Bati Bleki, May 5th, 2014

GIVE THE MONARCHS A HAND. I was recently given a Milk Weed plant by Tony & Lori of the Butterfly Farm.  Tropical milkweed, Asclepias Curassavica, is one of the Monarch’s most favorite plants in the garden, perfect for egg-laying. And we as the Monarch’s planet-partners have to give the butterfly a hand, as far as species preservation goes, so please plant Milk Weed everywhere. It is very easy to grow from seed, it is attractive and neat, it is covered with yellow-orange flowers in summer and it is in general a nectar plant for many butterflies and honey bees. Find it at Fantastic Garden. It only takes a couple of months to grow big enough to sustain a population of butterflies and bees.

VERY RIDICULOUS. Closing stores on May 1st was an unintelligent decision. We are a tourist economy and shopping is part of the visitors’ experience, on any given day. With two cruise ships in town, what are the visitors to do?? Additionally, closing stores on Labor Day take very lucrative overtime income away from those working, and deprives the government from its BBO portion. Don’t forget, most of the hotel-stores signed their space rental leases with the stipulation to remain open and available 365 days a year. So then the men in blue emerge and close the store in violation of its lease agreement! Why are the Policemen working on Labor Day, aren’t they entitled to a day of rest and why are they the only once benefiting from lucrative overtime? Please rethink this policy. It’s like closing the hotels for a day, you kill the momentum. It’s like shutting down Elmar for an hour. It takes more than a flick of a switch to bring it back up again and running!

SANDRA & JUSTIN ARE WEDS. Justin Carson and Sandra Ospina held their marriage at the Alto Vista church, in a one-of-a-kind celebration. The weather was perfect, the wedding party great-looking, and the unrushed ceremony infused with Corinthians verses about love. Sandra’s corset wedding dress with an embroidered bolero was a masterpiece of romantic, Victorian lace, ribbon-trimmed over a full, long skirt. She carried a bright yellow wedding bouquet, and wore a white tulle fascinator in her lovely hair. Justin looked dashing in a dark suit with a light blue waist coat and bow tie, sporting a bright yellow flower buttonier. The reception at Tierra del Sol, pool side, brought together Bill and Joy Carson’s Aruban friends, hugged and held over the past three decades, their Canadian friends and family members who travelled from afar on the occasion, as well as Sandra’s family members and friends from Aruba and Colombia. Last but not least the cutest infant in the world, Guillermo, with gorgeous black hair and the disposition of an angel! Justin & Sandra who both work at the Riu, collaborate on Sandra’s artistic undertaking. She makes charming handbags out of recycled cigar boxes and he nails in and fastens the hardware. It’s a match made in heaven!

TESSA PIETERSZ, IN SHOW BIZ MORE THAN A DECADE. Tessa says she knew that Trend Alert would be a long-term project and that it will work well. She was certain the program will fly, but just had to dedicate some time to raising her family first, then the timing for a career, was right. Tessa successfully juggles raising three kids and overseeing her TV productions and as she grew she also mentored many other presenters and practically raised a whole generation of TV personalities on her own. The talented diva is now launching two new shows, in the reality TV genre, one documenting our most favorite musicians, Beats Per Minute, aka BPM, and one giving kids an opportunity to produce, shoot, and edit a clip, as part of the Aruba Television Youth Academy Foundation. Both are super interesting projects. At her party on a recent weekend at the Art and Design Academy on Wilhelminastraat Tessa attracted a stylish crowd of media and business movers and shakers, who enjoyed the roof top cocktail party catered by Aruba Wine & Dine and elegantly decorated. Across the street from the academy, the Rietveld park is shaping up, as a gift from Romar Trading. Milton Harms is working on the project himself, with landscapers and professional park designers. We are look forward to an oasis at the heart of town with, most importantly, free WIFI. Back to Tessa’s swanky event. It was co-hosted by a proud father, TV man Tom Pietersz, who has done an excellent job raising a TV star. The party featured the sponsors well, with nice co-promotions ideas from Dufry, L’Oreal and Heineken. Suave Ruben Garcia as emcee? Only the best for Tessa.

NOT BAD FOR A LITTLE GIRL FROM CONECTICUT. Now retired, Deborah St. Laurent, the former Managing Director, Calloway Corporation, a company providing Airline Catering Services at Queen Beatrix International Airport was recruited by Ike and Greta Cohen to work here 33 years ago. Ike came to her office in the US, she was at the time working for the Marriott Corporation in charge of cost-effective purchasing. Ike was struggling to establish a new cost-effective business here and looked for an expert. Deborah says she ran to her hometown’s library to find out where Aruba was, five minutes after she said yes to Ike’s proposal. “You know,” she told me, “even though I have a very loud voice, I am very shy so if you do write about me, remember I am an ordinary person that got a great opportunity many years ago and I ran with it but I certainly could not have done this alone without the help of my management team and all the employees here. ” That said, Deb has a great farewell party this week at the Manchebo Beach Resort, Beach Pavilion, with many guests, including former employees, colleagues, friends, hoteliers, government ministers, and Aruba’s Prime Minister and the first lady in attendance. As a young retiree she will be travelling around the world and always keep Aruba as her home. Two fun stories I heard at the party: Before completing his studies, on a school vacation, Minister Paul Croes worked at Calloway Catering as a dishwasher. He looks back with fond memories and admits it was hard work. Minister Arthur Dowers as a teenager flying out to school in the Netherlands received a special meal on board KLM heading to Europe courtesy of Deb, a friend of the family, his last luxury meal for a long time, having to live on a student budget while studying.

RENOVATED OR NOT, MADIKI IS HAPPENING. At Twister, chef Linda Pool and partner Annie cook up a storm every day, but once a month for their culinary weekend, they present a special gourmet menu, Friday and Saturday, no smoking on Sunday, on Doninicanessenstraat 10. Twister is an old pub with a soul, in need of renovations, nevertheless the food is superb. Flor di Oriente their historic neighbor within the Madiki bario received a facelift last year. It now wears a Heineken-green jacket, and looks all cute and spiffy, with Plaza Juan Poturgués in front.  Happy hour must be great on Fridays, with all court employees sauntering in from Plaza Alameda for a touch of de Freitas hospitality.

AGA GETS A SHOT IN THE ARM. AGA, the Aruba Gastronomic Association just received a significant boost, as the Aruba Wine and Dine restaurant group decided to join the ranks of the organization, reports Kevin Slagen, the company’s dynamic operations manager. The whole AGA project will be Harry Koeman’s baby, he adds, benefitting greatly from Harry’s experience and business sense. To quote the Haitian coat of arms: L’union fair la force, there is strength in unity, especially when it comes to negotiating for work permits and other hurdles on the road to gastronomic excellence and ease of doing business on the island. We’re looking forward to AGA’s becoming a formidable force, the likes of the ATIA or AHATA.   RC@visitaruba.com