Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, February 22nd, 2016

NEW PHONE BOOK IS HERE. I welcomed the phonebook into my kitchen and looked at the cover, it said: Famia e fundeshi riba cual nos ta para riba dje. It just doesn’t sound smooth. Fundeshi and Para already suggests Riba Dje. So that sentence without a comma, contains an unnecessary repetition. Don’t you think?? I believe the time has come to establish a Papiamento Language Academy, made of local writers and scholars, teachers and poets, let them come up with new words and structures weekly, in order to develop and formulize Papiamento further. A language cannot be left to fend against English and Spanish without intellectual help. A Papiamento Language Academy, affiliated with the Minister of Culture, or the Minister or Education is greatly needed to enrich and supplement the existing vocabulary and syntax.

KOKO DELI DELIVERS. Anyone who likes the sushi at Tatami Sushi Bar will be happy to hear that they opened a second location specializing in take out, at the Orange Mall. You may stay for lunch right there but most people take out or have their food delivered. The menu is reasonably priced and exciting, offering specialty rolls, classic rolls, Temakis and combos, both fried and fresh.

WHY IS THE DUMP SUCH A HOLY COW. And by Holy Cow I mean untouchable, no one there ever pays for crimes against our environment. I read an interview in the newspaper recently with the man in charge of the landfill, it was the lamest, most infantile and inadequate compilation of words I have ever read, filled with vague accusations, from hende cu kier haci un problema to compania tin cu pone prioridadnan, it was all vague and unintelligent, yet he is still there, acting like he is powerless, like he is a victim of circumstance. Dear Mr. Rasmijn, use your resources, use your head, aren’t you a manager? Then you should act like one.  Your head would have been rolling in the private sector. Allow me to quote one of my friends:  ‪#‎banserio,‪#‎governedbymorons‪#‎republicadibanana!

GREEN FOOD SERVICE. We went for lunch at the vegetarian restaurant at the Orange Plaza on Wednesday – the menu differs every day.  I had sautéed vegetables with a vegan meat substitute and my companion enjoyed the stuffed zucchini. We started our meal with a tasty Garbanzo soup, and ended it with a natural herbal tea and a vegan drigidek. It was all very tasty. The place is open from 11am to 4pm. Because the menu rotates, I need to go back for the grilled eggplant one day, and the sautéed pumpkin, and the banana pie. They all sound delicious.

Social responsibility taken seriously at the Riu Palace Aruba & Riu Palace Antillas

As a press member, I was part of two amazing events when the team of Riu Palace Aruba & Riu Palace Antillas visited two homes for the elderly within the span of one week, bringing cheer, delicious meals, flowers, dessert, and companionship. I encourage you to visit and volunteer too!

Riu Palace Aruba coordinated a special Pre Carnival celebration at the Foundation for Elderly Care on Friday, February 5th. General Manager Richard Velasco, accompanied by Riu Palace Aruba’s employees, brought cheer to the elderly home, San Pedro Pavilion, which is operated by SABA (Sitchting Algemene Bejaardenzorg Aruba) in Oranjestad. SABA is Aruba’s largest provider of care for the elderly. Within this particular home, there are more than one hundred residents that are being cared for.

Velasco and his staff provided lunch boxes and desserts for all of the elderly, as well as their caretakers. Within the one-story pavilion, built around a patio and garden, residents enjoyed a delicious lunch and a short dance performance provided by Riu Palaces Aruba’s own entertainers.

“We were so thrilled to have the opportunity to visit The Foundation and bring food and treats as well spread some Pre Carnival cheer to these very special people,” said Velasco.  “It was an emotional day for all of us filled with love and joy.”


In line with the resort’s desire to become more involved with the local community of Aruba, the food & beverage and entertainment teams at Riu Palace Antillas took ownership of a rewarding social responsibility project by bringing the spirit of Valentine’s Day to the elderly citizens living in “Huize Maristella.”

The teams decided to cater a delicious lunch and special dessert just prior to Valentine’s day and cheer up the residents of the home. It was also a token of gratitude for their lifetime’s work, and their many personal achievements, in celebration of love and friendship. A short entertainment program was also put in place to delight the elderly citizens, during lunch.

General Manager Juan Blanco praised his tireless staff for royally catering to the “grandinan,” and orchestrating a flawless Valentine’s Day celebration.

Flora and her crew of caretakers at Huize Maristella, collaborated nicely with the Riu volunteers, to produce a worthwhile event!

