JUST FOUR MORE COLUMNS TO GO. October 26th will be my last Diario column. No, I will not retire, I will transition to an online column, possibly with daily entries. I believe I have been writing columns for the past 23 years, and it was a lot of fun! So four more columns to go, then you have to look me up on the internet. I thank my colleagues at the Diario for their patience and support!
WORLD TOURISM DAY. The Aruba Tourism Authority organized a much-enjoyed forum at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino on Wednesday, we saw everybody, we kissed, we’re all united behind the same goal of growing our tourism industry sustainably. We are however often divided on how to go about it, exactly. Highlights of the day included a book reveal, Mi Pret’i Wowo, created by Karin Swiers for the Aruba Tourism Authority, showcasing the island from a poetic and spontaneous view point, and Doug Lansky’s entertaining key note speech, warning us against over-crowding, and recommending growing our tourist product to maximum comfort capacity. Though not a scientific term, everyone in the audience understood what he meant, as he pointed our noses in the right direction. Our lovely actress and poet Rosabelle Illes, tested her skills as comedienne, but according to me, she should stick to her core dramatic specialties from now on. I learned a few things in the course of the morning: Aruba has 1,180 accommodations listed including 106 hotels, 804 houses and apartments and 270 others, which could be anything from trailers to tree houses. I imagine the tax people are busily collecting the data off the immigration ID cards to happily collect the 9.5% government tax and $3 environmental fee per day, from them all. The Minister called our tourism thriving as he mentioned a few niches he would like to see growth in, such as Golf Holidays, Yachting Vacations, and Medical Tourism. I am also adding Gaming. No one pays any special attention to our casinos, but with existing technology visitors can sit on the beach, on the toilet, or poolside and play bingo on their ipads, as organized by their host hotel’s casino. So we should be working on that. Take gaming outdoors, also outside the walls of our tired gaming emporiums. I sat next to Ewald Biemans and enjoyed his on-going commentary. As the chairperson of AHATA, his name was left off the list of dignitaries nevertheless he persevered and shrugged the omission off. He told me a joke, and it goes the following: A successful businessman and a not-so-successful businessman meet and the not-so-successful businessman turned to the successful one and said: How did you do it, how did you become so successful?! So, the successful businessman replied that the secret to his success was that he jumped at all opportunities. But how do you know, that what you experience, is an opportunity, the not-so-successful businessmen questioned. Ah, that’s easy, said the successful businessman, I just jump all the time!
POSITIVE COLUMN AT ALL COST. I made a decision that this column was going to be positive, no matter what, until ANSA reported at 12:40pm, on Friday, that the Air Traffic Controllers are taking a break from work for two hours, grounding 17 commercial flights in Aruba, and a great number of others heading our way. They put a stop on all departures and arrivals, and by 2:14 the airport had to be closed for fear of overcrowding. What a wonderful way to celebrate World Tourism Week. Thank you Air Traffic Controllers for endangering our livelihood and for showing us what self-interest is, as you pursued your personal advantages, with total disregard for us, afraid to lose your cushy public-sector government jobs as you transition into the private-sector.
BIKING TO WORK. With the new parking fees downtown, some of my adorable friends decided it was time to start biking to work. They were mostly turned off by the thought of having to spend hours in line at AruPark to pay for and obtain their stickers, on the 3rd of every month from now on, because you can’t pay the amount online! Their report: So after buying new tires, and a comfy bike-seat gel-cover, they took off into the street. Bottom line, biking in the morning is a challenge, as you arrive at work all sweaty and sticky, requiring a bird-bath in the tiny available washroom basin. And that’s how they came up with carpooling, a foreign concept in Aruba, but a popular one in less affluent corners of the world. So carpooling in the AM, and bike riding in the PM, helmet on, for fear of taxi and bus drivers. The following in the list of advantages this MO provides: Great cardio workout, of 6 to 10 kilometers daily; Lovely sights and sounds of gorgeous old trees and colonial architecture; zooming around the tram and cars; skirting around pedestrians; the rattling sound of Main Street pavers under tires; familiar colleagues and motorists; racing downhill with the wind in the back, after the Ponton uphill; greeting other bikers; the adoring looks of unfamiliar motorists who appreciate their backsides; and mostly the invigorating feeling getting home red-cheeked and huffing! There’re also good news, they see less dogs in the street, perhaps the Ley Di Cacho is making a difference.
TEDX, A SUCCESS. I am a faithful TED follower on my iphone, and I listen to the short talks about Technology, Entertainment & Design, at every stolen moment, at the hairdresser, or the dentist’s office. TED talks present ideas worth sharing, and the conference organized here also delivered on its promise to educate. The evening at Cas Di Cultura was attended by beautiful people, a sophisticated young audience that hung in there until almost midnight. Glenn Thode, described a university I wanted to attend. Varelie Croes, assured us that technology will evolved wherever we want to take it. Rachel Brathen told a good personal story, but Luitenant-kolonel der mariniers J.P.C. (Jan) ten Hove, Commandant Marinierskazerne Savaneta, stole the show, by promising a man-made bridge in the location where the natural bridge once stood. He finished his presentation and was about to leave the stage, but did not, instead he revealed his idea of starting, he did not say starting and finishing, a replacement titanium bridge. The jury is still out about that project, which seems crazy to me, imagine to completely rebuild the Colossus of Rhodes, or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but then again, it will be a tourist attraction, and as long as you do not use public funding the family operating the Natural Bridge refreshment station will be happy!
INDULGE ARUBA. Mark your calendar October 3rd, at the Ritz Carlton, a spectacular food and wine event organized by executive chef Stephen Toevs, with no less that 24 of Aruba’s best restaurants and wine purveyors. The chef reports he always had a dream of creating a food festival, and when the Restaurant Week idea popped, he decided to go to work. Tickets are on sale at the front desk of the Ritz-Carlton and they are starting to move fast!
EDUCATION, IN ENGLISH OR DUTCH. I thought about the issue of education long and hard, and decided that the misguided patriot who suggested to switch the language of the island’s elementary school system from Dutch to Papiamento, was the one single-handedly responsible for the fact that students’ Dutch language skill deteriorated to the extent that they now fail to enter the Dutch secondary schools. Duh. As we all know, the Dutch system is difficult and demanding, while the American system is more-user friendly, and student-oriented. If we switch the island’s schools to English, the benefits will be many and we could warmly welcome the kids of the Minister of Education, the Minister of Economic Affairs, the President of Parliament, and the Leader of the Opposition back from private schools to the public ones! [email protected]