Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, May 28th, 2017

Ronchi de Cuba, Island Chic, Master Designer

We are proud of Ronchi de Cuba who for the past two decades plus, has been dressing us, and showing us a good time at fashion shows, at model competitions and at past Aruba In Style events.

I think that his most important contribution to our island is his Pygmalion effect, which is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to better results, and I will explain.

He regularly invites local teens to join modeling classes, they bring him their braces and pimples and low self esteem and at the end of the course they all transform into swans, gorgeous, self confident, male and female Koma Models, with runway and camera experience, having completely changed the way they look at the world and how the world looks at them!

On Saturday Ronchi presented his new collection, 9 bathing suits and 20 high-fashion designs to a full house, a loving and supportive local audience, mostly female, at the House of Mosaic.

The evening started with much-appreciated valet-parking and a cocktail hour. Then about two dozen of Aruba’s top models, past and present, showed the collection off.

The bathing suits, all made of the same material, depicting a big flashy scarlet poppy flower with a black center appeared in all styles ranging from a one-piece tank with a plunging front, to a Brazilian bikini with a cape; a one-piece off the shoulder; a tank with a floor-length skirt; a halter top maxi dress; a sport top with a bell skirt; a deep V neck tank with slit long skirt; a square neck tank with a short jacket.

The parade of swim suits was chased by 20 evening looks. The designer loves to mix and match colors and textures, so that there was a lot going on. He favors black and white patterns with lace accents, both feminine curves and geometric structures, fur flowers, sheer and opaque contrasts, long skirts of faux fur crinkled fabric, short glittery organza tops, long quilted fabric skirts and sheer capes; he shows underwear under over-wear!

Kaylan Cooper, one our favorite models looked stunning in a structured black & white, full length gown, with a cut out front, and square pointy shoulders. Miss Aruba, Charlene Leslie showed off a slinky glittery sheath with a transparent chiffon cape. Alexandra Ochoa, returned to the runway after 15 years, gorgeous in organza and brocade, wearing a spectacular short-in-front, long-in-the-back, plunging neckline gala dress, in gold. Her sister Paula Ochoa, an equally famous runway favorite, returned to the limelight after a long absence is a strapless gown, with a molded cup underwire top and a flowy sheer bottom. Alina Mansur wore a giant quilted skirt, matched with a dainty lace top.

We welcomed good friends Casia Altamar & Vivian Chow looking like a million dollar,  even a mother and daughter duo Xiomara and Falon Werleman, two generations of Koma models on one runway, something to be proud of.

Make up by Bruce Stamper and hair by Vladimir Orozco, complemented the show nicely and Fernando Mansur lent his spectacular home and support team to the event. It was nice to reconnect with some of the former Island Temptations models, we have used a lot of these island personalities in the magazine over the past 15 years!

The models showed off Jewelry by Mimi, sold at Trash by Ronchi.

Ed Malone Celebrates Anniversary!

Today, May 23rd, is Ed’s Aruba anniversary. He arrived on the island today, 30 years ago!

He originally came here to work for a Minneapolis-based hotel company, when the Government of Aruba (ARUVEN) decided to divest, and sell its hotels, among them the Americana.

In reality, back in March of 87, Ed had been asked by his boss if he owned a passport. Then nothing happened. But towards the end of May, on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, he was asked to pack up his bag, and hit the road because GOA just pulled the trigger, signed the docs, the Americana in Aruba was being sold to the hotel company that Ed worked for.

Ed recalls his travel agent didn’t quite know where Aruba was when asked to book that flight, 30 years ago, today.

Ed says he took the once daily Eastern Airlines flight from Miami and on the following day at the resort, met the late attorney Roy Brown and union leader Anselmo Pontilius, both memorable personalities who became his well-respected peers.

The atmosphere on the island, as Ed described it, was go, go, go. Status Aparte was in diapers, and the island was in the process of expanding its room capacity, and its airlift. It was a period of immense growth.

His first week here? Ed reports spending the afternoon hours at Arawak Gardens where many resort employees stopped by for a beer after work. “I graduated the Arawak Garden Academy,” he banters, “and learned a lot from listening to my employees before they knew they were my employees.”

That first week after taking control of the hotel, the Caribbean Tourism Conference came to town. Resort Manager Adwina Arends (who actively works with the ATA in New Jersey) had to borrow wine glasses from the neighboring cafe for the CTC functions at the Americana!

