Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, June 17th, 2018


I enjoyed graduation, the annual commencement ceremony at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino with 24 graduates who are all heading out to colleges and universities around the globe. This was the largest group of graduates ever; and judging from what we saw and heard at the ceremony Saturday night, they are all a bunch of accomplished, eloquent and creative kids, ok goofy at times, but nevertheless ready to take the future and all its challenges on.

Mirugia de Cuba who is a music teacher at the school sang the Aruba Dushi Tera anthem at the beginning of the evening, it was a special occasion for her, seeing her daughter Naomi graduate.

I know many of the kids via their parents and grandparents, Fleur Calame, Tyler Cavallaro-Buser, Jean Luc Harms, Shivani Lalwani, Rachel Maduro, Elias Mansur, Quinten Martis, some grew up on my street, or in the neighborhood, some tagged along their parents at social occasions, and over the years I watched them evolve from short and bashful to tall and charismatic.

Now they stand on their own, and it’s rather shocking to think that Bruce Harms, a neighborhood kid who graduated ISA “not that long ago,” saw his own son walk in the processional all grown up.

The island community owes a debt of gratitude to headmaster Denis Willeford, teacher Leigh Ann Vanderheyden and the faculty for their labor of love. While it is true that it takes a village to raise a kid, it helps when the village is blessed with supportive and caring teaching professionals ready to nurture a fresh crop of well-grounded and well-rounded graduates each year.

I thought Joshua Lacle was an out of the box key note speaker, a graduate of the school just 4 years ago, he recently graduated a top NY art school, his notes were quirky, and peppered with matter of fact advice, best of all, he continues to make his mom, Milly Lacle, swoon.   

And now that we’re already talking, two little paragraphs of advice:

Stand up Straight. Pull your shoulders back, and you instantly look successful, feel more confident, in command of your environment, in charge; check yourself now and then, slouched over your tablet or phone, and know that posture is everything. I am asking you to have mercy for your internal organs. But if the state of your liver/pancreas doesn’t move you, believe me if you stand up straight, you already look the boss, avoiding all future health complications.

Also: Say YES to opportunity. Recognize it when it comes your way and snatch it. There is no such thing as too busy, too tired, too preoccupied, or too bored. You should know that only boring people are bored.

Conclusion: What I really appreciate about ISA is its sense of community and the involvement of parents, grandparents, and family friends. Somehow ISA manages to instill a community spirit, also getting the once-removed members of the family involved, to help support the faculty and the kids. They spend money, they show up, they care about the curriculum and its needs, and it’s been like that since 1929. I remember being a super involved parent myself, when I had a student attending ISA, it was great for me, and it was good for the school.

Why can’t the other local school systems foster that involvement with their schools in their communities? Just asking.

Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his own town.”

Every time I read an article by PE teacher/coach turned activist Armand Hessels I am reminded of this biblical conflict, and Armand is in good company because Christ suffered from the same prejudice.  As a rule, for the past two thousand years, truthsayers are rarely accepted in their own hometowns.

Although after 17 years of activism, Armand has his followers.

We had him as guest of the radio show yesterday morning, Pica 96.5%, on Magic 96.5FM, and co-host Jacky Wernet asked –  she is usually very direct, what moved Armand, a retired PE teacher/coach to lay down the ball and pick up a pen, and become our self-styled, self-appointed Good Governance specialist.

His answer was quite shocking. Armand recalls around the Millennium, he attempted to organize a bike-path project around Aruba. He raised some money from the private sector and was in the last planning stages of a cycling network with Public Works and the Ministry.

At an official meeting, he was asked about his finances and how he was, as a private entity, paying for the project. When he finished explaining his fundraising strategy for this healthy-lifestyle community-project, the minister’s aid interrupted and said: I hope you also have a line item in the budget as a donation for the minister; for him to sign the documents, you will have to make a donation.

Armand says he saw red, he was outraged. He recognized corruption when he was confronted with it. He explained it was a not-for-profit, healthy-lifestyle community-project, but to no avail. The minister insisted on his pound of flesh. Otherwise, go jump in the lake.

And that turned the humble, quiet PE teacher/coach into an advocate.

He’s been busy since then, and this week he wrote an article explaining why the upcoming tax hike is pointless, throwing good money after bad, because the SYSTEM is rigged for failure.

He made suggestions to the MinPres just recently.

How to get away from political patronage and thereby reduce the government’s overwhelming cost of personnel.

About the need to reform the government’ wasteful administration and SAVE up to 50% of the national budget.

Regarding the benefit of a comprehensive Tax Reform, that would generate Awg 100 million extra for GOA to spend.

