Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, September 3rd, 2017

Running Princesses of Aruba

Six superwomen from Aruba will be participating in the 5th Anniversary Disney Fairy Tale Challenge presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, running 6.2miles on Saturday, February 24 2018, and 13.1 miles on Sunday, February 25, 2018, to complete their challenge.

The chicas have another 180 days to train, and to complete their fundraising pledges. The group of Running Aruban Princess, include Nizana Solognier, Brigit Dijkhoff, Carolina Merryweather, Tracey Nicolaas, Farah Figaroa, and Shohaira da Silva. While they have paid all of their personal trip expenses, they are still fundraising for the AACR, the American Association for Cancer Research, and some of them have already met and exceeded their goal.

Their individual stories are diverse, Shohaira was the island’s Aerobic queen in the 90s, winning every contest with incredible energy and enthusiasm. She devotes the same energy and enthusiasm to her career as island manager of D&G, and her tri-athlete, nicely proportioned husband and her two little children.  In her words, she explains: “We are going to Run for American Association for Cancer Research in front of kids who are battling Cancer. The fact that we are running brings HOPE to them and their families.”

Nizana is a banker by professional, and the most experienced runner, and an all around athlete. She was the island top female body builder, and directs today her fitness efforts towards running marathons around the world.

Carolina and Tracey, are both royalties, as former Miss Aruba crown winners.

Carolina is also fondly remembered as a glamorous Miss Teen. Today, she divides her time between her family business, the Driftwood Restaurant, her athletic hunky husband and two small kids.

Tracey and her romantic partner are the dynamic duo, they star on the local social scene. Tracey recently relocated to Romar Trading as a brand manager, she has always been into fitness, showing off her top form, as a popular model.

Farah started a few years ago as she joined her brother’s fund raising efforts when his son developed RDEB, an incurable and rare genetic connective tissue disorder. The story unfortunately did not have a happy ending, as Farah’s nephew passed away at age 8, but she continues to run for charity, supporting Cares for Ethan, a lovely baby boy, suffering from the same skin disorder, epidermolysis bullosa, as her dear departed nephew.

Incidentally, Farah is also a mother of a 7 year old boy, and she collaborates with Shohaira on an important project, Bestial, organizing dog shows, dog runs and walks to promote responsible pet ownership on the island under the auspices of Purina brand dog food. They have been at it for eleven years.

Last but not least, Brigit. She arrived at sport recently, and is grateful at how good it makes her feel now. As a GOA employee she was loaned out to BOB, the breast cancer screening program, and is determined to make a difference raising funds to eradicate the disease. She has one grown up son.

When the Running Princesses return from Disney they will continue their Beauty for A Cause campaign raising funds for Winter Wever.

Check out the links below for their personal donation links. Even if they are at 100% of their goals, donations are still open and welcome!

Nizana Solognier:…/mobilePersonalPage.a…

Brigit Dijkhoff:…/mobilePersonalPage.a…

Da Silva Shohaira:…/FundraisingPage.aspx…

Tracey Nicolaas:…/mobilePersonalPage.a…

Carolina Merryweather-Raven…/mobilePersonalPage.a…

Farah Figaroa:…

Thank you! #aacr #nodonationtoosmall #runningprincessesaruba

A legend returns

I just heard that Carlos Cabrera will be back in Aruba, he was the opening GM of the Hyatt Regency, a living legend here, then he went on to conduct a glorious corporate career with the hospitality giant, becoming Senior Vice President of this, that and the other, including Global All Inclusive Operations at Hyatt Hotels corporation, and now, possibly, as his last career stop, he will be the chief at the Hyatt Regency here, returning to our fold, having been absent for more than 25 years.

He will surely reconnect with quite a number of acquaintances, and an even greater number of employees, he hired at the time.

The differences? Acquaintances would have a lot more salt than pepper, and employees would be more affluent, having enjoyed a steady income and a succession of annual raises. Life is good. And his old-new resort is a successful property, having benefitted from the solid leadership of outgoing GM Joel Bunde over the past few years.

But, Aruba has changed in three decades, and the business environment is much more competitive now. I hope Carlos is not going to be disappointed in the way we matured and aged. Did we remain fresh and sunny, or are we disillusioned and cranky?

Out with the old, in with the news. As a result of the corporate musical chairs Bunde reported he will be leaving to go to the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina. The big reveal also pointed at Carlos Cabrera as the man to fill his shoes, a man already familiar with the island.

We wish Joel and his wife Karah St Cyr a lot of fun at Cambridge, Maryland, their penal colony promises extraordinary, seamless stays  on the banks of the river Choptank with 342 acres of resort, that’s five or six times the size of a resort in Aruba. Besides, think oysters, crab, lobster!

