Bati Bleki, March 4th, 2014

FANTASTIC JOUVERT MORNING. The road was deserted as we headed to San Nicolas on Saturday morning. Is anyone going to show up for Jouvert Morning? Will we be the only ones around? Parking was easy, check, right at the YMCA. With just a handful of pajama-clad party-goers at 3:15 we trotted down to the Winter Garden for our first beer. The place was hopping with all the old-timers parked at the bar. Thank god for the music, lending this shabby dive a lively, welcoming ambiente. Out into the street again. By now there was a good number of people on hand and Upgrade Music rolled down the street, on its fabulous rig, firing instruments up. They were fantastic, and deserving of buckets of compliments. As you know, almost everything has already been said and done, every song sung, every musical instrument invented, so genius may only express itself in a fresh format, a new twist, a surprising and unexpected combination. Upgrade Music did all that! I loved their unique Jouvert Morning sound, made up of three toy plastic horns with a modified, but ear-pleasing, vuvuzela flavor, the old fashioned accordion, the small cuarta, the noisemakers, no horn section, not even a key-board, I think, just percussion and more percussion with the three silly horn-blowers carrying the tune. Fun, Fun, Fun. The band lived up to its name with innovative Jouvert Morning harmonics, which subsided when the sun came up. The band sounded more like its traditional self during the San Nicholas and Oranjestad Parade, no plastic horn blowers, no accordion, no cuarta. Thank you Caribbean Mercantile Bank and BSURE for the musical treat. The way I see it, Jouvert Morning had something for everyone. A crazy hip hop DJ with a street-sound for the young and restless, and the comfortable Soca shuffle, by Le Grove, appreciated by the Golden-Oldies and the band’s die-hard fans. We visited the Caribbean Bar for its clean bathrooms, and hung at the bar gratified, sipping almost-frozen beer. At Julio’s Bar I found all the old-timers I met at the Winter Garden. They just moved. With a 20-people-deep wait for drinks, Julio is still fast on his feet, serving everyone at the same time! We enjoyed the fashions most: bare-chested boys in black pantyhose, nicely formed muscles in sexy night-gowns, hair rollers and night-creams, feathered boudoir slippers, PJs from Target, and plastic shower caps – was that you Rubia Balinge wrapped in a bath towel??  San Nicholas, with the aromas of fried saco, mixed in with a hint of the refinery’s butane gas, and a whiff of raw sewer, was very appealing that night.  Congratulations Aruba for a well organize, totally safe, extremely enjoyable event, my friends tell me it would not have been possible anywhere else in the world. Viva Jourvert!

UNFORGETTABLE CARNIVAL WEEKEND. We found shelter from the sun in San Nicholas under the Canal 22 tent, thanks for the hospitality! I thought the parade was long. Very long. Then on the following day I went to view and photograph the Oranjestad Parade, wow, my perception of long was changing because that 60th Grand Annual Parade in Oranjestad was the one truly endless, and luxurious, and creative, and impossible to describe in just one column. Aruba, you’re Carnival celebration was an over-the-top record-breaker! I paid close attention to the Meta Social Club group because it was the opening act. And TOB still held my interest with its nicely researched narratives of festivals from around the globe, delivering spectacular interpretation for each and every one of those. But after a while my brain became toast. And I just surrendered to the music and the atmosphere, staying in the moment, clicking away on my camera, happily escaping to a gorgeous universe, populated by beautiful people, in rhinestones and feathers.

RANDOM THOUGHTS WHILE LOOKING AT MY PICTURES. A while ago I heard marketing guro Ryan Lampe left Dunkin Donuts where he was much-appreciated and joined the team at Tropical Bottling / Blashi. Then I saw him in the parade with Meta Social Club.  Aha, what a great opportunity, he just joined the company, and immediately lent a hand to the design team of the elaborate Carnival presentation of 22 sections and 450 participants. Did you do the cinema section, one of my favorites? When you joined Meta Corp, did you know that this is what you’ll be doing? For me it’s serendipity at work. Our long-lost but not forgotten friend Rossini van Wijk, was easily recognizable under the long pompadour curls in the Venice Carnival section of TOB. Welcome back, the section was lovely, did you design the whole kit and Caboodle!! Bettina Daal, your girls were absolutely gorgeous too, really elegant and coquettish, definitely inspired by you! Christina Marie, the first ever multi-national Carnival queen, made history with her appearance representing the Philippine community, and in general the parade was blessed with stunning royals, including the tall goddess at the head of the Oranjestad Parade. Andrew Curiel’s Stardust segment within Dushi Group, gets my biased vote for elegance and pure show-girl glamour in design with Tina Bislick, Jenn Coster, Barbara Nieuwmeyer, Sanne Michielse and Liza Blok, oozing tasteful sexiness. One of Jenn’s boot fell apart two hours into the parade, thank you TeleAruba for the silver masking tape, a perfect match for her purchase from Shoebaloo, not worth the money she paid for — you live and learn, she had a great time anyway! Los Laga Bay and Champagne, you leave me speechless, making a colossal impression with a massive massa. Two clever commercial ideas: The Banana Boat girls spraying a fine mist of sun screen on spectator arms and legs along the parade route, and the Sun Specs chicas, sanitizing and cleaning sun glasses so we can clearly see how good-looking all of Aruba’s police officers are, kudos for thinking out of the box. Yes, law enforcement personnel looked dashing and well prepared.

CAPUCCINISIMO. Tucked away on the side of Dr. Tim Peterson’s clinic on Caya Punta Brabo is a cute cafe, by his beautiful wife Rosanna, with high quality coffee and supreme desserts. We tried the totally homemade Tres Leche and the Quesillo, which are very sinful and delicious. Rosanna makes a special main course very day, such as Lasgna, Keshi Yena or Carni Stoba, and a distinctive soup, and over time is determined to develop a menu of favorites which the regulars can eat in or take out. Client #1 Marcia Guest recommends everything, and holds the daily meetings of her coffee club at Cappuccinisimo. Also on the menu some tostis, baguettes, quiches, wraps and pressed panino – panini singlular, panino plural!

GOING PLACES. Our own  Flor van der Vaart, is now Vice President, Rooms Operations, Americas, as in the entire continent, for the Hyatt hotel company, headquartered in Chicago. It’s a huge promotion and all we can say is: Your amazing personally, and unique leadership-style is taking you to some pleasantly-surprising places! That thought should keep you warm in Chicago.   RC@visitaruba.com