Bati Bleki, April 12th, 2015

RONDE VAN ARUBA, KICKS ASPHALT. A total of 102 teams, a record number, ran the 75Km race on Friday night testing their speed, strength, stamina, team spirit and willpower, that’s over four-hundred runners, a very impressive crowd, supported by coaches and drivers. The event hosted for the 22nd time by the Royal Dutch Marines took runners to many of Aruba’s iconic landmarks, starting at the Marine base in Savaneta, then finishing where it started. It was incredibly well-organized, and those I spoke to have already mentally signed up for next year!

ON A WING & A PRAYER. The island of Aruba was spared, when drifting adventurer John Grady and xtreme super-kiter Fernando Dulce were picked up by a freighter, west of the island. While I was happy to hear they were fished out of the water unharmed, I couldn’t help but reflect how lucky we are as a tourist destination, when Good Friday became great, and everything fell into place. The coverage we received in the USA, following Grady’s interview with the Sun Sentinel wasn’t so cool. The island was made to look a bit like a Banana Republic, but with a happy ending, the story died. So next time, before setting out to rescue me or anyone else, you might as well pick up a cell phone, water, a flare gun, rope, a life jacket, a plastic tarp, fishing lines and hooks are optional, in that order, besides high doses of adrenaline. Adrenaline only gets you that far, even MacGyver had to use gum wrapper, flashlight batteries and matches, to turn his crippled boat into a jet-ski.

SOCIAL MIXER. The Aruba Tourism Authority hosted a fun social mixer at Tierra Del Sol’s banquet area just recently. I showed up with my Pica 96.5% colleagues, assuming my invitation was in the mail, but apparently press was not invited! Glennie Tromp, I apologize, but you should know that this was not the first party I have ever crashed, but it was definitely the BEST! Pa bien on your 35th anniversary with the Aruba Tourism Authority, if you write a book, it will be a best-seller!

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL CAFE. Located next to Aqua Windies at Dr. Horracio Oduber Blvd. #4, across from the hospital, the terrace is now open full time for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. It was beautifully decorated by Jose Menendez and his crew, daughter Sophia works weekends as a most-charming server. In the kitchen Frances Butler makes delicious Roti every Friday and an award winning Nasi Goreng every Monday. The place exudes hospitality. It’s the simple, clean hideaway you were looking for. Their burgers and Dutch pancakes, get great reviews, sign me up for those Roti, the coming weekend.

KORTEWEG STREET GALLERY. A group of young artists stitched together a charming street gallery on Korteweg in Oranjestad, a charming alley, across Aruba Bank. A sexy carpenter in combat boots and tee-shirt hammered all pop-shop style market displays made of reclaimed wood together, then strung lights over the area as DJ Allen Coutinho and Ariën Rasmijn played cool tunes. It is an initiative of Cado de Lannoy, and Jess Wolff, I think, as they regularly bring together groups of fresh, creative people, including Maria Onni, Ashlin Ahlip and MalDoNaDo, featuring her Kala brand of bijoux and paintings, and Trudy Lampe. Make sure you don’t miss the next Korteweg Gallery edition in a few weeks. In general Fiesta den Caya, the island’s weekly shopping night downtown, was not well attended. The amplified Caja Di Orgel, and two/three loud bands with towers of stacked up speakers, did not add much to the ambiance. To stir things up, every once in a while, a chef in his kitchen uniform riding a motorized skateboard, zipped down the street, but otherwise nothing else happened. Korteweg , with unique locally made art, crafts, snacks and even first edition t-shirts, was the best part of the fiesta.

THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY PROPAGANDA. I recently watched a documentary called Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, on HBO. It aired a merciless examination of the so-called church, and its finances, and according to HBO, the documentary was one of the best-watched, and most-anticipated of our time. The church founder, a sci-fi writer by the name of Ron Hubbard, started it more than 60 years ago, based on some bizarre beliefs he had regarding spirituality. Then movie stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise made it famous. For the HBO production several former members were interviewed and their stories of abuse at the hands of the church gave viewers an accurate picture of what the organization is like, for the first time. The film concluded that Church membership is in decline but its net worth is growing, with $3.5 billion in assets. Basically it’s more of a financial institution today, and the number of believers and new recruits is at a record low— fewer than American Rastafarians. Finally, last week I went to Antraco to get some Tipp-Ex, a Awg 5.30 purchase, and wondered how the store stays in business with minimal shoppers like me. At the cashier I picked up a free pamphlet, The Way to Happiness, by Ron Hubbard. I asked the cashier how come they are giving the booklets away, and another employee answered: Because they didn’t sell! That is why they are handed out here, gratis. Knowing what I know today about The Church of Scientology, I wouldn’t want that booklet handed out, at all!

HAVANA HERE WE COME. The Aruba Chamber of Commerce is organizing a fact-finding mission to Cuba, from June 7 through 12, 2015. To promote participation, a Taste of Cuba pre-event, was offered at the House of Mosaic with His Excellency the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Republic of Cuba Norbert W.N. Braakhuis, who was just full of information, bubbling over regarding possibilities in agriculture, 2 to 3 star hotels, communication, and shipping. He made a very interesting and all-over-the-place presentation about Cuba’s struggle to shake off the death grip of its former totalitarian regime, how slow the process, how cumbersome, yet how promising, and necessary. Apparently the Sleeping Giant of the Caribbean is about to wake up and we’d better rush to Cuba to look around and identify our road to riches, before it is too late. Daphne Lejuez will be at the head of the Aruba delegation, on behalf of the Chamber, delivering potential foreign investment to the land of Son Cigars and Paladares. According to the ambassador, Aruba has a history with Cuba, and many common threads, including culture and language. Arubans will be welcomed, he promised, go check things out.

GITTA DE WIT, PASSED AWAY. Fondly remembered here from her long-term involvement with Tempo Agency and Perle D’Or , Gitta de Wit passed away in her sleep in the Netherlands from Cardiac Arrest. Her unexpected departure made headlines party because of her relationship with Emile Ratelband, a TV personality. Apparently women can also suffer from Cardiac Arrest, a condition usually associated with Type A male personalities. So pay attention to any symptoms such as fainting, fatigue, blackouts, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, and vomit, they might be nothing, they might be something. Gitta will be remembered by her friends as a high energy, free spirit!