Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, May 14th, 2017

Only good news today

Reading the paper these days is quite nauseating, as the election campaign is in full swing, and the PR machine is working over-time, but if you skip the government sponsored hoopla, there was plenty of good news today.

They are talking about a joint project with Baptist Miami Cancer Center to introduce radiation therapy so that cancer patients would stay in Aruba for treatment instead of having to travel overseas for help. This project has been on the wish-list of Dr. Joel Rajnherc, he’s been talking about it for many year, and now in collaboration with the dynamic Dr Deepu Daryanani, I am crossing my fingers that the two will get the project approved and financed, and turn IMsan, the clinic in St Nicholas, into a dependence of Baptist Miami Cancer Center. Hats off.

Dreamers, a project by our immigrations services, Development, Relief, Education for Alien Minors, is about to grant legal status to 400 minors under 18 who have lived here for ten years. The program was announced and a multitude of people showed up. There is a great need for documentation of illegal aliens on the island, DIMAS was inundated by people, and they are re-examining the project now, but hats off, for being pro-active about it, I know, it’s a campaign ploy but it’s a good one.

Hats off for granting farmers on the island a favorable water tariff. It’s a wonderful idea. I used to buy the locally grown cucumbers from the Land Farm. They were the crunchiest. Every election, the government takes this old trick out of its bag, and dusts it. Never mind. It’s a good trick. Anyone who wants to be a farmer in Aruba is a saint. And we need fresh produce. From reading about the subject I think that backed by science, vertical farms without soil can be successful here.

Finally the best news United Dogs of Aruba conducted a successful week of sterilizing dogs and cats in the Brazil, Cura Cabai, Savaneta and San Nicholas area. About 30 volunteers, locals and visitors set up a field hospital at Carnival Village, worked their butts off, and got the job done. It was a complicated operation, getting stray dogs to trust, so they can be trapped and operated, but Mercedes De Bruyn and her volunteers got it done. Just like last year, foreigners came here to clean up our mess, and I am grateful.  Thank you.

We have to all learn to be more responsible pet owners. Just last weekend we found five kittens abandoned in a soccer field in Noord, no mom in sight, someone just dumped them hoping a good Samaritan will materialize. That was a sad story, with no happy ending.

Just remember the Bucuti Beach Resort sponsored program Stima Mi Y Steriliza Mi is available. Sign up at any vet to sterilize you pet, today!

What’s in a Name?

I never before wrote about the interesting case of our suspended, for lack of another term, MinLabor, who was placed on non-active duty a few weeks ago because of my personal relationships with the young official and his family members. He used to jog by my house, and sometimes briefly stop for a chat on fitness and neighborhood affairs, which I appreciated.

Then when his home was investigated, computers impounded and accusations aired I asked myself if he was over-eager to serve his country and get the job done, or was he framed?! Is he a scapegoat, a sacrificial lamb for a corrupt system, or is the axiom ‘power corrupts’ inescapable, and as soon as you sit on that chair, your moral compass flies out the window.

I was running my questions by a funny girlfriend with an exceptional memory. Why are you so surprised she said, it’s the name. That last name that is so significant to island’s history. In Aruba, that last name is the equivalent to being a descendent of the Mayflower passengers. If you’re a Croes, you are born with the key to power and influence. It’s like being able to trace ancestry to that 102 pilgrim passengers-list. And that name often gets it bearers into trouble.

Then she went on to remember this, remember the other, wow, she was right, that last name occupied more headlines and consumed more ink, than any other.

Remember under the MEP government, when the MinJust lost the immigration portfolio to the MinHealth, following a Dutch government recommendation, and the new broom then went on to introduce the ridiculous Swiss model, causing pain and confusion, thankfully now just a historical blunder.

Remember when a certain education official by that prestigious name was lending a helpful hand to individuals seeking naturalization, by declaring they had successfully passed the Dutch language test, without even taking it?

Remember when a certain minister in a coalition government was playing the role of Mother Teresa, by grating taxi and water sports licenses, free airline tickets too, scribbling little authorization notes on paper napkins. That napkin-system bearing the minister’s signature was later debated in court and the question if to honor or not, discussed. Later in a civil claim, that good-guy lost his shirt, opened a fruit market, so he could feed his family, and was pardoned at a later stage. Those were the days, free-style government at its best.

Remember when another MinJust was accused of just about anything in the book, but none of the accusations were ever substantiated? The prosecutors at the time, weren’t disinterested in this island’s ‘political thing,’ and dismissed it as petty. But times have changed, they are interested now.

And the Cuban Palm Trees bought by Air Aruba funds, the scandals that squashed a family member’s political aspiration.

Anyway, we had similar stories before, so just sit and wait for the prosecutor to air his findings, remember this great-big investigation into the disappearing San Nicholas business development fund, law suit, after law suit, then nothing?! But that was another last name!

Bonaire as charming as ever

Have no fear Insel Air in here, and on time, we traveled to Bonaire in just one hour and thirty minutes going, did not even deplane, and returned with the same efficiency, disembarking in Curacao, taking a trip around the terminal, back to the tarmac, then on board the same plane, one hour and thirty minutes. Kudos.

