Bati Bleki Weekly Recap February 25th, 2017

MINJUST: YOU have a high threshold of tolerance for graffiti-vandalism, ENOUGH ALREADY

Bushiribana, a national treasure was vandalized this weekend, and we all say ENOUGH ALREADY! That is the nature of vandalism, it is progressive, just like all crimes, and vandalism is a crime, if you disregard the little stuff, you let the perpetrators get away with it, then the vandals/criminals get more audacious and ambitious each time, escalating their misdirected campaign.

Early last summer, graffiti-vandalism started appearing on the island as a form of protest and you must know by now that it impacts the feelings of law and order and social values on our island and it influences our sense of well-being, NEGATIVELY.

This is what I wrote in June when a second group picked graffiti as their weapon of choice: All graffiti must be removed from public view immediately after they appear, otherwise the trend may become an invitation for more vandalism. If we don’t remove the text, it means we don’t care, and it becomes an invitation for more, and worst, just like broken windows, that invite breaking more windows. We should all be asking Public Works to commit to freeing us from the offensive lettering, because graffiti vandalism in unacceptable. Remember that the vandals have repeated their message many times, so that we “recognize” the message instantly. By removing the text as soon as possible we deny them the “glory” and “satisfaction.” TOTAL CLEANING: Please visit the BUSHIRIBANA, with a bucket of soap and water, ASAP.

TIP DI ORO: Dear MinJust, Awg 10,000 would smoke out the guilty party. We want to see a real effort on your part to identify that one asshole, with a familiar handwriting, who declared war on our monuments. Awg 10,000 as reward-money should do the trick. We want to see the announcement made today! You smoked Yellow out, and you must treat the individual who defaced Bushiribana, with equal seriousness. This is not funny anymore.

Postema, the reprise

MinJust lost his cool his week and spilled the beans on his former colleague, Otmar Oduber. Remember, he was our MinTour until not long ago, when he retired from government in order to form his own party, E Forsa Nobo. From a distance, Oduber has been riding MinJust hard, berating him continuously on rising petit crime statistics, and voicing his total dissatisfaction with law enforcement on the island. Finally MinJust cracked and granted a loaded interview to the local media, calling Oduber pathetic, and that was just the beginning.

He accused him of working for himself, not the island. We know. He accused him of spending the Aruba Tourism Authority budgets, like they were his own. We know. He accused him of setting up the silly AruParking, autocracy. We know. His most provocative accusation centered on the Electric Festival, which was one of the former MinTour’s initiatives. According to MinJust, the concerts brought a great quantity of designer drugs including Ecstasy, into the island. We know. But ultimately the signature that appears on the concert permits is that of the MinJust, and he shouldn’t have signed them, if opposed to that promotion.

I asked one of my consigliores, why are these two politicians slinging mud at each other now that they are no longer in bed together, and he suggested that MinJus Dowetje is playing the unforgettable Mary Wever part, reenacting the postema of 2001, when the outspoken minister of Education and Labor nicknamed the coalition partner an abscess, which pulled the plug on the government, and called for early elections.

If our government falls and early elections are called that would surely obstaculate the creation of the new political party, leaving E Forsa Nobo insufficient time to raise funds and make the necessary preparations.

I did see calls for the resignation of the MinJust in yesterday’s newspaper. Will he sacrifice his own career in order to sabotage the formation of a new opposition party?

Raising the Dead in San Nicholas

We enjoyed a classic Jouvert morning in San Nicholas, Saturday morning. I had no problem getting there at 4am, the road was wide open. We abandoned the car on a side-street at 4:07am, and found ourselves at the starting line, in time for the brass band. First and second beer at Winter Garden;  a fast pit stop, in the men’s toilet stall at Carnival Village just before dawn, a third beer at Julio’s Bar. Don’t change a thing, we like it just the way it is.

We fell in behind N’Fusion Music. Of course we love Reynaldo “Rusty” Sprout. It’s an old love affair, since Climax and the New Climax, through Rusty Pot, Teolinda, Tighter and Barricade! My friends tell me he started beating the pans as a child, somewhere around Weg Seroe Preto, where mom still lives, with Gario, Mingo, Long Roy, and the rest of the players; they were called the Noise Next Door, and they still make great noise.

