Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, May 1st, 2016

BATIBLEKI2“Operation Cunucu” started today!
Big first day success, the vets had at least 50 strays, and about 10 dogs from the Parkitemnbos dump, delivered here for FREE Sterilization by Animal Balance, a volunteer organization from the USA, with a team of 20 professionals determined help us with our street dog challenges.
Location of Clinic: Centro Dakota, reception opens between 8am and 9am
Pick up time after surgery: when called, before 5pm
Attention San Nicholas Residents: If you wish to drop off a stray dog, from your street, to be operated and returned, the organization has a collection point outside the YMCA, for those without transportation. Volunteers will pick up the dog from you at this collection point and return the dog to you, same day, between 5pm and 6pm.
Please make sure that the dog is on a leash or in a kennel, puppies can also undergo sterilization if over a certain weight.
All dogs treated will receive Free Vaccinations against Parvo and Distemper, and flea and tick prevention treatment. All dogs will receive a small tattoo in their ear to indicate they were operated.

‪#‎NewLifeForPaws ‪#‎OperationCunucu‪#‎ChangingArubaOneDogAtATime ‪#‎SpayAndNeuterProgram‪#‎RescuedPaws

RIP CHEF KURT HOFFMAN. We were all extremely saddened to hear that Chef Kurt Hoffman, 49, died in his sleep, unexpectedly, on the night between Saturday & Sunday of this past week. His friends and colleagues called the house when he failed to show up at work on Sunday. If you knew Kurt, that is not something that happens at all. When the door was opened by emergency services, Kurt was already gone and his friends believe that he transitioned painlessly into the after-life. Born in Germany, educated in Switzerland, the Chef has been living and working on the island since the mid 90s. He came here as the Chef of the new elegant La Vie En Rose, an upscale restaurant at Paradise Beach Villas. The restaurant did not survive the tragic death of its owners, in a car crash, and Kurt went to work for the Bucuti Beach Resort. He has been at Bucuti since then, with a few entrepreneurial interruptions, once to serve as the Chef of the Holiday Inn and once to open a restaurant in San Nicholas, which was quite successful until the refinery closed, then he went back to Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, where he performed in his current position as Director of Food & Beverage, since 2010. Kurt was not just a chef but a nutritionist, he could cook anything, and the resort’s Elements Restaurant is a testimony to his versatility as a professional, delivering tasty Continental, Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten Free specialties, with precision and flair. By the grief-stricken reaction of staffers, you know the chef was loved and appreciated. He was not always easy to get along with, but staffers knew he was good for the property and respected and valued his leadership and direction. Guests also expressed profound sorrow when hearing the news, Chef Kurt has been cooking special meals for them, adhering to dietary specifications for many years and was treasured by the resort’s many repeat guests, as their private cook. A special memorial on Thursday, will allow his Bucuti colleagues and friends the opportunity to bid farewell, then the general public will be invited on Friday, to present their condolences to family members who are coming here from Germany. The chef was survived by his wife and a 10 year old daughter which he planned to take to Europe this summer, to introduce her to places of his youth and perhaps even show his little island girl, snow. One of my friends who interviewed with Chef Kurt last week said that Kurt had a premonition: You never know when it is your time to go, he said to a total stranger. A bit shy, usually quiet, always funny, the culinary brigade in heaven just got itself an excellent new recruit. Our bad.

FAST DRIVERS. An unfortunate accident made headlines last week when an ABC Tours jeep overturned. I don’t wanna say “I told you so,” but I feel compelled to say it because when we went on an island tour, on Easter Monday, the vehicles of ABC Tours ruled the landscape on the island’s wild side, their tires spinning, grinding the hills into sand, the rocks into flats, in defiance of nature, and living up to the Shake & Bake reputation of the trip, adrenaline pumping. Maybe it’s time to rethink the “extreme” nature of the excursion, and trade it in for some “zen,” sparing people and sparing the earth.

RIGHT SAID FRED.  Rumor has it that Chef Fred Wanders will be opening another restaurant, on Wilhelminastreet on the second floor of Que Pasa overlooking that lovely colonial street. Fred was the partner at 2Fools & a Bull cooking studio on Palm Beach, and recently retired his foolish status in favor of vacation, at the end of which he went back to work, putting together a chef owned signature eatery, by the name of Fred,  in the heart of town, opening soon. It’s good news for Oranjestad, with more people working on behalf of urban revival. Que Pasa, has always been a culinary destination, now Fred is adding a good reason to go downtown, and judging by the success of Wilhelmina, Fred’s thinking is right.