Share your cherished old photographs with the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino

The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, fondly known as La Grande Dame of Palm Beach will be undergoing a renovations during the upcoming off-season and as part of that undertaking, will be commissioning new artwork to complement the elegant rooms and the freshly designed public spaces.

In view of the resort’s rich heritage and authentic Aruban roots management is presently searching archives and photo albums for old historical images of the hotel in the early days, anything dated before the Millennium, to be digitalized, and then artfully and proudly displayed throughout the property.

Amateur photographer and professional photographers are hereby invited to participate, in an open competition, for the rarest, most evocative pictures, with or without people, of the resort since its opening day, in July of 1959.

Aruba’s first luxury resort, now flagged under the Hilton Worldwide brand was constructed between 1956 and 1959, with 120 rooms, employing 160 locals. It was designed by that era’s most avant-garde American architect, Morris Lapidus, who also designed the Eden Roc and the Fontainebleau hotels in Miami.

Lapidus came to Aruba as a guest of the island’s government and picked a prime location for his dream hotel, on pristine Palm Beach. From that moment on, the hotel continuously played an important social and economic role in the life of the island, serving as the backdrop for many celebrations of a lifetime, from private weddings, to public parties, entertaining royalties and most significantly through the decades, remaining the employer of choice within the island’s burgeoning hospitality industry.

At the eve of a major renovation, the competition announced by management calls for an extensive search of private and public archives, rewarding finders with a wealth of prizes.

“Please bring us your photographs,” says General Manager Olivier Maumaire, “and we’ll treat them with utmost respect. They will be cleaned up and restored, digitalized and artistically treated to become our cherished works of art. “

The resort’s PR and Marketing Manager Nunette Maduro accepted the task of curating the treasures, making sure photographs are also returned to their owners, once processed. “The resort is accepting photos, negatives, slides, newspaper clippings, even poor copies,” Maduro reiterates,“ they will all be brought back to life by the resort’s graphic designers, and adorn our walls for many years to come.”

Prizes for the winners of the competition include weekend stays, eforea spa treatments and dinner invitations to the Sunset Grille restaurant. The general public is encouraged to respond before March 15th, in order to be included in competition.

 Investigating the Alternative Accommodations

When ratifying the 2016 budget, the Parliament of Aruba passed a motion to investigate the “alternative accommodations.” The term refers to the airport ID card which asked guests where they are staying, hotel, timeshare, all inclusive or alternative accommodations, in other words apartments and private homes. Just to give you an idea how much this segment of the market has grown, I can tell you that in November 2015, 41.6% of Aruba’s visitors stayed at alternative accommodations, just 38.6% of visitors stayed in hotels, and 19.9% stayed in timeshares. Surprised at the extent of that phenomenon?

This migration from traditional accommodations to untraditional accommodations has been going on for a while, but in 2015, it really experienced growth from a reasonably high percentage, 27.8%, to the alarming current 41.6%.  So why is it alarming? Because it is a sensible, price-conscious, budget tourist that is coming, and not the big spender, that we were told we would be welcoming.

  1. I am not at all surprise. Aruba has always been the perfect destination for the middle class vacationer who worked hard all year and afforded himself a great vacation in the sun, just once a year. The island was well suited for that Barefooot Elegant traveler, who did not want to pay too much, and expected value for his money, perfect weather, friendly people and an uncomplicated experience: We speak English, we accept dollars, our water is safe.
  2. With the arrival of the big hotel brands, we set our sights higher, on a bigger spender, and a more affluent, sophisticated and demanding traveler. BUT, while the hotels did their share in providing deluxe accommodations, think Bucuti Beach Resort and Tara Suites, the island did not up the ante. We remained mediocre as far as value for money, cleanliness – think dump, service and most deplorably saturated, in second class restaurants, in third class retail – remember the kiosks – and in no class nightlife, think about the Olde Molen.
  3. The big spenders came once, and did not return. The Ritz Carlton, did deliver, in the group business, not in the individual traveler category.
  4. As the hotels made it more expensive for die-hard Aruba’s visitors, as far as room rates were concerned – who wants to pay $900 a night for beautiful four walls? – AirBnB, introduced the concept of Shared Economy, and many other websites followed, from TripAdvisor to Wimdu, HomeAway to FlipKey. Shared Economy meant we could all host and entertain, in a spare bedroom, in the apartment at the back of the house, in a converted garage.
  5. This thing spread like wild fire. I understand that Aruba today has over 3,000 properties renting to guests and most of them doing a good job at an average of $150-$199 dollars a night.
  6. Our loyal middle class visitor who worked hard all year and afforded himself a great vacation in the sun, just once a year, found a way to come back, without paying too much, while receiving value, in perfect weather, with friendly people for an uncomplicated experience.

