Bati Bleki, October 7th, 2013

MUSIC IN THE AIR, LOTS OF LOVING EVERYWHERE. After 6 rehearsals, we finally got a fantastic CSJF, in its 7th edition! Watch out Curacao, we’re catching up with you. The two-night Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival was truly something to be proud of. The setting was spectacular, the stage impressive, the food-court delicious, and everything from tokens to toilets, brilliantly charted. The first night, with a Latin accent, was a busy one. Apparently, we are all Latin music lovers, and live for our salsa. As it turned out El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico loves us too. The mature and dignified, more-salt-than-pepper musicians stayed on stage for two hours, and then their musical off-shoot Robert JeanD’or, cranked up the heat on the stage in front of the Plaza Cafe. The lovely Giovanca enjoyed a supportive crowd in air-conditioning, inside the Convention Center. I found her polished and adorable, she actually produced a camera to take her audiences’ pictures, to show her dad, she explained. How cute is that? She made us all waive to the parents in the Netherlands as she snapped away, left, right and middle. This girl is smooth and she works her crowd expertly. And then it rained. The diehards were happy to dance for Willy Garcia between puddles, and raindrops, but just a small audience remained to admire the talented Levi Silvanie, as the festival grounds washed out. My energy fizzled somewhere in between, and I vowed to do better the next night. Saturday night, I was bewitched and enchanted. George Benson was incredible. When I heard him sing Nature Boy, originally by Nat King Cole, my knees melted.  How can you not fall for: The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn, Is Just To Love And Be Loved In Return. Later in the evening, I was standing next to a group of upbeat tourists, locked in each other’s arms, singing Turn Your Love Around, at the top of their lungs. What joy, what happiness. I forgot how we worshipped George Benson — those were the days — and the 70 year old singer/guitarist is a wonderful performer. Gualao. What a charming 13 piece orchestra, driving their audiences into a conga line, led by the trombone player! I regret the fact that I only caught a small portion of their performance because Ivan Jansen and Horizonte Nobo lured me into the Convention Center for a much-enjoyed, star-studded concert hour. Naturally, we stopped at the Papiamento Restaurant booth at the food court for some Keshi Yena, and sipped nicely iced libations. With all my senses wide awake, thanks to a combination of great food, drink and music, I would like to acknowledge Erik Jan Eman and his crew for a perfectly staged and executed weekend!

THE SKINNY ON SLIM. Did you see Slim Jim, lately? The President & CEO of AHATA Jim Hepple is counting calories, with the help of a cellphone application, and in the process of biking and dieting, lost his pouch. I hope he never finds it again. I noticed that as I was standing mid-fiesta, on the penthouse terrace of the Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa, at a swanky Client Appreciation party, surrounded by award-winning food and drink. A second look at Glenn Farro, the Director of Human Resources, then revealed that he is 40 pounds lighter, thanks to a vegetarian diet, he explains, and that Marc Charley, Casino General Manager, jogged about the same number of pounds off, since the beginning of the year. Resort General Manager, Mark lyttleton-Frances, with a lean and efficient runner’s physique is I suspect to blame for that current health streak — P.S. I just met his wife Sarah, a spirited girl, with a fun sense of humor. So, gone are the days of the pudgy,  tubby, chubby managers! They’re all size 32 now, from Director of Restaurant Sheldon Leuden to Director of Food & Beverage Mark Naber.  I guess I will have to spend more time in their fruit-munching company in the next months, maybe some of their determination will rub off.

LOOKING FOR A LOVING HOME FOR RITZY. About 10 days ago, the recently recruited associates at the Ritz Carlton’s interim headquarters on Schotlandstraat noticed a cute limping puppy and called Animal Ambulance for help.  Kiki from Cas Animal Aruba showed up and drove the newly-named pup to the vet where she is being treated for a broken leg! So now we’re looking for a loving home for Ritzy. A house with a fenced-yard, populated by kind-hearted humans. You can write to me, if you fit the description; we will pay for the medical expenses, you get a fully-fixed pet. Kiki was pleased to meet Tiffiany Holmes, Hotel Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba. As it turned out, that hotel executive served as an appointed Director to the Board of the Humane Society on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. With her strong management experience, organizational skills and love of animals, Tiffiany was a dedicated supporter of the organization, and was instrumental in building a state-of-the-art new animal shelter there. Visit www.hsstt.com, you won’t believe your eyes, it is amazing, you would want to move in there yourself!

SAVE MY CUCUMBERS & TOMATOES. We recently heard that Santa Rosa and the government’s agricultural department offered free clean water to all growers and farmers. This would be amazing, if only there were enough trucks, I understand, to get the water to the agricultural sector. Right now, the water situation is the biggest challenge for local agriculture. Santa Rosa certainly made a move in the right direction when purchasing the system, but now it also needs to operate enough trucks and trained staffers to be able to service the farmers. Commercial growers here are still in great need of water, as the draught limits production, and affects the health of the crop and the yield. RC@visitaruba.com