Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, January 18th, 2016

WHERE TO GO FOR WHAT WHEN GETTING MARRIED ON THE ISLAND.

 FLOWERS FIT FOR ROYALTY. In the process of shooting the wedding edition for Island Temptations Magazine we were looking for a florist for wedding bouquets. Only one name came up in conversations with local wedding planners: Shar’s Flowers, in Tanki Leendert. So I called and talked to Sharon, a super friendly person and on the designated day, Saturday, went to pick up my order. Wow. Shar’s Flowers operates out of Sharon & Reggie Chatram’s home, and when I got there they had their two grown kids, a number of neighbors, and friends, all working on these humongous flower arrangements for a wedding at the Ritz Carlton. They were incredible pieces, all white long stem phalaenopsis orchids and white Hydrangea, with pale pink roses, heaped, and I mean heaped, as center pieces, for the beach ceremony and the later party. There were hundreds of orchids, shipped from the Netherlands, ready to cascade over the wedding arch and many dozens baby roses braided into hair wreaths for bridesmaids. Most importantly, a wedding bouquet to end all wedding bouquets with even more orchids and roses. Impressive. Sharon says she started her flower shop in 2005, but she has been working with flowers for 26 years. She recruits friends and family members on rush days, and they all work together, surrounded by blooming beauties. Her secret? She goes the extra mile, and she really cares about her clients. Not surprisingly later in the week with met Sharon & Reggie at the Ritz Carlton and at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean where the message became even clearer, Shar’s Florists are the florists of choice of our hotels, and there’s a good reason for that. [email protected], also amazing website with great pictures, so you can see for yourself, http://sharsflowers.com

HORSE & CARRIAGE. The Kathy & Yhmil Muyal,[email protected], operate the horse and buggy rides at Paseo Herencia. This is a family business and I have known the patriarch Camilo, even before he used to operate the horse and buggy rides around the Seaport Marketplace. Now it’s the younger generation’s turn. Kathy and Yhmil are not part of an established ranch, they only do the nightly horse drawn carriage rides on Palm Beach. For our wedding photo-shoot we had a choice of white or red interiors for our romantic carriage, and we picked red, so our bride popped in the pictures against the backdrop. The Muyales showed up on time, in town, with a super friendly and well behaved white horse by the name of Emperor, nicknamed Party Boy because of his frequent party invitations to weddings and children’s events. Emperor accepted an apple from me and proceeded to bite little bits off, and leisurely chew the treat, as if he gets apples all the time. He does. says Kathy, the tourists are very generous and feed him nightly, and he prefers apples to chocolate. Kathy brother was the dapper coachman, with the equestrian hat. The pictures came out perfect!

WEDDING WARDROBE. We dressed our grooms at T.H. Palm & Company, street side at Playa Linda Beach Resort, in khaki and white pants, and long sleeve guayabera-like shirts. Just right for jumping the broom in the tropics. We also found a Bohemian chic, off the shoulder dress which we loved, and it might end up on our cover. More nontraditional bridal wear came from Loft, Palm Beach Plaza Mall. The store had a number of lovely short and long styles, appropriate for the memorable occasion. The more formal dresses came from Creation Aimee, in Ponton. Jewelry by Little Switzerland, all gorgeous and at a helpful price range.

THE RIGHT FOR SELF DETERMINATION IN MALMOK

The right to decide for yourself how you’re gonna live with no external compulsion or interference is an important principle in modern societies. Lucky for us, we live in Aruba where we always expect to enjoy personal independence and freedom, and the authority over our lives and live-styles. Except in Malmok, where the government apparently, in The right to decide for yourself how you’re gonna live with no external compulsion or interference is an important principle in modern societies. Lucky for us, we live in Aruba where we always expect to enjoy personal independence and freedom, and the authority over our lives and live-styles. Except in Malmok, where the government apparently, in some private internal meeting decided that this area would be perfect for the development of boutique hotels, operating restaurants and bars. But, and here’s the catch, they forgot to ask the neighbors for their opinions. Aren’t the neighbors who have been living in this lovely place for dozens of years entitled voice their opinion in the matter? How was the power of the people all of a sudden transferred to the government?

It’s a long story, but basically a new neighbor checked into the neighborhood and started building a very large “residence” on  L.G. Smith Blvd 526. I put it in parenthesis since the new comer aimed at building a hotel but was not transparent about it because she did not have the necessary permits. Three diligent volunteer neighbors then went to visit the land department, DOW & DIP, determined to find out what was happening but got the run around, basically they were told that the construction permit applied for was to build a new residence on that lot, and that that application was indeed granted for a residence in accordance with the purpose of the neighborhood. Then in early November, the neighbors first found out of the true nature of the construction when the property started advertising for Christmas parties and events, which resulted in the neighbors’ getting organized and taking the newcomer to court. The verdict of the court case is today, January 13th, expected at 8:20am. The judge froze all activities around the property until that time.

You should know that properties on the Malmok strip along the coast are long-leased land, residential, including the plot of L.G. Smith Blvd 526, just like the rest of the lots here. When .G. Smith Blvd 526, started advertising parties, installing a commercial gas tank, a mega trash bin and propping a huge exhaust on the roof it became clear that this “residence,” is no residence at all but a fully fledged hotel.  And that is when the neighborhood realized that L.G. Smith Blvd 526 had made a request to change the designation of the land. They were building, while applying for permits, with the reassurance that the MinInfra gave them a verbal permission, that’s it, a verbal permission, and his word apparently is the law, mi ta fix tur cos pa bo!

WHAT DO YOU THINK: Should their petition for a hotel and food & beverage facilities be accepted if the purpose of the zoning of the area is residential? This is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that a few years ago parliament designated large areas of the island for preservation and protection, including this exact strip in Malmok! The areas and its beaches were reserved for conservation, hang off, green zone here, by the parliament of Aruba.

Sure, over the years quite some residences have been converted into vacation rentals, tourists come and go, but the peaceful and calm nature of the neighborhood did not change, it remained an oasis of calm and recreation.

At the time in December the neighborhood was relieved when it heard that no hotel permit has been issued, and that the development relies on a verbal permission, yet over the holiday season on December 31st, Aruba’s Prime Minister visited the property and reportedly liked what he saw. I guess we all have to like what HE like, these days.

 

 WAIT UNTIL YOU READ THIS, AND YOU THOUGHT GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS ARE SLOW

Report from the neighborhood’s Legal Eagle, which proves that certain government departments here move with the speed of lightning, under the mi ta fix tur cos pa bo policy: Earlier Monday morning I went to the legal department of the Government (Directie Wetgeving en Juridische Zaken) to see the applications made as per the publications in the newspapers regarding a 50-gallon gas tank and hotel facilities in connection with the Nuisance Law (Hinderverordering). Below find a small recap of my findings:

Fire department (brandweer) 

The application dated July 16th, 2014 and was received by the minister of Health on January 8th, 2016. The fire department issued a positive recommendation to the minister of health for the placement of a 50 gallons gas tank on the Ocean Z premises. The conditions are:

The tank cannot exceed 50 gallons
It has to be outdoors
It can’t be within a 3 meters distance of any electrical installation or ignition installation
A copy of this recommendation to the minister was send to Ocean Z. This is explicitly not in accordance with government procedures and in my humble opinion even a violation of the confidentiality obligations of the fire department. This is the second time we have seen this happen between Fire department and Ocean Z.
No application was made for the pool although h the pool is also required to have a Hindervergunning
Technical department (Dienst Technische Inspectie)
This department issued a positive recommendation for the placement of a 50 gallons gas tank since the installation complies with their internal guidelines. The tank is to be located at the North-West part of the Ocean Z parcel of land. I was not able to see the exact location. My best guess is that the tank is or will be towards the front of the property and close to the Mrs. Lampe residence.
Concerned neighbors have 30 days to file objection against the installation of the gas tank and the pool (pump
Building permit (Bouwvergunning)
Part of the documentation was also a building permit for a “boutique hotel” of 1.379 m2, which was granted on December 30th, 2015 and applied for on September 22nd, 2015.
I noticed that the value of the construction was listed to be AWG. 20,000.— and not a multimillion dollar investment as claimed in court. I also saw that they paid Awg. 10,869.00 for the permit fees. I am not sure if the permit fees are tied to the construction amount. In any event, the value of AWG. 20,000.—seems severally deflated in comparison to their actual construction cost.
More information to follow.

THE COURT RULED IN FAVOR OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD

It was a historical decision in court today. The judge said all kinds of valuable stuff, you may check it out on line,  http://www.noticiacla.com/_images/content/vonnis_oceanz.pdf, but basically he sided with the Malmok neighborhood. The following is what one of the neighbors wrote:

I think it would be great if we can inspire, empower, and embolden other neighborhoods and individuals to take on business people and government officials who act outside the law with this message:

1) There are many business activities that go on in Aruba for which there are no permits.

2) Aruba is a country of laws.

3) We believe this is the first time that a group of citizens has fought the government and an unscrupulous entrepreneur to stand up for our rights and fight those who make a mockery of our laws. 4) We are very happy that the government and L.G. Smith 526 have been ordered by a judge to adhere to the law.

5) It is possible for citizens to win against the government when they organize and act intelligently!

Finally a quote that keeps coming up in neighborhood circles:  Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Preserva Malmok, that is the chosen name of the neighborhood association, now aims at extending its membership to adjoining neighborhoods such as Bakval, and Arashi, also including the homes around the salt pans, and focusing efforts on controlling the future of the neighborhood, that would include a say in what the extension of the Linear Park would look like, and how the beach chair rental and the Food & Beverage permits were granted.  A kiosk has already been built at Arashi, and the neighborhood would like to know who the operator is, and he’d better have the interests of the community at heart.

Basically the neighborhood would seek an overview of all existing permits in this area, and demand a say in future plans for exploitation and all related in-the-pipeline activities.  Government departments DIP & DOW were not impressed by sweet and polite approaches, but they had to listen when a law suit came along. Consequently, the neighborhood decided to become a legal entity, an association. Walk softly, but carry a big stick.

What will the future bring, now that changes were already made in the designation of the terrain, coinciding with the court forbidding it?! Stand by for more, soon.

NEW FLEA & TICK MEDICATION. An edible pill called NexGard was just made available by the makers of FrontLine, yes, a beef-flavored soft chew, that gives our friends-on-four protection for at least 30 days. I just tried it. Expensive, but if it really works, I am all for it, because we have been plagued by small ticks lately, and the conventional methods did not yield the expected results. The pill comes in several sizes according to your dog’s weight. NexGard is only for dogs, sorry, not for cats.

SATELLITE DISH RECYCLING. So, what are you planning to do with your unwanted satellite dish? The one you no longer use? Will you just let it rot away in the yard or on your roof? It‘s fiberglass, it is not going away. It will outlive you. Faced with the dilemma, I asked my handyman to take it down and then he suggested turning it into a saucer planter, for Magdalenas. I will show you a picture when it’s done. Satellite dishes became obsolete just recently, because I still used mine until last year, with some black box containing a mysterious chip, but then Netflix introduced a subscription service and I was off to a new adventure. Friends have been downloading movies for years, but I swore by my Galaxy 1, then Galaxy 5 with which I had a nightly relationship since 1983, when my first satellite dish arrived at the back yard. It was humongous. It was also illegal and for many years the US regularly sent federal investigators to Aruba to try and curb our appetite for American TV. It was a cat and mouse game at the time. Satellite dish companies cracked HBO’s codes, distributed them widely charging a handsome amount, then HBO fought back by arming their signal with a super-duper code, which was eventually cracked, and so it went on for over 30 years, with black boxes, chips and codes. It was a full time job to maintain the household’s passion for the Love Boat, Miami Vice and later the Larry Sanders show. So that’s where I am. The dish is now a planter!

GARI & WASABI, ARE OLD FAVORITES. On Sunday evening we attempted to have light dinner in PJs, meaning casual, at Bingo! Café in Noord. We couldn’t get in, the place was heaving, every chair occupied every table taken, as if they are dishing it out free of charge; the Dutch community was out in big numbers. So we went next door to Gari & Wasabi and enjoyed a fantastic seafood ceviche with octopus and a superb salmon tartar. I guess we were in the mood for seafood. Andrea welcomed us into the dining room, and made sure we’re having a great time. Gari & Wasabi has been around for a while, and I am glad we reconnected. We will stay in touch frequently!

FANTASTIC COOKIES AT FANTASTIC GARDENS. Carito’s Bakery opened sometimes in early December within the famed nursery in Bushiri. I stopped for a cappuccino there yesterday, remember I had the satellite-turned-into-planter project and I needed to pick up supplies. Once there I tasted the Blondies a relative of the Brownies. Wow. Hands down one of the best cookies I have ever had. Also the cream filled carrot cake cookie which was spectacular. The cayena cookie, and the pumpkin bread, both looked at me, but I did not look back. The sandwiches are made with artisanal milk bread, and they sell out fast, says Margaret Wever, who can be found at the café certain hours every week. A talented writer and a born newspaper reporter, Margaret is taking a break from the media, which has become very political, she says. She makes great coffee and the conversation is always interesting! Remember the little café where Pastries equal Happiness, on your next drive via Bushiri. #YoucraveitWebakeit