MY FRIEND MANOLO. I am generally interested in sports, as in “Real Sports with Bryant Gunbel,” human stories, behind the scene stuff, not really the sport itself. And the sport I’m least interested in, is MMA, mixed martial arts, so I was totally unaware Aruba Vs the World was being organized on April 29th. Then a client asked me to take some pictures, and I went to a press event.

The fighters were guests of the RIU PALACE ANTILLAS, where General Manager Juan Blanco welcomed them to a Face-Off reception poolside on King’s birthday, which was basically a photo opportunity for two fighters to look at each other with murderous intentions. Juan who believes in supporting sport on the island, decided to sponsor some accommodations for the visiting dignitaries.

Much to my surprise the enterprising promoter of the event, Manolo Valdez, turned out to be my friend of many years who worked for my family business in the 90s, “when I was still illegal,” he jokes. It was that long ago. He is working today for La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino as bartender, and applies his passion for MMA when he manages his own RFC Aruba Entertainment, which promotes and supports MMA sports in general, and concerts.

Wow, you’ve come a long way, baby. I felt proud and privileged. I remember in the old days when cell phones were scarce Manolo used to borrow one from my friends, in order to call his mom in the Dominican Republic. I especially remember one Mother’s Day Brunch, when he worked at La Vista, Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino. He tapped the number on the borrowed cell and I witnessed him practically crawl into a phone line to kiss his mom many miles away, as he talked to her with great emotion, assuring her he was thriving.

We felt privileged to listen to his loving conversation as he talked to his mother, perhaps two decades ago. Yesterday he told me Mom was living on Aruba now, no doubt proud of his accomplishments.

While at the Riu I met Dutch fighter Michael Kuiper who told me he will become a gardener when he retires, and Houston Alexander, a super friendly, fierce competitor from Omaha, Nebraska. We took a selfie for his Instagram.  The famous Gregory Millard, was a bit reserved and stand-offish, but the other visiting ring celebrities Andre Cassarino and Alexandre Lopes, were eager to pose for the camera. They were a bunch of fun guys, in spite of the murderous looks they gave each other at the Face Off, preparing for the first ever UFC level fights, in Aruba, in the octagon ring.

MORE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. Roxana Estrada used to live in Aruba. She remembered being poor and hitch hiking to Twinkleboom Restaurant to pick up meat leftovers so she could feed the dogs in the dump. This was a long time ago, but she is still an angel of mercy for the local abandoned pups and her FB page, Aruba Flight Volunteers finds travelers willing to transport dogs to their forever homes in the US. She met Nataly Yermak at the vet. Nataly, of Russian origin, has a heart of gold. She harbors and protects puppies above and beyond the call of duty and her foundation New Life For Paws, believes in rescuing at all cost.

Roxana and Nataly now collaborate on rescues and adoptions. They were on hand for Operation Cunucu and Nataly got some of her American friends to fly over and volunteer on site, April 26-30 at Centro Dakota. They were there on day one till 9pm, and on day two I met them handling a litter of puppies and a desperate mom, vowing to find a loving homes for them all.

New Life for Paws: A nonprofit organization with the passion to rescue stray, neglected and abandoned dogs in Aruba. Check out their website

Aruba Flight Volunteers:

The organization is looking for flight volunteers to accompany their rescues from the island of Aruba to their new lives in the USA. 845 742 2869

FASHION WEEK COMING IN DECEMBER. The handsome and charming — the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — Angel Leon Jr is organizing an Aruba Fashion Week, December 1st to 5th, with 4 days of activities, Thursday to Sunday. The opening event will bring together international and local media, celebrities, top designers and models, and is scheduled to unfold at the Marriott Resort Aruba & Stellaris Casino from 5pm to 9pm, in the lobby and pool area. Day 2 & 3 of AFW 2016 will pack master classes, celebrity interviews, and guest speakers in a colorful Trade Fair, from 10am to 12:30pm at the Ritz Carlton ballroom. The Trade Fair is inviting commercial brands and emerging talents to exhibit, as well as trademark, legal and tax consultants, people who take care of fashion’s business aspects.

In the afternoon of day 2& 3 another Trade Fair at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino promises to pack excitement with booths set up attractively, for buyers and customers. Participants are expected to mingle here show their pieces and in general conduct retail and wholesale business. The room will be set up for a fashion show with seating along the catwalk and bleaches. The runway will be abuzz from 4pm to 12midnight, showing off recent collections in a fashion parade designed to please all viewers and the international media.

Side events of the AFW will include promotional opportunities throughout the week, and for the finale, on Sunday, Renaissance Private Island will play host to participants from 5pm to 9pm, with 600 projected visitors from among elite travelers, premium guests, locals, international and regional media , celebrities, professionals and young professionals. The party on Renaissance Island also includes a two hour sunset sail option.