Rusty was relentless with Raise the Dead. Coming in from the graveyard, he threw in the Soca Train, and a few Woot-Woots for the sake of past Carnivals, and every time we decided to abandon our spot and fall in behind another band, he played Inside the Thing, and obviously, there is no better place than inside….the hope that Rusty would do Barricade when the sun comes up for the last lap, kept us in place, but alas, he never did.

It’s our first Jouvert Morning in which I don’t even know what the other bands played. We saw Steam streaming by at the head of the parade, with Mighty Reds, featuring Put Your Hands Up Right Now; we noticed Le Groove was super popular with the young and the restless, Tsunami had a substantial following, NBO with just a handful of diehards, and the poor Flashback Disco, the truck was barely alive and heaving on threadbare tires.

Most importantly, the Dushi ambiente was there, people hugging, kissing, greeting, waving, a super friendly, super creative crowd. We posed with pictures with some ISIS executioners, rag clad Zombies, baby powdered monsters, a man forking a monkey! There were more PJs than ever and more kids than ever, straight out of bed into the Jouvert Morning parade, fiercely protected by moms, out to make sure their kids get a first class Carnival education.

I always say: It doesn’t get any better than this.

And for those of you who want to know: I never even heard Slip and Slide, by Blacky, not even once, the winner of the Caiso and Soca Monarch competition, was judged in the people’s court of San Nicholas to be unworthy of his crown.

Jouvert Morning this year was dedicated to the late Nando Browne, a talented musician who just died unexpectedly. Nando participated in our Carnival many times and in the Calypso & Roadmarch contest, as Mighty Breaka, he was a singer, composer, a simply terrific entertainer who shared his knowledge with many aspiring young musicians. May he rest in peace.

No Jouvert Morning is complete without breakfast: Johnny Cakes, Queso Fresco, Herbal Tea, Coffee, Tropical Fruit and Scrambled eggs with peppers and onions! Thank you Mariza and Jonson!


So Aruba’s Lighting Parade, lights up Oranjestad

How many times can I write about Carnival? As many times as it marches through Oranjestad.  For its 2017 edition the Lighting Parade departed from the Dakota neighborhood, and shuffled through town to the seaside Boulevard, then down to the cruise ship terminal. Some of my friends report being in bed as early as 1am, having danced the entire route, of less than 4km. Indeed, critics say the parade was rushed, having taken off at exactly 8pm, with more than 2,200 participants, and 200 of Aruba’s Men in Blue in charge of flow and conduct; Red Cross volunteers in place to fend off emergencies, and QUOTA club members promoting the protection of hearing, selling earplugs.

I took a little saunter counter-traffic to check out the troupes, and verified that it is still One Happy Island. We love to party, no matter what. The diehards were out in the street decked in feathers and rhinestones, and the only concession they made to a global slump in the economy was the switch from Made in Austria Swarovski crystals to Made in China Chinowski bling!

Dushi Carnival Group with the Madness Band presented Dubai City of Gold as their theme. They were the first group on parade. Their Queen Sabina, won the privilege of opening the parade by virtue of being elected Aruba’s 63rd Reina Grandi, Aruba’s Carnival Queen.

Quality brass band and our Carnival Royalty, the Prince and Pancho followed, I noticed they all had expensive sneakers on, the ones glowing, which light up and must be charged! I saw those rechargeable light-up shoes everywhere. I guess they are the latest trend here.

Presidente Beer, Dushi’s sponsor did a great job, making an impression with green LED-lit silhouette dancers, and glowing-green oversize Ps, with shooting fire foundations. Commercial, but impactful, designed and powered by Elite.

The two queens, Sabrina, the 63rd Reina Grandi, and the 1st runner up of our 54th Youth Queen, Maria shared a float. They heralded the arrival of some super good-looking revelers upfront; then behind the great sounding band put together by iconic musician Michael Lampe, the massa costumes, depicted “a world between illusion and reality.”

Dubai has never seen anyone dressed like that, but in a world caught between illusion and reality everything is possible.

