Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, September 25th, 2016

Charlie’s Bar, what can I say that hasn’t been said?!

Saturday night a group of old-timers congregated on the street in front of Charlie’s Bar in San Nicholas to celebrate the establishment’s diamonds’ jubilee!

It was a perfect, clear night, and I trotted down Main Street by myself, leaving the Art Fair behind. I could hear steel pan music from two blocks away. Apparently, Charlie Brouns III was throwing a real party, with music and catering, not just cocktails.

I checked in with the host, dressed in a white linen suit – just like Travolta’s only with a white shirt – he looked like a million dollar, in fact like the Prime Minister of San Nicholas.

He was busily welcoming guests and announcing his intention to introduce them to a new video clip with Nico Connor. He was pensive and reflective on the occasion of the bar’s seventy fifth anniversary. Gus the perennial bartender had just died a few days ago, having lived a full life, says Charlie III, adding, I’m just fifty, and I am doing my best to live to that age.

How’s business, I asked. Good, good, he said, we’re doing OK, but naturally, he continued, you want to see the whole neighborhood prosper because if you are a gem in a pile of shit, nobody cares about you! I’d rather be a gem in a precious necklace, sharing the attention with other equally expensive jewels.

I also stopped by Montsy, looking lovely in a little black dress. The anniversary is always difficult, she said, we miss Charlie Jr. so much, he was really involved with the movers and shakers of this island and we miss his personality, he was into everything, politics, sports, philosophy. Me and my brother we do our best to stay on top of things, Charlie III is an artist and involved with that community, and I am always at work. She was just stating facts, with a small nostalgic smile.

I looked inside the bar, it was as cluttered as always, I did not notice Charlie’s retirement fund, a thick ball of paper money notes from across the world, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. The bar had just commissioned of relief sculpture of Charlie Jr., and artist Maritza Erasmus delivered! In the relief he wears an eternal broad grin, just like in real life, and Charlie III reports it will be installed over the bar’s door soon.

I had the privilege to listen to Charlie Bourns Jr., around the Millennium, when one of my friends had the brilliant idea to create a new souvenir, a bottle of local rum, paired with a booklet of Charlie’s stories. I was asked to collaborate and as a result I heard many of Charlie’s entertaining anecdotes first hand. He was an exceptional story teller, with 100% recall, dates, names, places, he had it all filed in his head, or perhaps he made it up at the spur of the moment, but anyhow it sounded genuine and accurate and fantastic!

What the guidebooks say: Charlie’s Bar, a trip to the southern end of the island surely must include a stop here for some tasty garlic shrimp. Once a hangout for sailors and refinery workers, the bar has evolved into a museum of sorts, with scuba divers hanging their underwater discoveries on the walls next to a great volume of other knickknacks!

Refugee VS Economic Migrants, it’s not just a matter of semantics

Meaning there is a difference between the two, and there is much confusion in the media and in the public and government about refugees and economic migrants.

That said, I have to congratulate the government for thinking, because they should put a Special Committee together, tasked to think about our Venezuelan neighbors, play different scenarios and outline our national policy.

Let’s start with definition:

The definition of a refugee:  A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

More of the same: A refugee is a person who has fled his or her own country and cannot return due to fear of persecution, war or a natural disaster

The definition of an economic migrant, or migrant worker: A person who moves from one region to another to seek an improvement in living standards because the living conditions or job opportunities in his own region are not good.

More of the same: An economic migrant, or migrant worker is someone who voluntarily chooses to leave his or her own country and make a new life in another country. People are moving for work and better opportunities.

So, you already understand where I am going.

The United Nations says that in order to be called a refugee, a person must have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and as such deserves protection.

The United Nations also protects economic migrants, or migrant workers out of humanitarian reason, but the two are NOT the same.

Venezuela is one of the riches countries in the world, and it has been committing financial suicide for the past 20 years. The situation there will not improve, unless Venezuelans will take matter into their hands to fix it. It has been done before, so in principle, they shouldn’t flush their country down the toilet, yet.

But anyway, the reason I am writing, is to say that when we talk about Venezuelans wishing to come and live here, sneaking in via Dog Cemetery on fishing boats every night, we should call them migrant workers, not refugees, and if indeed we decided to ready a holding facility for them, if and when they come in bigger numbers, we should welcome them graciously. We cannot say welcome, then lock the door with a key and throw it away. We must have real plans for schooling and employment for them, teach them to prefer Pastechi over Empanada and sing Aruba Dushi Tera with as much enthusiasm as Gloria al bravo pueblo.

