Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap April 1, 2018

The Aruba Tourism Authority Business Mixer

The 5th annual networking event was very criollo, in the heart of town, and we loved it. Last year, the business mixer was elegant and trendy at White Modern Cuisine. This year, serving croquets and stuffed Russian eggs it was super cool and casual. A lovely touch were the greeters in traditional folkloric outfits, standing at street corners in Rancho meeting and directing invitees, evoking images of a time long gone.

The CEO, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, gave a good, info-pack welcome address. Basically, Aruba’s tourism is booming, lots of increases in land and cruise tourism, despite losing the Venezuelan visitors. Many islands were hit hard by the hurricanes and we benefited from that unfortunate natural disaster.

Ronella’s speech was worth reprinting, but because we’re all ADD, I will just reproduce one piece, and I hope you read it.

Speech Business Mixer, March 22, 2018, Flor de Oriente

“Tourism success is also measured through the per­ception of happiness and satisfaction with life of residents. As the No. 2 most tourism-reliant nation in the world, we greatly value the happiness of our local people – they are the heart and soul of Aruba and ensure the quality tourism experience that has defined our destination.

As the Aruba Tourism Authority our core purpose is to drive prosperity for Aruba through sustainable tourism.

We strive to balance the needs of the community, the visitors, you … our partners, within the parameters of a sustainable development … balancing economic, social and environmental aspects.

To ensure long term benefits for Aruba’s tourism industry we drive demand of the desired high spending visitor and orchestrate destination development to increase tourism revenues and enhance the quality of visitor experience.

As a part of our continued focus on destination development, we produced the Destination Development Plan ‘Cu Mira pa Futuro’, and a key priority identified is ensure a balanced carrying capacity.

As a mature tourist destination, how can we still grow and yet maintain the integrity of the island, safeguard the community’s quality of life, protect the environment, and preserve natural and cultural assets?

These are no easy questions to answer but are critical to the relevance of our tourism product and well-being of our community.

We are taking the lead in conducting a Carrying Capacity Review which we have recently started by conducting a resident sentiment survey to identify perceived positive and negative impacts of tourism and general concerns of tourism as expressed by our residents. In addition, we also kicked-off a tourist survey at different well visited locations. Over these past few days we’ve collected an overall total of approximately 5,000 resident and tourist surveys.

The overall results of this carrying capacity research will provide information to support improved sustainable destination management, balanced growth, and quality visitor experience.”

I will tell you, on another day, about the new BAN SERIO campaign which Is brilliant!


Some Good News in Health Care

In July 2017 I spoke to a health consultant who said that as a culture, we are in terrible denial about our health.

While I realize that we consume too many calories, drink too much and exercise too little, this guy made me feel good about AZV. He said we’re lucky we live here and not elsewhere, because as far as health care goes, we’re light years ahead of other islands, and AZV courageously makes investments in public health.

Which is great to acknowledge because we hear disaster stories and never recognize successes.

I have a success to report today!

“For the transmural diabetes care,” my expert says, “it’s not a secret, the results are spectacular. Since last time we met, we see a more than 35% reduction in irregulated diabetes patients, admitted to the clinic. This year probably even higher. That’s a good perspective for a long-term reduction in late complications. There are some very good cases of patients being more therapy compliant and being very enthusiastic about the effects on their daily lives. This is good example of successful cooperation in the health domain on Aruba.”


I will explain.

According to my expert 16% of the island’s population suffers from Diabetes, in various stages. It is a lifestyle disease, as a direct result of our questionable habits. About 9% of residents have it bad and are in Secondary Care of specialists and the hospital, with a bleak future ahead of them, filled with heart disease, kidney dialysis, amputations and strokes.

Last year we reported that 6% can be saved, if they listen to their house doctors, take their meds religiously, eat well and exercise vigorously. These 6% of residents don’t have to end up in hospital care if they assume responsibility for their own well-being, ASAP.

Last year I asked: Will they? Will they change their ways, learn new behaviors and save themselves?!

This year we can answer that at least 35% of them avoided the escalation of their disease, and further health deterioration.

And AZV continues to make great investments in the Diabetes project. Many family physicians are assisted by a Nurse Practitioner whose job is to help monitor the condition of diabetic patients, and assist them in stabilizing it, so they do not enter that final dreaded stage that requires hospital care.

My expert says we, as a nation, run to the emergency room is too easily, and that those trips are expensive and financially burden and cripple the hospital. Primary Care on the island needs to be available 24/7, so we don’t have to run to the ER!

Good news they are working on it. So, when we feel ill at 11pm, there would be a qualified place to call and get help in diagnosing our condition.

One thing still holds true: As a society, we are in terrible denial about our health; people here are unhealthy, and it will cost AZV an arm and a leg if nothing is done. We need to educate the population about taking better care of itself.

Additionally, in the Social Domain, GOA must continue to make investments in bike lanes, outdoor gyms, walking trails, and other health promotions, to remind us that mens sana in corpore sano!


What Takes You So Long

My colleague at Noticia Cla published an interesting news item yesterday stating that according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, CBS, 15.9% of homes in Aruba are living in poverty.