The second group up was Champagne, entertained by Massive Brass band International, promoting original asambeho music from Aruba. That was a noteworthy touch!

Champagne’s founder Lienchie Merryweather was recently honored at a public event, as a pillar of Carnival in Aruba. She was presented with a commemorative plaque during Hebe Hebe, a street beer-fest, mid Carnival season. Champagne’s opening float was tremendous, a classic, luxurious beauty in red, black & white.  A bunch of wild, gorgeous men strutted their stuff at the head of the group. Loved those Blue Butterflies, and the band was good looking too; Tsunami, in cut off white tank tops, nicely formed muscles, and tribal designs. Their massa Orange, Black & White costumes, titled Madness in Wonderland, with feathered top hats were fun; one of the parade segments by Gerard Halley was spectacular, I know they have been working on it since May of 2016 and it showed!

Superfood Plaza sponsored a fully decorated float, which is a rarity these days, congratulations, and thank you!

TOB, a group whose full name is Taste of Brazil, but they go by their initials, was accompanied by N’Fusiuon Music, fresh from the Jouvert Morning parade; how do these guys do it? They were phenomenal during Jouvert Morning, real crowd-pleasers, and continued to delight in Oranjestad.

TOB had some traditional body and road pieces at the head of their parade section, truly a lot of work and excellent craftsmanship.

The former MinTour, the group’s spiritual leader, should be proud; if all group members vote for him in November, he should be in good shape!

The Lost Tribes, an all white section, was one of the most gorgeous ever presented on the road!

OPC, the following group, featured a number of road pieces announcing their section in parade. Their band OREO cranked out music from a mega trailer with legendary band leader Mighty Talent, surrounded by very feathery individual costumes.

At this point it all turned into a blur, I tuned out, but I did notice that Empires Carnival Group dragged a trailer with a great number of toilets in disguise, under wraps, only the wraps refused to stay up, revealing the portable potties in all their glory!

Last but not least, the Carnival group which turned Carnival into a science, Los Laga Bai, known for smooth, flawless performances, encountered a bump on the road when their music trailer suffered a technical issue, unfazed and prepared, organizers managed to find a suitable alternative and entered the group into the parade, in 7th place instead of 3rd, nevertheless all members swear band leader Robert JeanD’or made it up to them by being especially focused and super charged, entertaining them all the way.

In the words of soca singer Destra Garcia:

So Carnival take over my body, when I touch di road….
My whole demeanor can change to something meaner
When vibes overload…..

Hey! Whole night, whole day, when the jamming start…..
So I go free up myself and I drink in my hand and say
Is di carnival in my vein
And di liquor hitting my brain
It’s a feeling I can’t explain, and it driving me all insane
And I ain’t taking no blame, no blame, no blame……….. ♪♪♪♪

Only real carnival lovers would understand how I feel….

SO, what we thought would happen, happened

At a midday press conference yesterday we were informed that the blue party, Forsa Nobo, just picked up a new recruit, independent Member of Parliament, Marisol Tromp. This is what I wrote in November of last year: Member of Parliament, Marisol Tromp, who received 1,643 votes in 2013, is now sitting pretty as several political suitors have asked for her hand. Eventually, she will make a decision to join forces, if she picks blue, it will be for the good of the country. And I am forever grateful to her for voting against the refinery!

And this is what I wrote in November about Forsa Nobo, the blue party, which is still valid: Most people think it’s the best thing that happened to Aruba, because now with the former MinTour setting up a new party, he will be able to partner with Marisol for example, and become the alternative, forcing a coalition government, following the next elections. What this island needs is a change of government, and with a coalition, for as long as they get along, our resources will be better used. So thank you, Otmar Oduber, for shaking things up in that way. Blue is the new green.

And over the last weeks blue has been picking up steam: Recently Member of Parliament Andin Bikker, 3,047 votes in 2013, teamed up as #2, so Marisol becomes #3. Also a handful high-achieving female members of our community joined blue, they are Joselin Croes, Michella Steenvoorde-Lacle, and Jacqueline van Putten.

