions. The minister had been known to pick controversial friends.

This is what the MinPres should say to Maduro: You don’t want to export anything to Aruba, fine, Colombia will happily trade with us. The boycott doesn’t hurt us, it only hurts your OWN PEOPLE.

Louisa Sugar & Spice

In 1993 I visited a lady by the name of Sofia Leonardo, in downtown Oranjestad. She was a traditional artisanal baker and anyone getting married in the 90s, simply had to have some of her black cake, Bolo Preto, as a special treat for invited wedding guests.

At the time it was $200 a pound. But I think Sofia exaggerated the price to impress me. She did.

In early December I attended the 35th wedding anniversary of Lourdes & Robert Tromp and was enamored by the black cake served at the reception at Indian Rock Garden. I took a big piece home – that’s the Aruban way — and savored it over a period of three days with coffee in the morning – that’s my way.

Where does the cake come from, I asked Lourdes the following week. From Louisa Boekhoudt’s kitchen she said. Then of course I had to schedule a visit.

Louisa lives in a lovely home in Paradera surrounded by flowering bushes and shrubs. Her husband is the master gardener, while she is the Cake Boss with 42 years of patisserie experience.

Most of her cakes are simple – iconic Aruban butter cake — but the decorations are detailed and elaborate. The only one complicated recipe she is famous for is Bolo Preto, which requires days and weeks of prep, to allow the pureed prunes and raisins cooked in cinnamon and cloves, to marinate in potent rum or whiskey, infused with sweet cordials. The prunes are always thirsty, the longer they steep, the more alcohol they soak.

Louisa gives her tiered prune cake a fondant icing coat, then she artfully decorates it with flowers and lace. In the old days she made the icing herself, nowadays she takes a short trip to Caribbean Bakeries for a bucket of ready-mix.

It was my lucky day, Louisa had some of her husband’s birthday cake in the fridge, a happy combination of sponge cake, pudding and dream whip topping.

The baker shares that nowadays kid birthday themed parties occupy most of her kitchen time, they involve 10% baking 90% decoration. Her daughter, she doesn’t want to hear about baking, the old recipes are too time consuming, and not for her. Weddings? Yes, every few weeks she is tasked with a wedding cake, the recipe is in her head, she hardly writes anything down.

Then to my surprise Louisa shared that her Black Cake secrets were handed down to her from Sofia, my idol from the 1993 sugar and spice article.

And talking about local cakes: You can call Louisa at 583 2268 and schedule a pick up for next week. Her price per pound is about half of what Sofia quoted. But if you feel like having some cake right now, Ruth’s Cakes, adjacent to Kooyman, is a tiny bakery, specializes in local treats. I visited this week for some Prune Cake and Cashew Cake, but they also make Carrot, Cherry, Strawberry and Apple Nut cakes, Caribbean Bread Pudding, Double Chocolate, Red Velvet and Chocolate Chip, by the slice and per gateau. Among refrigerated cakes they carry Ponche Crema cake, Chateau, a multi-tiered cream decadence, Pistachio, Cookies & Cream, Torta Real, fit for a queen, and Coconut Cake.

My GF Tina Bislick, an incredible baker and chef, reports there are two kinds of bakers: Specialty Bakers who produce Pinterest-worthy artistic conversation pieces which photograph amazingly. While they are drool-worthy their fillings are simple. Then there are bakers who rock it with perfectly moist and fluffy cakes, made from scratch buttercream and frosting, and fresh berries and meringue toppings. Some cakes are left semi-naked, because they are made to be devoured, not photographed or displayed.

Now you know. Not all cakes are created equal.

(I like Bolo Preto so much, I have a dog by that name)

 

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January 14, 2018
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster