Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, July 24th, 2016

We proudly read online that several restaurants got the Wine Spectator Award 2016, for their wine lists. A few new ones: El Gaucho Argentine Steakhouse, Flying Fishbone, Screaming Eagle and Wilhelmina; A number of old members:  L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House, Texas de Brazil, Aqua Grille, and Papiamento Restaurant. Papiamento Restaurant & Aqua Grille deserve special recognition for sticking with the program for many years.  The award is subject for renewal annually, so it’s not small feat.

The restaurants will all be included in the August issue of Wine Spectator magazine; which is something to be proud of!

Here’s the complete list:

El Gaucho Argentine Grill — Wilheminastraat 80, Oranjestad, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$, with wines from Argentina, Chile, California

Argentine Steakhouse Cuisine $$$

Wine Spectator Award Since 2016

*

Wilhelmina Restaurant — Wilhelminastraat 74, Oranjestad, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$

International Cuisine and wine list $$$

Wine Spectator Award, Since 2016

*

L.G. Smith’s Steak & Chop House — L.G. Smith Blvd. 82, Oranjestad, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$, with wines from California, France, Italy

Steakhouse Cuisine $$$

Wine Spectator Award Since 2014

*

Papiamento Restaurant — Washington 61, Noord, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$ with California wines

Caribbean Cuisine $$$

Wine Spectator Award Caribbean, Since 2011

*

Flying Fishbone — Savaneta 344, Savaneta, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$ with wines from California

American, Contemporary & Regional Cuisine $$$

Wine Spectator Award Since 2016

*

Aqua Grill — J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 374, Palm Beach, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$ with California wines

International Cuisine, Seafood $$$

Wine Spectator Award Since 2009

*

Texas de Brazil— J.E. Irausquin Blvd. 382, Noord, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$ with International wines

Brazilian, Steakhouse Cuisine $$$

Wine Spectator Award Since 2015

*

Screaming Eagle Restaurant — 228 J.E. Irausquin Blvd., Oranjestad, Aruba

Wine Strengths $$$ with International and California wines

Contemporary, French Cuisine $$$

Wine Spectator Award Since 2015

 

The underbelly and the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity

I recently read an Alain de Botton opinion which was sent to me by a friend for my reading pleasure. Alain de Botton is the author of the novel “The Course of Love,” and an excellent writer/thinker.

In his opinion “Why we marry the wrong person,” Botton praised the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity and he also said that we should get used to other people’s craziness, learning to accommodate their “wrongness,” striving to always adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kind perspective of ourselves and others.

It sounds to me like a perfect recipe for success in personal relationships, and it also sounds like good advice when it comes to other people’s vices, and what my fellow columnist Arien Rasmijn of Den Cayente calls the Underbelly.  http://dencayente.net/2016/07/17/onderbuik/

Rasmijn defines the Underbelly/Onderbuik as: Drugs, corruption, black money, weapons, illegal prostitution, the abuse of women and children, things that belong in the dark, often associated with violence and sex, which somehow escape law enforcement and control, and make up the Dark Side of Humanity.

When I read de Botton’s opinion, it resonated with me, especially when I reviewed last week’s newspapers. I was away, and in my absence you enjoyed a few juicy scandals, befitting any British or American supermarket tabloids. The episode which stood out was the one involving a respectable member of our community who collided with, let’s call her a Call Girl, at a sleazy bar, resulting in a sensational stabbing in a massage parlor and a tragic death.

The Police gave us the usual biased, xenophobic info. It was a Chinese prostitute they said, which immediately connected with all our preconceived notions and prejudices. In general, it is a demeaning and shameful practice, to call a person by his/her nationality, because we then instantly stereotype and dehumanize him/her. Chinese?  She must eat everything that moves, and she doesn’t understand a word of English, probably a crazy foreigner with a mean streak. Prostitute? Definitely a fallen woman and a dope addict. So you see we already judged her before being investigated by virtue of her profession and nationality, as reported by the Police.

But that’s not all I want to say. I want to advocate compassion because people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. We all have our demons, and we cope with our feelings of loneliness and emptiness differently.  Don Quixote, blinded by love, calls a simple farm girl Dolcinea, and treats her like royalty.  Sure, he lost him mind a bit, but it was his way of adding excitement to his life, and dealing with his frustrations and disappointments. I think we are all entitled to our demons! We cannot always help ourselves. We act out, and in the spirit of “If you’re sleeping with dogs, you wake up with fleas,” shit happens.  Shit hits the fan. These are just consequences, which have nothing to do with morality.

I grew up in a very forgiving era, and I continue to believe that we should be allowed to have an underbelly – I draw the line anything to do with children – we cannot all be politically correct and squeaky clean all the time, it’s just not realistic. We are sometimes dirty. This could have been a love story, and a crime of passion, and you already know that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

So I feel sorry for family members and friends who are dealing with the aftermath, but you are not alone, we all have skeletons in the closet, and whatever it was, dad never meant to harm of hurt you, he was just dealing with his own imperfections.

Incidentally, in Britain, France or Italy, the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky story would have been the Talk of the Town for two days, in the USA the scandal went on and on for years.

To conclude, the British, French and Italian have the right attitude about sex scandals, they shrug them off as foibles, the weaknesses of human existence. So as Alain de Botton recommended, we should get used to other people’s craziness, learning to accommodate their “wrongness,” and strive to always adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kind perspective of ourselves and others.

Read below, some historic scandals: http://content.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1721111_1721210_1906894,00.html#

CitizenM hotel, affordable luxury for international travelers

I stayed for just one night at CitizenM hotel at Schipol airport, and I really must tell you about it.

I arrived in Amsterdam in the early evening hours and rolled my suitcase across the road from Arrivals, walking under a covered walkway. I heard about CitizenM Hotel from our good friend Angelica Vleeming Munoz on one of her recent visits to Aruba. She works for that super cool hotel chain, which runs stylish properties at key destinations, Amsterdam, New York and London, and since I just had one night in between flights, I made a reservation on line.

I promise you, it will be the coolest hotel you ever stay at, if you go for the experience, on your next transcontinental trip. The self-service check in took two seconds. The check in island computer programmed my key; all I had to do is fill in my name, then the handsome room key with my name on it, will double up as a luggage tag for the rest of my life.

The all white room is outfitted with a giant memory foam super king size bed, with nice sheets, which takes up the whole width of the space, under a huge window, overlooking the airport apron and runway. You may watch the action all night or draw the shades at a command from the room mood pad, which controls the music, the movies and the light. Including the color of the light, hence mood! I drew the shades and made the outside world disappear.

The room shower is married to the toilet in an enclosed all-white cocoon with a Hansgrohe giant rain shower head, wow.  Best of all, the room had plenty of European and American style outlets, clustered at the desk for my phone, tablet, and ipad, I did not have to crawl under the sofa to plug anything in.

So basically CitizenM Hotel offered a great location, and all the luxury I wanted without expensive extras: Great shower, big bed, fluffy towels, free films, free WIFI, artwork on the walls, at a totally reasonable price.

Downstairs, the heart of the lobby featured the compact 24 hour CanteenM with comfort food, anything from French Champaign to Italian Espresso, pastries and eggs in the morning, sushi and sandwiches for lunch, hot entrees and soups in the evening. You may enjoy your meal at a community table or pick a spot anywhere in the friendly lobby space. There is a lot of lounging-sitting space with furniture by Vitra, a very artistic yet comfortable brand.  You know I picked the community table and proceeded to interview all fellow travelers extensively, also telling them about, Aruba, of course.

They also make craft cocktails with crazy names at CanteenM, 24/7. That was fun. The 11am check out took two seconds. I will be back!!

About Oil Rigs and Dutch Mussels

It’s not an oil rig, it’s an accommodation platform. I was asked a number of times this week about what looks like an oil rig platform bobbing on the horizon, so I called Carlyle de Coteau who is in charge of that government department whose name I cannot pronounce, and whose job it is to attract shipping companies to Aruba, as a new business opportunity.

It’s not an oil rig, he said, it is a support vessel, the SSV SAFE REGENCY, under a Singapore flag, built in 1982 to support off shore oil operations, it’s a hotel, an accommodation platform with 780 beds, restaurants and recreation facilities including gyms, and movie theaters. The platform also boasts 88 workstations, together with an impressive crane capacity, it is designed to provide ideal offshore support for construction, or remedial work.

Carlyle also explained that the SSV Safe Regency has a sophisticated mooring system, because it is usually parked in the vicinity of oil fields, mid-ocean, providing accommodations to oil workers.

However, as you know the oil world is idle, prices are down, no one is digging, so the equipment is unemployed. Carlyle reports that for a fee, going into government coffers, Aruba now provides safe parking and services such as water, fuel, removal of trash to unemployed ships, and the latest SSV SAFE REGAENCY just joined the fun in the sun, paying about one quarter of a million for Aruban hospitality.

The platform was moored at a distance, and in principle is capable of maintaining position in the harshest of environments but it had to be moved recently because of strong winds/currents. They are looking to reinforce the famous mooring cables to withstand some more draft and send her out again so she doesn’t ruin any sunset pictures, anymore!!

Zeeuwse Mosselen

It takes ten minutes to cook drunken mussels, and about the equal amount of time to enjoy them with assorted sauces and French fries, the Belgian way, at Papillon Restaurant.

You might not know, but it is mussels’ season, and Papillon restaurant started serving “Zeeuwse Mosselen,” on July 7th, for the duration of two month.

Restaurant Manager Tina van Mal says that since opening, Papillon has always been the first restaurant on the island to serve mussels steamed with Belgium beer or wine. Mussels are flown in directly from Holland and they arrive here every Thursday with KLM, as fresh as they can be, live, and ready to be steamed with butter, garlic, lemon zest, celery, carrot, pepper flakes, and some extra secret yet simple ingredients! Papillon also flies famous “Fin de Clair” oysters from France, besides Dutch mussels, to be enjoyed with epicurean wine and champagne pairing.

If you steam mussels at home, don’t overcook them, they will be ready in just minutes, when the shells open, then you may dig in, use a whole mussel shell as mini tongs/ tweezers, to help you dig out the plump, juicy morsel from its shell, drowning in the wine or beer broth.

Regarding Eric Garcia (75) and Giro Bank in Curacao

I read in NoticiaCla that Venezuelan businessman Eric Garcia was arrested for: Malversa mas di 10 miyon dollar durante tratamento di un faillesement unda cu e tabata envolvi como un di e curatornan. Probablemente e lo a haci uzo di documentonan falsifica….

So I asked one of my learned friends to educate me, what did this seventy-five year old man do, to deserve going to jail, and I got the following impressive and entertaining dissertation, which I am sharing with you. It’s an excellent read.

Of course my dear Rona, it would be my pleasure to share my thoughts on this subject with you.

Let me start out by saying that I am not the banking and financial services guru, I’m just a ‘lay person’ who reads a lot!

There is a reason why it’s very difficult for just anybody to either get a new banking license or to take over an existing firm that is already a licensed, supervised and regulated institution. One of the main reasons is to ensure that bank owners and operators are totally honest and transparent individuals who will ensure that the monies that depositors entrust them with are handled and managed in a very careful, safe and judicious manner.

Historically we in the Dutch Caribbean do not have that good a track record when it comes to letting ‘locals’ own and operate banks, with maybe one or two exceptions (read: MCB/CMB Bank in ‘partnership’ with Canada’s Scotia Bank…). Case in point, Aruba Bank (the Eman Family…) and Interbank (the Mansur Family…). Experts will tell you that ‘Old School’ banking is a very boring and mundane business because in essence depositors place their monies with your bank in return for a relatively low rate of interest (say between 1-3%) and then the bank lends it out for mortgages and personal loans (for rates from between 6-12%).

However, those who happen to own and/or operate a bank might be tempted to engage in all sorts of shenanigans because you are effectively sitting on a huge pile of cash that a great many individuals would like to get their hands on. So, legend has it that in the case of Aruba Bank and later also Interbank, ‘unscrupulous owners and managers’ would green light mortgages and personal loans for people (‘Friends & Family…’) who had absolutely no intention of ever paying this money back in return for some under the table gifts.

Now, in our jurisdiction it is the Central Bank prudential regulators who are the supervisors of financial institutions but as we have seen with the examples I have given above they usually find out that the proverbial feces have hit the fan when the damage is already done. In such case the regulator has to step in and take over management of the failing bank in question and hope to salvage depositors’ money. In the case of Aruba Bank a Dutch group called Orco Bank came in and took over the bank from the Eman Family.

But in the case of Interbank, the Central Bank and the politicians did something that in my opinion was totally disgraceful and unacceptable! Once more this particular aspect is something that professionals knows a lot more about than I do, so hopefully you will forgive me if my take is not 100% right. When a bank gets in trouble and the regulators must step in, the first thing they usually do is make an assessment of the entire Assets’ that the bank has on its books (i.e., mortgages, loans, credit cards etc.). They then divide these ‘Assets’ into roughly two separate groups; performing (i.e., ‘good’) loans, and non-performing (i.e., ‘bad’) loans. After this assessment has been completed the regulator will bundle the good loans in one group and the bad loans in another, creating what is called in banking vernacular a ‘Good Bank’ and a ‘Bad Bank.’

The good bank is usually not a big problem because other local financial institutions are usually willing and able to purchase these ‘Assets.’ However, the bad bank as Shakespeare once so aptly said; ‘is where the rub lies.’ In the case of Interbank the government of Aruba at the time had a huge problem on its hand because elections were coming up and unless they could find a way to ‘get rid’ of Interbank’s bad bank it could really blow up in everybody’s face because the prudential regulator (i.e., the Central Bank…) had failed miserably in exercising its supervisory role over many years. So, the AVP geniuses came up with the bright idea of dumping the Interbank’s bad bank right in the lap of social house building association FCCA.

Whilst it sounded like a good idea at the time, in essence it was all a trick in order to have FCCA absorb all of the bad bank’s losses so that the Central Bank (i.e., the Government of Aruba…) would not take any political hits over this disgraceful affair. When it was all said and done FCCA’s equity was depleted by almost 100 million florins, which is money that could have been spent much more productively building social housing for people in need. And nobody went to jail over any of this….

I hope you will forgive my long-winded answer to what was a rather basic question you asked about Eric Garcia and Giro Bank in Curaçao, but the Aruban example is quite instructive in that case also. Giro Bank basically got into trouble just like Aruba Bank and Interbank did a few years ago, so the Central Bank of Curaçao cleaned it up as best as they could and after this they sold the remainder to Eric Garcia and an investor group from Venezuela. Lo and behold, after just a few short years some of the same ‘shenanigans’ that I have illustrated above started to occur in Curaçao with the new Giro Bank too. So finally last year the Central Bank was forced to step in yet again because things were really getting out of hand and the bank had basically become insolvent (i.e., the Curaçao Central Bank regulators failed yet again in their supervisory role…).

However, like I mentioned before ‘usually’ when people in the Dutch Caribbean loot banks nobody goes to jail because that would create a problem for the regulator since it would highlight its failings in a potential criminal court case. But in Eric Garcia’s case they decided to go after him anyhow because in the first place he is not a native, he is Venezuelan, and in the second place he made an enemy out of the President of the Curaçao Central Bank, Emsley Tromp by starting a public and private defamation campaign against him (that was probably his Cardinal Sin….).

I hope that my little essay sheds some light on all of these twisted affairs in our financial and political system!

The more it changes…. The more it stays the same!

  1. When I say a bank’s ‘owners,’ I’m referring to the investors who put up some equity in order to purchase the shares of the bank (like Eric Garcia et al…).

The big money, of course, is not ‘owned’ by the shareholders of the bank but by the depositors.

And when it all goes to kaka, then the most the bank owners can lose is the equity that they put up, the government usually covers the losses of the depositors through some type of deposit insurance program or by making everybody whole in order to keep the financial system from blowing up altogether (too big to fail…).

Last comment from another friendly source: We understand that Giro Bank is being sold again to another set of Venezuelan investors. At this point in time, it is hard to imagine who in their right mind would agree to sell a local bank to ‘Venezuelan investors,’ anyhow. Aren’t regulators supposed to look at suitability, experience, management and source of strength (financial resources) when considering a change of control over a banking institution? If buyers do not meet these requirements the regulators are suppose to turn them down, unless the investors you the regulators a new condo on Brickell Ave in Miami, of course. But that could land you in Jail, in the US.

Gold Origin at the Gold Coast Clubhouse

At the opening of the Gold Coast Residence new clubhouse last week – it was a good party orchestrated by Toine and a crew sound, light and music people – a piece of public art was unveiled, Gold Origin, by local artist Gilbert Senchi.

Gilbert is as expected a colorful personality, but we forgive all his quirks, the bad curtain hair in particular, because the man is talented and driven. And these days he is more organized, within a public art foundation, ARTopia, with Mirla Passchier and Eduard Ellis in charge of structure and on-time delivery. Proof? Developer Fito Croes who commissioned the artwork reports a smooth creative process.

Gilbert originally decided to follow International Finance & Economics, in the USA, I believe, and later completed a law degree, perhaps in Aruba. There is very little on line about him, except the materials I produced over the years. His most famous success/failure was a roof top restaurant in his native San Nicholas which I loved, with recycled furniture and a Latin grill. He also opened another roof top night club in Chocolate City where the furniture was fit for a king. Dutch monarch Willem Alexander once placed his royal arse on that furniture cleverly made from deconstructed wheel hubs, joints, shafts and bearings!  Gilbert opened galleries left, right and center, San Nicholas, Oranjestad, in collaboration with other local artists but then his original calling, tugged at his heart strings, and he became a full time sculptor. His work may be found today in several private and public spaces. He lists Aruba, Germany, the UK and Colombia on his improvised resume.

Just to refresh your memory about Aruba: His steel sculpture Victory was presented to His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco during the opening of The Links at Divi Aruba; then a red hot Spear, forged strong from battling the elements, also a steel sculpture, was installed in the lobby of the Divi Divi. It was part of Gilbert’s Aruba Heritage Series. I never saw the other pieces. Most recently, in 2013, Gilbert was the artist behind the Monument for the Fisherman Lost at Sea, on the waterfront adjacent to Wilhelmina Park. His work is also on display in public areas in Colombia where he produced impressive, large scale monuments.

I heard through the grapevine that within a few weeks/months there will be another reveal in San Nicholas where the government commissioned Lolita, a bronze piece paying homage to the hardworking female street vendors, pushing carts with boiled peanuts and lottery tickets, struggling to raise kids and make a living at the same time, tough as nails, and determined. So Gilbert will be revealing Lolita soon, based on a real San Nicholas resident, which according to Mirla is a secret, but you know there are no secrets in Aruba.

Side remark: At home, we used to call these Caribbean merchant ladies burdened with threatening-to-explode bags, Madame Sarah. I think that term came from Haiti.

ABOUT GOLDEN ORIGIN: Golden Origin, the sculpture unveiled at the Gold Coast clubhouse was commissioned by the residence and was produced by ARTopia Foundation for Public Arts, designed and executed by sculptor Gilbert Senchi.

He was inspired, he says, to create a Queen Conch shell for the entrance of the clubhouse because the shell was abundant in the Malmok area, as a favorite food item on the menu of the neighborhood’s indigenous population.  It sustained the Malmok Indians, and was found as a fossil, in many of Malmok’s archeological excavations. Thus, Gilbert’s artistic interpretation of Golden Origin relies on the island’s historical past. The work is two meters tall and cast in bronze, the top of the shell demonstrates four “arms” pointing to the four coordinates of the compass, embracing all people  from four corners of the world.  Water flows from the top of the shell, and the light bursting from the inside; represent the volcanic lava, which originally created the island, during a pre-historic eruption. The sculpture is 1.8m high x 1.5m wide x 1.5m in diameter and it weights 450 kg, with an old gold patina applied on bronze, hinting at Aruba’s gold rush days.

For those interested in the artistic process the work was first made in clay, as a real life-size model, then it was cast as a negative mold with plaster and filled in with wax, before heading to the foundry for the final bronze casting process.  Origin di Oro or Golden Origin references much of Aruba’s past in its design, yet its esthetics lends a contemporary and friendly welcome to the new clubhouse.

Gilbert originally fought to have his giant queen conch installed as a center piece of the Ritz Carlton/Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino roundabout, it was designed as an interactive sculpture which visitors could touch and sit on, but fear that it could become a traffic hazard aborted the plan.

Gilbert defines his mission as: “Identifying,  rescuing  &  dignifying  the  ancient  signs  of  the  land through the  art, resulting in a  good flow  of energy, in people and places.”

Golden Origin, was commissioned  by  Gold  Coast  Aruba  and  produced  by  ARTopia  a Foundation for Public Arts.

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July 24, 2016
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
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster