I spent 24 hours on a Bushiri Alumni Chat Group

There were a bunch of articles published in the local media recently about the eyesore Bushiri location being converted into a public area.

Many of my friends cried foul. In a perfect world, it should go back to its original designation as a hotel school , of another suggestion was to turn it into a retirement home, for senior Arubans, with a pool and recreational facilities, close to doctors and the hospital. The AIB, Aruba Investment Bank, could undertake it as a viable development.

Perhaps one of my favorite restaurants, TABASCO, could be reincarnated at that same location, when the facility reopens. The plug was pulled on that gem when the facility was abandoned.

Then I decided to solicit the opinions of the Bushiri graduates. Apparently they have a chat group, they are very fond of each other, and they keep in touch, with regular class reunions scheduled every five years, in various places around the Caribbean, one upcoming on  May 24, 2018.

GML: Hi Rona. Reason for closing not familiar to me. As first year student the education and experience was the best. We were well prepared to move on to a university. Of course we all had our own choices. The hotel and school combination was perfect. Learning and training at the same time. I estimate that maybe 80% of the Bushiri students went into hospitality/tourism. They could have modernized and expended the building instead of moving the school. That is my thought. Funny stories; we were like brothers and sisters although we came from different countries like Surname, England, Holland, Spain, Colombia, India, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Statia, Germany, and Aruba.

GC: Hi Rona. So much to write about. The closing was more a political decision back then. The business model (school and hotel combination) was/is one that worked very well back then and was a jewel for the region (regardless if it was on Aruba, Curacao or St Maarten, for example). It was just a perfect place to study hospitality and tourism management. We had direct link with FIU and CIA back then where the students could have easily transferred to those institutions. In the early stages of the hotel school students were participating not only in the laboratories (practical side of the program) but were also assisting the professional staff with large banquets, restaurant operations etc. Managers and instructors had years of experience under their belt. Anyway, we can go on and on and on. To keep it politically correct with my comments, I believe that it is just very “sad” how such a jewel was thrown down the drain. Shame, shame, SHAME, and it hurts, if I am honest with you. Look at the current success model of the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management where the Dean had fought and insisted with UCF management to build their hotel school in the center of the tourist Mecca of Orlando. A hotel school right next to International Drive, Theme Parks, and Convention Center. It became one of the largest hospitality programs in the US. My perception is that Bushiri wasn’t closed because of poor financial management. Even though the rumors were there. It was closed because from an economist’s point of view, it was more of a “market failure” (an economic term) for the government. So cluster all community educational institutions (AHTTC, MTS, MAO ETC) to one location at Seroe Blanco (now Colegio EPI) and sell the property to a hotel chain. Again my thoughts, and I don’t have all the info to back that up. Pero donde hay humo hay fuego, and I don’t mind saying this publicly, it was the worst decision everrrr made by our government. An economic, SOCIAL and environment disaster compared to Fukishima. Sorry Rona. I am extremely emotional on this subject that I even find my opinion biased sometimes. But I guarantee that a lot share this opinion. It is NOT important who opened it or closed it, it, it just reflects very very poorly on us as Arubians that such a decision was made. It was one of the best business models in the region, competing hand in hand with Puerto Rico at that time. If you know of any angel investor that is willing to fund the same model, I will vouch for that, and commit to make it happen again

Anonymous: Hi Rona. Hotel and school worked perfectly. You got to practice and get experience on top of the theory instead of waiting till you graduated. The teaching was in English which made the FIU ( Florida International University) transfer smoother as we switched from Dutch to English. FIU was also  an excellent extension and had a summer school. I worked 25 years in hotel industry and it is wonderful

Fl: Hi Rona, for me it was the foundation of making the decision to stay in Aruba and  working in the hotel industry. Some of us chose other careers.

GC: And of course we have many, many great memories. Instructors were like drill sergeants. Fernando Kock, Chef B. Kelly, Tim Werleman, Hendrick Britten on maintenance, my goodness. If your shoes were dirty, you couldn’t enter class and sometimes not even the property. Fun, fun memories on how each one of them addressed discipline with their own style. Sonia Irausquin, what a tough cookie with a heart of gold, Bernardo Croes, the late Ricardo Kock, Ella Jacobs, on accountancy, Sonia Kappel handled food production, Mario and Juliet, taught English. Ellis Dania was a good leader but he left mid flurry of allegations.

RR: I signed up in ’85 for a program which had mixology scheduled as the first class if each day. Needless to say I don’t remember much of the curriculum….but I’m sure it was great. What did stood out to me, as a foreign student, was how deeply Hospitality was/is embedded in the Aruban culture…so much so that it inspired me to “bottle” this and export it to the City of Doral. My experiences in these short two years were wonderful & marvelous and I hope that you include the student’s personal experiences into your article. You will find that I am not alone and that it why this united group continues to flourish. Big hug!

SZ: Hi Rona, the combination school/work was the best. I think that moving of the school from Bushiri to another place due to a government decision, and the desire to turn Bushiri into an all inclusive hotel was the downfall of the school. For me it was the best years of my education. In the beginning it was a bit difficult due to the language change however, as B mentioned, it was the bridge for those who wanted to continue their career in the US. After finishing Bushiri in 1986 I immediately started working at the Aruba Beach Club. We had the opportunity to work in several hotels/restaurants for our internship. Memories: Fernando Kock won’t let you enter the classroom if didn’t have your shoes clean, hair nicely groomed etc. Up to today, every two years we reunite as one big family, we laugh and share in good and bad. Reunions are held in Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Maarten and Aruba. It’s always, always nice come together.

SG: Rona, during our last reunion in Aruba we visited EPI Hospitality sector. What I saw there, hurt my heart. It’s nothing compared to what we have been through in our Bushiri years. Very sad. Those days we used to have classes from 8-5 and lunch in the employees cafeteria. Most of the time if I’m not mistaken, meals were cooked by our fellow student colleagues.

AC: Hi Rona, I totally agree with all the comments of my student colleagues. I’m from Curacao and after finishing Bushiri I also worked in several hotels in Curacao. Those three and a half years at the Bushiri were the best years of my life, I still have profits of all I have learned. You all brought nice memories to all of us……have a nice blessed weekend.

SB: Wow, Rona, if you did not know you where corresponding with grownups (45+)  you would think you where in conversation with some teenagers. Reliving our best years of our lives. We are all thankful to AHTTC. In my personal experience, I got my LIFE there. My education really started there, if not for Bushiri with the excellent discipline. At the time, I finished LTS/EPB and got an opportunity at Bushiri as a foreign student. Incidentally, my wife of 28 years, and a couple of good friends are all from Bushiri!

FFF:  I second all the comments above. I joined later than most in this group… 1985. I had Gwen Rojer for accounting and the other ones mentioned before for other subjects. Late Tony Green also taught Sociology. Lilian Ruiz would be a good source as she attended Bushiri, continued her studies and is now a teacher at EPI. I did not continue in the hospitality industry, as I left Aruba in 88, however an Australian university, La Trobe, accepted my Bushiri credits so I was able to get my bachelors from them in 2 years. Good times, good teachers and staff, good fellow students. You can also visit our Facebook page where we share our nice moments and also pay respect to those who left before us:

https://m.facebook.com/AHTTC

J: I am from Bonaire and started Bushiri in 1983, then went to FIU after graduating in 1986, returned to Bonaire after graduating FIU and enjoyed a successful career ever since, which I am sure is thanks to the basics I was taught at Bushiri. Bushiri, as my colleagues said, was a very good school. Aside from the academics we were also taught grooming, discipline, teamwork and leadership. I have fond memories of my Bushiri years and am grateful for the friendship maintained with my colleagues. Even though I am not from Aruba, it pains me too that the Bushiri building and the AHTTC principles were forsaken.

SH: AHTTC was the best education decision made ever on the Island, it’s so sad to see what it became and how this changed to EPI. Every morning passing by to work it’s so painful to see the building where we all Bushiri Student had experienced such good education, discipline and fun memories of team work and studying together. I personally have a lot to thank for, for whom I am today in the hotel business.

AN: Those greatest years can never be forgotten, greetings to all for these memories pictures, saludos.

RD: Hi Rona. As a former student of the A.H.T.T.C, all I have to say is, that it was a great school for Hospitality Management Training. For those who wanted a job after graduation, for those who wanted to continue their studies, a tremendous school. Great teachers, great learning experience. I am very proud to have attended, great memories!

PS: One time, during bar class, we were learning to make flaming drinks. There was this girl who was a little insecure. Of course she spilled flaming alcohol on the bar…. Now we all know that the alcohol would have burned off very quickly, but I had the fire extinguisher ready, so I gave her (and half the classroom) a good spraying.  It was damn funny to see everything covered in white foam…….

AR: I won the first Mixology bartender contest with a drink called Aruban Desire. Fernando Kock was my teacher, a tough guy with a lot of patience. I remember we put the beverage department on fire and P S operated the fire extinguisher , extinguishing​ all of us, instead of the fire. Rona ,we also have a fellow student that served during the Iraq War. Roberto Da Camara. Better known as “Speedo,” he is the son of George da Camara, from the Trocadero days.

YL: Rona as you have been able to read from most of our  group, Bushiri was the onset and foundation of not just our careers but also our business ethics and because of our strong friendship or as we are  proud to say being part of this Bushiri family we have become the very best in our chosen fields. Always striving for higher achievements, pushing the limits, because all the instructors were very proud of being part of a new educational system, and made sure each and every student knew that. If on premises in uniforms or out and about we were repeatedly told that we represented high standards, and that really nothing was impossible if you just focus and work hard towards your goal. We had hands-on experience like the 1st Food competition, being judged by F&B professionals and learning all about teamwork. I was among the first set of AHTTC graduates in 1984. Today I can boast that the education I started at Bushiri has made me who I am.

 

 

 

 

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March 18, 2017
Rona Coster