I do not know what exactly propelled him to look into the issue of poverty on Aruba yesterday, but I welcome his attempt to shine a light on our internal challenges.

ONE QUESTION REMAINS: Why does a journalist have to base his report on 2010 findings? Where are the 2017 findings?

Yes, according to the 2010 Aruba Multidimensional Poverty Index, AMPI, of eight years ago, we have 5,105 homes meaning 13,638 people living in vulnerable households, subsisting in slight, to moderate poverty up to severe deprivation.

I think it is outrageous that we have to base our conduct, legislation and allotment of resources on a study that is eight years old.

What is CBS doing to update and inform GOA about the actual situation here?

In a recent talk given by Lisette Malmberg, who was pitching the HOPE foundation to local companies, she stated that based on CBS findings, 42% Arubans live under subsistence level, with just 9% of the population in possession of higher education. Lisette reports addiction rate at 50%.

According to Noticia Cla, the big picture of vulnerability here, from slight to severe, includes 6,144 homes, out of which 1,437 are dirt poor.

More of those may be found in San Nicholas, less in the Noord/Tanki Leendert area.

And many of those vulnerable homes have one or two economically inactive people living in it, retired, or infirmed, at an average age of 65 to 68.

Sure, kids live in 30% of the economically deprived homes, a total of 2,931 children, whose parents are relatively young, but they still experience scarcity.

The article offers two ways to define the minimal subsistence level on the island in 2010: One as Awg 1,985, per person, based on the cost of living, and the other putting it at Awg 1,365, which represents 60% of the average personal income here.

What about the 2017 findings. I am afraid to ask. I would also be afraid to look.

CBS what happened? Did you fall asleep at the wheel, did you go on AO for 8 years?


Freedom of Speech and the ban on speaking

While I am a great freedom of speech advocate some individuals should not be allowed to speak, let alone to speak to the press.

For example:

Banned: Our former MinPres.

On March 18th he occupied video time when he pretended to zoom down the street for two yards on a mini stand up scooter. What a stunt, wow, so green, so eco-friendly. Enough. You had your chance. We do not wish to be exposed to phony PR opportunities any more. That time is over. And the weepy articles where you get cozy in the picture with a sweet little old lady, lamenting her low income and deteriorating quality of life, nuff.

I would be perfectly happy if I do not come across any of those any more.

Banned: The former Minister of Finance.

While I think that if he played his cards right and changed his last name to Eman, he has a good political career ahead of him, I can no longer read his daily boring financial dissertations, with a straight face. Because he was part of the -1.7-billion-florin combined deficit created from 2010 to 2014, which according to Solo Di Pueblo went the following:

-188.6 million in 2010;

-325.2 million in 2011;

-443.3 million in 2012;

-332.8 million in 2013, and

-405.8 million in 2014.

You helped spend the fortune by saying “Yes, Man” to every outlandish cash guzzling exercise, so you should now help as a parliamentarian, to support this nation with good counsel and educated input, instead of an ongoing fabricated cry-baby narrative.

Banned: A Certain Squatting Watersports Operator

They were all dressed in a fancy bright uniform, for the first time, for the photo opportunity, all nicely groomed and well spoken.  As I said for the first time. As soon as talk about licensing started circulating this squatter Palm Beach watersport operator made the investment to upgrade and improve his illegal palapa, creating an even larger footprint on the real estate he was trying to claim, with 700 beach chairs and umbrellas on a doubtful permit of fifty.

Yes, while I am a free speech advocate, I wanna tell my colleagues in the press, cookies, you don’t have to speak to EVERY ONE, and print EVERY THING, you can exercise some editorial common sense.


Old column from Easter 93, from my book Island Life

Because of my Island Life column, I participated for the first time in the Caminda Di Cruz—the Good Friday, crack-of-dawn pilgrimage to the Alto Vista Chapel—and was introduced as well to some old Easter traditions. Easter had a more spiritual flavor this year.

In search of the essence of the holiday on Aruba, I really wanted to join the happening. I knew the procession was leading to a secluded chapel, Aruba’s oldest, originally built in 1750, home of an ancient cross said to date back to Spanish colonial times. I also knew about the unique relationship Arubans, especially women, have with that chapel, dedicated to the venerated Mother of God.

So, I woke up at 4:30 am to walk up the Alto Vista hill to the high plain overlooking the turbulent north coast. On my way to the moonlit top, I joined hundreds of quiet, island residents in small groups and some on their own, trekking up the winding road with its 14 white cross stations marking the mythical events that occurred on Jesus’ way to the crucifixion site. They were young and old, in their sneakers and T-shirts, babies in arms, old people on crutches, silently making their way uphill to the windy, rugged top to pay homage to Our Lady of Alto Vista on the day her son died.

The tiny chapel already had a handful of worshipers huddled inside, among them, cradling his guitar, Etty Toppenberg, one of the island’s finest musicians. Etty gently strummed the instrument in the dark. Later, sitting on the plain stone bench outside, Etty said, “I come here every single day of the year at different hours to thank the Lady of Alto Vista for my gift of music. I have also been coming here as a pilgrim on Good Friday since childhood, just the way my father taught me. This is my spiritual retreat. I have traveled the world from the mountains of Nepal to the slums of Mexico City, and I have never experienced anything as magical as this. I come here to listen to myself and find answers to questions that baffle me down there in the din of town. I lost my eldest brother to a senseless accident this year, and life will never be the same without him. I come here to the chapel to find the serenity and acceptance that I long for and need.” I could hardly make out Etty’s face in the moonlight, but his voice was solemn and sincere. “I come here often, too,” offered a total stranger, who had been sharing our bench for a short while now. “In my youth, I walked the wild side; fast cars and street life lured me away from school. When I got arrested for joyriding a car, my mother, a simple woman who had no education and no legal counsel, pleaded with the judge to reduce my sentence. She only had the Lady of Alto Vista at her side when she cried in the courtroom and pleaded for mitigating circumstances. I will never forget how she cried. I know it was She who influenced the judge to send me home and back to school,” concluded our fellow pilgrim.

Etty said that before the day is over, there will be over 8,000 people visiting the patron mother of the windy hill. After all, Aruba is a very matriarchal society. Women have always been the backbone of the island’s family life, and in recent years, a powerful economic force as well. According to the 1991 population census, of the island’s 57,452 Roman Catholics, 29,032 are women. Definitely not a minority.

Devout Catholics in Aruba fast on Good Friday until 3 pm, which, according to Mark 15:25, is the hour when Jesus was crucified. Traditionally, all food for the Good Friday family dinner has to be prepared a day ahead of time. Typically, fish appears on the menu. Absolutely no fowl or red meat is served.

Ingrid, my coworker at The News, recites an old folktale that is public knowledge on Aruba. When swimming on Good Friday, one immediately turns into a fish. Even worse, swimming at 3 pm guarantees instant death by drowning. A friend whose name shall remain secret seriously recalls his mother emotionally advocating sexual abstinence on Good Friday. In the old days, bars and restaurants closed and people tended to stay home and reflect.

Trekking up the hill to Alto Vista, I met a lot of my friends. It was a democratic sort of experience. A pilgrimage of equals, an expression of the people’s true spirit of cooperation and self-empowering faith. It was just the way Aruba is: orderly, friendly, open, tolerant, and organized, but not overly organized. Happy to be living in Aruba, I pledged to get my entire family up at 4:30 am next year for a celebration of unity, calm, and devotion symbolizing the female aspect of God.


About writing

Three writers crossed my path recently

Evert Bongers

This guy is a consummate historian. He writes books about historical developments on the island. De Kolibrie Op De Rots, is his third publication. It’s a compilation of articles from the Amigo di Aruba which focused on interesting anecdotes. My Dutch reading friends report they are ‘addicted’ to his materials, shining light on long gone people, places and things.

Evert dedicates his spare time to the gathering of facts on his website, and to research and writing. Among his published works, Augustus Scur, describing a period of inter-island political unrest in August of 1977, and Creating One Happy Island, the story of Aruba’s Tourism, published on the occasion of the island’s 50-years-of-tourism celebration.

While born in Holland, Bongers spend his early school-years on Aruba because his parents spent a few years working here. He still tells the story of a certain Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1959 when dressed in his Sunday-best he toured with his parents the gorgeous, just-completed Aruba Caribbean hotel, on Palm Beach. No doubt it was a life changing event, because in 1977, Bongers returned to the island as an accomplished professional. Having graduated a Dutch university, he threw himself into this community’s life, as a French teacher and volunteer, organizing windsurfing activities, races and sailing regattas, serving as the emcee of the Plaza’s Quiz Night, and working diligently on High Winds, the annual wind racing regatta.

Tiziana La Torre

While still in her twenties, this dynamo working for the Amigoe di Aruba, started compiling a monthly newspaper, in Dutch with reading material suitable for school students. The initiative provides the local high-school with current reading materials, news and lifestyle information. Moreover, the publication encourages kids to participate, and prints articles by enthusiastic teens. Thank you Tiziane for promoting writing and helping create a new generation of Journalists.

Miriam Engeln

A real estate expert by profession Miriam recently participated as a featured author in Simply Woman: Stories from 30 magnificent women who have risen against the odds, a new book compiled by women’s advocate and international best-selling author Crystal Andrus Morissette.

The book was launched on March 8th, International Women’s Day, in Canada, with the authors from around the world in attendance. How did our Miriam get there? She heard Morissette speaking on the island a number of years ago, when Morissette was the guest speaker of the Women’s conference. She remained in touch with the speaker by subscribing to her newsletter, and when Morissette was scouting for stories, just before the #MeToo movement that has shaken the world, Miriam sent in a synopsis of her life’s story, and was hand-selected to participate. She has always been a go-getter.

Miriam shares her health and personal challenges in the story and takes us into her mindset that reveals the power of positive thinking.

The Kindle book version will be available on Amazon soon, and/or via Miriam’s blog;