The resort was plunged into renovations, building the second tower and growing from 200 to 420 rooms. The meeting spaces were always popular and for a long time if anything big happened on the island it happened at the Americana.

“I was privileged,” Ed concludes his trip down memory lane with gratitude, “working with icons such as Rory Arends, Gerrit Griffith, Harold Malmberg and family, Astrid Muller, Ewald Biemans, many of which are still active today, and we can include Alex Nieuwmeyer in the list,” he adds, “he’s also been here for donkey years.”

After having served on the ATA Board of Directors for 3 years, In January 2014, Ed was asked to help ATA for six months at its North America office and he is still there and loving it, as Area Director for North America.

“I have great admiration for ATA,” he says, ”hard working, incredibly passionate and totally driven people. You can’t hire passion. You can’t train passion. You either have it or not, and my ATA colleagues are on fire,” he adds, “I continue to be inspired by leadership and appreciate the culture that flourishes within the organization.”

Aruba has enjoyed some great success stories in recent years and tourism from the USA has been very positive, despite a challenging 2016. Fortunately in 2017, Aruba started out with a great high season. Many efforts paid off and all pieces fell into place, because of airlift. No airlift means limited growth opportunities, and while demand remains strong, visitors cannot find an available air seat to take here. If Aruba manages to secure more seats, the island shows growth. If the island doesn’t, then growth becomes stagnant.

In the mild winter of 2017,  the island showed growth because more seats were available. The hotels ran high occupancies and the airlines showed higher than normal load-factors. According to Ed, and he should know, the outlook for the rest of 2017 from the USA is positive, across the board.

Last week, Ed was on the island on the occasion of the Strategic Planning and Business Planning for 2018 and beyond, creating the business plan for the next 4 years, with his colleagues from North America, Europe, & Latin America.

Aruba has always been a Small Island that thinks BIG, he reiterates, and this has not changed.

As he celebrates May 23rd, as his arrival date in paradise, Ed feels blessed and fortunate to have been in the right place, at the right time. He came to Aruba to work as a hotelier and found a home. He has always been very appreciative of the many friendships he made and the opportunity to be part of the overall development of the tourism industry, not as a witness but as a contributor alongside so many other terrific professionals and community leaders over the years.

Footnote: Ed Malone is the former GM of the Americana (now the Barcelo), a former 5 year President of AHATA and President of the Caribbean Hotel Association. In 1996, he was selected as Caribbean Hotelier of Year by the CHA (one of only 3 hoteliers from Aruba since 1978).  Now working with the ATA. Wonderful things have happened to him on his recent 30 year journey, and hopefully more to come.

WHAT THE OFFICIAL NUMBER SAY, courtesy of AHATA:

Aruba’s hotels saw the highest average room occupancy of nine Caribbean destinations in April 2017 and showed the largest month on month increase in occupancy.

*  Of the nine destinations tracked five saw higher average room occupancies and four saw declines.

*  Both Aruba and the USVI saw 17% increases in their ADRs in April with the overall average being a 9% increase.

*  Aruba saw by far the strongest growth in RevPar in April.

*  Year to date Aruba’s hotels are showing the highest average room occupancy at 85.8% and has posted the highest growth in average RevPar at 10.5%.

Malmok wetlands gifted for construction

Some information leaked the day before yesterday, from the office of the Land Department, a certain bureaucrat, gave another paper-pusher an order to release SEVEN parcels of land for construction. The terrain is located behind the Salina in Malmokweg, and is considered protected wetland.

The story implied that the Legal Adviser told the bureaucrat to lay off the wetlands, but the bureaucrat persisted and instructed the paper-pusher to follow up and release the parcels to friends and family members.

The son of this, the daughter of that, each received a parcel of land in a prime location, that is a nature reserve, adding insult to injury.

  1. The land is not available for development.
  2. Most humble unconnected Arubans must wait 10 or 12 years for the release of terrain where they can build a home, and privileged few, connected to the Minister of Infrastructure, get instant satisfaction and preferential treatment.

I understand that the legal adviser also called DOW, Public Works, to make sure they are informed and will reject a petition for a building permit.

Poor paper-pusher, if he/she follows up on the bureaucrat’s orders, he/she will be committing fraud and can be dragged into court, because wetlands are protected, he/she as a government employee cannot act on illegal orders.