And the institution of proper control of public funds when dubious public infrastructure projects are proposed.

Read more about him on FB, and on line, he is one of the only island reformists, his foundation advocating Good Governance gained momentum before last year’s elections and he deserves our support.

Rent paid by a magical imagination

There was an item in Solo di Pueblo yesterday, on the front page, announcing the closure of Aruba’s Academy of Fine Art, on Wilhelminastraat, across Brenchie’s Park.

That street corner where El Gaucho was the sole tenant for decades, now also boasts a number of successful eateries, in the location of the defunct hardware empire. It’s a hot spot now.

Apparently the MinEdu discontinued the building’s rent contract, Awg 70,000 a month according to the media, and sent students packing in search of a new school building.

I liked that art school, which prepares aspiring artists determined to further their education in the Netherlands via an accredited program that counts towards the coveted Bachelor degree in Art.

But Awg 70.000, is truly an exaggerated burden on the public, for a school graduating 20 students per semester. How did GOA end up paying the bill for adult education? I understand a subsidy, but getting stuck with the entire bill?  

I know the building of the academy well, a lovely example of what Art Deco architecture looked like in Aruba in the 20s and 30s – including the Oranjestad water tower, before the introduction of the more austere and functional Bauhaus movement that inspired the style of the abandoned gas station in the vicinity and many other structures in the area.

The building of the art academy was beautifully restored by Romar Trading, and the park across, complements the streetscape, with lovely greens and free WIFI.

I called the landlord for verification: False he told me. We reduced the price to Awg 34 per meter 3 years ago – which cuts the quoted amount in half. They have not paid rent this year, and have not paid utilities for 24 month, but we don’t make the student suffer, we pay it, shame on them.

According to the landlord, the art academy was set up by the former MinPres, who approached Romar Trading for the commercial use of the building for noble academic purposes. “We did not solicit that piece of business,” the Landlord said,” we just restored a gem of a building, and now pay us what you owe, and we’d like to have the keys back.”

BTW, the academy is not the most expensive real estate rented by GOA, the National Archive in Sabana Blanco, the former Wimco, deserved that title, at Awg 55.000 rent a month.

Which brings me back to the points raised by Armand Hessels, the star of yesterday’s column.

The way the system is set up, Romar Trading, a successful local liquor business and a political supporter/contributor was rewarded by the former MinPres with a lucrative contract. I totally believe it was an unsolicited payback, albeit expected; according to how GOA does business it was a logical move.

And it proved to be unsustainable. How do you set up an unsustainable business? Carelessly.

Everyone is at fault, GOA for promoting the setup of an unsustainable entity and the art school for having no financial plan, just dreams. How can you operate, if you cannot afford utilities? On the wings of a magical imagination.    


The Art Academy Called in with Corrections

They did not graduate 20, the number was 30, and the reason they are a prep school is that Directie Onderwijs, the Department of Education dragged its feet about a 200-page report that outlined the school’s plan to make itself sustainable.

Apparently, the report handed in a long time ago, contained a detailed financial plan to attract international students for a fully accredited Bachelor of Art program.

The academy was supposed to offer locals and international students an opportunity to complete their academic studies, with a roster of 140 students the school would have a balance budget, not making money, but fully self-sustainable.

Alas, the paper-pushers sat on the report and the academy modeled after a famous Dutch art school, Rietveld Academy, got downgraded to a prep school, waiting for the green light which never came.

And that is why our TV station produces such lame programs

Our shops have such poor displays

We have no art galleries

Little artsy souvenirs made in Aruba

We all like to go to museums and sip champagne at art openings, front row at fashion shows, but we forget there is serious work to be done behind the scenes in order to create an interesting platform, such as Art Basel in Miami Beach, a major tourist attraction which starts with the availability of art education.

The school also shared its concerns about what it called the BRAIN DRAIN, the phenomenon that leads to the disillusionment of the island’s best students when they go to the Netherlands for higher University educations ill-prepared, and fail, returning to Aruba heart-broken and discouraged. Those who succeed against the odds, never return.

A column in honor of Father’s Day: Dads read to your kids

Not long ago I stumbled across an article describing Barbershop Books, an initiative that places children’s books in barbershops in the USA, in order to encourage parents, mostly fathers waiting in line for haircuts with their boys, to read to them while waiting.

Fathers take their boys for haircuts, then they sit around awaiting their turn, the time could be put to good use by reading.

Why read to kids? Because it develops their imagination, enriches their vocabulary, teaches them empathy as they identify with the characters in the story, teaches them about the world, animals, and different cultures, teaches them to listen, to concentrate … I cannot even begin to tell you how helpful it is, for your kids’ language skills and intellectual growth.

So, I decided to create a few mini libraries here, as a community project by, and place them in local barbershops. Why? Because on the very same day I read the Barbershop Books article, I read the local library in Oranjestad was making room for new books by selling some of their old ones.


The librarians were very helpful and filled my bags. I bought the first batch, then they threw in another batch, on the following day, on the house, when they heard about my recycling plans.

As I was walking out of the library with my just-purchased bags of books, I ran into Dick Souge of Coldwell Banker Aruba Realty, and he immediately committed his company’s support, as a generous sponsor of the mini libraries.

My friend Maike Van Paridon, a driftwood artist, decorated the boxes, and I delivered them to barbershop in Noord, Bubali, Ponton and Oranjestad.

I was warmly received everywhere.

If you have any children’s book you would like to contribute, just give me a call.  

The mini-libraries also contain the Search for Strea, a charming new children’s book written by Tina Bislick, the creative editor of

We placed mini libraries in: The Barbers, Classic Homme, in Dakota; CT Barbershop, Oranjestad; Next Level Barbershop, Oranjestad; C-Jam Barbers, Oranjestad; The Final Touch, Paradera; Alex Barbershop, Oranjestad; Knipoog, Oranjestad; El Bori Barbers, Palm Beach; El Bori Barbers, Ponton and Looking Sharp, Bubali.

In general, the Aruba timeshare industry is a great economic powerhouse on Aruba

In honor of celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Timeshare Industry in Aruba, a report was commissioned by the Aruba Timeshare Association, ATSA, to provide an overview of the island’s timeshare landscape from data collected in 2017. The report was commissioned in collaboration with Aruba Tourism Authority, ATA, and prepared by the University of Aruba, UA.

The following is the last article of six, summarizing the report.

The following points are recommendations for the timeshare industry based on the 2017 commissioned study with the University of Aruba, Aruba Timeshare Association (ATSA) and the data collected by the Aruba Tourism Authority (A.T.A.).

1) Work together with other hospitality and tourism providers to add value to the current timeshare product on Aruba – due to the age of the timeshare industry on Aruba, it is well-known, but could be losing some of its luster in the younger and older populations.

2) Target additional locations for timeshare owners, the U.S. percentage of ownership is very high (in student survey U.S. owners were more than 78% of respondents).

3) Promote to ‘lifestyle’ and ‘experience-based’ consumers who seek out unique experiences while on vacation and who like to promote themselves as having a certain kind of lifestyle. The large majority of the timeshare owners are higher income and therefore may want to have more luxury experiences on their vacation.

4) Prepare the timeshare product offering to fit the needs of this newer consumer out there, the Millennials – use more social media, gaming, group activities and promotions.

5) Market a tour/package for cruise passengers when they disembark so that they can learn about the timeshare product here in a more focused way.

6) Develop products for the younger and the higher income as they are more likely to purchase timeshares and spend money while here. Younger- timeshare itself, water sports; higher income- luxury or exclusive food and beverage, shopping and gambling options.

7) Create opportunities for shared value- partner with entrepreneurs in retail, hospitality, tourism to provide exclusive packages on the island

8) Higher visitation increases satisfaction, behavioral intentions; older visitors have lower satisfaction and less positive perceptions regarding their experience than younger visitors- increase visitation via repeat benefits, punch cards, discounts in some areas and market unique activities for older visitors to increase their satisfaction and/or word of mouth

9) Increase variety of things to do- maybe create unique experiences for older people like dinner with locals or connections with Aruban families and/or opportunities.

10) Females are more likely to recommend Aruba to others than males, but males are more likely to purchase another timeshare than females.

11) Knowing the existing limits to growth in the number of units, try to increase spend per group by encouraging opportunities to bring a friend or discounts for travel companions

In general, the Aruba timeshare industry is a great economic powerhouse on Aruba and is contributing in many ways to the overall Aruba tourism product. There are many positive attributes to the timeshare industry on Aruba and positive economic impact relating to many of the sectors on Aruba. There are some areas that can be revitalized as the timeshare industry moves into this new phase of reinventing or reinvigorating itself. Implementing several of the recommendations above and possibly promoting the change to thinking of ‘vacation ownership’ instead of ‘timeshare’ may help. Trying to add value to the overall timeshare experience by assessing the current product and by creating some unique experiences for guests can help. Targeting younger generations with a new spin on an industry that may need some polishing or some reinvigoration will help them want to spend more and improving the satisfaction of older guests by linking together unique experiences with the traditional Aruba that they know and love may be helpful as well.

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June 17, 2018
Rona Coster