When the decision is taken to welcome migrant workers they must be treated well, for a limited time, or forever, whatever the island Special Committee decides. But we’d better integrate them fast, otherwise we’re in big trouble forever, i.e. France and Belgium, where migrant workers were allowed to stay and live in their own ghettos, without an organized effort to truly integrate and absorb them.

Aruba’s Chamber of Commerce Nixes the Idea of a Bilateral Chamber of Commerce

 The news item hit the regional radio stations and papers from Cuba to Colombia, that on September 19th an official bilateral Chamber of Commerce was created between Venezuela and Aruba, designed to facilitate commercial activities, mostly in the construction field, so that exportation of goods from Venezuela to Aruba is improved, delivering an additional influx of money to the cash-strapped country.

The news item stated that the first round of multi-sectoral negotiations took place n Aruba on Sept 1st, in the presence of 78 Venezuelan manufacturers and 65 commercial organizations from the island, under the leadership of Foreign Investment and External Commerce Minister Jesús Faría in collaboration with Angel Belisario representing Fisheries and Agriculture, and the Vice Minister of Tourism, Alí Padrón.

Not so fast, says Aruba’s highly organized and regulated Chamber of Commerce, we totally oppose that initiative designed to bypass every rule and regulation in place, in the local commercial landscape. Aruba’s Chamber of Commerce is positioned to handle any company wishing to do business with the island, and opposes any attempt to circumvent scrutiny.

The local Chamber of Commerce asked the Aruba government to deny that news item, and while no one in local government confirmed it, no one denied it.

We’re hanging. We’re on hold, to see what’s next!

 Atelier 89 & the Sinfa Building Galleries, are amazing

 Saturday night, I explored two fantastic spaces, part of the first annual Art Fair, on the main street in San Nicholas.

There was a lot to see in the street including a mini pop-up Korteweg, and the 10 murals by visiting international artists which enjoyed substantial hoopla – there were a total of 15 foreign artists visiting – BUT our own local artists did not disappoint, we have incredible power-houses here, and we haven’t seen them on display for a while. Honestly, I was very happy to connect with my favorites, at the Art Fair.

Elvis Lopez stood outside an Art Deco inspired building on the main street, with his top hat on. I think it was the old Customs building. Elvis promised to make an artist out of everyone who comes in to see the exhibition. We did. We risked it, and saw some excellent work. The artists/students of Atelier 89 simply occupied the empty spaces, and it seemed to me as if they have always been there with their installations, paintings and sculptures.

Desiree Sporkslede, the plastic junk queen, enjoyed a room all by herself, her work is colorful, and striking, and sends a frightening message, namely that we use and discard too much plastic, which isn’t fantastic. I also saw the work of Carol Habibe, Danilo Geerman, Ad Rekkers, Alydia Wever, Ryan Oduber, and Velvet Zoe Ramos, who created a very striking and chaotic installation starring eggshells. More exhibiting artists included Egmar Irasquin, Farley Croes, and Samuel Saramiento. Fernando Vermeer had his eerie composite universes on display.

On the other side of the road, a curator from Venezuela, Luis Gomez Rincon assembled an outstanding array of works. Nigel Mathew delivered  Icons, members of his family, parents, uncles,  grandparents painted almost as religious icons. Very touching. Also exhibiting an exceptional dynamic and colorful piece by Mo Mohamed, and a mixed media by Alonso de Windt, which I did not recognize, because it veered from the style of his previous works, but was nevertheless very good.  Miniaturist Ciro Abath, and the ever-interesting Stan Kuiperi, with a thought-provoking mixed media triptych, we could write a book on that piece alone. I also enjoyed the work of second or third generation artists, the always complicated Natusha Croes, and hip Lara Kuiperi, questioning the Aruban dream.

The galleries are beautiful, one across the other, I asked Elvis Lopez and Renwick Heronimo, FMA, the Aruba Museums Foundation, how long they will remain open and I did not hear a definite answer. Elvis hopes to continue to occupy the building and be able to showcase contemporary art. For the Sinfa building however, I understand that there is a commitment to keep it open for a while. (Sorry if I left some artists out)

“Run For Your Heart,” largest international group in the Wineglass Marathon

The RFYH runners, from Aruba, are travelling to Corning, NY on Thursday, to participate in the Wineglass Marathon; they will be the largest international group to participate in the event.
The Wineglass marathon race director, and the Corning Convention and Visitors Bureau will welcome Aruba’s “running ambassadors,” personally, as important international guests.