So what does it mean you’re asking, who cares where they are staying, as long as they are coming to visit us. For once, the government cares, because it is supposed to receive 9.5% on the room rate and $3 environmental fee per room night, and the collection system is hardly in place, and totally depends on the goodwill of the island’s “alternative accommodations” operators, to pay up.

Over the past few years, a sub-segment of that market was born, visitors staying in “Buchi’s Garage,” strapped for cash Venezuelans, coming to Aruba to milk dollars from the ATM machines. Their number increased exponentially in the past two years, and the crazy “warm bed” system was introduced by pirate hosts, driving pirate taxis, cramming a great number of people into small spaces, at a super low rate per night.

The MinTour published a press release today promising to regulate and support that “Alternative Accommodations” segment of the market, he will be taking advice from the Dutch, to see how Amsterdam coped with the Airbnb, and the  FlipKey situation. Someone is going to be paid a lot of money for a report.

So why is the issue investigated now? Because January was a disappointing month, mostly due to mild weather in the US but also because, the affluent travelers went skiing, and the dollar-conscious visitor coming to Aruba preferred to stay at more reasonable alternative accommodations.

I will give you an example. Some of my friends, a family of 13, two couples, and their grown children and their partners, rented a house on Malmok.  They had a perfect time together. They reported the house was nicely equipped. The slugs among them sat on the deck the whole day, and the active ones jogged along the coastline, and went snorkeling. Every single family member, on a different type of diet, maintained different grazing habits, which was easy with a comfortable kitchen. I don’t see this working for them as well in a traditional hotel environment.

The people we see booking alternative accommodations want to pay less, and vacation more, they want to eat less, and read more. The first timers want to book 4 or 5 days, because that’s all their budget can afford, and the older ones want to book 10 days, at a lower rate, because one week is never enough.

They are wonderful visitors, but they prefer a tea kettle instead of room service, and an ice cooler instead of a pool bar!

Think about it, if the government manages to collect the taxes, then it’s a win-win, on the opposite end of the high-end hospitality spectrum, it’s no frill, and requires a small number of employees. What else can I tell you: I am for!

Ralph Romsom promotes a Sister Cities project with Doral City, Florida

We were in Miami this week, and when there, were sought out by Ralph Romsom who wanted to tell us that we will soon have a rich, stylish sister, Doral City, in Florida.

Apparently it is a city of 50.000 fun loving, enterprising Floridians, mostly of Latin origin, who are experiencing immense growth and development, aiming to become 100.000 fun loving, enterprising Floridians within one year.

The city will be doubling its capacity, by building condos and parks, and putting in a superb infrastructure, with Donald Trump as most valuable investor.

Ralph explains that it all has to do with the Panama Canal expansion project, as a result of which Doral City is aggressively perusing the hub  status, for Panama bound goods.

(From Wikipedia: For a city of its size, Doral has a large number of shops, financial institutions and businesses, especially importers and exporters, primarily because of its proximity to the airport.)

Ralph Romsom, who resides in Doral City, with roots in Aruba and Curacao, had conceived a reciprocal relationship between the island and the “Best City in Florida for Business Start Up,” also fondly called Doralzuela, to be finalized in early May at an official signing ceremony. After that, our sister city status with Doral will be forever inked, and while we will continue shopping there, they will hopefully come here on vacation in growing numbers, after all we’re related.

Ralph also conceived a vision of building an Aruba pavilion in Doral City where the island will have its goods on display, hot sauces, Aruba Aloe products, arts and crafts, including live demonstrations of Aruban artists and most importantly, an endless supply of Balashi and Chills Beers.

The sister City concept or Twin City agreement in geographically and politically distinctly different areas was designed to promote cultural and commercial ties, and it finds its roots in a US policy after WWI, intending to foster friendship and understanding between different cultures and nations.

According to me Aruba could use all the business ties available to her, so Doral City is welcome to become our sister.

I think we already have strong ties with the area. I recall many of my local friend buying condos in the Doral Golf Resort and Country Club, and environs. We even had a former hotel general manager who transitioned from Aruba to that fancy  address, and  offered us friendly rates, but that was a century ago.

Back to Ralph, and RF Agency, he has an office at the Miami Free Zone, and his office grand opening reception should be around the Sister City signing ceremony, which was already posted on the Doral City web site:

Sorry I missed the good-looking Mayor Luigi Boria, while I visited their gorgeous City Hall, but I met Alex Tejerizo, an official with the city, and he was courteous and cute!

Raised by the village of Lago Heights

Rudolf Montnor, circulated a charming story, and I was the lucky recipient of the text via Lita Ramphal, my long time friend and former colleague, who forwarded the piece to me with the simple instruction: Enjoy.

I read it with great interest, it represents the innocence, and closeness of the San Nicholas community in yesteryears and the nostalgic recollections of people I have never known touched me immensely. The text sometimes reads like a phonebook, but an entertaining one and the jokes are immature, but what comes across is a blessed, fun-filled childhood, being raised by a village, with enough rules to prevent recklessness and ample space to encourage personal growth and experimentation.  I wish we could offer this exact same incubator to our kids today.

So here it is, Jeff’s Recollections:

Ah…Lago Heights! Just like the island of Aruba we had our own pariba i pabao di brug. In our case, it was pariba i pabao di play ground. Our play ground was the dividing line between the good citizens of the 600, 700, and 800 blocks, as the main streets in LH were known. I lived pabao di play ground, so here are my recollections…

One thing I am sure of, we had the best nicknames in Lago Heights!

Consider one family with the following offsprings: Shanko, Tootsie, Chunky, Minki and Aki!

Then there was Obie, Jubi, and Sigi Naar, Chibi, Boechin, Tuyo, and Erie “Don Mossey” Willems, Boykie Mesas, Dingo Bryson, Biertje Donk, Sjoerd “Murks” Lashley, Fatty Vierra, and of course, the one and only Errol Browne, a.k.a. House.

I first moved to LH at the tender age of six, I think.

I moved into 606, up the street from the Mesas and Brownes, across the street  from the Naar family. Here’s the street as I remember it, 600 was a vacant lot, 601 Mesas 602 & 603 Browne, 604, 605 and 606 Francis, 607 Naar, 608 Johnson, 609 Zagers, 610 & 611 Murphy, 612 Jessurun, 613 Grant. Then I moved to 705 where the best looking girl in the 700 block, Bonnie Chung, lived.

The people I remember in the 700 street are: the Vierras, Fatty, Fredo, Roy, Norma & Max Fingal, Sjoerd & Cedric Lashley, John Hodgson, John Hassell, Bob Brown (used to be a Lago Sports Park official), Kenny & Nan Martin, the whole Willems bunch, the Mendes bunch, the Brysons, Arends, Charlie & Raymond Morales, the Marquez bunch, Tullocks, Merill & Evy not sure about the last name anymore, the Oroscos, and Bambam Chehin, spelling unsure, but close enough.

Lago Heights was noted for its solid concrete houses with the Dutch (half) doors. I remember us being one of the first families in the 600 block with a TV. It was a black and white (of course) Emerson console TV with a relatively small screen. The whole neighborhood used to show up to see “El Llanero Solitario” and “Furia” on Radio Caracas Television, Canal 10.

Here are some random stories.

As any good LH kid knew, you were not allowed to go up or down the LH Hill on a bicycle. You were supposed to use the bicycle path on the side of the Lago fence. In any event, one afternoon about ten of us decided to ride down the hill on our bikes. Next thing you know, the Red Van (Police) was coming up the hill at the same time. You’ve never seen stiff-rachet bikes move that fast down the hill!

The real joke is that we all rushed down to the Essoville Station, went behind the wall by the Chinese shop and changed shirts! As if the cops wouldn’t recognize us…

Naar was a big-time L.A. Dodgers fan. So much so, that he decided he was going to build a fan club next to the fence in his back yard. So he dug up some wood and  zinc and made the structure. The place was so cool, he even had glass windows made from pieces of glass shutters left over from the work going on at Don Bosco school where they were replacing the pane windows with glass shutters. In any event, we were quite amused when Regie proudly announced he had completed the club and showed us the door announcing in big red letters that this was the “Doggo Doggo fan club!”

