Bati Bleki May 27th, 2013

MOVERS AND SHAKERS. I recently met Matt Knights General Manager of the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, a truly down-to-earth executive with a rather practical career path, having started his rise in hospitality as a bell man with a great attitude. His father originally wanted him to join the family business, a busy bakery, but Matt admits that after trying it out for a while, the endless, intense, hard work required motivated him to look for other employment avenues. Personally, he was content as a bell man, but his supervisors recognized his gifts and thus he moved from the bell desk to the front office, becoming its manager shortly thereafter. He continued climbing the ladder of success stopping in the pastry shop as chef, making good use of his education in baking and pastry arts. Then another degree in Hospitality Administration Management, cleared his ascend to the summit, and he’s been a hotel and resort manager for the Marriott International for over 10 years. I liked Matt’s story, since it confirmed to me that the journey from beer to champagne is an option we can all exercise. Another long time executive of the Marriott, Cory Guest, General Manager of the Ocean Club has just packed the pictures on his desk, as his is moving next door to the Ritz Carlton, to serve as the head of the HR department. There is probably no better candidate under the sun for that particular job than Cory who served as the Human Resources specialist at the Hyatt Regency and at the Aruba Marriott before assuming the reins as General Manager. From what I understand, while in principle challenging, on an island with little unemployment, Cory won’t have a very difficult job filling all the 700 positions open at the new resort. He will have his pick from the best and the brightest, wanting to join the new, glitzy enterprise. Consequently those who should worry are the General Managers of the neighboring resorts who will be losing many of their key people to the newcomer. The Ritz Carlton will be recruiting on the island, and there are no additional spare associates to fill all the just-emptied spots. I suggest another plane from the Philippines! If you recall in the summer of 1990, a Hyatt Regency in the Philippines sustained major damage by a killer quake, and a plane load of its professionally trained employees landed in Aruba in time for the opening of the Hyatt Regency here, and a year later La Cabana All Suites Beach Resort. That worked out well. How will they do it in November 2013, which happens to be an election year?!

NOT EVERY DAY IS CATCHING DAY. We visited Zeerover last week, and picked a conversation with perhaps the most-successful, self-styled businessman and entrepreneur of our island, Eric Bisslik, and learned from him that while every day is fishing day, not every day is catching day, summing up his personal philosophy, one that worked so well for him. While Iki established the pescaderia a long time ago, it became a regular business in 1997, then about two and a half years ago, the occasional fish-fry with reservation morphed into a full time eatery, open from 11am to 9pm, serving baskets of fish, shrimp, fries and pan bati, with or without pickled onions. And while the place was destroyed a few times — Hurricane Omar in 2008 was especially cruel — Zeerover rebuilt, so that the pier and terrace in Savaneta became even more popular. Iki reports he often gets up before the crack of dawn, reviews his paperwork, his mail, then takes a nap mid-afternoon if tired — he is not the man tied down by the sleeping from sunset-to-sunrise convention. He lives around the clock, and rests when his body tells him to do so. For the balance of his time, Iki enjoys friends and family members and the legendary cooking ability of sisters Lola & Rose. We also met the diligent and dedicated Cynthia Solognier who helps with the accounting and administration.  Cynthia, who quietly mourns the accidental passing of her son, does not let tragedy break her spirit, and admirably she finds solace in work. Don’t miss the 2014 Annual All Tackle Fishing Tournament, she said as we were leaving, the 2013 edition was a lot of fun!

CYBERSPACE ROMANCE SCAM. What do Steve Mark, Willy Herman, Elvis Mark and Austin Joe have in common?? They all befriended me on Facebook, complimented me on my beauty and my talents and asked if I was friendly. Of course I am not. But I did visit their profiles. They mostly come from the UK; they are average-looking Joes, and they are so-called professionals working in the Far & Middle East for construction or oil companies. I have over 80 of those messages in my mail box, and I recently learned from a friend that they hail from a Romance Scam network, trying to rip off both men and women around the globe, with the promise of romance. So if the person you are talking to via FB chat or a dating site is too good to be true, if some things he says make no sense, if he professes his love to you almost immediately, and if he is currently working in a far-away country such as Nigeria, and having problems cashing checks, or raising cash for his son’s bone-marrow transplant, then you need to know you are dealing with an international swindler. Scammers are setting up fake profiles and presenting themselves as looking for soul mates! In any way, I did not fall for that sweet talk, and the fake Romeos are not getting rich off me!

SO TASTY AND FULFILLING. Monday’s Noche Bello Italiano tasting with the Funchi Gals was divine, and I finally met Amy Richards the third leg of this trio, as documented on their blog and FB page. Nathasha Richardson also successfully catered this week’s Salamander Group, Tikkun Olam event, where as part of that company’s Repair of the World philosophy, generous donation checks were handed over to eleven local foundations. The intimate gathering held on Thursday at the new Caribbean Clothing and Co. on the Main Street, was small yet big on gratitude and love! The hors d’oeuvres, all organic, all homemade, were fresh and tasty. So, for unique catering of an office or home event go to Melisa, Natasha and Amy’s web address!

SWEETHEARTS WED. As Jan Scherrenburg and Marlene Nichols enjoyed their commitment ceremony on board the Jolly Pirates this weekend, with over 50 family members and friends in attendance, I looked around Boca Catalina’s beach at what seemed like a Chinese supermarket being built right on the waterfront. We enjoyed a love-filled beautiful afternoon, and the structure, I was later reminded was mega mansion under construction.  RC@visitaruba.com