RFYH was founded 5 years ago by cardiologist Dr. Johnny Cheng, to promote a healthy, and active lifestyle, because he diagnoses the results of unhealthy diets, and insufficient activity, in his practice, daily.
Dr. Cheng is an athlete himself, and participates in marathons and triathlons.

The group of 25 runners, ages 30 to 63, trains with coach Koos Veel. They were all runners of smaller distances before they joined RFYH.

Naturally, the success of the group is determined by its quality training program, and each individual’s contribution, experience, and enthusiasm.

They were rookies five years ago, now they have plenty of experience in famous marathons such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, and Stockholm, where most of them participated individually.
The group however, travels together to participate in a smaller marathon, once a year, and because the entry in Corning is not determined by lottery, all participants are guaranteed entrance, if they sign up well in advance.

Training for a marathon requires dedication, and takes place, 4 – 5 days a week between 3.30 am – 7.00 am. Training in Aruba’s climate is a considerable advantage, vs. training in cold weather.

The race itself will take place on October 2nd, 2016. Thirteen members will participate in the full marathon, and 2 members do the half marathon. The Wineglass Marathon in Corning is listed as one of the 10 fastest marathons in the USA because it unfolds on a flat course, and it is ideal to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and/or set a personal best time.

RFYH is looking forward to personal best times of under 4 hours, or personal best. Besides running the marathon, and travelling to Corning, the group plans to visit the Corning Glass Museum, the upstate NY Fingerlakes and the wineries in the area.

RFHY is fortunate to stay at a beautiful property, La Tourelle Hotel, Bistro, Spa, in Ithaca, NY, a family country inn run by the Wiggins family, as in Wally & Scott, who are directly related, father and brother, to Marcus, one of the group members.

RFHY is looking forward to participate in the Wineglass marathon, the result of many months of training. Finally the moment has come to run the 42.195 kilometers as best as they can, while having fun, and creating beautiful memories.

ABC’s vs. AZURE, a follow up.

As reported this week, Aruba Birdlife Conservation, ABC, lost its case in court, against the developers of Azure Condominiums, PGM Condo builders NV. The judge outlined his decision saying that “You snooze you lose,” ABC should have mobilized earlier. Now that the investment has been made, the clock cannot be turned backwards!

I predicted it on September 12th when I wrote: A SENSE OF URGENCY: Aruba Birdlife Conservation recently filed four court cases, a few against the government and one against a developer, regarding a condo on Eagle Beach, Azure, that had already reached the seventh floor! Aruba’s government most probably granted all necessary permits, but Aruba Birdlife Conservation aims at proving to the judge that construction in taking place on what was previously classified as green land. The verdict will be handed down on September 21st. It will be interesting to see if construction will be halted or allowed to continue. My bet is, allowed to continue, in view of what happened in Malmok where the MinInfra changed the designation of terrain, just like that, hocus pocus!

So, the government in its great wisdom granted all permits, investors shelled out millions and what’s done is done.

It is clearly my fault. I drive by the lovely project every day, and it never dawns on me that perhaps the construction is infringing on previously-declared-green areas. How would I know? I don’t know! The government is supposed to control all that, but apparently, it changed its mind. Why? Because governments CAN change their minds. This whole green thing is NOT anchored by law. So subsequently, every MinInfra does as he wants.

Parke Arikok? Can’t mess with it. One third of the land mass of Aruba is protected by law, and you cannot try to develop anything there.

THERE IS A FLIP SIDE TO THAT: Once something is declared green, by law, you cannot help it. You must leave it to its own devices, no rehabilitation, no improvement of water circulation, no irrigation, no termite treatments, zero interference, let-the-boa-population-take-over, kind of attitude.

According to me the Bubali Bird Sanctuary is a manmade water surplus location, and when we pump gray water into it, it lives and thrives, and when we have no water, it dries, and dies. So if the area is declared green, under zero interference, then no water can be pumped in, and then it dies? So it would be against logic to declare it protected, because then it will cease to exist?!

There has to be a happy medium, where development and nature go hand in hand. Example? Wilhelmina Park. Meta Corp struck a deal with a practical government a few years ago, under which they would maintain and manicure a lovely park, in exchange for the use of the reclaimed land, for the purpose of building a hotel. Perhaps you forgot, but I did not. The end result, the developer got the Renaissance Beach Suites, and the Renaissance Convention Center and the island enjoys a picture perfect Wilhelmina Park. So here you go, it’s possible.

Instead of berating Azure Condominiums we should make them a deal to build and maintain an observation platform so we could actually enjoy the birds that are living in the bush!



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