The airline which earned the Cancel Air reputation is back on track, having adjusted its vision to serve the region well, instead of serving the world badly!

We stayed at the new Marriott Courtyard, which is adorable. Two rows of colorful buildings with colonial-inspired architecture, and lagoon water views. The rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed, and the beds are heavenly. We slept like babies on crisp linens and fluffy pillows.

We were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch & dinner, overlooking the infinity pool. Chef Dhanesh de Kok, is a fantastic local talent, with roots in Curacao. He is being assisted by Dior Marchena, the son of Airel Marchena and Monique Bouwer, yes, his Aruban roots are visible. Dutchman Merijn Koops rounds up the culinary team.  Maxime in the dining room and Diane at the front desk were personable and helpful!

It was Restaurant Week in Bonaire and we enjoyed a fine dining selection: Marinated pumpkin three ways on a bed of red and black quinoa as a starter and their take on Caribbean Bouillabaisse. Perfection. Then a farm-raised chicken dish with Moroccan spices. The desserts were fantastic: A fluffy, lemony Awa di Lamunchi, a triple chocolate Ganache cake and a nuts and toffee parfait. Fine dining at a Marriott Courtyard? You bet.

Memory Lane

My friends Paul Maduro refreshed my memory. In the early 80s, an unholy trio, a Venezuelan developer, an Italian contractor and a Venezuelan bank, Banco de los Trajadores, converged in Bonaire to start the lagoon project. They were welcomed by controversial politician, Rudi Ellis, who was the omnipotent in charge of the economy and the government.

They came with a plan to dynamite a 13 channel lagoon, and give Bonaire more ocean front. In retrospect, Bonaire indeed has more areas with water views now, thanks to that ambitious plan. But in reality they used dynamite to blast the waterway, shaking neighboring buildings to the foundation, terrifying residents and tourists, sending sludge into the coral reef, and acting in total disrespect to nature and Man. Imagine digging thirteen waterways which allow the ocean to go inland, blast after blast. Could they get away with it in today’s political climate? They did at the time.

Thankfully the bank went bankrupt when the Bolivar tanked, around 1982. The project was abandoned for more than 30 years.

While Bonaire has a great environmental record and did many things right, it also has a history in which developers get their way, in spite of negative consequences for the island population.

Examples?

The Eden Beach Resort was developed on a favorite local beach. The residents of Nikiboko, Antriol, Playa Pariba and Salina had to do without. Then when SABADECO was constructed the Dutch developer was granted the ocean front and all others have to drive around the enclave, as the gorgeous coastal public road was handed over to private hands to exploit.

Anyway, water under the bridge. Bonaire’s tourism enjoys the lagoon, with many luxury residences and hotels developments, and we loved everything we saw!

Chef Diego Muñoz stops in Aruba on his world tour, May 30th & 31st

He was the leading chef at Astrid & Gastón in Lima, Peru, for five years and under his leadership that already-legendary restaurant climbed up to place 14th in the World’s Best Restaurant list, also occupying 3rd place on the Latin America list.

Last January he announced he was leaving the restaurant to go on a World Tour in which he is planning to study the foods of Panama, Miami, Oslo, Vienna, Zurich, Moscow, Macau, and Morocco. Having explored all cuisines from many different cultures, he was thinking about opening his own restaurant. Serving what? That he wasn’t sure, he said, but it will surely come to him along the way.

How did Aruba get on Chef Muñoz list of World Tour stops? I don’t exactly know, but I think it had to do with Chef Teddy, now the Director of Food & Beverage at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino.

Chef Muñoz will be on Aruba on May 30th, and May 31th, creating a 5-course dinner at La Vista, for a limited number of lucky foodies, so make sure you call your reservation in early, #520 6342 or #520 6652, so that they save you a seat.

When I told Michael v/d Berg of Pepia Est that Chef Muñoz was coming, he cancelled his upcoming trip to Peru because he was going to travel to Lima to check out the chef’s cooking! Michael will personally be pairing the wines, in collaboration with Chef Muñoz, and Herdy ten Lohuis, to further enhance the dinner experience.

Recently, Chef Muñoz was named one of the top-four Nomadic Chef to watch, by New York Times Magazine. The trendy term Nomadic Chef indicates that he will not be tying himself down to a specific restaurant or place, but rather bounce around, hosting pop-up events and travelling, going to unfamiliar places with strange ingredients — which is so important for a chef with a culinary innovative streak.

According to Chef Muñoz, Peruvian Cuisine is now among the world’s most popular and ceviche is now a cooking technique, not just a particular fish and seafood dish. Ceviche he explains, can be made with just about anything from apples to avocado and mushrooms, but most importantly, food should always be fresh, local, seasonal and ingredient driven.

Don’t miss Chef Muñoz at La Vista, the “meteor in the global culinary scene,” $130 per person, wine-pairing included.

No Hay Dinero

A few days ago, the MinInfra announced the construction of two new hotels in San Nicholas. He did not specify how big, or what kind of development is coming; he did not report on the size of the investment, and whether it was by a reliable party.

I classified that hoopla under “Fake News,” but my friend Rory Arends went on to outline the negative impact of such as development, on his FB page, stating that any additional hotel construction would apply unreasonable pressure on the job market, on the educational system, on the Police force, on medical care, and basically provide employment to nationals of neighboring countries, who will come here to work, instead of focusing on Aruba’s specific needs, and on the Aruban quality of life.

The following day, ARGUS Media ran a not-surprising press release. It basically says:

The launch of work to rehab Aruba’s mothballed 280,000 b/d refinery has been delayed, by eight months to July 2017, pushing back a planned restart to 2020 from an original target date of 2018. “The refinery will start operations at two‐thirds capacity in 2020, with transition to full capacity in 2021,” our Central Bank reports to ARGUS Media.

It’s been a year since CITGO, the US subsidiary of Venezuela’s financially quagmired PdV agreed to lease RDA, which closed in 2012, for 15 years.

ARGUS Media then quotes “a government official close to the project,” saying that logistical and financial obstacles prevented the work from starting. And the agreement talked about in January whereby a French multi-national will finance and execute the job is still inconclusive. No wonder, they need $700mn to overhaul the rust bucket.

You understand that the project cannot start until the financing is in place, says the same Aruban government official. And they still need to lay that famous natural gas pipeline to deliver the fuel from Venezuela to San Nicholas.

Adding to the saga, a senior Venezuelan energy ministry official, admitting the deal is in danger because No Hay Dinero. CITGO cannot raise the capital to pay for the job, because PdV has new Russian bondholders, and totally controversial finances reflecting Venezuela’s catastrophic economy.

So now I understand the new hotel announcement: Was it made to mitigate the blow, the refinery ain’t happening, at least two hotels are on the drawing board?!

Sure, the plan to upgrade Orinoco extra-heavy crude from Venezuela, in Aruba makes economic sense, there is no money to make it happen, and someone in the government is singing to the press….

Same day news, the CBA Economic Outlook May 2017 states that “The Aruban economy is projected to expand (in real terms) in 2017 by 3.4 percent, driven in large part by the refurbishment activities of the oil refinery.”

But you know from the ARGUS Media newsletter that this is not so. And the IMF confirmed on March 31st, in a review of the island’s economy: Aruba’s growth projection “faces significant downside risks, especially due to possible delays in the refinery-related investments.”

We must add that the MinEcon immediately dismissed and denied the ARGUS Media press release, of course, he had to, it’s election time in Aruba, we must keep up appearances.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas!!

In search of some makeup for an Island Temptations magazine photo shoot, I arrived at DUFRY on the main street. The store has remodeled and looks spiffy inside-out. The adorable Pricilla Lacle, took me on a reconnaissance tour of the fragrance giant and named the top three, perfect Mother’s Day gift suggestions, and if you take mom’s picture with her gift from DUFRY and you post it with #DufryLovesMom, you will be included in a raffle for a full day of pampering at Tierra Del Sol, breakfast, massage, lunch and an entire day by the pool, included!

Deep Euphoria by Calvin Klein is a clean and fresh fragrance, a new version of the classic Euphoria, only more flowery, perfect for a younger mom!

Good Girl by Carolina Herrera is a hit, sexy, oriental, and packaged in a stiletto high heel glass slipper. Of course, it is ironically named Good Girl, with the message attached, “It’s so good to be bad?” (#goodtobebad).

La Femme Prada is a classic Prada scent, if you get it for her, you might as well get L’Homme Prada; they go together very well.  This is a sophisticated gift!

Classique, Essence de Parfum, by Jean Paul Gaultier, the most flowery of them all, nicely packaged, in your face fragrance, bold and sweet.

DUFRY now carries Bobby Brown Travel Exclusives, you may get mini version products, perfect for TSA lines, AND get the cruise tickets attached. Alaska in the summer is cool. Isabelle at Maduro Travel will set you up in no time.

Maggy’s

Maggy’s perfumeries hosted a cocktail hour last night to announce the launch of Coach, Eau de Parfum for women, a new fragrance. The party poured Raspberry pink bubbly, provided by TEC., now under the spell of Kavey Yarzagaray, and Tropical Bottling. The new Coach fragrance is delicious, a super Mother’s Day gift.

During the month of May, the store awards double-points on the purchase of Mon Guerlain, so of course I would recommend Mon Guerlain first, it is a fantastic new fragrance, Angelina Jolie wears it, so it can’t be bad!

At Maggy’s, as expected, the Good Girl by Carolina Herrera, is also very popular!

In a conversation with legendary Audrey Lacle, see said many things that made sense, about retail, the main street and about Aruba in general. One of her ideas was stellar. Now that the US has more difficult Visa requirements and a less welcoming environment for foreign students, Aruba should get into the education business and encourage the opening of more private universities, attracting students from around the world, who will rent, eat, and party, providing employment for locals and creating educational opportunity for local youth as well.

An idea worth considering!