BETWEEN US, CHICKEN. Did the broiled chickens, Gallus gallus domesticus, just shrink in half or is it my imagination. The price stayed the same so how is it possible that a three-pound broiler is all of a sudden half its size? We should not eat broilers anyway, because they are bred for increased breast muscle, which means that their centre of gravity moves forward and that their breasts are broader compared with regular chicken, which affects the way they walk, and puts incredible stress on their hips and legs. Poor broilers. So perhaps Price Smart stopped using broilers for humanitarian reasons, and what I saw in the plastic box was just a plain backyard bird?

READY TO RETIRE? NO WAYJohn Grigg has been the Director of Food & Beverage at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino since 2004, in charge of popular eateries such as the Aquarius buffet and the L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House, among others. That’s longevity for you. Prior to the he worked at the Bucuti Beach Resort for almost five years, at the time when Tara beach Resort was being built. The man is a keeper. But he is ready to make career changes he says, relinquishing his position at F&B in favor of transitioning into the accounting department, into perhaps a tad less stressful post, where he will undertake different out of the box projects. Married to firecracker Glenny Grigg, she works at the Ritz Carlton Aruba, John doesn’t expect to slow down, he is just changing gears, he says!

DIVI INTRODUCED A NEW WING, WITH PARTY UNDER THE STARS

We enjoyed a beautiful poolside party at Divi last night, on the inaugural occasion of the new sixty rooms, graced by two pools, seamlessly incorporated into the existing resort. The rooms are a symphony of rich cream and coffee colors, with some teal accents. Both the minister of tourism and the CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority compared the feel of the accommodations to that of the Ritz Carlton Aruba, meaning stylish, contemporary and upscale. Managing Director Alex Nieuwmeyer elaborated on the green qualities of the building, green as in energy efficient, not as in political affiliation. Superbly insulated, featuring the latest in green technology the rooms will be as close to NZE as possible on the island, among the first net zero energy buildings. We loved the champagne and Mexican hors d’oeuvres, under the silvery moon. Mexican?  In honor of Pure Lime, the resort’s new Mexican restaurant, with everything from decor to menu and kitchen engineering by Alex and his in-house team.

Here are some of Alex’s welcome remarks, all worth reading: Minister Otmar Oduber, Members of Parliament, Mrs. Ronella Tjin Asjoe Director of Aruba Tourism Authority, Mr Jim Hepple, President of AHATA and dear guests:

Welcome to our Divi showcase including a new front entrance, a refreshed lobby, a new Mexican restaurant with authentic Mexican fare presented by our chef Lissette, and most importantly 60 additional luxury rooms supported by two new pools.

Thank you for joining us at the opening ceremony which will be executed by the honorable Minister of Tourism, Otmar Oduber.

Following a trend set by the government, the building behind me is truly green.  Environmentally green. Built with a Canadian system using Nudura Styrofoam blocks filled with cement and rebar. The new wing was completed in seven and a half months from start to finish. And the units are superbly insulated to keep cool air in and warm air out. The walls are cushioned with 5cm of foam on both side and 20cm cement and rebar in between, making them 30cm thick, reminiscent of the old cunucu house building style.  As they are so well insulated only a small 9,000BTU air-conditioning unit keeps the room cool and the electric consumption low. As a matter of fact once we finish our 100KW solar installation next month, according to our TU Delft educated Aruban Energy Manager, Javier St Jago, this addition will be energy consumption neutral.

Besides solar power, we have solar water heaters, sun reflecting sliding doors and naturally, LED lighting. The time of crawling under the nightstand to find a plug for your Iphone is over, as well.  Each room has 5 USB ports, 2 next to the bed and 3 on the desk along with receptacles which take British, European and American plugs. (The crowd of invitees broke into applause right here!)

Divi Resorts is not only about quantity with its 1,300 rooms, 14 restaurants and 12 bars, but more about continuously looking to increase and upgrade the quality of product and services.  Divi is offering tourists a quality vacation experience in their rooms and at the food & beverage outlets, laced with genuine hospitality. Divi is also a quality experience as far as the work environment is concerned, for all its employees.

Many employees have been with us for a long time and all are enjoying the quality journey we are taking together.