The whole thing was/is predictable, and keep in mind, Otmar Oduber’s 4,008 votes in 2013; the blue party will most probably secure 3 seats, maybe more, in November.

This morning, in a heated political discussion I was told not to underestimate yellow, we might even have a three party coalition, in the event that AVP fails to hold on to its voters, due to growing discontent over just about everything.

We should pay attention, and commit to casting ballots; otherwise we might be as perplexed as the USA over election results. In fact the situation is similar. Both choices, Forsa Nobo and AVP are greatly flawed, but if you vote Forsa Nobo, some much-needed change will take place.

I listened to Marisol speak at the press conference, she was passionate and issued a huge indictment against the MinPres and his fake façade of governing.

The trio, Otmar, Andin and Marisol have little in common, they have no shared ideology, but they all wish to govern. The opportunity presented itself, and politics as you know, often makes for strange bedfellows. Stay tuned.

Vacation ownership celebrates 40 years in Aruba

With the opening of the Aruba Beach Club forty years ago, the island was introduced to timeshare, which served us well, thanks to the concept’s unique ability to hug and hold guests for repeat-repeat visits.

Timeshare worked wonders for Aruba and helped fend off economic slumps and promotional dips. The island’s timeshare owners remained a constant in our economy, and we want to think it will go on forever.

But this year, perhaps for the first time, the resorts are reporting high occupancies, but less butts in beds, meaning that while the owners showed up for the annual fix, the density declined. The large Venezuelan families were missing, and perhaps the Millennials refused to go on winter vacations with their families, to the same place, for the umpteenth time.

ATSA, the Aruba Time Share Association, is paying attention to the shifts in the market, and is gearing up for an active year under the leadership of a new dynamic president.

ATSA was formed a few years ago when the timeshare resorts felt they were being taxed without representation. They seceded from AHATA; meaning withdrew from the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, and now maintains their own association, their own identity, while still collaborating with the industry as a whole.

Some hotels such as Divi Resorts and La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino maintain dual memberships, in both associations, and while AHATA is out there vocal and opinionated ATSA shies away from the limelight, but that is about to change.

The new board for 2017 includes a young-generation President, Ursell Arends, La Quinta; and some older, experienced foxes, Secretary Andy Osbourne, Paradise Beach Villas; Treasurer Freddy Albertus, Paradise Beach Villas; Board Members Jurgen van Schaijk, Amsterdam Manor and Erwin Noguera, Marriott Ocean Club, who just came on board when he volunteered to give some of his time to the association’s cause.

In the recent meeting the new president presented his members with a detailed strategic plan, aiming to ensure that ATSA remains the relevant, vibrant and sustainable voice of vacation ownership.

The association intends to grow its members’ base to include condos, residences and other developments; it also intends to maintain its position as a marketplace watchdog, supporting the highest standards and ethics in the vacation ownership industry.

In November, ATSA plans to host a Vacation Ownership conference, celebrating the achievements of the past 40 years and planning for the next 40, the conference will increase members’ engagement, raise industry awareness and improve communication with all stakeholders.

ATSA also plans to maintain involvement with international organization such as ARDA and CHTA, to benchmark and learn best practices from colleagues in the region.

As for Government Advocacy, ATSA will continue pushing for a reasonable Beach Policy and sound environmental practices and in general address the cost of doing business in Aruba with the government, discussing import duties, and the cost of electricity, among other subjects.

At the end of the ATSA board meeting, Joe Najjar, GM, La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino gave an informative presentation regarding the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund, financed by ATSA.

The TPEF money, spent at the discretion of the Ministry of Tourism, is derived from a tax levied on ATSA members. It amounts to millions, and should be spent on project DIRECTLY related to enhancement, trash cans on the beaches, trash collection, the maintenance of swim zones, and many other valuable projects, no concerts, no conferences, no Carrubian Festival!

At the end of the meeting ATSA members received the good news that Marietta Ras, an hotelier with an accounting background was recently appointed the MinTour’s senior advisor. ATSA welcomed the news warmly, as Marietta certainly knows the inside workings of the industry, and could apply the teachings of her rich experience in her new position.

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February 25, 2017
Rona Coster