POWER OUTAGE, BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN US. When the lights went out on Friday, I didn’t quite get it, because my computer has a power-pack, which means it stayed on, but when I looked around the office, I figured we’re out of juice. Fear settled in first, is something wrong with the electric board? I never even thought about short-circuiting turbines or instable voltage until I called Nilton Lacle at Diario, who informed me we’re all together in this. I was not alone. It was an island-wide interruption! So what do you do at 4pm on a Friday, when you can no longer sit in the office? You go to the bar, or you wash the dogs, or you tackle any other pending project, you never have time for. So after scrubbing three of my four-legged friends, with the grid still out of order, I made wine coolers and we went to the beach for sunset. We watched the pelicans, we took pictures, we struck up a conversation with two other swimmers. We had a great time, just sitting around, no phone, no music, just like in the old days. I suggest at least one blackout a month, to bring us all together for totally unstructured quality time. Thank you Elmar/WEB for the rare treat!
LINDA MEASURES ISLANDERS’ SATISFACTION. Linda Reijnders, a journalist by profession, compiled over seventy personal interviews into one coffee table book, We Are Aruba, on sale in local book-stores. With the English version upcoming, Linda is excited about the cocktail of people and cultures, represented in her nicely written and photographed publication. The common denominator of all stories in the book is the high level of satisfaction experienced by those who now live here. Having been born somewhere else around the globe, and having made the decision to call Aruba their home, they are all satisfied with their life here, and grateful for the opportunities the island had to offer. Having no sense of entitlement, they are all thankful for what they got, having received more than they expected. Can we say the same about the true-blue locals, those fortunate to have been born here? Just asking.
OVERRUN BY VENEZUELAN VISITORS. If you visited the supermarket in the past few days you saw the long lines of Venezuelan visitors buying cases of beer which they in turn intend to sell to bar owners at a discount, so that they can get their hands on some green-back cash. I see them waiting patiently for pick ups, leaning tiredly on their loaded carts. Who picks them up? Where do they go to sell the beer? My friends at the market report they moved 400 cases in two days. Balashi must be pleased. The supermarket must be pleased with increased sales. The bar owners must be pleased with the savings. The Venezuelan visitors must be pleased, as they convert their plastic to cash. The airlines must be pleased with 2,000 seats from Venezuela occupied, day in, day out. The airport must be pleased, imagine how much Departure Tax it is collecting?! So why am I so unhappy? I am unhappy because the whole thing is wrong. It is against the law to buy or sell or transport or lodge without appropriate permits. It ruins our peaceful, law-abiding character. The whole phenomenon of visitors hanging in parks, lingering on benches, and charging their phones under trees junks up our tourist product, and disrupts the island’s Good Orderly Direction! I even heard that these same Venezuelan entrepreneurs try to sell their discounted beer to other tourists on our beaches. On the other hand I feel their hardship and the humiliation suffered, I am sorry for their heartache and I am wondering if indeed it is correct that people always get the government they deserve. Do the Venezuelans deserve that?
RECORD BREAKING EVENING. I slept with almost two-hundred people the night before last. How is that possible you say? How can you possibly achieve that monumental deed? I was at the Chamber of Commerce, 85th celebration event, and in the absence of the prime minister, the room was quiet, semi-dark and nicely air-conditioned. My sugary rum punch, delivered an energy slump, and my eye lids closed. I am convinced I was just one of many. In my dream, Daphne Agius Cesareo gave an excellent speech, I wish I could re-read it. It wasn’t blameful, nor was it bitter, it was to the point, looking at government with a critical eye. In real life, Daphne is more animated and feisty, but nevertheless her address was well received. I cannot say the same about the venerated IMF speaker whose message riddled with disclaimers and ambiguities flew right over my head. I understood some of the question and answer session, but my take-away from Xavier Debrun was the following: Economics isn’t a science. The other take-away was that our government spends too much, but that was already stated quite clearly by Daphne. Thank you sponsors Pierre Rafini and the AFAS representative for keeping it short. And thank you Carnival-dancers-out-of-nowhere for keeping it even shorter. The following is a joke I found on the internet: Why did God invent economists? To make weathermen feel good about themselves. Did you get it? Because both are more often than not, wrong. Back to the Prime Minister: He was conspicuously absent. I remember last time Mike Eman met the business community for a similar event he reprimanded us for being ungrateful, and unappreciative of his economic maneuverings. Still, I would have liked him to be there, and to hear for himself that while we want a modern bridge at the Spanish Lagoon and a fancy Awg 440 million Watty Vos Boulevard Ring Road, a beautiful Green Corridor, a monster Hospital, and an up-to-date container wharf in Barcadera, we know for a fact that we cannot afford it, we cannot possibly pay for it, and we’re very worried.
DON’T STOP THE CARNIVAL. Joel Bunde, the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency invoked the hilarity and disaster described in the Pulizer Prize-winning Herman Wouk novel, about an American running away to the Caribbean to try and reinvent himself as a hotelier in the tropics. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong, in the book. Similarly, the explosive WEB/ELMAR cocktail produced a total power outage just before the Hyatt Regency’s lavish, elaborate, 25th year anniversary celebration. I think it was just a test, a test for their resilience and preparedness, because the party was fantastic anyway, from cocktails and food, to music and fireworks. Forty of the resort’s opening team members were on hand to celebrate their successful journey from opening day to today, and one hundred and forty of the resort’s employees with more than two decades of service each, mingled with guests and local dignitaries to the music of Crystal Breeze.
OVERRUN BY KIOSKS. Arawak Gardens added six kiosks to the landscape, to further clutter the sidewalk next to Casa Tua Pizzeria. As I said before, one or two is cute and essential for bargain hunters, but lamentably those clapboard huts, wooden shacks, and slum-favelas are multiplying, selling the exact same junk, made in Haiti souvenirs with the Aruba name etched into the cheaply made product. We will never become an upscale destination with so much cheesy stuff on display.
MAMA MIMA OPENS AT PARADISE BEACH VILLAS. Mama Mima the Italian Restaurant next to Maggy’s on the main street opened a branch, rooftop at Paradise Beach Villas on the oceanfront terrace. We went there last weekend to wish Mama Mima happy birthday. The food was spectacular. I will give you a full report once I go for dinner.
LAST NEWSPAPER BATI BLEKI COLUMN. If you are a regular reader look for me on line and on Facebook. [email protected]