Posts tagged ‘Bonaire’

November 28, 2010

Pride and Extreme Prejudice.

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Another day in Bonaire though I spent most of it on my own just writing and watching the rain. This evening I had pause to think about some issues that affect me deeply. The UN 3rd Committee vote still angers me.It has skewed how I view Caribbean governments. I had two online exchanges about it  today – the wonder of  the internet with me being on a tiny rock in the Caribbean Sea right now.

In the first exchange I was speaking to a longtime friend about the vote and he said he was proud of the stance I was taking online and otherwise on the matter of  equal rights. I might have used a few choice works about T&T’s abstention but he shared my view that it was a disgrace. The second exchange  followed a tweet I sent noting that after Haiti’s vote for removing sexual orientation from the document protecting people from extra-judicial killings I was ambivalent about whatever happened to that country. A very thoughtful friend noted that I should take a larger view and that the UN countries behind the vote were also behind the fiasco that was today’s vote in Haiti.  I respectfully noted that when it comes to human rights and the right to not be  killed  I will not take a broader view.  Haiti is not a place I will feel too deeply about and that is being polite.  I am still extremely angry about that vote so perhaps I better move along.

In brighter news – and I mean a lot brighter – India celebrated Pride Day today for the first time since the decriminalizing of homosexuality last year. They have shown the world that they are a force to be reckoned with both economically and socially. Pity the Caribbean couldn’t jump on that train but I guess Benin and Uganda were more attractive.  It seems that LGBT Indians have no problem in adopting the Western pride flag and not just in a small way :

I have never had one before but my country of the day today is India for showing that things can really change and that diversity is nothing to be feared.

It would be remiss of me to not mention a post on LGBTQNation by Brody Levesque that mirrors how I feel in general about these ‘discussions’ about human rights;

“Instead, I have to ask a simple question: “When does it stop?”

I am tired of the non-stop barrage of hatred that spews out of the mouths of these high priced Washington D.C.-based lobby outfits, whose sole purpose is predicated on their belief that their God calls them to interfere with the private sexual lives and reproductive rights of their fellow citizens.

I’ve actually read that rather quaintly outdated bit of fictional literature, and no where does it command them to strip their neighbors of dignity, happiness, and pursuit of personal freedoms and expressions of love. Yet, in reality, this is precisely what Tony Perkins, Brian Brown, and a host of these alleged Christians and organizations campaign for.

Now, in fairness, LGBTQ people do present a “clear and present danger” to these organizations.

Simply? If being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, was treated as a condition of a variant of humanity, say like one’s skin color or hair color, the there would be no need to demonize LGBTQ persons.

No campaign, no threat — equals no money.

There is the unspoken truth that organized religions will not discuss. Its the proverbial elephant in the room, as most religions have stopped being a force for good and a loving outlet to ease a human’s path through life, and instead have become big business.

Which, I need to add, according to considerable recent study of this issue by a group of pollsters and journalists, has spent an amazing $1.4 billion dollars on just waging a war against the LGBTQ citizens of the United States since 1977.

Imagine if that sum had been spent instead on food, medicines, housing, clothing, or some other form of charitable work.”

Read the rest of the excellent article here.

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November 25, 2008

Laziness

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I am too tired writing to upload an entry but I have finally uploaded pics of my trip. You can see them at http://flickr.com/photos/globewriter   Enjoy!

November 24, 2008

Back to the dustbowl

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Well after a delayed ( and a long delay at that) return flight on Surname Airways and a ridiculous immigration line in Trinidad I am back on the ground and dealing with all that means. Peter P met me and he let me use his car to get home from his place and since my car is not fully serviced I am still using it. It was weird driving on the “right side” again but I managed at 1:30am when I was supposed to be back at 8:15pm the previous day. Cascade was normal looking until I rounded the curve and saw that the flood damage had affected my area. The security gates are stuck in the open position, all the vegetation was washed away and there were piles of mud everywhere.

