ARUBA, ONLY THE BEST WILL DO. I stopped at AZV’s headquarters this week to renew my expiring care card! The AZV complex is impressive, inviting and friendly, and the care card operation is well prepared, with a tent and extra chairs for the overflow of visitors, in the parking lot. There was no line the day I dropped in, and the clerk in charge was very business-like: She collected my money, snapped my picture, printed my new card and bid me farewell. That’s a Rolls-Royce of an operation. My friends tell me it’s run like a private sector entity and that is why it is so well-oiled and efficient. My next stop in Santa Cruz at the traffic department was not as fast, but it was kissed by a spirit of efficiency. Take a number, wait in line, get called, fork over your cash, get a receipt, wait in line, get called again, smile for the camera, here’s your papelito, pick your brand new driver’s license up, next Wednesday. Admittedly the facility in Santa Cruz could use a mini facelift, but the people working there are focused and responsive. They process the crowd with great competence, in and out, at record speed! I hope next Wednesday is a similarly pleasant experience.
LUNCH AT HUCHADA. When in Santa Cruz, do as the Santa Cruzian do! For Awg 5, you get a huge Broodje Gezond sandwich at Huchada, Dutch cheese, ham, sliced egg, skinny tomato and pale lettuce on a just-baked pistolet bread roll. Admittedly, there is nothing ‘gezond’ about this broodje. It is bad for your blood pressure and full of calories, but at the time it was delicious, and the girls at Huchada are conscientious workers, and presented me with my lunch beautifully wrapped in a brown paper bag with a cellophane side, picture perfect. The bakery now boasts a fully enclosed wooden deck terrace, and it seems as popular as ever.
PARLIAMENT BUILDING PAINTED OVER. In the spirit of making shattered glass repairs, the entire parliament building was painted over, beige, in just two days. That was surprising because the building did not require the fresh coat of pain, besides, I liked the post-elections muted, faded coral color. It gave the building character. Now in beige, it is a bit ordinary. Remind me why we needed to repaint, did I miss anything?
CONGRATULATION, TIARA AIR. As planned, on September 4th, an airborne aircraft with the Tiara Air colors and logo marked the fact that Aruba’s own airline company resumed a regular flight schedule to Las Piedras, Venezuela. The company has been flying private charters in recent weeks, and is now back in business, pa bien to the joyous team and CEO Alejandro Muyale.
THE ARUBA WINE CLUB. Marrit Gorter, who now lives in Aruba and works on completing her pilot’s license in the USA, is also collaborating on a local project, the Aruba Wine Club, partnering with local wine importers to offer a full service free wine, beer and liquor delivery service at 10% below retail prices! Membership is free for residents and visitors alike, and Marrit promises bi-annual social events for members-only, at some of the island’s most exclusive locales and monthly newsletters to keep members abreast of the latest trends in cocktails, new wine and liquor arrivals, as well as tips on wine and food pairings created by the in-house sommelier, along with preferred restaurants, gift and recipe ideas, and even wine tour suggestions around the world. The membership is free, and you pick your favorite wines for home delivery, or you let the sommelier surprise you!
RE-VISITING THE ISLAND. Angelica Vleeming, who is now Content & Communications Manager for a privately owned hospitality brand, Citizen M hotels, arrived for an island visit to catch up with friends and family members. When she started working for Citizen M, a design driven, life style hotel featuring small state-of-the-art rooms, and a large, friendly lobby, the company operated just one property, in Amsterdam, today the company runs seven boutique hotels in very premium locations around the globe, and it promises many perks, mostly to be 100% different, than many US hotels. Angelica reports that the kids are almost all grown up and gorgeous and that Mitch works for his own business. Also visiting the island this summer Karina Felix, Miss Aruba 1988, supporting gorgeous two cousins who participated in this year’s edition of the Miss Aruba pageant, and attending a family wedding, with her children Kiara and Sergio Fedele. Karina went back home to Florida in time for an event she organized, World of Dance Fashion, an annual show that’s part of her career as magazine publisher. Her publication, World of Dance magazine goes to over 1,000 dance school in the sunshine state. Her husband hotelier Luigi Fedele works around the globe, developing properties in the Caribbean and South America.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. We met at the anchor in San Nicholas at the crack of dawn, Sunday, with the intention of walking to Rincon. We drove a bit further to Grapefield and parked, then hit the trail. It’s not a strenuous exercise, barely 4km, but the terrain is interesting, the bay of Rincon beautiful, and we got to comb the beach for shells and interesting finds on the return. I encountered two surprises on the trip. The first was a fully developed course, for dirt bikes and off road racing, lined with hundreds of old tires, featuring tightly packed mounds and ditches. It looks like this is being used regularly by thrill seekers. We wondered who put it there. And is it good for that unique environment. The second surprise was a village, with more than twenty oversize wooden casitas, some two-storied, with multiple rooms and terraces, and outhouses, water tanks, cooking facilities and driftwood furniture. There were people living there, kids, dogs, some permanently, some for the weekend, overlooking the ocean, dolce far niente. One guy was raking the path, and asked us to walk around the freshly swept, scraped surface, adhering to the rules of meticulous housekeeping, even on the beach. As expected, we found a lot of plastic, and broken pieces of coral and wood, the ocean is unforgiving, and keeps washing everything ashore. Alice Dorff then made us award-winning breakfast! Our calorie intake was definitely greater than our calorie output, but we enjoyed our Sunday morning walk on the wild side.
THE 350TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MARINES. The Dutch Marines have been part of the island’s human landscape since 1938, when the Marines’ base in Savaneta was built. I toured the Marinierskazerne with Luitenant-kolonel der mariniers J.P.C. (Jan) ten Hove, the man in charge, the Commandant, or the Lieutenant Colonel in English, in preparation for an article about the Marine Corps’ upcoming historical event. Ten Hove, has been here for two years, and probably has another year to go, before returning to the Netherlands, he explains he often feels like he’s the island’s Minister of Defense, and the government’s maritime security partner, here to protect and secure our infrastructure such as the airport, the water & electricity plant and the now-defunct refinery. The Marine Corps’ base collaborates greatly with the Aruba Police Department, the Aruba Coast Guard, the K-9 unit, and the 60 local Aruban Militia members who work on the base. It also contributes to a special Social Formation program designed to rehabilitate challenging youth, by introducing them to an army lifestyle, at the base. With core values such as Unity, Might & Dedication, which the commander loves to repeat to his squadrons, the Dutch Marines have been an integral part of our community and a source of great pride. Ten Hove is one of the designated speakers at the TEDX Aruba conference, sharing his Mission-Command strategy with an audience of 500 islanders on, September 23rd. [email protected]