Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, March 2nd, 2019

J’ouvert Morning 2019

It is my pleasure to again write about J’ouvert Morning.

Compliments to SMAC: The new schedule works great, days before the BIG weekend, and back to 3am!

The PJ parade better known as J’ouvert Morning opened exactly on time, in the wee hours Friday to Saturday, and concluded around 8am, I don’t remember, I came home after breakfast, around 11am.

You could say J’ouvert Morning is back to what it was:  A giant throng of carnavalistas of all ages, in the craziest outfits, drawing a big loop through the otherwise sleepy streets of San Nicholas, to fantastic music.

Bands participated in record numbers with BMW, Madness, Tsunami, Buleria, ‘Nfusion, and LG leading the pack.

We trailed behind LG the first half of the night, the band was making some noise, it was bearable along the refinery wall, but then it became uber-congested on Lagoweg, and impossible to escape.

I really wanted to jump ship to the band ahead.

We did. We did escape at the Carnival Village, cut a sharp right, and stopped at Julio’s Bar for refreshments and a potty inspection.

When ‘Nfuzion sailed by we jumped in, surrounded by hundreds of happy, smiling people, having a great time – “We wound up on the road with Soca music, Soca lovin’,” and yes Chayo, in answer to your question, we could feel it!

The band was electrifying, and we jammed all the way back to the ball park. Did it have anything to do with band members wearing Depend Diapers? No, but the diapers added to the tongue n’ cheek experience, and as one of my GFs quipped, it totally reminded her why she lives in Aruba.

That People’s Carnival was an unforgettable experience.

Surprise, Famalay, a ditty by Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano & Bunji Garlin, from St. Vincent and the Grenadines was a parade hit.

I liked T-Money’s beautiful lyrics: “So, I want to see you raise your hand up high I want to see you chant to the father for your sisters and brothers for the blessings that he’s been sending all through the year.”

Baba Charly would have liked it, and played it. He was one of the island’s greatest Caribbean Music DJs, and we just heard he passed away. In the old days, he kept my dial on Radio Carina, always.

Legend has it that the PJ parade started years ago when the ladies of the night, the sex workers in the San Nicholas red light district created their own parade at 3am because they had to observe office hours in the girlie bars during traditional daytime parade, so they opted to host their special celebration at alternative hours. A genius idea.

If reported by three sources it must be true

Dentist Hendrick Marsman carried an interested newspaper clip on his FB wall, a Remitido, an opinion submitted by an intelligent reader writing good Papiamento, about the rough conduct of GNC, at Gelatissimo on Palm Beach as the officials in charge of protecting our coasts, Guarda Nos Costa, marched in demanding work papers and in the process alarmed all devoted ice-cream loving guests, on February 19th around 10pm.

I also heard from my friends that GNC marched into Divi All Inclusive around that date, around that time and publicly carted away a number of workers despite their vocal protestations that their ID papers are in the car, or elsewhere, and would be available for inspection if given the opportunity.

According to my sources, they were not given the opportunity and spent a lovely weekend behind bars.

Marsman is alarmed himself by the misconduct and expresses hope the MINJUST will bring about change. He also reported a first-hand experience in which one of his employees of 15 years, with a ‘firma-libre,’ was treated like a criminal, by the GNC official who did not introduce himself, did not show credentials, and went on the attack arrogant, and fresh, from the moment of contact.  

It was appropriate for Marsman to adds that indeed it is a Via Dolorosa in the present set of circumstances, under current GOA, to get any sort of work permit, and the process is a form of severe punishment!

Then another note came in my mail, making some very poignant points: Rona this is not a surprise – not any of it. While I was awaiting my permission 20+ years ago, year after year it was always like that when MEP was in power. I used to lament it is like the gestapo. Nothing against Evelyn she is an intelligent and civic minded woman but many of her supporters (many of whom are political thank you jobs) are Buchi ignorant bullies who no doubt would also want to build a wall. These imbeciles do not understand the impact they have on our visitors, the fear they instill when it “looks like” they are arresting the bad guys”, they do not understand the impact tourism has on their Dushi lifestyle nor the impact of social media in a negative way when something looks dangerous. And they certainly do not appreciate what all of us who came here with foreign passports contribute to this community. Why are they there on a weekend rounding people up? Because that way foreigners (or perceived foreigners who don’t have their papers on them) can spend the weekend in lock up if no one is around to help them. Like everyone else I’m sure Giannis Group is short staffed as are the rest of us, this type of behavior is typical MEP so you do not need to be surprised, I foretold this when the election results came in and we knew who would be forming the coalition. #nosurprise

About Airbnb on Aruba & Curacao for Comparison

This week it was announced that Airbnb signed the second MoU with ATA, for continued cooperation to drive sustainable tourism here.