Carlos, I am still writing, so keep me in the loop, and welcome home!

Off Season Blues

I noticed three openings recently, a major one at Palm Beach Plaza, Los Soles, an upscale Mexican restaurant. The place enjoyed a soft-opening last week, with mall tenants in attendance.

Mom’s recipes are the inspiration for the cuisine, says Carlos whom I found in the dining room overseeing last minute details before the guests arrived.

He runs the place in collaboration with his brother, all living in Venezuela, and sharing their time between their new restaurant in Aruba and a few well-established eateries in their suffering homeland.

The place is tastefully decorated, and super cute, with an outside lounge area and inside air-conditioned seating.

Then I noticed on the Bakval/Salina Cerca road two places, a coffee and tea house by the name of Aroma & Mocha, and a take away, Beach Food, open from 7am to 3pm.

For Aroma & Mocha, they serve D&E Dutch coffee, which is widely available, but they have lots of interesting Chinese teas, against blood pressure, sugar spikes, aging, and a million other afflictions.

I cannot say anything about Beach Food take away except that it is decorated with reclaimed wood, and looks beachy. I drove by a few times in the afternoon but they are closed. I guess when they say they open from 7am to 3pm, they mean it.

One of my friends wrote to me yesterday: If you ask about the current F&B scene in Aruba, just pick up a newspaper and you are bombarded by Early Bird specials even from high-end corporate brands.

The offers are attractive, Florins for Dollars, 3-course dinners at $19 to $22.

As a result, restaurants do fill with those attracted to a cheap meal or pizza at $14, 00 per person.

Besides, all dishes, from appetizers, to main courses and desserts are being shared and there is no restaurant that escapes this “sharing economy.”

Reservations made and cancelled are at the order of the day.

Aruba has too many restaurants with new ones entering this very competitive and saturated market, every week.

Add all-inclusive and group travel that usually includes F&B events, and taxi drivers being bribed to deliver tourists to certain establishments, and the professional concierges dominating “where people go” through their activities catalogue – then you will conclude that the restaurant business is high risk one.

So we make our money in the high-season and tighten our belt in the low-season.

In general, we have seen a big decline in “foodies” in comparison to last year and the amount of people that are really willing to spend a fair amount on high-priced, quality restaurants has diminished.

Cost of business in Aruba is high and I sometimes wonder how some restaurants that offer major bargains secure the quality of their food, AND pay their pound of flesh to social security, pension funds, and the ever-present tax man.

The Bridge Opening = Irresponsible Spending

We were finally told this week that the Gateway Arch, styled after St. Louis, USA, towering over the highway to San Nicholas, connecting the banks of the Spanish Lagoon puddle, will be opening with a colossal celebration.

Social media circulated an invitation to that party under the Green Corridor umbrella, on Sept 1st, with a marathon of top local bands such as Rincon Boyz, NFusion, Perfect Sound, NBO, Tsunami and Le Grove, with a surprise performance of Jorge Celedon, a big budget name.

I checked the website booking the big name entertainment. Celedon’s booking agent Richard de la Font, shamelessly questions upfront, if the budget is bigger or smaller than $500.000. Then he goes on to explain that superstars get as much as $1,000,000 for just one performance.

Celedon, a vallenato artist from Colombia, has been in Aruba before with Binomio de Oro, his mentor, who killed himself with drugs and alcohol; he was a backup singer then, but after the death of the master he formed his own group. Incidentally, while he is very popular, he hasn’t held a concert in seven months.

So take out your calculators, and add the cost of music to the cost of the colossal steal structure, which is totally disproportionate to the puddle it straddles. The bridge was conceived by GOA as part of the ironically called Green Corridor, which uprooted every tree along the way.

It cost Awg 302,220,000, an amount the island will have to pay back over the next 18 years. It was constructed as a PPP, Public Private Project, so it doesn’t appear on the books, until January 2018.

I am sad and upset about the silliness of the entertainment lineup, and the expense associated with importing a band from Curacao and one from Colombia to celebrate the irresponsible spending of public funds on the eve of the upcoming elections.

All that spending in a week in which we were informed that Pasa Dia Briyo Di Solo lost its classrooms to a fire and clients with mental disorders have nowhere to go. We were also told that over 100 mentally challenged locals are on the waiting list for a suitable place with Ambiente Feliz.

Both directors of Pasa Dia Briyo di Solo, Els van Ommelen, and that of Ambiente Feliz, Lukee Croes would have been overwhelmed with joy to receive some of the money wasted on an arch across a puddle and a bombastic musical line up.