More stories at Regie’s expense: Some time in his mid-teens,  he decided he wanted to be a painter (that’s what he still does  today, as far as I know). I’m not sure where he got it, but one way or the other he ended up with a compressor and a spray gun and would practice on stuff around house, the hours. His father, Elias Naar was a very proud and hard-working man. One way to enjoy the fruits of his labor was to buy a new car every two years. He was a Ford man. Bought all his cars from Neme Ford in the Ferguson Straat. At about  1960 he traded in his 1957 Ford Fairlane (red with a white top, a beautiful vehicle) for a brand new Fairlane with the gull wings in the back, and lots of chrome. He used to work the night shift at the laboratories and slept during the day. I don’t remember the original  color, but one day Elias woke up to find his brand new Ford a funky shade of purple. Regie had decided he needed some practice. Needless to say all the neighbors found out exactly at the same time with Elias! I think parts of Regie’s anatomy were also some funky shades  of purple, immediately thereafter.

And then there was Fatty Vierra and his uncanny way of using the English language. What did the monkey say after the train ran over his tail? It won’t be long now! I don’t remember any more of his jokes that played on words but the one that  stands out most is his contention that the word “if” was of no use and you should really use “had I known” instead, to describe the situation.

Merrill and Evy, last name, a mystery, ( Editor’s note:  Hassell) were a couple of Saba goats who lived two houses down from the play ground. One day we were all playing cutaway. This involves attaching razor blades, cleverly mounted on little pieces of wood, in strategic locations on your kite’s tail (made from old bed sheets, of course) and then trying to cut away the string on as many kites as you can. Anyway, that day somebody cut their hand in a fight involving the razor blades. Next  thing you know Merrill and Evy’s mother comes running up the street  and in perfect Saba-ese English starts yelling “I’m going to call to Poo-leese. I’m going to call the Poo-leese.”

The other vivid memory of LH that I have is that you could always tell what movie played at the Lago Heights Club (with Van Stroe (spelling?) collecting the tickets). If was an Elvis movie, everybody would be running around with shades and greasy hair with a “pouf” up front. The thing I remember most are the comments people would make in the theater.  Like “Watch out, Django, the crook’s behind you!” Or, during the chase scene when Rocky Allen Lane or Wild Bill Hickock was chasing the crooks, everybody would be saying something like “ten te neh, ten te neh, ten te neh.”

Or, when there was a fight, all you would hear was “nie yeh, nie yeh, nie yeh.”I have lots of fond memories of the LH Club. Twenty-five cent movies, free ice cream on Sunday, the Sunday talent shows. I actually won a Hula Hoop contest and my sister Joan won a singing contest singing “Que Sera, Sera,”

Remember the Creole Cats and the Tops, and the Platters?

How about the French fries from the Chinese man behind the bar by the tennis court? They used to say that the fries tasted so good because Chiweena (the crazy woman who used to walk around LH) would spit on them. I’ll never forget one afternoon when we were all sitting on the fence and the Red Van and an ambulance went speeding up the 600 street. Next thing you know we’re on our bicycles chasing it up the road. When we get to Barranca Hundu, it turns out that Kenny Martin was trying to see if his 1955 Oldsmobile could fly. Somehow or the other, he managed to jump over the 6-inch pipe guardrail and end up on the bottom of Barranca Hundo without even a scratch.

Editor’s note: Barranca Hundu was the name of the large excavation east of Lago Heights a.k.a. the Caliche Pit…which later became a graveyard for cars, and still later was completely filled with sand.

How could I forget “The Local?”

I used to get 5 cents for every one I sold. I used to get 200 every Friday and go to the Bachelor’s Quarters (BQ), the Lago gate, and the Lago Heights Club and sell like 50 at the time, time and then go to most of the houses pabao di play ground.

Here are some jokes at my expense involving the English language.

Max Jessurun was a genius. The guy knew more about math and science and languages that anyone I knew. I was at his house one afternoon and he was making ice cream. Peach and cream, hmm hmm good. In any event, he came up to me to asked me if I “would care for some ice cream.”

I said something like “Hell no, I don’t to care for it. But I would sure like some!

Lago finally got smart and opened a road through the tank farm up by Chester Vlaun and Junior Leverock’s house. Lago was always big on safety and always had safety billboards with safety slogans in key spots in the refinery. One of them was on the new road through the tank farm. Max was driving us to the beach one afternoon and we passed the sign which said something like: “Is safety important? Yes! Si! Oui! Indeed!” So I turn to Max and asked: “What language is Indeed?” And this from the son of an English teacher, to boot!



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February 21, 2016
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