Bati Bleki weekly Recap, June 5th, 2016

Apologies in Parliament. We waited a weekend to see how the melee in parliament develops, and got a press release saying nothing much. So on behalf of the general public, I would say that apologies are due, the gentleman’s should be longer than the lady’s, but basically both should say something along the following lines:

He: I truly apologize for losing grip of my emotions, and flipping out, and behaving inappropriately at the distinguished parliament location, while I sometime lose it, it’s not really who I am.

She: I truly apologize, if I offended you in any way shape of form, it was not my intention, I just wanted to get to the bottom of that inflated expense report you submitted.

Well not exactly, but along those lines.

I think the AVP parliament members should pressure their colleagues to apologize, and I don’t care who “started” the fight; apologies will restore a semblance of civility among our law makers. And don’t tell me you are loyal to him as a true blue AVP member VS a converted AVP member because then I might think that loyalty is more important to you, than principles. It is not. Principles of civility and respect are always more important than blind loyalty.

SOMETIMES CONSERVATIONIST. In conversation with my conservationist friends I found out they were furious about the recent filming of the Bachelor in the bat caves, operating fans to fend against heat, and using lights in a place where the poor endangered flying mammals hang to the ceilings in an effort to hang onto life. Remember bats are flower pollinators, just like bees, if we have no bats, we have no life. They must have hated the noise, the light, the smell and movement; it must have stressed them to no end. I cannot fault the film crew from asking to shoot in the park; they wanted to blow our minds with an impossible and an improbably romantic dinner location. But I fault the sometimes-conservationist, who signed the permit, in the absence of a park director, he of all people should know better. I have to admit that about 10 years ago we took a film crew to that same cave, and Fernando Mansur lit it up with candles, it was dramatic. Then we sweated buckets while taking pictures of cavemen and cave women draped in rags with fancy jewelry. At the time, conditions in the cave were so brutal, and our equipment malfunctioned, we had to fold before exhausting the subject. I always wanted to go back and shoot fashion images in that location, properly, but I guess it is not a good idea; we have to value the caves as our natural treasure, look, don’t touch. We must all embrace the concept that conservation, is more important that TV ratings.

GRAFFITI AND VANDALISM. The recent graffiti vandalism impacts the feelings of safety, property values and the well-being of our island, NEGATIVELY. And this is why all graffiti must be removed from public view immediately after they appear, otherwise the trend may become an invitation for more vandalism. If we don’t remove the text, it means we don’t care, and it becomes an invitation for more, and worst, like broken windows. We should all be asking Public Works to commit to freeing us from the offensive lettering, because graffiti vandalism in unacceptable. Remember that the vandals  have repeated their message many time, so that we “recognize” the message instantly. By removing the text as soon as possible we deny them the “glory” and “satisfaction.” TOTAL CLEANING: Please visit the rotonda at De La Sallestraat with a bucket of paint.

NORMAN KUIPERI ABOUT ALL INCLUSIVE. Norman published a well written article in AweMainta: http://www.awemainta.com/papers/AM160528/index.html, page 28, and asked for feedback. In his article he makes a good argument about the money earned by the hotels selling their services, leaking out of the country, and not benefiting us. But that is typical to the hospitality industry. You book a room direct with Marriott.com or Hyatt.com and the money goes to a central pot. Then the company settles its own accounting internally. The only thing you can hope for is that the companies report their income accurately and pay their taxes, that’s the best you can expect. As I said before: “We operate in a very fragile environment. The financial world as we know it is based on our own mutual goodwill, on our eagerness to comply and act well, for the greater good, so we can help keep this system going.”

I only had one all inclusive experience in my life. Club Med Cancun. The first night was ok, we met lots of people and told them about Aruba. The following morning trying to relax on the beach, the GO, the Gentle Organizers tried to get me to play beach volleyball, and rocked the pool deck with Hula style party dancing. We left at noon, heading south in the Yucatan Peninsula, and drove, and drove until we got to La Posada Del Capitan Lafitte which at the time was a cluster of hammocks on the beach, we stayed there for five nights, full pension, breakfast, lunch and dinner, because there was nowhere else to go within a reasonable drive, and were very happy away from civilization and organized activities.

So in principle, Aruba doesn’t need all inclusives, because it is safe and fun to explore, but the public wants it. So give them what they want and since you are dealing with reputable operators, you may trust they will give the government its share. It is in their interest to do so! If Aruba goes down the toilet, their business goes down the toilet too.

What I want you to worry about Norman is the following: We are a nation of minimum wage earners. You know hospitality doesn’t pay high salaries. How are we going to pay our national bills with so little income directed into government coffers? We need to diversify, away from hospitality. Into some caliente industry. Come up with the idea, Norman.

MORE ABOUT EDUCATION

I wrote last week about SKOA*, and I am picking up on the subject.

https://batibleki.visitaruba.com/8am-buzz/education-who-needs-on/.

That above mentioned column was also read by the MinEdu and she commented the following: SKOA has not brought forward what additional funds it needs to cover any shortage in fees. It is good to know that all costs SKOA submits are paid by the government. They are 100% subsidized, however they also have other income from other streams such as building rentals to third parties, and school fees etc. Without qualified expenses submitted, the government cannot pay any additional monies. The department of finance can reimburse schools based on their substantiated reporting. Also: The education budget is approx 286 million florins per year; it is equal to anywhere between 4 – 6% of the GDP and 21% of all government expenditure. It’s one of the highest in the world, according to a UNESCO analysis. Is it enough? Of course not, The MinEdu would like to allocate 50% of the island’s budget if she had her way, but the reality is that there are inefficiencies in the system that have accumulated over decades, such as ordering supplies from Europe, so that patterns and habits must change in order to introduce innovations!

Talking to some other friends I found out the following disturbing reality: The SKOA schools, 48 of them, offering education from Kindergartens through high school, belong to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Willemstad. While the real estate belongs to the Diocese, the upkeep of the school in on the government’s dime, and the teacher’s salaries and support staff, are paid by the government. The Diocese doesn’t maintain nor support the school financially. HOWEVER, it dictates and controls the curriculum, including religious teachings across the board.  Really, nothing for upkeep?  Nothing. Also from what I understand it is now public knowledge that half of the board resigned: While the director is on long term “vacation,” other board members resigned. I don’t know what it means exactly, but it cannot be good.

As you all know the issue of school fees is in court, and became totally political when a member of parliament in the opposition party took it over, calling a suggested increase in school fees from Awg 75/year to Awg 125/year , brutal and unfounded.  Another case is also in court to establish the fact that free education here means totally free, not a cent of parent participation.

The mentality of charging everything to the government, and leaving it all in government hands, doesn’t contribute to a successful educational system.

*SKOA, Stichting Katholiek Onderwijs Aruba, the network of Catholic schools on Aruba.

Banana peels and discarded plastic water pouches

I was mentally preparing to write a column about Aruba Bank and its dispute with the Ontvanger, regarding a tax issue from ten years ago, that lucky for Aruba Bank fell between chairs, and lasped, expired, reverted to zero, because of the passage of time.

I thought to myself that my favorite bank would never let me, as a private citizen and a client of the bank, get away with any such tricks, you owe, you get to an agreement, you pay, taking responsibility for past due bills. And we’re talking millions that the community could have benefited from.

Then yesterday on my way home, I witnessed The Aruba Bank 4-days Walk & Run, from Fisherman’s Huts, a distance of 5.3Km and I was filled with admiration, how they managed to mobilize such a beautifully diverse crowd, walking quietly along the coast, a mix of athletes and every day people, kids and adults, many more women than men, it was amazing to see such a great display of esprit de corp, team spirit, in the name of fitness. Dr. Richard Visser was watching the parade from his front yard, he must have been proud, he had a lot to do with the introduction of fitness into our lifestyle, from his time as the Minister of Health.

Then this morning on my walk I noticed the banana peels and the discarded half used, and untouched water pouches thrown along the side of the road. Many of them. According to me, even one is too much. I don’t think you should offer water for a 5.3Km distance, because the damage is greater than the benefit, and then hand out bananas only at the point of walk/run conclusion, where the trash bins may easily be located.

I also saw the regular Malmok cleaning crew, chillaxing before their work day begins,  so I hope by this afternoon, the place will be restored to its former glory.

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MY MOUSE DIED. Last Sunday morning, my mouse died. I was considering driving over to Tierra Del Sol and stealing a mouse from one of their office computers when I remembered that Price Smart was open. I was at the door at 10am, bought two mice, one as a backup, and headed to the cashier. Apparently the whole country had the same idea. They were all there in long lines waiting for the register to open. Two were available, nine closed. That was the longest I have ever waited for anything. Then I asked the supervisor why he didn’t jump in behind a register to open an extra checkout line and alleviate the situation, and he told me he couldn’t do anything, he was a supervisor and needed to supervise, while all cashiers called in sick, Sunday morning! I swear I did not make this story up. Today, I swung by Price Smart again. They made changes. They placed an expeditor at the cash register to unpack carts and repack them, to speed the process up and my cashier also had a checker who checked my bill to see if I didn’t pinch anything without paying, then I sailed straight out the door, no more stops. It was faster but labor intense, three people at checkout instead of two, but it worked.

VRAAG & AANBOD. Supply & Demand Aruba is a super popular FB page with 21,486 members, practically the whole island. The page advertises second-hand items such as baby clothes, cars, jewelry, both old and new, and I find that it is a sign of our times when people develop a tribe mentality and revert to recycling, reclaiming, and in general sharing resources, which in view of the economic slump is inevitable. In terms of our society it’s an excellent development when we are frugal, conservative, as in conservation, careful with our money and less likely to spend it like water. So before you head to the stores, also check that helpful Vraag & Aanbod page, perhaps a second-hand item will call your name, a win-win for buyer and seller.

DIY, WOOD PALLET PROJECTS. I recently met Karah Bunde, the author of a cool book, outlining Wood Pallet projects, and providing complete instructions as to how to convert trash into treasures. The book is available on Amazon.com, in the Do It Yourself section. Karah is also the author of a blog. The blog’s name is The Space Between, and you may find it at http://thespacebetweenblog.org.

Karah explains that in her blog she describes her adventures in the process of making the most out of every space in her home and/or apartment. Her current apartment in Aruba is a work of art in progress, not finished yet, and she has a video on line outlining the progress. I saw it; there is still a lot to be done. Or perhaps the video is old and she completed the masterpiece by now.

As an artist, Karah is passionate about creating warm home environments through upcycling and repurposing. She also recommends hard-core renovations, meaning do it yourself and have fun, it ends up better and cheaper if you do your kitchen or bathroom renovation yourself.

In previous years Karah renovated a house in Key West, where she lived with her husband Joel Bunde, The GM at the Hyatt Regency. While they were renovating, they endured drywall dust everywhere, and she always had paint in her hair. The pallets were collecting in the yard, just waiting to be turned into art projects or storage solutions. It sounds like life in a blissful state of controlled chaos.

Recently, one of my friends floated images on FB of her new deck, a wrap around beauty of concrete and palette wood. It looks fantastic.  So basically, we should all try to make the most out of the space between,because it’s good for us; it keeps us busy and creative and it saves money!

For anyone interested in complete instruction for 35 palette wood projects: DIY Wood Pallet Projects: 35 Rustic Modern Upcycling Ideas to Personalize Your Space, Paperback – September 18, 2014, available on Kindle or paperback on Amazon.com

TEDx PREPARES FOR A SECOND EDITION

TEDxAruba invited for a press conference this week, catered by the Kelkboom family, at Cas Di Cultura. I arrived a bit late for speeches, J,  but just in time for amazing gourmet Creole lunch. As you know the Kelkbooms operate the food concession at Cas di Cultura and we always bitch at how long it take to get a glass of wine, or a snack, at our cultural center, during intermissions, but this time I paid attention to the method in their madness.

Everything we were served was spectacular. The family grows about 80 D’Abaru trees and makes tasty snacks out of them, which is also the name of their catering company Dushi-Pasaboca. The trees grow a seasonal pod which the family harvests December to March, then goes on to make a slightly sweet and satisfying D’Abaru soup, and D’Abaru bread. The menu Sandra Kelkboom and her ingenious mom served was stellar starting with a super tasty chicken stew, and beef stew escorted by a delicate arepa ball, made with Dutch cheese. Nice salad with surprise garnishes, dates, and egg, then a choice of spicy pumpkin or D’Abaru soup, and three different homemade bread choices, pumpkin, D’Abaru or cashew, sorry I did not get to try the later. Freshly made lemonade washed everything down gently. Call Dushi Pasa Boca at tel.: 592-7040 for your own Creole experience, really terrific.

Where were we?? TEDxAruba, yes, I am exciTED about the independently organized event. You may call Veronica Olarte at tel.: 588 7075 for more details. TEDxAruba (2016) will be held on September 23rd at Cas di Cultura in Oranjestad, with nine speakers I believe, it’s al all-day event, theme WHAT IF??

I AM QUOTING: “What if… is an open question that challenges and provokes to radically shake-up the status quo within the spectrum of Tech, Education and Design, thereby enabling the development of actions worth doing and ideas worth spreading. Examples of such questions are ‘What if…the concept of money were wiped out?’ or ‘What if… we shifted the concept of education?’ These are very exciting topics and our speakers will be providing such visions, actions and ideas during TEDxAruba 2016.” END OF QUOTE.

So now we can start thinking about our own what ifs?

What if we changed the language of instruction on the island to English?

What if we allowed/recognized gay marriage?

What if we became truly green by substance not just by form?

What if we had a woman prime minister?

What if we became a Tax Free island?

What if the Dutch decided to pull out of their dependencies?

What if a boat load of Venezuelans seeking asylum, mostly women & kids , landed on our shore?

What if Trump really became the President of the USA?

Lots of what ifs to consider

I also met the handsome Brian Monpellier, of Digicel on the occasion, we have never met before, and Esther Pezij-Broeksema, a long time girlfriend, who is on the organizing team.