Bati Bleki, December 9th, 2013

WELCOME BACK. Raymond Talbot who worked in Aruba as the manager of the Flying Fishbone Restaurant in Savaneta for four years, then left to Spain ten years ago. He is back on the island as General Manager of a popular restaurant in the heart of Palm Beach, I will fill you in on all details in the coming weeks. A number of Aruba veterans left to Spain around the Millennium, as that country’s tourist economy was booming. With the financial downturn in Europe some returned, and we’re happy to see them back having gained much valuable experience overseas. Among distinguished returnees, Paul Faas, who opened Gourmet Studio 2Fools & a Bull, now a top-rated, popular dining destination in Noord.

FILOMENA IS RETIRING. The ever helpful, thoroughly-connected, super-secretary, Filomena Perez-Lopez is retiring from the office of the governor. I think she should now write a book about her 28 years of experiences in government, having served the cabinets of governors Felipe Tromp, Olindo Koolman and Freddy, probably the least-formal and most down-to-earth official of the three plus a number of acting-governors. Twenty-eight years since 1985, plus all the years prior to Status Aparte, Filomena, your book should be an instant success, a best seller! Welcome to the dynamic S. de Cuba, who stepped into Filomena’s shoes just recently.

GIRL’S NIGHT OUT, A RESOUNDING SUCCESS. Champagne and butler-passed hors d’oeuvres welcomed the girls on their night out, at T.H. Palm & Company, street side, Playa Linda Beach Resort. Invited guests came early and stayed late, socializing, sipping, nibbling and shopping. The event offered a dash of Sanity, in a period of Insanity, with Jodi Tobman and her sales associates in white floral head-wreaths, meeting and greeting clients who previewed the exciting new gifts for the Christmas season. During the season of giving, it is good to remember that the store supports the island’s charities via its Tikkun Olam, Repair of the World program, and that by shopping with the Salamander Group you also contribute to very worthy projects such as Telefon pa Hubentud, Koningin Wilhelmina Fonds, Centro Kibrahacha, Fundacion pa Hende Muhe den Dificultad, Stichting Edmund E. Harms Foundation and more. Catered by Barney’s and Taste of Belgium, the 9th annual Girls Night Out, turned out to be the busiest to date. Lastly, while at the movies, pay attention to the Salamander Group’s new commercial, a delightfully-deranged production, an action-packed, fast and layered one-minute movie, promoting the gift-trinity, T.H. Palm & Company, Caribbean Queen and the Caribbean Clothing Company. The commercial stars some very famous local faces – you’d be surprised, but you have to watch closely to get it. Very funny, totally outrageous, by Arubaworks Film & Music NV.

CARNIVAL QUEENS REVISITED. For a project for Island Temptations Magazine we revisited some of the island’s memorable Carnival Queens and Carnival Queen Contestants for a photo shoot and an interview. We found out in the process that the charismatic personality and the pizzazz they displayed on stage in the stadium also propelled them forward in life, and that their mega-personalities did not diminish with age, or with any slight weight-gain. Looking as fabu as ever, Enid Marugg-Croes who revealed that her stadium experience helped shape the public-personae she is today, not to mention the brand new car she won which mobilized her world and allowed her to spread her wings at the age of 18. Lovely Jeanette Lopez Henriquez totally surprised us when she shared that after retiring from her management position with a prominent local jeweler, she undertook a third career, that of a Spanish teacher in two of Aruba’s elementary schools. We are full of admiration for people who reinvent themselves, without being tied to the calendar. Jerusha Rasmijn participated in our photo shoot, as beautiful and as graceful as ever, on her way to represent Aruba’s Convention Bureau at the SITE conference in Orlando. Rachel Kraayvanger and Geraldine Erasmus still own their sparkling, bigger-than-life personalities and Shannon Lopez Pena still sizzles with red hair and an on-fire attitude. Natasha Felix who liberated us from white bridal dresses by wearing Evelino Fingal‘s Red Rooster on a white jumpsuit is still a mold-breaker, and triple crown winner Maribel Andrade a fierce competitor. It was a pleasure to see and talk to fearless warriors Ziziane Flemming and Zuzette Croes, both remarkable role-models. And we also loved the company of refined and sophisticated Nabilha de Palm, glamour-girl turned politician Dianira Frank, and many more fun chicas such as Osayra Romero, Dianthe Maduro and Monica Saladin.  The Carnival season was short, but the lessons learned during that time were life-changing.

CRAFTY HANDS SHOWCASES GREAT TALENT. I hope you got to visit the Foundation A.R.U.B.A. artisan fair at Fort Zoutman this weekend. The show introduced me to some terrific artisans I did not know for example Luis Mesquito, from Montevideo-Uruguay, who works here under the name CharruArt – Charru is an Indian tribe in Uruguay. He is an artist and a poet with an amazing sense for color and form, a wild imagination and a personal preference for contemporary environmental assemblage, creating detailed and delicate painted driftwood art pieces with other recycled materials. The underwater fish and mythological creatures that emerge from his found-objects are ornamental and whimsical, you can actually see how he liberates the shapes trapped in the material, and transforms them into amazing art objects. Gotta see it, to appreciate it, across the street from Playa Linda Beach Resort, next to Dunkin’ Donuts. Ralph Guda makes highly polished and sophisticated pens, as classy as Mont Blanc only more valuable since he creates his writing instruments from felled wayaca and kwihi trees. Already well-known realistic painter Hendrik Schouten branched into gorgeous-gorgeous copper jewelry. His cuffs and earrings are exceptional and he is fun to watch as he hammers a copper penny into a swan or a copper tube into leaf-like earrings. Marc Uljee makes driftwood lamps and furniture, nicely handcrafted and well finished.  I loved Omaira Toro lucky ocean beads, Sandra Carson Ospina’s cigar box bags, Carina Molina recycled rubber tire-bags, and the glass-bead artists, Wendy, Gabriella, Tya and Marian.

GREAT NEW FRAGRANCE FOR THE SEASON. Fendi’s L’Acquarossa, the red elixir of passion, is very floral and fresh fragrance, introduced by Maggy’s just recently. Chiara Mastoianni, the daughter of film legends Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni is the face of the advertising campaign. Perfect for the holiday season.