We told Greg Peterson, he is a wetland activist, and Reymundo Dijkhoff, he is the head of the National Archaeological Museum Aruba, a man who devoted a great part of his life to the protection of archaeological sites, which Malmok is one.

We told Marisol Tromp, who is a member of Parliament, she lives in the neighborhood, and has a stake at its protection.

We told the neighborhood lawyer Lincoln Gomez. We told press members.

The following is what MOST said to me: Thank you for your info. Well, as you know, this is election time and our democracy has many flaws, this is just the norm here, especially before elections. As long as Arubans keep on voting the way they do and Parliament doesn’t do its job to stop nepotism, this will go on, until perhaps the Mother Ship, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, gets really mad. And there are signs that the mother ship is getting pissed: A minister was recently suspended and perhaps more will follow.

In the case of Malmok, I am sure that both NGO and GOA institutions involved will try to mitigate the blow to the wetlands, which incidentally were just announced off-limits by Princess Beatrix on a recent island visit. She proclaimed 16 areas ‘sacred,’ but apparently it is of no value for the government, and they do not intend to follow the recommendation.

I totally understand that both NGO and GOA institutions try to remain on the government’s good-side and cannot offend the hand that feeds them.

Personally, I don’t want any of these good people to suffer political persecution, and professional suicide.  I am sure they will use good judgment and will reject the petition to build, but then the MinInfra can overrule it. And he probably will. He has the last word.

By good judgment I mean, they can “hold” a project to investigate/assess its archaeological importance and or ecological importance, and in the case of Malmok all experts agree that this is a fragile area, as it is considered an early Arawak Indian archaeological site and a nature reserve.

So this is peculiar situation. The island has ROP, developmental guidelines, but they are more often ignored than followed.

Many here vouch for the material honesty of the MinPres who is not a materialistic person. Yes, he dangerously overspends public funds, but not for personal gains. We cannot say the same about his ministers. And we fault the MinPres for not reigning them in, and for not setting the tone and the standards of conduct.

I have to quote, my poetic friend Charles Croes in the matter:

STOP GIVING AWAY MY STUFFI!!
STOP PROMISING PEOPLE THEY CAN HAVE CHUNKS OF MY YARD!! STOP.
WE AS A NATION OF PEOPLE ARE UPSET AS HELL. SO ARE OUR CHILDREN AND THEIRS AS WELL.. STOP CUTTING MY TREES. I (we) NEVER SAID IT’S OK.
YOU WORKED HARD TO GET WHERE YOU ARE. YOU CAME TO US AND APPLIED FOR YOUR JOB. YOU WERE HIRED. WE – THE PEOPLE – HIRED YOU. WE TOOK VOTES AND WE HIRED YOU TO LEAD NOT GIVE AWAY MY YARD OR CUT MY TREES. IT IS NOT IN YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION. PERIOD.!! UNDERSTAND??
NOW GO AND DO WHAT YOU WERE HIRED TO DO … GO LEAD.

GO LEAD THIS SMALL STONE IN THE CARIBBEAN TO GREÀTNESS AND SANITY. WE WOULDN’T HAVE HIRED YOU IF WE DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD.

Refinery News

The last three employees of PDV MANTENIMIENTO N.V., from the original group of 29 PdVM employees, left yesterday to go back to Venezuela.

However, on Monday May 29th, 29 new staffers from Venezuela Y&V Group, www.yvsite.com will be starting as part of the larger JV consortium group coming in, financing included, to plan, inspect and develop the scope of repair work, under a $150 million Time & Materials (T&M) type reimbursable contract, for the next 6 to 8 months; which will then convert to a lump sum contract which is currently roughly estimated to take a total, of 5 million man-hours, on both contracts.

The “Big Wigs” from Houston and Caracas are coming in for a meeting here at the refinery tomorrow.

CITGO had two pictures hung in the refinery General Office Building lobby, one of Hugo the Chavez and one of Nicolas Maduro. The Arubans are asking where is the picture of Mike Eman and the Americans are asking where is the picture of Donald Trump?!

DIP = Disaster in progress

Like I opened Pandora’s box. My phone was on fire on Wednesday.

