Bati Bleki, February 9th, 2015

REEF CLEANING. We headed out on Sunday last week to the reef islands across Rodgers- and Baby Beach, traveling in a small Boston Whaler, expertly navigated by Randy Maduro of Santa Rosa. We sped straight across the bay, departing from the Nanki Pier. A Coast Guard powerboat also joined us with three of the world’s best-looking agents on board. They were to drop us off and pick us up, and in general assist the volunteer-based cleaning operation. As you might know, there are five of those islands sitting just across from the defunct refinery, pieces of coral sticking out of the water and serving as gathering spots for single, and ready-to-mingle terns. The leader of our expedition, Facundo Franken, says that ten out of forty known tern varieties in the world share the islets peacefully during nesting season, some nest in the sand, some under bushes, some in the branches of shrubs above ground. They each have their own favorite place to lay eggs and wait for the next generation to hatch. In reality, it’s not a very friendly environment because the gulls flying overhead are forever hungry for a tasty egg or two, and in general it is a windy, salty place exposed to the elements, across from a defunct refinery. But despite all that, the terns consider this their own piece of paradise. Apparently the fishing is good, and life remains undisturbed. Melissa de Veer diligently recruited the volunteers and took care of sandwiches and refreshments. All we had to do was show up wearing sun protection. I was excited to go because I have never been. Imagine, a place in Aruba I have never reached. Our mission was to attempt to take some of the marine debris off the island and by marine debris I mean plastic. Bottom line. We filled the Boston Whaler to the brim, twice, and managed to take quite some plastic-fantastic off the two main islands, to get the place ready for the terns’ arrival sometimes between late March and mid-August. Jumping into the water off the boat is relatively easy, because it’s gin-clear and warm. Getting back on the boat is a bit more difficult, and the Coast Guard agents, unceremoniously, assisted us in getting our big, wet butts back into the boat. Greg Peterson took pictures and documented the undertaking. Facundo seemed pleased with the results. Four things stand out in my mind. One: The refinery is bigger than I ever imagined. An industrial ghost-town with crumbling smokestacks and sulfur crusted grounds. Who is going to dismantle it? Who is going to clean it all up for us? It is a nightmare to rehabilitate. Two: We really need to take a stand against plastic. It was everywhere on the reef island in all forms, bottles, lunch boxes, plates, flip-flops, chairs, crates, cutlery. And some of it is falling to pieces, and disintegrating, very difficult to collect. You touch it and it breaks. Unrelenting, we crawled under bushes, we rounded every boulder. If you had seen the beach, when we arrived, littered with plastic, you too would take action against the use of any such product. The sight of the virgin stretch, strewn with garbage was disturbing beyond words. Three: The site has been designated as a globally important bird area by BirdLife International and thus must be protected. The government of Aruba who owns the reef islands where the terns breed annually, must create some policy for conservation to protect the unique site from noise, traffic and other disturbances. It would be ideal if the Marine Park legislation would go in effect, then the San Nicholas bay islands could be part of it. Four: Kudos to the men in uniform. They collected trash, they worked as hard as the volunteers, they showed they have a heart and that the Coast Guard cares.
PADEN PAFO. We visited Atelier 89, a few Sundays ago, and watched a number of small skits put together by the drama students. They wrote the materials, visualized them, and then acted them out. One ten-minute piece regarding Alzheimer, and one regarding conventional gender definitions were especially unforgettable. During the evening the crowd moved in groups, circulating among ten different stations. At each stop with a new skit, we were asked to think, we were challenged to examine our belief system. The dramatic presentations were amateurish but smart. On my way home I thought that there are a lot of benefits to drama education, the actors acquire self confidence because they are expected to perform in front of people; they use their creative imagination to create a scene and dialogue; they develop empathy as they work on different characters facing great personal dilemmas; they cooperate with their group members and collaborate on the theatrical productions; they concentrate to memorize text, they enjoy an emotional outlet, expressing feeling, having fun and relaxing and most importantly, they become aware of social issues and how to handle them. In essence, we should institute drama at all schools as part of the curriculum, because it’s a great way to raise intelligent people. Pa Bien Elvis Lopez for another excellent workshop.
PETER BALLIERE PROVES MI POR. Restaurateur Peter Balliere’s Mi Por project proves that it works if you work it. Not long ago, as a result of an emotional decision Peter agreed to buy a bus, at the value of Awg 140.000, in order to provide transportation, six students as a time, to children in wheelchairs, all clients of the Mi Por foundation, so that they could be driven to their therapy sessions, to school, or swimming lessons. Peter then went door to door and collected donations from family members and friends and recently reached the Awg 90.000 landmark. The additional Awg 50.000 are still beyond his reach, but he is optimistic. He will find the funds. The Toyota garage management was also very generous, friendly and helpful, and Peter is convinced that when YOU read this column, YOU too will become a donor. Mi Por is a foundation that helps support children with a physical limitation. Tel.: 734 4500
TGI FRIDAY TOOK THE PRESS TO SOUTH BEACH. Media personalities were entertained by Andy Lacle at TGI Fridays recently with the new Taste of Miami Beach menu. Andy who is a graphic designer by profession wears quite a few hats at Romar Trading and served as host that afternoon, for the TGI Friday event. Restaurant General Manager Tony Bonilla, reported that the menu of specialties changes every three months, and for the first quarter of 2015 the inspiration derives from Miami Beach. Kitchen Manager Luis Gonzalez, recommended the Beef Pineapple Habanero Quesadilla, as appetizer and a choice of four entrees: Coconut Chicken & Shrimp, Caribbean Sirloin & Jerked Jumbo Shrimp, Caribbean Seafood & Chicken Rice & Sizzling Chimichuri Chicken, all sounding great especially when escorted by a Mojito before or after the movies at Paseo Herencia. Thanks for your gracious hospitality! RC@visitaruba.com