Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, March 12th, 2017

What’s in a piece of paper? Hope. Recovery.

When urged to excel, finish school, graduate successfully with a framed diploma on the wall, I remember asking, what’s in the piece of paper, that’s so important?!

While debating the merit of school, I did what I was told, finished school and graduated successful. I never framed the diploma, but it delivered all that it was said to deliver, career opportunities and personal growth.

This week the International School of Aruba together with the Ministry of Education announce a GED program, starting in August 2017.  The launch of the GED, General Educational Development, delivers hope for those whose education was interrupted, who are now adults in need of a diploma. The GED offers recovery providing candidates demonstrate competency in four areas: English, Math, Science and History. Plan B is also available in the form of English Proficiency classes, so candidates with limited English skills can work on that challenge, prior to  enrollment. Applications for the new much-needed program will be reviewed starting April 1st, 2017.

Following a successful information night for the GED Program at the International School of Aruba last week, headmaster Dennis Willeford reports he already has about 75 candidates identified. That’s terrific news.

“We have been searching for alternatives for students who have gone through traditional education pathways, maybe even tried second chance education, but still come up short,” says the Minister of Education, “As you know our local Dutch system is not for everyone. So creating diversity, is the key for more successful graduations,” she adds.

As it turned out, the ISA approached the Ministry, with plans of offering GED, and consequently received the Ministry’s enthusiastic support for the project. “ We think this is a solid alternative; GED is recognized in many countries, including Aruba, and it creates a direct track for both higher education and improved employment opportunities,” the Minister concludes.

The ISA, with a campus in the neighborhood across the airport,  has been providing quality education in Aruba for over 85 years. It started in the early LAGO days and was designed to educate the ex-pat kids in the colony. The primary language of instruction has always been English. Nowadays, the ISA is affiliated with the International School System, ISS, a global network of learning institutions, and enjoys an established relationship with the Office of Overseas Schools – a branch of the US State Department.

Both ISA and ISS are excited to branch out into adult education through this partnership with the Ministry of Education in Aruba.

For many of Aruba’s adults, school ends with a MAVO certificate, which doesn’t meet enrollment requirements in any US or Canadian colleges.  The GED offers those interested in continuing their education a chance to earn high school equivalent credentials – that would usher them into junior colleges in the US and some Canadian programs.  This certification will also enhance options for employment if staying in Aruba, and facilitate the pursuit of better careers.  From technical trades to business, the options will be improved with a GED diploma, and English Proficiency, will also help open doors on the island.

The program entails a number of formal hours at school, twice weekly, over a full semester. A weekly LAB is offered with additional help in all subjects. You may study at your own pace, and then take the final exam. There is a small charge for the exam, the rest is available free of charge, paid for by the Ministry of Education.

Some parliamentary midgets fired criticism at the initiative, but it was politically motivated. They fussed at the fact that a private school will be receiving public funds for the new GED program. But in reality, ISA & GED are a perfect match, and many young adults who speak English at home, and encounter difficulties learning in the local Dutch system, will be helped with the new option.

It is in the best interest of the island to help more students graduate.

Wikipedia says that a purge is the removal of people who are considered undesirable by those in power

We expected a purge, but it took a while to actually happen, because it is easy to dismiss, but difficult to replace people such as Jossy Lacle, and Myrna Jansen working Pro Deo as Board Members, so no financial interests there.

I am talking about the ATA board.

It was originally composed of three private-sector and three public-sector members with an unbiased, independent outsider as the chairperson.

AHATA withdrew the private-sector members last year, as a form of protest against the former MinTour. Then the new MinTour dismissed the other three last week, by sending them a letter.

A letter.

After 6 years of service, your participation is no longer required, thank you.

We poled some movers and shakers for their opinions and found the following consensus that ATA’s best interest, read Aruba’s best interest, would be to keep the current members of the ATA board and fill in the AHATA seats to complete seven, because after all we are in transition, until the elections in September.

Or, at least keep a couple of members, perhaps Myrna Jansen with invaluable general tourism expertise as director, and Jossy Lacle as a chairperson with vast organizational expertise, in order to ensure a smooth transition.

On the downside, starting with 7 new board members from scratch means a steeper learning curve, less efficiency, which could be harmful for ATA and the island’s tourism.

After the elections in September a new, but more permanent MinTour will be appointed, and he / she might want to change the three public-sector appointees again.

So it would have made more sense to just add AHATA’s 3 members to the Board, now, and let the future MinTour, appointed in September, change the public-sector members if necessary. It just seems redundant to have two Board changes in just one year.

Or does the current MinTour think he will continue to hold on to the portfolio?

On a more personal level, the people I spoke to were ok with the changes. They anticipated the ax, and expected all incumbent members to be dismissed.

I am not sure what happened at the airport, I heard at first that Board Members were dismissed, then the story changed. They were retained. The airport has stayed at arm’s length from politics. It went well under the previous MinTour, and will hopefully continue that way with the current one.

Bottom line: Our general interest must prevail, because Tourism is everybody’s business on the island.

Gelato & Co. now open at the Marriott

A tall, skinny Italian ice-cream-maker from Bologna, with dimples and blue eyes, just helped open a charming Gelateria at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, right in the lobby.

I love his life. He has recently launched successful franchises of Gelato & Co. in Panama, Cayman Island and Puerto Rico, and will stick around the Marriott in Aruba for about 8 weeks, until every one of the resort’s culinary brigade members is a certified Italian gelato maker. He says they are all good students, destined for gelato greatness.

The new Gelato & Co. welcomes patrons to a retro style ice cream parlor, serving one of Life’s Simplest Pleasures, i.e., an array of icy temptations.

Ricardo explains that artisanal Gelato and Sorbet are created in small batches, fresh every day, in the gleaming kitchen behind the all-white parlor. Imagine, the ice cream and treats on display never saw the inside of a truck, or a freezer, or an industrial piece of machinery!

With more than 24 Gelato and Sorbet flavors, Ricardo makes everything from scratch using the finest ingredients, imported from Italy, with nothing artificial or pre-mixed. He also claims the secret to his trim figure is eating gelato every day. That’s the only statement he made which I did not believe.

I had a scoop of stracciatella, vanilla ice cream with crunchy chocolate chips. It was amazing. I will drop by next week to try pistachio, and coffee, the following week. Or maybe one of the frozen heart-shaped bars, they looked irresistible.

On a recent visit to the Eternal City, we knew we wanted to have gelato at least once. Afraid to ruin our girlish figures we agreed that when we finally succumb to temptation, it had to be an iconic, world famous gelato, from one of Rome’s indisputably historic, artigianale places, because there’s gelato and then there’s gelato, and we wanted to try the best.

On our last day, in the evening, five minute before nightfall we were faced with the realization we needed to have it now, or never. We research the issue furtively and identified Giolitti on Via Degli Uffici del Vicario #40, a store tucked away on a small street somewhere between Piazza Navona and Fontana di Trevi, i.e., Rome’ bellybutton.

The street was jam-packed with tasters and lickers when we arrived, the small ice cream parlor was heaving with gelato-crazed visitors, ten rows deep, we lined up for a ticket, cleansed our palates first with a delicious espresso, then had twenty seconds to decide which flavor we wanted when it was our turn in front of the gelato priest, at the altar. I think I picked stracciatella, or maybe pistachio or coffee. I don’t remember, I was rushed.

We retreated to the outside to enjoy our treat. Having delayed gratification for ten days, it was indeed an awesome experience.

But I swear to you, you can save the airline ticket. The gelato at the Marriott lobby is equally good.

Memorable Women’s Day Conference 2017, #BeBoldForChange

Where do I start??

The 6th annual Women’s Day Conference unfolded at the Renaissance Convention center. It was expertly organized by the team of Minister Michelle Hooyboer Winklaar, a full day of inspirational speakers, quality entertainment, lunch-in-a-box and a toast with some delicious bubbly at the end of the day.

The room was packed. It’s full every year, and every year I am amazed at meeting so many powerful and accomplished females who live on the island.

The conference was streamed live on Facebook and transmitted live on Magic 96.5FM so it became bigger than it was, permeating households and offices spreading the #BeBoldForChange gospel everywhere.

Mira Sorvino, an American Oscar winning actress was the keynote speaker focusing on human trafficking. As the former U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking, she had a lot of stories to tell, which made us think. With legalized prostitution on the island, Sorvino got the conversation going, about the oldest profession in the world being a choice of poor underprivileged women, or the result of coercion, constituting modern day slavery. Are the fresh-off-the-boat Chinese immigrants stocking the shelves in my neighborhood’s supermarket modern day slaves, or distant cousins saved from poverty and lack of opportunity in the Red Dragon?

We will continue to think about the issue.

Next the Minister herself presented an eloquent talk about her years in government announcing for the first time that she will be retiring from politics, after 8 years. She went on to describe her experience in a world where politics are dirty and politicians expected to have broad backs and thick skin. She challenged the audience to make space in politics which allows women to lead like women, to exercise their female brand of leadership with kindness and compassion, creating the antidote to the aggressive and cruel style of male-dominated government. She went on to advocate an innately strong leadership style that is emotionally intelligent, not just tough.

In a room filled with her supporters, the minister’s presentation was very well received.

A big box of Kleenex was needed thereafter, as every speaker recounting her personal story moved the entire room to tears.

It was a first. I have never heard such honesty and openness in a public forum in Aruba. Yes, from overseas guests. But from our own people? Never. We have a tendency to coat everything in sugar, sprinkle it with glitter and feathers and go on parade, it’s Carnival time, and you only live once!

To date, I have never experienced the naked truth discussed in public, here, except in AA meetings, which is self-understood.

The International Women’s Day conference, 2017, was powerful.

It was incredibly moving and good for the soul.

Recovery from depression, recovery from sexual assault, breaking through the glass ceiling, recovery from breast cancer, overcoming insurmountable obstacles as an immigrant, rebounding from domestic abuse, wow, the list goes on, the women who shared their journeys were eloquent and passionate. Shared pain is half the pain, shared joy is a double dose.

We were also treated to a poetic short film, by activist Yakari Gabriel, and lovely music with Lucre Houtman and Martin Buitenweg.

True to its goal, the #BeBoldForChange International Women’s day conference made an impact.

Mon Guerlain launched by Maggy’s

I fell in love with a fragrance the-day-before-yesterday, when Maggy’s hosted the launch of Mon Guerlain at its store at Paseo Herencia.

I have emotional ties with the 200 years old House of Guerlain, because of my late mother in law, a proud French-Creole woman who believed that only the house of Guerlain, headquartered in Paris at the Champs Elysees, was worthy of her velvet skin and all her secret places, the rest she said was ‘for the birds.’

She talked about the legendary Jicky, L’Heure Bleue, and Chamade which I don’t think I ever sniffed, and bought me my first bottle of Samsara. I got L’Instant du Guerlain for myself, and in 2012 we were all crazy about La Petite Robe Noire in its various incarnations.

Shalimar? Everybody else wore Shalimar.

The first “nose” of the House of Guerlain was Jacques Guerlain, and he believed that he created fragrances for “the Women we admire.” So it is no wonder that the new Ambassador for Mon Guerlain is Angelina Jolie.

My petite companion at the Maggy’s launch, the house representative of Guerlain, whispered to me in French a most adorable explanation, why Jolie, the sexy goddess, the humanitarian, the mother, the actress and director was picked to represent the scent.

The small clip playing on the store’s TV was shot in Provence, at Jolie’s residence and it showcases her loveliness against vineyards and fields of lavender. The camera slowly glides over Jolie’s tattoos, as she applies another, this time invisible, tattoo, her new fragrance.

My petite companion said that Joile accepted the job of promoting the fragrance because of her emotional ties with Meteorites powder by Guerlain, worn by her mom, years ago, when he was a child.

The fragrance was created by a fifth generation ‘nose’ and it mixes notes of vanilla, lavender, sandalwood and Jasmin, so it is feminine and sensual, and powdery and warm, and many more adjectives the script-writers come up with, bottom line: Delicious.

And the name Mon Guerlain implies that we all wear it differently, it smells differently on each and every one wearing it, floral, aromatic, or spicy. It smells spicy on me. J

Finally, Mon Guerlain’s flacon is iconic; it’s quadrilobe, meaning the stopper with four lobes, represents a clover leaf, for an added measure of good luck. The French royals used to carry their perfumes in similar bottles back in 1828!

Aruba Doet brings People Together

National Volunteer Day, Aruba Doet, started on Friday at Marie Stella, an old folks facility in Savaneta in the presence of the island’s Governor.

It was the first time the Governor spoke in an unofficial capacity. I liked what he said in the small press conference set up to launch the activities:”Don’t just volunteer because you have too much time on your hand, volunteer because your heart is in the right place and you want to help your neighbor and your community. Make volunteerism a part of your life.”

Then he rolled up his sleeves and went to work at a project in San Nicholas with his aids, but before he left he tapped on my shoulder to say goodbye, I was on the phone at the time, and I almost dropped it in surprise.

We’re blessed to have an exceptional human-being as our Governor.

I also noticed the good people of Office Systems NV painting the rooms of the ailing elderly with bright colors, just before we hit the road to visit all projects and take pictures. You guessed I was the volunteer photographer.

I traveled by car with director CEDE Aruba Daniel Tecklenborg and the project coordinator Thixanne, their phones were ringing continuously with what Thixanne calls “Situations, “the inherent challenges in organizing 200 projects with thousands of people on just one day. The rest of the day Daniel played his music, a mix of European Rock N Roll and Country, with optimistic and inspirational lyrics, all his original compositions.

We visited a pre-kindergarten in San Nicholas that asked for a shady roof to be built over its sand box. The kids were so cute and so well cared for. Materials were late to arrive, but the work will be done on Saturday.

Baby Beach boasted a tent with more than a dozen Ritz Carlton Ladies and Gentlemen who organized a beach outing, dominoes in the shade, breakfast and lunch for a group of 60 plusers.

FADA in the heart of town invited the street people for a sumptuous meal cooked by the culinary students of the vocational school and served by its hospitality students.

The neglected baseball field named after Xander Bogaerts, wished for some shade over the public tribunes so parent of the 80 kids training at the location, may come and watch the games. The project was just getting started when we arrived. It was a good start.

At one of the schools where the art room was being organized and cleaned I found  Penny & Mark Garlock from Michigan who read about Aruba Doet in a magazine last year and planned their vacation around it. We caught them sponging the walls at Graf Von Zinzendorf after cleaning Turtle Beach in the morning. They are also scheduled to work on Saturday as volunteers with Aruba Doet and are staying at the Beach House in Malmok. Wow. I was speechless and appreciative.

ARUBA DOET 2017 On Friday, 10th and Saturday, 11th of March 2017 was organized by CEDE Aruba, in cooperation with the Oranje Fonds, for the fifth year in a row. This was an opportunity for social organizations to get jobs or social activities for their target groups done with the helping hands of volunteers. Jobs such as painting a wall or refresh a playground, organizing an outing for elderly people, making a new fence at a social club, etc. If you would like to give a helping hand during a half day or full day at a foundation, school, sporting club, elderly home or other social organization, then  join ARUBA DOET and be part of the biggest volunteer initiative of Aruba, in collaboration with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the other Dutch islands.

Incidentally, they started in 2013 with 87 projects and they are at 200 now, with more than 3,500 volunteers.


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March 12, 2017
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