So mark your calendar. December 1st to 5th. I spoke to local designer Ronchi de Cuba this week, and he is planning on showing a collection.

THE SAFETY INSPECTORS. The Chamber Of Commerce invited the business community to an upcoming lecture about the new regulations about safety inspections for companies. I already wrote about it in the past, on March 5th:  At the time, I stated it must be a racket of sort, but the Chamber of Commerce dutifully says: These regulations have been introduced in order to comply with the International Labor Organization (ILO), and according to article 1614x of the Civil Code and the Safety Ordinance (AB 1990 no. GT 33). Blabla. Compliance with these regulations will aim to reduce accidents in the workplace and protect both the employee as well as the employer. Blabla. We said BS then, we say BS now. The lecture is scheduled to May 3rd, 4pm, at KvK Auditorium.

HOW UNFUN ARE MY FUN MILES. I must have been one of the first ones to sign up for Fun Miles, donkey years ago, and I did not remember my pin. I have visited the website in the past, and was unsuccessful in retrieving it, but recently the site became friendlier, and I managed to find out how many Fun Miles I have, a total of 8391, probably worth two tickets to the Soul Beach Festival.  Every once in a while I use my card when a cashier asks for it. At Kooyman, they always do. Yesterday I bought a great quantity of gas vouchers at the Valero gas station in Oranjestad, next to the harbor. It was a big amount, so I took out my Fun Miles card in hope to get some millage out of the purchase. No, said the cashier, you only get Fun Miles, upon redemption of the coupons, which of course won’t happen, because the only reason why one buys gas vouchers is to give them away to other people, capiche? Hence the caption, unfun Fun Miles

BANKING CHALLENGES. One of my recently arrived friends, in possession of a legal work permit and an AZV card decided to also open a bank account while working on Aruba. You think it’s easy, right? In the process of finding a bank that would have him, he did some market research and entertained me with his findings. At the mercantile bank having waited in line for a considerable amount of time, he was told that he must register for an appointment. His information was dutifully recorded and his appointment was made for May 12th. The list of required documents included his passport and work permit. That’s thirteen days, down the road, to wait for the bank’s most basic service. Next. The royal bank, was festooned with banners and posters advising clients it was all about them. The friendly agent at the Sasaki branch had a twenty minute line ahead of her, but when my friend got to see her, she was accommodating, granting him an appointment for May 9th, that’s ten days down the road. There was an extra snag here: The royal bank required two forms of official identifications, a passport AND a state issued ID on top of the work permit, and passport, for a total of four legal documents. Wow, if it’s all about us, why do you make it so difficult to navigate?  At the bank branch at Super Food, the reception was warm, and assistance immediate, providing my friend brings along a letter of introduction and recommendation from his local employer, in addition to the usual papers. OK, Aruba Bank wins.

MANIFESTATION IN THE TROPICS. We had a number of manifestations lately, on subjects ranging from health care to child abuse. The issues usually result in heated conversations, followed by a poor showing on the street. The recent manifestation on King’s Birthday was an excellent example of how we get red hot around the collar, and opt to go to Happy Hour, or the beach, immediately after, the source of aggravation lost and forgotten.  Lech Walesa, the president of Poland in the 90s, could not have been born here, because he went from being a frustrated electrician in a shipyard, to being the President o Poland, and a Nobel Prize Winner, by founding a protest movement called “Solidarity,” who practically brought down the government and changed the course of history. Poland is cold, and depressing and damp, Aruba is sunny and friendly and fun, we never stay angry long enough to make any changes. Fact, we identify with and show compassion toward our peers, we demonstrate solidarity and support to our community, but we never get to that third tier, the one that has to do with our government and legal system, because we run out of steam, and head to happy hour. And that’s the way it is. And I guess I like it.

CLEANING OUR OWN MESS. I was pissed today, offended, in pain, how could we let that happen? Allow so many dogs to breed. It is out of control. The sight at Centro Dakota on day two, today, was heartbreaking with a great number of complete litters with two day old puppies and neglected suffering mothers. How can we continue to let this happen???? I was moved to tears by the sheer numbers of abandoned souls. Thank you, Animal Balance, and the local animal rescue foundations for taking charge but I am truly shaken to the core that we make such a mess and we then we allow total strangers to clean it up for us.
Day two, another 100 dogs. This time is seemed quieter because the patients were tiny, mostly babies, receiving micro surgery!
They will do it again tomorrow! Get there early, at 5:30am, if you’d like your owned-stray to be fixed, the line is long, and there is only that much the team can do! ‪#‎NewLifeForPaws ‪#‎OperationCunucu‪#‎ChangingArubaOneDogAtATime ‪#‎SpayAndNeuterProgram‪#‎RescuedPaws

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April 30, 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
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster