Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, March 25th, 2018

Turista Ariba Mi Isla

Many years ago, before De Palm Island was De Palm Island, a trip on board the Seastar Catamaran carried guests for a day on an island off-the-island, to play Robinson Crusoe – living the life of a castaway on a narrow, sun bleached coral shoal.

I took that boat one day and I remember us girls lined up on the rickety pier like sardines taking in the sun. Bronzing was in fashion then. The place was drop-dead gorgeous.

On Sunday, Dia di Himno Y Bandera, we mobilized to visit the coral shoal in front of WEB, shuttling across the channel from the little beach behind the Vet Services in Barcadera.

A friend-of-a-friend motored us with more coolers than people. The big migration with enough food and drink to feed the Russian army, plus two small dogs, took about five trips in a Boston Whaler, but we got there and settled down – Kooyman chairs, Price Smart towels.

Our Rancho was nicely maintained with a field kitchen, a BBQ pit, a large living room, pier with ladder into the water and an outhouse, all set in the mangroves. The prominent sign read Rancho Di Chonai.

Chonai rents out the rancho for a reasonable rate and the above mention hobbyist fisherman, he says he never catches anything, ferried us over for a song and a dance, divided among 25 friends we each shelled Awg 12.50 into the pot.

Marjo who is a great organizer assigned all a chore – potato salad, toilet paper, etc., you know — and it all fell in place brilliantly.

The water, wow the water, pure crystalline, the strewn bleached coral, redefining white, colors so vibrant and inviting. We hung out. I took a nap, in my comfy bucket chair.

The shoal is graced by three Ranchos, the middle one seems abandoned. We walked in the shallow lagoon exploring the sights, we encountered nothing, but serenity.

Then some more nothing happened, except that a juvenile boa decided to drop in for lunch. How did it get there? Do boas swim?

We enjoyed a classic BBQ. Chef Bas marinated, precooked and flipped. Not that Bas, another Bas, equally handsome and equally talented.

We collected our unbelievable clutter and trash and took it with us across the channel at the end of the day.

I hope to get to do this Robinson Crusoe thing again, it’s so beautiful out there. True you occasionally pick up a nasty whiff of the WEB combustibles – what are they burning? But overall it is pristine!

The new and improved Chill

Chill Beer participated in Carnival this year. You may view their video on their FB page, @ChillBeer, it rolled over 23K times and was shared 130 times which mean viral in island terms.

The parade promotion included a handful of goddesses in frilly gold skin suits and another handful of goddesses in skintight silver suits. The mega dose of female beauty was escorted by muscular Chill beer warrior with the shimmering logo on a spear. The logo was everywhere in sunshine yellow, and UN blue, it looked the same but felt very different.

People along the parade route cheered and welcomed the fun brewery-sponsored entourage, but it took me a while to understand that our beach elixir has just rebranded itself and used the Carnival platform to put the restyled Chill in every hand. The attractive, value for money promotion, helped of course.

So, what’s the difference? The taste says the brewery is exactly the same, but the brand became brighter. The logo now includes a distinct sun surrounded by rays of sunlight, where before we were never sure. Was it a wave or a sun? Could have been both. The cursive lettering is now more playful and distinct, the blue-hued bottle was replaced by clear glass and best of all the label is transparent and the message on the back of the bottle minimized, but still carries the Keep Aruba Clean message.

Just put an old and a new Chill next to each other and you will be astounded how different they look. It’s imperceptible apart, but very obvious in comparison.

Yadira Harms at the helm in the marketing department reports she presented a Scottish design firm with the challenge – she found them on the internet, they specialize in beer branding. She asked them to make significant changes without making any changes at all.

Personally, I think it’s a success, and the sunny bottle with the clear label now jumps off the shelf more easily, landing into my supermarket shopping cart even before I invite it in.

I also found out that our tourists faithfully drink Chill, while the local crowd sticks to Balashi. Or maybe it’s the other way around, both brands are popular in the market and the two half-sisters recently launched, Hopi Bon, Hopi Stout, are gaining popularity.

We visited the Beer Garden last week and had lunch, in the shade of the tree. They have an excellent, hearty local kitchen there, preparing hot lunches every day, but if you opt for chicken wings with your beer, go right ahead, they serve these too.

Yadira reveals there are some small batch, limited release, specialty beers on the drawing board. From her point of view, they are all small batch brews, Aruban-bred with world famous water and boutique attention to detail.

In Favor of Using Our Heads

We went to Miami just recently on American Airlines, March 5th, morning flight, and transported a puppy to his forever home. His new mom was scheduled to meet us at the airport on the other side of the ocean at the luggage belt, which she did, happy ending, you can follow his adventures on Cunucu Friends on FB, and he should be spoiled rotten by now.

We paid for the pup’s transportation and all his docs were in order, courtesy of the Sgt. Pepper rescue organization. But when we got to the gate an agent I did not recognize unceremoniously announced the pup in the carrier had to go into the overhead bin.