What does it mean?

It means that GOA wants to reach all of our 950 hosts and make sure they submit their 9.5% tax each month along with the $3 environmental fee, per room, per day.

Absolutely.

On the other hand, those hosts who are law-abiding and already submit it should be allowed to continue to pay GOA directly.

True, those traveling with Airbnb come to Aruba on shorter vacations, and we could safely say they are budget travelers.

Which in essence runs AGAINST ATA’s policy of promoting the island to demographics with deeper pockets.

Airbnb traveler are NOT in possession of deep pockets, and they could not have visited Aruba without the help of Airbnb, offering reasonably priced places to stay.

(One of my friends reported that In Ruby, a property lists a room with a separate bathroom for $40 a night, which is absurd. Aruba should not offer any accommodations that cheap.)

So, how is Airbnb sustainable, ask the hoteliers? With shorter stays, and more people, we suffer a larger carbon footprint, and a bigger burden on our infrastructure, how can that be good?

Well, it depends on your point of view. According to Airbnb 940 hosts, 51% of them women, nicely supplemented their annual income last year with the help of the platform – I hope they are all tax payers.

BEST OF ALL: All that money stayed in our economy, around 20 million dollars, conservatively. Our hosts used 100% of the money on the island, buying local services, no shareholders, no corporation.

That is a good thing. But now GOA needs to find a way to collect its share.

We all need to help pay for the successful promotion of the island.

AND how is Airbnb sustainable, ask single mothers with kids, and young families, looking for reasonably priced long-term rentals, that are now all rented to tourists.

Aruba absolutely needs government subsidized housing to service this segment of our community. I will ask around.

Home Sharing Community in Aruba

Total Airbnb Guests Arrivals in Aruba: 47,200; Number of hosts: 940; Percentage of female hosts: 51%; Money received per year by a typical host: USD $9,200 – a 77% increase since 2017; Total listings on the platform: 2,300; Total Departures of Guests through Airbnb (Arubans abroad): 5,100.

Home Sharing Community in Curacao

Airbnb is making Curacao affordable and accessible:” In 2018, Airbnb hosts on the island welcomed approximately 23,300 guests with an average trip length of about 8 days.” There are 1,900 listings in Curacao, with more than 950 hosts, more than fifty-seven percent of hosts are female, and seventy-five percent of hosts are between the ages of 30 and 59.

Groundbreaking Malmok Boardwalk

Wednesday afternoon, the MinTour got into the glass cabin of an excavator, and symbolically scratched the impossibly hard and compact Malmok trail topography, signifying the beginning of the boardwalk project.

Originally, the ministry in collaboration with DOW presented Preserva Malmok, the neighborhood association with a somewhat elaborate plan. The plan was then downscaled and modified, in order to accommodate the neighborhood’s wishes to enhance safety, but minimize development.

With the emphasis on minimum development.

In fact, the neighborhood wants nothing developed. It likes it just the way it is, low key, people bring their own chairs to the beach, no kiosks, no services. After all, you cannot make it more beautiful, and all it needs is protection from litter and misuse.

Last year, in the wake of a number of accidents, the neighborhood capitulated. Yes, to a bike trail. Yes, to a walkway. Yes, to safety. No, to tall light poles, no, to parking lots, no, to diving platforms, no, to picnic areas, no, to cutting trees.

Malmok is not inviting more traffic or more people. It is already overwhelmed by the noise of long columns at UTVs and ATVs ‘just driving’ through the neighborhood.

You should have seen the picture: The MinTour is hosting a flash press conference, on location, he talks about the calm & tranquility of the neighborhood, but you can’t hear a word he is saying because of the ATV traffic on the road behind him.

Which prompted one of the neighbors on hand to say that decision makers make decisions from their desks, without actually experiencing the locations they are about to change.

But overall the neighborhood appreciates that the Ministry & DOW took their concerns into consideration, and that MinTour talks a good talk. He champions sustainability, and people being central to his party’s platform.

He stayed, he listened, he looked around, he experienced firsthand, life bao palo.

A local company will be building the boardwalk, Thiel Corp., and we are hopeful they will tread carefully, and deliver protection to turtles, and the barranca, preserving the unique laidback flavor of the neighborhood.    

All island neighborhoods should take a page out of the Malmok handbook and register an association. You stand a better chance to be heard that way.

If reported by three sources it must be true II

Some of my compassionate friends report that the island has been conducting mass deportations of illegals, mostly Venezuelans, caught during GNC raids.

And you know that Venezuela is in no way ready to absorb plane-loads of people in crisis.

Apparently, GNC has increased its presence and doubled its efforts in rounding up people and shipping them out, without due process.

So, what is the point.

The point is that according to international treaties, co-signed by Aruba, any arriving passengers requesting asylum, must enjoy due process, and a humanitarian approach.

Any person caught here on a construction site, must also enjoy due process and a humanitarian approach.  

Currently, the exact opposite is true. They are all treated like criminals.

Aruba, an island known for its gentle and sweet temperament, now counts on GNC to help curb the flow of illegals.

And apparently GNC has been instructed to treat the humble and the poor forcefully, in total disrespect and total disregard to their suffering, and the journey they endured to get here.

My friends report that the RED CROSS has been BARRED from visiting the two detention centers, where detainees are DENIED medical help, including people with serious conditions such as epilepsy.

This story is nothing to be proud of. I understand the Bishop is trying to intervene, and point out we are dealing with a humanitarian crisis, not a picnic, and that management should be given the Refugee Convention, a United Nations treaty, as compulsory bedtime reading material, SHE will find out that these individuals have rights, and that nations of the world share the responsibility of granting asylum.

Where is the MINJUST in this story? I always think that as the husband of a lovely foreign-born national, he comes with built-in empathy and understanding of immigration and integration.

Apparently NOT.

I don’t see him living up to the UN expectations!

Odd

An article in Awemainta this week explained that Alto Comisario Hoo, our highest Police official cleared the name of Alto Inspector Gino Winklaar from false accusations.

The article went on to say that on October 27th, 2017, GW was involved in an accident on his way home to Turibana. At the time he was Police Chief in Noord and I sang his praises for being so communicative, and available to the hotels, and open to tourism in general. I was impressed by how he handled the first attempts at reintroducing law and order to our beaches. He also conducted a spectacular Easter week raid and ticketed all infraction, for the first time ever – as long as I remember.

His style wasn’t sexy, but it was effective.

He even dragged me in for questioning at the station, for some reaction I received to an article I wrote, but I am not dazzled by bureaucracy. 

Anyway, back to the accident: He passed an alcohol test, and was found clean with 0.0 blood alcohol, HOWEVER, some mean and vindictive blue entity wrote a negative report and GW found himself packing his comfy desk in the station in Noord, relegated to exile in Siberia, St Nicolas, where he proceeded to clean up, literally, what he called a Hoarders Paradise, and allowed families to clean up lockers and desks of servicemen who passed away years ago, whose personal effects were never turned over.

Even the ACs felt chipper, in a clean environment, and started cooling better with less clutter and more free air flow, according to the media. 

NEVERTHELESS, the negative report lingered on, its writer climbed up the ranks and enjoyed a promotion, and GW continued to argue his case. Finally, now, after a long and exhausting process, justice prevailed and Alto Comisario Hoo had the honor of writing a letter explaining it was all a terrible mistake, unfounded, baseless accusations, basically gossip, so sorry we almost aborted your career!

I guess god was wearing PJs, at the time of the accident, but it turned out he wasn’t sleeping, and now we all know, the report was a fabrication, end of story.

(Not that it didn’t happen before, we unfortunately had some pretty spectacular accidents involving inebriated officials-in-blue, in the past years, even a fatal one.)

I now have a million questions, but I can’t find answers.

The whole story is odd.

How does something like that happen?

Gossip is my business. Why are Police reports infringing on my turf?

How could a negative report be accepted by the top tier, if it is proclaimed false for 16 months, and where were the Union leaders? Aren’t they supposed to fight the good fight for our hard-working men in uniforms?

Now, that I aired my questions, we might get answers.

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