GET YOUR CAR WASHED, WHILE HAVING LUNCH. Super Rich Car Wash at King’s Plaza added a café to its menu of services. Rich’s Café has the world’s most predictable menu, but I hear Nella, the chef, has a culinary gift. Real estate man Celo Profet, offered to let me taste his pumpkin pie, which was delicious. Over the past few years Rich spun himself into a small empire with Drop & Wash outlets and friendly car washes, now also a cute café with a bohemian look!
THE FRENCH STEAKHOUSE CARES FOR ITS GUESTS. On a recent Saturday evening I found myself at the French Steakhouse, at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa. I wanted to have fresh fish, off that restaurant’s local menu and my companion was craving sushi, not just any sushi, but the sushi made by chef Mylene Lapinid of Omakase, inside the French Steakhouse. At the bar we met Board Member Bill Crona, and Interior Designer Rachel Bowden, they were both putting the finishing touches on the plan to completely renovate the old-fashioned, traditional eatery, creating a new environ, similar to that of the already stylish and elegant Ike’s Bistro. It was Nyoka Edwards’ night off, yet the service at the restaurant was very personable and caring. We picked a Saturday, because the focus is on local food with two different menus, one indoor, one outdoor, highlighting our culinary heritage, and unique flavoring. Executive Chef Ever de Pena, 29, features just-caught fresh fish, tropical fruits and herbs, and fuses different tastes and textures of age-old recipes such as Keshi Yena, Keri Keri Fish Cakes, soup served with pan bati, cilantro and plantain chips, Potato Croquettes, Fish Creole, with pica de papaya and sweet banana salsa, Fried Funchi, Quesillo and Pan Boyo with cinnamon ice cream. Yum. Really worth the trip to Punta Brabo!
CONGRATULATIONS. Aruba’s 21st annual Reef Care project was a total success with over 300 volunteers scouring the beaches, under the quiet, consistent leadership of Castro Perez, of the Aruba Tourism Authority. The two idle snails, usually pretending to clean the Malmok strip every morning, will have nothing to do, but play with their phones tomorrow!
INSULTING OUR INTELLIGENCE. When I read the press release last week, about the immediate reduction in parking rates, I could not believe what I was reading. Because of the overwhelming success of the program, it said, the Minister of Transportation decided to drop prices. Who are you kiddin’? Every word in that release rang untrue. You clearly underestimated this island’s resistance to paying for parking, and you set the bar much too high. So, you dropped it, after just two weeks. Good, that was a positive move. And you will have to probably drop it a bit further, until over time, you get everyone used to paying for their parking space. It is utterly surprising that the new meters do not accept debit and credit cards, but thankfully, I understand they were just also modified to accept US currency, in consideration of our visitors.
THE TACTICAL MANOUVER OF PARKING. I went to town three times last week. On my first encounter with the Parking Meter I had no florin change, so I rushed into Knipoog Hair Salon to get some. On my second Parking Meter exchange, I again had no change, but this time I stormed into the Downtown Drugstore behind Royal Plaza. Don’t worry, the ladies advised, the Parking Meters are out of order. For my third adventure at the Renaissance Marketplace, I parked accidentally in the yellow zone, and got a stern reprimand from a sour-faced police woman on a bicycle. Then I lined up behind some tourists and waited for them to figure the apparatus out. Luckily, a young Dutch woman came to the rescue, with change and helpful instructions otherwise we would still be there. Overall I am all for it, charge for parking, and use to proceeds to clean up the streets! On a personal note I also love the fact that we now have plenty of available parking spots everywhere. But I hear from shop-owners and restaurateurs around the downtown area that their business took a nosedive with the recent developments, and that clients stayed away.
RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT OF EDUCATION. As I wrote last week, this island deserves one high-school for top-achievers, kids with fully developed intellectual abilities, charging full-speed ahead, in a competitive, under-pressure environment, à la Ivy League, upholding high academic standards. Colegio Arubano has always attempted to do that. And from looking at the latest enrolment statistics, just 16% of the island’s elementary school graduates in Oranjestad achieved that elite ranking. Of the 1,033 students enrolled in our schools, take a minute to gasp, just 315 qualified for the Colegio Arubano entrance exams, yet just 168 actually got a passing grade. Of those who attempted to take the test, 147 failed in their pursuit of a higher academic-stream education, and after the dust settled just 161 students managed to get into that reputed Middle School. The question is what to do with the rest of the 84%, or 872 other 6th graders, the late-bloomers of Oranjestad, the ones that don’t get it the first time, the ones that require a little longer explanation and a little better rapport with their teachers/instructors?? The Ministry of Education wants to argue with Colegio Arubano, that the bar is too high. It wishes to push border-line kids in, anyway, give them a chance. The ministry expressed its wish to invest resources in those less-qualified students, and support them until they make it. The school in a typical arrogant response digs in its heels, stating that this would slow the sprinters down, refusing to relax the level of requirements. Colegio Arubano is not prepared to save that giant half-baked majority, from getting into a second-rate high school program, MAVO, in which after attending a cookie-cutter, one size fits all program, finds itself even more behind that ever, with dreams of a university education fading away at a fast pace. I could go on forever, but basically, we need to raise the level of teaching/learning everywhere. Education must become a much bigger priority. Where is this new high school, promised to the district of Noord, a few elections ago, with more educational options, and better career choices? Imagine, that single test at the 6th grade is the turning-point which determines your life. Vocational or Academic, what would your path be? I was a late-bloomer and if I had gone to school here on the island of Aruba, I would have ended up with a minimal vocational education instead of a university degree. And apparently, most of Aruba’s parliamentarians were late-bloomers too, getting serious about studying later in life, having failed first, then resolving to overcome academic obstacles!
TROPICAL GLASNOST. After a chilly period of relationship with the Riu Hotel chain, we have felt a positively new openness this week, when the Riu Palace Antillas became a member of AHATA, and part of this island’s Hotel & Tourism Association. The resort also got some fun press when it celebrated Housekeeping Week, expressing gratitude to its room attendants who contribute greatly to guests’ vacation experience here, showcasing happy employee faces in the newspaper pictorial.
NEW LIGHT 2015. A collaborative exhibition in the library features the work of three local photographers. Both Leo Fun and Dick Rikkengaa have beautiful images of the island’s landscapes, flora and fauna. Robert Angela Osma also offers social commentary and graphic manipulation in his interesting snapshots, beautifully printed by Checkpoint Color. [email protected]