My travel companion, animal advocate Tina Bislick gave him a dirty look and explained to him it was a puppy, a live creature, not a suitcase, and something about her body language and tone of voice, made it clear to him that he couldn’t mess with that tiger, that she was going to single-handedly stuff him in the overhead bin if he insisted.

He rolled his eyes violently and shoved the passport and boarding pass into her hand as she entered the jet bridge.

That was exactly TWO DAYS before the unfortunate United Airline puppy story in which that poor soul died of suffocation, stuffed into a dark, airless overhead compartment.

I guess that puppy on United Airlines did not have Tina as his foster mom. His bad.

Which brings me to the crux of the story. Rules and regulations are all good, but you have to empower your people to make sound decisions when faced with ridiculous situations, people cannot just follow rules like robots they have to be able to use their heads.

I attended the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association Security Awareness Workshop on Wednesday, February 28th, 2018, for a short time. The room at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino was full with law enforcement officers, and loss prevention officers, employed by both the private and the public sector. The lecturer Oren Raz, a security consultant clearly stated that we need to teach our people to use their common sense and empower them to make good decisions in lieu of rigid, scared following of rules and orders.

Now you know, teach your people about situational behaviors, so they can use their intellect.

The Ritz Carlton Presents Casa Nonna

My friend, Italian-born hotelier Luigi Fidele had his Nonna living with him, right here in Aruba, imported from Italy, a feared and revered little old lady, the queen of the kitchen, the Matriarch. Everything in that household revolved around her. I never got it. I grew up without grandparents.

But, that’s how I learned about the incredibly important role a Nonna plays in the universe of her drama-queen Italian disciples, and her influence grows stronger as she ages – instead of having a diminished presence, her impact surges with time. I get it now, after visiting Italy a number of times: In the chaos and insanity of Italian society, there’s nothing more central than a little island of tasteful serenity and wisdom, a delicious refuge, a hedonistic respite. Hence Casa Nonna.

The Ritz Carlton team, General Manager Steve Redkoles is outnumbered by the powerful A-personality females in his management orchestra Louella Brezovar, Mayra Macaraig, Alejandra Baisotti and Yahira Santoni.  They showed off their Casa Nonna menu and showed off their chef, last night.

Chef de Cuisine Rollyn R. Angela Rosas is a source of pride to the resort. Having graduated Aruba’s own culinary program at EPI he went on to acquire a culinary arts degree in Florida, at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. He then continued to work his way through a hip South Beach restaurant and hotel, and upon his return to Aruba was snatched up by the Ritz Carlton. That was three years ago, and he’s been preparing for his role as the restaurant chef by training at Casa Nonna NY, a fancy Italian in Midtown Manhattan, in the heart of the NY Theater district, and now also within the Ritz Carlton Aruba. A biographical footnote also explains that Rollyn is the son of Dr. Angela, a local house doctor and a famous foodie. Apparently, there is some truth in the apple and tree theory.

Casa Nonna’s open, exhibition kitchen was abuzz last night, with an 8-member culinary brigade and the resort’s executive chef Rafael Lopez Aliaga as expediter. Ray Malmberg, a veteran member of the Ritz Carlton Food & Beverage team was named restaurant manager, he has a cool, calm and collected presence!

We enjoyed a Piato di Carne E Formaggio, with delicious cured meats and cheeses – loved the Gorgonzola Dolce and the tasty relish; Among Bruschetta, the Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate with Golden Raisins and the Sicilian Eggplant Caponata were a TEN.

My favorite among pastas, a world wonder, the Siamese Agnolotti, a double pasta pouch, one stuffed with a veal ragu the other with cheese and spinach. How do they make that?!

Our introductory journey through the menu also included the Gnocchi, and the Pansotti di Zucca, a butter scotch pumpkin filled ravioli with roasted pumpkin seeds, swimming in lovely butter sauce.

Dessert? Off the chart!

I am sure I forgot a few others. The worlds crispiest Mozzarella balls? The yummiest meat balls? The incredible wine selection made it difficult to document every bite; all I can say is the Casa Nonna is worth an urgent visit, it’s a delicious refuge, a hedonistic respite.

The décor? The restaurant was completely refreshed, mid high season. It took the orchestra two days to introduce the totally new mood, with artistic wall paper and eclectic artwork, vintage porcelain plates, and genuine 50s pieces of furniture to evoke Nonna’s all-over-the-place interior design choices. The drapes are from Curtain Call, the comfy banquettes were manufactured here by a local carpenter.

Best of all, those of us who adore the Solanio Breakfast Buffet, are happy to hear it is intact. In the morning the restaurant displays its well-liked Solanio logo, and it’s business as usual from 6:30am to 12noon. Casa Nonna serves dinner from 6pm to 10pm.

Taxation = The inevitable evil!

What we feared materialized. We have a very specific increase in taxes paired with a vague plan of cutting government overhead expenses.

The plan according to the MinPres is three-pronged:

There will be an effort to decrease GOA’s expenses (operational, personnel, travel, marketing and promotion)

There will be an attempt to decrease GOA’s company expenses (state-owned companies and Government institutions). GOA is contemplating the introduction of a maximum, a norm, in regards to directors’ salaries of Government companies. Please take a page out of the Swedish handbook where the open salary policy reflects how much the country values trust and transparency, all salaries are listed on line!

Most importantly, GOA will pursue in arrears taxes from big companies, especially those who do not declare revenue and those who send their revenue abroad.

But the budget still falls short

Consequently: We are going to pay 2½ % percent more in a TEMPORARY emergency tax – no tax is ever temporary –  1.5% will go toward the payment of the blasted bridge, the never ending WVB, Watty Vos Boulevards, and the MFAs the multi-function centers built in the barios, and 1% will go towards the ever increasing cost health care – at this point I would like to ask how come the super expensive NEW & IMPROVED hospital was designed without a new surgical facility and why the exhaust systems are directed toward the airco units…. but never mind, let’s not get off the subject of tax increase.

Additional taxation is the easiest way of delaying long-term solutions. But in this case, it was the only way according to experts, levy it yourself or it will be levied by a royal decree with more drastic, austere measures.

Incidentally, I was told yesterday that according to the last Censo, 42% of the population is already living below subsistence level, and GOA just dug deeper into their pockets.

Strangely enough, for some unknown reasons, on that same day, MinTranTelecom makes the life of car rentals companies easier by eliminating the environmental tax. I agree that it was never clear where that tax is going, but why eliminate it? Just because some vocal car rentals lobbied for it relentlessly, the minister folded under pressure.

One of my readers writer: Who will be the watchdog to ensure all this new tax revenue goes where it’s supposed to go???  With such a great burden of debt, the island will have to “make do” with what it has. No money for this, no money for that. Of course, with debt at 93% of GDP, it will be significantly harder to find foreign investors, in businesses or in real-estate. But Aruba needs foreign investment, and with a downgraded worldwide credit rating, it will be harder to borrow, and GOA will have to pay a higher interest. Most Importantly: In the absence of legitimate financial investment in Aruba, the financial void will be filled with “dirty” money being laundered through legitimate businesses on the island. The recently failed Refinery “re-opening” is a great example of this.

My learned friend Armand Hessels suggests Dutch supervision of everything including GOA’s human resources policy. He is not advocating mass firing of personnel, but he wants to see a process put in place by which we look at the inefficient, expensive Human Resources, and antiquated Job Descriptions with a critical eye.

Yes, he says, you terminated a number of former MinPres coordinators, but you hired a substantial number of fresh talent into your departments including cousins, sisters, brothers and friends.

It would have been smarter to recruit from within.

Venezuela – why does the self-destruction continue or the Ant and the Grasshopper

My girlfriend Gloria, a vivacious Venezuelan, her mother is Colombian her father a Spaniard, reminded me of the Ant and the Grasshopper this week, as we were having lovely lunch at the Amsterdam Manor, under the tree, beach side, at the middy version of Passions on the Beach.

True to her party-girl definition she had a beer. I had water. Someone needs to go back to work.

The Ant and the Grasshopper or alternatively titled The Grasshopper and the Ant, is one of Aesop’s Fables. The fable describes a hungry grasshopper when winter comes, because he danced all summer, and did not plan for the future, living for the moment, while the ant worked hard, amassed supplies and reaped the reward in tough times.

The way we see it now, the grasshopper was a fun, artistic, hedonistic, charismatic creature while the ant a boring, depressing, no fun, calculated meanie.

Left brain. Right brain. Creative and artistic Vs structured and logical.

Gloria explained to me that Venezuelans are fun loving creatures, they want to dance and drink and romance every day, all day, they want it easy, uncomplicated, unlike their more cerebral, logical Colombia neighbors.

Falling in the trap of the socialist ideology, they had it easy for a long time, rich, fat & happy. And over the past 20 something years the ideology infested everyone’s thinking and became more important than people.

So here we are: With the ideology, the doctrine, above all, the individual has to sacrifice all. Not for nothing, they sing Venezuela or death. My way, or the highway.

It’s like the classic question in times of crisis: Do you want to be happy, or right? You choose?!

Most people in Venezuela Gloria says, want be right, they want to demonstrate the doctrine was useful, and superior and would do anything to prove to the world they are right, that Chavismo is the answer that the mongrel of socialism, left-wing populism and patriotism is the key to success as a nation.

And that’s what I learned from Gloria.

Then one of my other friends added that luckily there are disorganized, with bullets stored in Caracas and rifles in Maracaibo, otherwise we’d had a blood bath.


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March 25, 2018
Rona Coster