(Add to our debt list the hospital at Awg 696,000,000, payable within 20 years and the ridiculous Watty Vos Blvd at Awg 455,400,000)

The Fashion Society Entertains at Pure Ocean

Last Friday we were invited to a barefoot event at Divi Pure Ocean, conceived by Joase-Ann van der Biest & Mirla Passchier. “Dip your toes in silky sand for a night of Fashion and Networking. Join us for delicious canapés, craft cocktails and champagne under the stars,” the invitation said.

I like both Joase and Mirla. They kick a lot of ideas around, just to see which one would stick. Some of their ideas fail, but that doesn’t discourage them at all. On the contrary, I think it encourages them to come up with even more creative stuff.

You gotta want to do it. Go through the hassle, chase down service providers, and think about all that can potentially go wrong.

This time they came up with a good formula, they call it Fashion Society, and they committed for an event every few months, featuring a different fashion designer each time. Why? Because they are both into fashion and because it glamorizes the island as a travel destination.

This format of a fun event, with the bill footed by several eager sponsors, culminating with a networking opportunity and a pop up shop, worked nicely as it showcased Gigiola Gomez latest styles.

The Summer Breeze collection in mostly pretty yellow and blue, featured both abstract flowery prints and solid colors. The bathing suit and dress collection was also sprinkles with green, white and black in between.

More than 30 models paraded down the plexiglass cat walk set in the white sand, with some former and current Miss Aruba among other famous faces, all wearing fish-eye makeup, in shimmering royal blue, their ponytails cinched straight down their back.

Gigiola presented several versions with the same style of fabric, mostly long flowy caftans with elegant silhouettes and feminine features, such as ruffles, high slits, wings and cutouts, that always remind me of the glamorous Halston heritage gowns, from the 70s. The bathing suits, not too revealing, not too conservatives looked comfortable and well made. The designer favors bandeaux tops with peek-a-boo windows, and matching shawls and cover-ups, some with a hoodie.

All and all, a nice, diverse show, my two favorites were a hand painted yellow and blue, long in the back and short in front full skirt and fitted top, and a white, sheer, off the shoulder caftan. The island’s  Governor and the first lady were guests of honor, and he said he was impressed, not for the first time, explaining he was present at Fashion Week Amsterdam, when he proudly realized he was looking at the work of an Aruban designer, on the Dutch international stage when Gigiola delivered an island vibe to the Netherlands.

Naturally, she came out with her models at the end of the show wearing her own black & white long pant/skirt, with slits, little make-up, natural hair, chiseled chin, she is a go-getter.

The second part of the evening featured a pop up show with models perched on crates, hoping to direct clients’ attention, here-and-now, to the pop up store.

Then we had cocktails. Alas, the cashier was at quite a distance from the bar, but we got over it.

Designer Gigiola Gomez: If you recall she ‘s been designing her own fashions since the age of 12, and she enjoyed an international modeling career, before marrying legal eagle Lincoln Gomez, and having two artistic kids. Eventually she transitioned to personal styling and ended up creating her own fashion brand and seasonal collections. She has an atelier at home and will be happy to customize any design for any body shape, any time.

The Kill Cage and the AVP Election Campaign

I heard it from several people, #9 on the AVP list, Richard Visser is campaigning to eliminate the kill cage; he filmed some footage there the other day and is talking to activists.

Rich honey, the kill cage is not the problem.

Sure would be nice if you improved the method of putting unwanted animals down, and it would be smart if you checked for chips before destroying them, but if you close the kill cage down, think about the cheaply available alternatives for heartless locals.

Drowning pups/kittens in a bucket of water, like in the old days?

Leaving them to suffer and dehydrate in the hills of Alto Vista?

Dumping them in the trash?

Jodi & Louella found an entire litter of pups in the wilderness, left to die, and I found my adorable Sushi in a trashcan, on the day of Carnival 50th, and she had a long, good life after that initial cruel experience.

The only solution: We have to get our people to neuter & spay. God Knows Ewald Biemans and his crew from Stimami Sterilizami did their best, and spent, and are still spending a fortune, but we need some government help in that respect.

What else?

Enforce the dog law. Then amplify it.

Prohibit breeding by unlicensed breeders, so people who have no clue about raising good dogs, do not make a fortune working the wombs of their bitches, for undeclared income.

FROM TODAY ON, you cannot breed your dog for profit, unless you are a licensed, authorized breeder.

All owned dogs must be chipped and licensed. It is a nice income for GOA, that would reduce the locals’ appetite for dogs, and it will make them a more responsible owner if enforced.

I have five dogs, if I want to enjoy the luxury of their company a Government Tag must be attached to their collars, Awg 35 per dog per year? Awg 50 per dog, per year? People will think twice before so-called adopting.

So Rich, I know you are an animal lover, put your energy now behind spaying & neutering, perhaps you will get the locals moving, just the way you got us to exercise.


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September 03, 2017
Rona Coster