All our projects are executed directly by us at Divi Resorts. We do our own interior design for the restaurants including, painting the artwork – Alex is the painter of the artwork hanging in the restaurant –   and we do the interior design and furniture design of the rooms, and we build our projects with the help of many local companies.  The evening would not be complete without some thank-yous to all local companies who worked hard and helped us finalize the rooms in time.

Orlando Hoevertsz for the architecture which blends in nicely with the rest of the resort ; Leon Hamers for technical design; Andy Thijssen, of Otis elevators, for getting us the elevators in time; Frank Pronk, Protec, for  great air-conditioning installations; Aris Knikker, Robertson Fire protection for the  fire system we hope we’ll never use;  Gerald Perez of  Electra Spark who will turn on the lights tonight; Gerardo llontop for the labor contracts along with Assif Mohammed;  Miriam Croes, electrical installer who guided us through the work with Elmar, Nadim Seecharam, with Eagle roofing, our pool man Glenn Renfrum, of Morningstar and then our own building superintendent Rohan Seawhar, supervisors Alim, Nardat and Shaffeek who have already worked with Divi for over 20 years and have pretty much executed every project within the resort.

Of course nothing would have worked without our General Manager Marin Bijl who headed up the project along with the many other departments heads and project assistant, Erasmus university educated Aruban Lydianne Croes. Such a large group to thank for their tremendous effort and dedication to this project!  And now it is time to show you what we did, welcome to the new wing, welcome to Divi.

ATSA celebrates the New Year

Traditionally, members of the Aruba Time Share Association get together in the New Year for a social affair, which Andy Osborne, the current President of the association aptly described as: A wonderful evening of laughter and camaraderie! Jan Van Nes organized the get-together at the Old Man & the Sea, in Savaneta last night and association members showed up with their spouses for cocktails and dinner, and a tour of the spectacular beach side location.

You should know that the island is blessed with two hotel associations, AHATA, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, representing 4,848 rooms, and ATSA, the Aruba Time Share Association, representing 4,700 rooms, both associations are active and viable. AHATA, however is louder, and keeps a higher profile, as the organization’s CEO is the chosen one, attending meetings with the government, the chamber of commerce and the industry & trade associations, lobbying and networking on behalf of the hotels. ATSA is a more introvert organization naturally, timeshare travelers, – god bless every one of them by virtue of being loyal to Aruba, year in and year out – are perhaps an older and more settled demographic which knows the island very well, while transient guests, many of them first-timers, staying at the AHATA hotels, are a trendier, younger, more stressed out and extrovert clientele. Fact is, the equally important associations are different in temperament, and deal with different issues. Did you know that some ATSA members are also AHATA members? For example La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino and Divi Resorts, belong to both organizations, paying double dues, hosting both timeshare and transient guests.

During dinner, Osborne, sporting an elegant long-sleeved shirt imprinted with a weed of wisdom floral motif, thanked ATSA members for their many contributions and outlined the association’s wish list for the coming year including stepped up collaboration with the local hospitality schools, such as EPB, and the University of Aruba, and more contact with the Aruba Tourism Authority and its sister association AHATA. He promised to also explore the possibility of active inclusion in ARDA, a trade association representing vacation ownership and resort development industries in the Caribbean, so that ATSA could become involved and informed regionally.

We enjoyed the company of Andy Osborne & Freddy Albertus, Paradise Beach Villas, Ursel Arends, La Quinta, Bettina Gonzelez, Marriott Vacation Club,Luigi Heredia, Costa Linda, Farida Mansur, Aruba Beach Club, Astrid Muller, Caribbean Palm Village Resort, Erwin Noguera, Marriott Surf Club, publisher Tina Bislick and Jan Van Nes, Blue Residence, with partners or spouses, and missed those who couldn’t make it.

The Old Man & The Sea is no longer operating as a restaurant. It is open however for special events and group functions. Owner Osyth Henriquez is presently completing five cabanas in the spectacular beach side setting. The cabanas with glass walls under thatched roofs are very tastefully decorated, and can be rented for a Bohemian chic, barefoot beach vacation, with elegant toilets and showers under the stars. The setting inspired Osborne to become poetic: It’s a beautiful spot. It’s simple – and made us remember that some of the most beautiful things are incredibly simple by nature – and just to be barefoot with sand between our toes is another reminder of simplicity and relaxation at its best … something we often forget to do as we get caught up with the fast pace of our careers and family obligations etc. Sometimes we just need to take some time for ourselves and enjoy the simple things of life. AMEN.

 

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January 17, 2016
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster