Bati Bleki, June 9th, 2014

GRADUATION ISA. I was asked to give the commencement address at the ISA graduation this week as the Class of 2014 concluded its high school experience and flipped tassels in the presence of proud and excited parents and faculty members. I had butterflies in my stomach that whole week over that invitation and consequently was happy to write a speech, which I hope the audience liked. I considered that graduation a Tikkun, a repair in the language of the Kabala, because I did not get to participate in my son’s graduation from ISA in 1997. Son #1 as I call him, David Coster, went to the international school of Aruba from age 3 to 16. Then at age 16 he decided he needed to spread his wings, that this place was too small and too provincial, and that he was destined to bigger and better things and blackmailed us, his loving parents, into sending him to school in the USA. We did, as most parents do when they are under pressure from their children. I am glad to report it was a positive move, overall. David finished an excellent high-school in Jacksonville, then went on to FIU, also in the sunshine state, thus Friday was my first ISA graduation, I might have been a guest at one or two before, but I have never been a commencement speaker, and I admit it was a most-exciting occasion, with the legendary Sarah-Quita Offringa as my co-commencement speaker. The school at the time, did an excellent job graduating well-rounded and accomplished young men and women. All of my son’s class mates, plus those graduating before and after did equally well. I checked Facebook and found at least three Hoteliers, working diligently for some of the world’s best hospitality chains. I know of a few Teachers in various educational fields, an Air Traffic Controller, an Event Planner, a Wedding Coordinator, a Fashion Designer, a world-class Photographer, Sales & Business development executives, some of the past graduates are self-employed entrepreneurs, some of them provide leadership in their own family businesses, I found a Speech Language Pathologist, an Analyst at a Health System, and a Systems Engineer for a defense contractor, restaurateurs and bankers, you gotta be impressed! Graduates left ISA nicely equipped to handle anything that came their way, and if history teaches us anything, chances are that the new batch dancing out of the Renaissance Convention Center on Friday night is also ready lead a very fulfilling and busy life. I looked at the list and was impressed with the range of professions they picked resulting in a stellar representation in the fields of Technology, Communications, Hospitality, Business, Medicine, Diplomacy and Psychology, and I was happy to see that the humanities did not get lost in the shuffle. From the list of graduates I could tell that we’ll have a famous stage and movie star among us one day, as well as a world renown artist. I hereby wish the graduates of the class of 2014 buckets of success, and please don’t stay away too long. Graduates included Brandon Arends heading to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada; Andrew Buckley leaving to Holland to study Communications; Simi Chigani – Unibe, traveling to the Dominican Republic to pick up International Business; Timothy de Meza, a much-decorated student, destined for E.P.I. Aruba with an eye on Hospitality; Rosdely Dijkhoff enrolled in El Bosque University, Colombia, school of Dentistry; Dominique Eman, with his name put down at the University of Aruba, following his family’s Business path; Thalia Guest, tracking to Syracuse University, N.Y., USA, on very high heels, looking at International Relations; Joshua Lacle, following his calling to Eugene Lang, The New School, N.Y., USA, in the Drama field; Imani Martis, focused on the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, exploring Psychology; Kathrin Samingoen, drawn to the Riet Veld Academie, Aruba, to pursue her passion for Art; Kevin Tromp, ready for Holland and a Video Game Programming career and Celena van der Linden, determined to complete a Pre-Med certification, also in the Netherlands.

ARUBA BANK WALKING/RUNNING STRONG. The Aruba Bank 4 day Walk & Run event enjoyed a record number of participants, more than 3,000, in its 10th edition. I was almost late for graduation, giving organizer Milly Lacle a mini stress attack. The roads in Oranjestad were blocked, the boulevard filled with colorful, happy people, running, walking and pushing strollers. It is very impressive how nicely the event evolved to include such diverse groups, against different island landscapes! Trafasi at Cafe de Plaza was a hit that night, the Surinam-Dutch band music is very ear-pleasing.

THE MIAMI AIRPORT. We went to the printer this week to escort another edition of Island Temptations Magazine to the presses. And since we’re living on an island, air travel is the only way to go, walking is absolutely out of the question. And talking about air travel, I can state with confidence, that it has become the least enjoyable part of the trip. Upon arrival at the airport we were charged $25 for each of our suitcases. We kissed blankets and pillows good-bye many years ago, then snacks beat the dust, we did get a cold drink on board, thanks. True, the airport in Miami improved to include lots of shopping and fast food options, additionally, they opened a secret passage to the arrival hall, so that we found carousel 26 and our luggage in record time, no need for an escalator. On our return, my brave driver – you must be in possession of steel nerves to drive on the eternally chaotic Le Jeune highway pretzel — missed 836 because of road obstruction-construction and had to drive all around 826, in bumper to bumper traffic. We gave up on the idea of topping off our gas tank, let them charge us. Then upon arrival at departures we found out that we could not be checked in curbside, until after we return the our rental car. The skycap needed all passenger to be physically available, forget about the convenient one-checks- in, the-other-returns-the-car strategy. You now must return the car first, trot back to departures, find your miserable travel companion surrounded by luggage as you abandoned him/her on the sidewalk, then hand the skycap $20, for the privilege of being checked in. As I said, travel is now the least enjoyable part of the trip. Recommended: We liked Earls Kitchen & Bar at the Dadeland Mall, a casual restaurant that delivers delicious food, imported to the US from Canada. Yes, a Canadian chain, making a name for itself in Florida.

THE SELF-PROCLAIMED AND SELF SERVING BEST OF ARUBA™ AWARDS II. In April of last year I wrote about the For Sale Awards, masquerading as real, with no due process, no jury, no judges, no Gold Standards to uphold. They’re back in June, a bit late but nevertheless I congratulate the shrewd and determined business people behind the scheme for having the chutzpah to do it again. This time they are masquerading as having altruistic purposes, they claim to recognize those who have worked hard, blah blah, those who have served the country, blah blah, those who have served our people, blah blah blah, and by the way, buy an ad in our cut and paste catalogue on shiny paper to maintain the recognition year around. I trust that the public is not fooled by the not-for-profit talk. Businesspeople are in business to make money, there is no shame in that, but as consumers they expect the delivery of a good product, and I hope the award organization improved its product this year, infused it with solid, relevant content, not just hoopla, hair, nails and a short dress.

AND TALKING ABOUT SCHLOCKY, CHEAP, SHODDY PUBLICATIONS. A Canadian publisher has recently committed a hit and run, by arriving on the island late last year, hitting the retail segment of our market with a proposition it could not refuse — Aruban have a hard time saying no, being very sweet by nature — then publishing schlocky Shopping International, a graphic cut and paste compilation of adz, with no heart, no soul, and zero relevance to the island. He pocketed his proceeds and left in a huff, then sent the manuscript to print half way through the year, missing high season. You bet he’s coming back next year for another round of Easy Money, ferreting our hard-earned dollars in his Canadian bank account!