Everyone wanted to tell me their DIP story. But I am working, I said. I have no time now. Ok, I will get back to you. So this is a first in a series of articles from a designer, contractor, and architect point of view. Stay tuned for more.

Some quotes:

“Rona, I am so frustrated. So frustrated. Everything takes so long; I have projects that are 18 months old that are stuck, and if I complain they lose my docs. Just like that, puff,  stuff disappears.”

“One of my clients had 120 projects disappear, held back, for piddly reasons. And when you bring the map back corrected it goes to the BOTTOM of the pile, 75 cases ahead of you, the wait starts all over again.”

“My drawings went 4 times to the fire brigade. And when we changed the design as requested, they still sent the old files to the fire department, 3 more times.”

“I have lost so many projects in the past year, tourists who decide to buy just give up and abandon their plans, because it is so difficult to get anything approved.”

“If you pay Awg 4 per square meter, you get your stuff approve, wap-wap.”

“Two of DIP’s people are moonlighting, making the calculations, and getting paid privately for it, if you engage their services, you might get your stuff approved, if you piss them off, adios, you are a dead duck.”

“These people are so dysfunctional, they read the newspaper, they do their best to bring projects to a halt.”

“DOW too, we call then to inspect the building before the ring beams are poured, or before the foundation is laid, they don’t come. No matter how many times we call. Then we lose the concrete that has been ordered and the iron gets pilfered, as in stolen, because we cannot get them to show up on schedule.”

“ The director at DOW is a sort-of nice guy but he says he can’t do anything because his hands are tied, the Minister gives him no support and no budget for additional people.”

“Rona, I think I am going to change professions, this is not working out for me, I am so disappointed, this is so difficult, I am not getting anywhere.”

“And, it’s a strange thing, but people are afraid. Afraid to complain for fear it will get difficult on them, but I think it cannot get any more difficult than this.”

Some more about DIP, DOW and Cadaster is coming.

EQ3 moved to a new boulevard location, at Antraco Plaza

As ANTRACO is repositioning its enormous retail space into a plaza, EQ3 saw the opportunity to move to a more visible location from its previous digs across Ling & Sons Super Center in Eagle.

EQ3  Furniture + Accents is an innovative home design store. It offers a fresh new look, promoting a contemporary furnishing style which always marries function and durability.

Being Canadian implies that EQ3 delivers practical solutions to our homes, living-, dining- and bed rooms, outdoor and office furniture, storage units, light fixtures, and rugs.

Want more? Gifts. Really nicely designed and reasonably priced household gifts, by Alessi, a trendy Italian design house, and other stylish brands.

Rene van der Mijde is in charge and he can be relied on for advice and inspiration. The team also included Marieke Wisse, and Stella, two super helpful and intelligent ladies; drop in to talk to the EQ3 team, that consultation guarantees to replace your design-fear with confidence.

If you are moving into a new home, or just in need of a refresh with a few modern pieces, get a feel for what EQ3 has, first. You don’t have to dump all your stuff and start from scratch, a little update goes a long way.

The store is also capable of delivering custom-ordered pieces. So if you wish to custom-order anything from a sofa to a chair, it is easy, with your choice of fabric, and finish, reflection your individual taste. Imagine choosing from 18 different sofa/loveseat styles, armchairs, chaises and chairs, in over one hundred different fabric and leather colors and grades. The store also has amazing print fabrics, to splash color or artistic flair into an otherwise conservative environment. You can customize the legs of the sofa, choosing from brushed metal, chrome, maple, espresso or charcoal color legs & feet; you may also touch and feel samples of all fabrics and leathers in the stores, and view a great sampling of sofa models.

Rene, Marieke and Stella will help you make a decision, or give you a catalogue so you can consult family members, back home.

Your visit at EQ3 in the ANTRACO PLAZA also includes very good coffee. If you want lunch, that’s just one door down at the Coffee Table, I recommend the Onion Soup and the Clam Chowder. Yummy.

Website www.eq3.com

By the way: The Antraco Plaza is attracting amazing tenants, Love and Paradise Aruba, just checked in with Glendeline Croes at the helm, you can now look like her, and dress like her with SHANA and DOUBLE AGENT designs. She just opened on May 24th and the store already has 2000 likes on Face Book.  The place is gorgeous, offering a cool, contemporary shopping experience, and Lalo promised to stock up on size 14, so I can become a client too….

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