 

My place is up on a hill so there was no damage in my living space but it was weird having to pass all the damage. I stayed at home on Friday as i had a lot of laundry and cleaning to do and did a quick trip to the grocery but that was the extent of my outings for the day. The mud on the main road has now turned to dust so Cascade feels like the place that the ABCs are normally. The irony is not lost on me.

I produced and anchored news on Saturday and just produced on Sunday so Giselle could do a perfect job of anchoring. Watching her read after 2 weeks was a great experience as I see how far she has come. I pray the Beeb does not snatch her from us as she is close to a perfect news reader now.

 

I still have to research Tobago and also Trinidad as despite living here much of the time there is a lot I have to get right as Fodor’s does not accept poor information and least of all my editors. This should be fun…I imagine my days will be very long between ieTV and Fodor’s for the next little while. Fun? What is that?

 

I will say, though, after this many years of doing this I really miss my friends on the ABC  islands including Susan at Bucuti, Ricardo and Monique, Rolando, Anabela and Bobby from the wonderful Pinchos in Aruba, Stephen in Curacao ( what a revelation he was) , Delno Tromp from Bonaire and Curacao..so many great people. I am truly a lucky guy to have crossed paths with such wonderful people and I am hoping to do so again next year. Traveling is a revelation as you realize that we are all very similar and that goodness and generosity of heart transcend national boundaries.Though Susan is now back in Miami I think I miss her the most as we have an intellectual connection and I consider her a friend par excellence…they don’t come along that often …I wish her the best as she pursues her dreams and I hope she knows that.

Tomorrow I hope to get the hearse back and I will commence my interviews here on Tuesday. Fodor’s T&T will slip in somewhere in between the ABC writing. It will all come together. Having traveled on islands that have no natural drinking water but have managed I am dealing with the fact my condo, on an island full of fresh water,  has no water at,  all with a rather circumspect approach. If I say I am on vacation it all seems amusing and somehow better. Bucket bath anyone?

November 16, 2008

Lap of luxury.

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Today was the day I said another said farewell to perfect little Bonaire and, it being my last day, naturally storm clouds rolled in. I puttered around my room and eventually ended up at the restaurant for a quick sandwich and some welcome WiFi surfing before Rolando arrived to take me to Flamingo Airport. I bid farewell to the lovely Rolando and eventually made my way onto the wretched 14 seater Insel plane I have come to loathe so much. I don’t like small planes and I especially don’t like small planes in bad weather. It was, predictably, a rough 20 minutes in the air before I was finally able to release my grasp on the bottom of my seat and unclench my jaw on arrival at Hato in Curacao. 

Stephen was there to meet me as arranged and we basically it hit off right away as he is quite the great conversationalist. We arrived at my first Hotel the Kura Hulanda which I have always known to be an exceptional property but have never stayed in it. It is not a normal hotel in fact it is as far from a normal hotel as can be imagined.It is essentially a village  in Willemstad that had a number of fine 18th and 19th century buildings that a Dutch billionaire bought up as a ruin and then restored with attention to every detail. It is now an 80 room luxury hotel in the form of a village and I don’t mean theme park here…it is completely authentic. You walk through a maze of cobblestone streets and lush landscaping to your room in one of the original homes in the area. My suite is so unbelievably beautiful and luxurious I was almost taken aback when the bellhop showed me around. 

Picture 2 king beds, antiques galore, a lovely sitting area, a writing area, a small dining area and a step-up bath and you get the picture. I can’t imagine a more atmospheric and spacious room anywhere. Now it is not a cheap room ( about $700 US a night) but honestly it is as romantic as all get out.The hardest part of this trip will be leaving the room.

 

I also had a chance to chat with Delno at Kura Hulanda’s sister property on the other side of the island. He suggested I stay with him for the rest of the trip and I am trying to figure out if that will be possible given the 45 minute drive from Willemstad. Still, he is one of the funniest and warmest people I know so I will try to make it work as I know we would have a blast. In any case I have decided I will come and visit him on vacation just for the pleasure of his company. We will discuss the logistics of this trip over breakfast tomorrow.

Now if you will excuse me I am going to sit in my antique dining area and admire my room.

November 15, 2008

The great outdoors…no really

 

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It was a nice slow day today here in Bonaire, which is not to suggest that any day here is exactly fast paced, but it was not a flurry of site inspections. I begged off breakfast at Eddys since my idea of breakfast is 4 cups of muddy coffee and 5 cigarettes and then Rolando picked me up for a quick drive around the starkly beautiful South side of the island.

 

 It rained heavily early this morning  so our next stop at the mangrove centre involved quite a bit of mud. Then I hopped onto a kayak for a 1 hour tour of the mangroves. Since I took the 2 hr tour on a previous visit I felt something of a veteran and paddled and pulled my way through the mangrove forest with gazelle-like grace. It was hard to feel especially intrepid or daring as the water is generally only about 4 feet deep so drowning was not really a possibility unless I really put my mind to it.

 

Wilderness exploration. Check. Time then to go to my favourite eatery on Bonaire which is in the Bonaire equivalent of the Outback. Maiky’s Snack is a local favourite and serves none of that tasteless muck favoured by tourists. It is down home cooking at its best and I naturally ordered the goat stew which is essentially the national dish of Bonaire. As I sat on an ersatz Rubbermaid chair in the eating shed I must say it was somewhat bizarre eating my meal while watching its relatives wandering about the property. The circle of life I guess. I hope they felt better knowing that I thought their family tasted delicious.

 

After that I checked into the chicly decorated Den Laman Condominiums which is to be my home on my last night in Bonaire. Naturally, the fates conspired  to place me on the side of the property which is not getting WiFi reception at the moment. I dropped my bags, grabbed some snorkeling equipment at the excellent Bonaire Dive & Adventure on the property and then hopped off the pier to visit or piscine friends below the surface. It was fun as I swam about inspecting all the fish that, like me, were lazy enough to hang around the immediate vicinity of the hotel. This being Bonaire there was actually a surprising variety of finned creatures. Sadly, being a city boy I found them slightly less mesmerizing than the BBC’s Top Gear or Google news so I came back in after 40 minutes. 

 

After showering it was over to get a bottle of wine across the road and then to say hi to Mike at Chat n Browse – a cyber cafe. Mike is an institution on the island and I have seen him every year I have visited. He heard my WiFi woes and immediately gave me free 48 hour access to his network. Sweet of him really. A check of my email indicated that my pal Delno Tromp ,who was my first guide on Bonaire but is now running one of the Kura Hulanda properties in Curacao , had received my email and I will be able to have “breakfast lunch or dinner or all of the above “ with him when I get there. This should be fun as Delno is quite the character and, as he is quick to point out, stunningly attractive and intelligent  ( the preceding was paid for by Delno). 

 

I am now waiting for Rolando to pick me up so we can have dinner at a new restaurant called unbelievable. I kid you not..it really is called that. We shall see what that is like. I am typing this entry offline and will either just upload it when I get back by walking to the back of the hotel or maybe even add a quick take on the restaurant.

 

Back from Unbelievable. Well it was pretty good but I didn’t have a hard time believing it. After speaking to the owner he said the name comes from the fact that after working as a waiter for 2 decades he actually built his own restaurant and I mean including the construction of the building. It is quite large by Bonaire standards and nicely done though it needs more soft furnishings as we had to eat inside because it started to rain on the roof terrace and the noise level downstairs was quite alarming. Tile floors, lots of glass, large expanses of walls and at least 30 diners many of whom were kids can be murder on the ear. Still good food and kept quite simple for reasonable prices make for a not bad restaurant choice.

November 14, 2008

Beauty on dusty streets

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I am keeping it short today as it is late ..well..by Bonaire standards it is. Rolando and I drove around as usual today allowing me to revisit familiar places including Yenny’s Art. After our expedition I told Rolando that I could walk back to The Plaza from Kralendijk as I needed to burn off a few calories with my sybarite lifestyle of late. 

It was a pleasure walking the streets of the city and then making my way along the route back to my hotel. Bonaire is actually prettier from a walking perspective than it is from the seat of a van. Mind you by the time  got back to The Plaza I was coated with 6 inches of dust but that was fine as I enjoyed the experience. I had a wonderful dinner at Sunset Bar & Grill which is managed by Kirk from Lions Den so naturally the meal was excellent and the ambiance great.

After dinner we stopped briefly at Bistro de Paris to see my old pal Patrice Rannou. It is still the best restaurant in town in my humble estimation and it really was wonderful seeing Patrice again. I had a quick Pernod and now I am back at the hotel I will be checking out of here tomorrow to check in to Den Laman which is a lovely spot and after that it will be kayaking in the mangrove. I enjoyed that a lot the last time and it should virtually guarantee my tan gets darker.

I am going to be so depressed when I have to leave Bonaire on Sunday.

November 13, 2008

Bon Bon Bonaire

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It has been another day of running about inspecting properties on Bonaire and I have to say the quality of some of them is quite extraordinary for reasonable prices. I have also been dining heartily at both lunch and dinner times in order to let the hosts of the various establishments know that I am enjoying the fare. This cannot be the healthiest lifestyle. I think I may have gained a few pounds already that Clyphil at the gym will have to address when I get home.

Generally the quality of food on Bonaire has been passable and better which is no mean feat on an island that has to import all food it uses thus making market shopping a challenge. The prices can be steep as a result but given the situation that makes perfect sense. Food here is imported from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador( there is a KLM flight that continues to Ecuador from here) and Holland ( of course). 

 

This evening we dined at “It Rains Fishes” and I was amazed by the quality of the food and more so by the efficiency and service. It is a waterfront restaurant on kaya Grandi and it is fairly large with at least 25 tables. Despite that, and the fact they had tables turning over as we sat there, the staff seemed to have been programmed by Tissot to run like clockwork. Service was swift and attentive without being overbearing which is always a relief.Is there anything worse that every member of staff asking you how your meal was? I think not. Well…maybe Rachel Ray opening her mouth.

 

My appetizer was a superb Japanese salad of sushi quality raw tuna, field greens and thinly sliced avocado served in a baked wanton skin ( I think). It could have been a meal by itself. The main course was skewers of shrimp and fish in a presentation that almost made me cry it was so beautiful. It was served with  separate side of rice and a side of tomato and red onion salad..which i never got to I was so full. This place is a definite “recommended” as it could easily do well in any major city.

Off to my room now where I get no over-priced WiFi reception so I can pack up for tomorrow…there seems to be some confusion as to where I am staying. Needless to say, it is Bonaire and I am not the least worried.

November 12, 2008

Back on Bonaire

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My last day in Aruba was a bit of a blur. I went on a submarine to a depth of 130 feet along with a batch of other tourists and can’t say I would want to do that again. I can only take  a guide making Sponge bob  jokes that much before I reach my breaking point and escape was impossible. After that Ricardo had a clever idea that he and Monique would join me at the Marriott for a glass of wine in my room. It seemed a good idea at the time.

I wandered about Oranjestad for a bit and bought myself a newer version of my mobile phone for a ridiculous sum of US$. I am such a sucker for a nice salesguy. They must see me as victim on the hoof as I enter the store. Anyhow I now have a phone that has a good enough screen that I can actually see what I am typing as I am almost certain the store in Trinidad has not and will not ever repair my previous one. After that I hopped to a nearby supermarket to get the wine and saw they also sold Absinthe. Naturally I was thrilled as visions of Oscar Wilde on the Rive Gauche popped into my head. I should have remembered that my flight for Bonaire was leaving at 7:15am and I had to be at the airport for 6…but why bring reality into it.

Basically Ricardo and I polished off a bottle of absinthe and the three of us also downed a lovely pinotage from South Africa. Ricardo and I were drunk as skunks but I still managed to pack my stuff for the morning when Ricardo was going to pick me up at 5:45. It was not to be. I woke up groggy and managed to get myself down to the lobby after showering and retrieving his cell that he left in my room. I checked out, looked at the clock, and realized Ricardo was most likely sleeping off the effects of our excess the night before. Thank heavens for my Irish blood that has that wonderful resilience when faced with combustible liquids. I called a cab and made my way to the airport in time to get on my Bonaire flight via Curacao.

I must also say that as much as I am not a fan of big high-rise hotels the Marriott in Aruba is quite an excellent place to stay. There is much to be said for American hotels that believe in little bottles of toiletries rather than push buttons in the shower and ,environmental concerns aside, scorching hot water and water pressure that knocks you off your balance are good things.

So now I am in beautiful Bonaire under the watchful eye of Rolandoo my TCB minder and as efficient as a Swiss watch. Within 15 minutes of disembarking I was chatting with the GM of the Divi Flamingo and saw another 4 properties before lunch. City Cafe’s lunch was good as always and after a few more property inspections I was dropped back to the sprawling compound that is the Plaza Resort. I am typing this now and will upload it later before I head to dinner at Papaya Moon. With internet access costing $20US for 6 hours I plan to be rather circumspect in how I use it.

Looking forward to another great day in Bonaire tomorrow.

November 3, 2008

Change is in the air.

I know this is a greatly delayed entry but there is a missing entry that never got posted. About a week ago I sat down and wrote a comprehensive entry about the US elections,  my excitement at seeing Bonaire again and my thoughts in general but the local power company had other ideas. At 11:30 pm, as I was about to upload the wretched thing the power went taking everything I had typed into oblivion. To say I was pissed would be a colossal understatement and is one of the reasons I haven;t posted in a while.

Anyhow, moving right along, I am gripped reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion lately. Of course the fact I agree with almost everything he writes makes me an easy grip candidate but I think it would be worth a read for anyone.I am also preparing myself for my Aruba/Bonaire/Curacao trip in terms of activities on the ground. My pal Ricardo in Aruba has set out an itinerary for me that seems designed to raise my insurance premiums and result in al least minor injury. I note with alarm that in the space of a few days I will be on horseback, careening around in an off-road vehicle called a Tomcar , riding a mountain bike in 100 degree heat in the bush and even snorkelling. Perhaps the Aruba Tourism Authority has finally decided to stop my frequent visits by ensuring my not too untimely demise. Thankfully I can recover in Bonaire afterwards and regain my city boy composure.

As I type this the world is facing the almost inevitable election of the first mixed race US President in the form of Barack Obama. I really wanted Hillary to win but given she isn’t now in the running I don’t feel disappointed. Actually, it amazes me that for the first time in a while the US is faced with a choice of two excellent candidates. I think McCain is basically a well meaning and nice guy and I think Obama is charismatic and transformative. All polls are showing a clear win for Obama at this point and possibly something close to a landslide. Only tomorrow will tell what will actually happen but if he does win I think the US will be in for interesting times. When a nation chooses such a radically different sort of leader they will be doing what they did with JFK and signalling that they want a national shot in the arm. A dose of audacious  hope if you will. The good news for the world in general that there is no Bush on the ballot and when  January 20th, 2009 comes the world can collectively un-grit its teeth.

October 25, 2008

Shaking the foundations.

 

It has now become transparently obvious to me that to blog more frequently I am completely dependent on my powerbook Tinkerbell. It isn’t that the iMac I am now using is flawed in any way or even her big sister Sybil, the dual processor PowerPC sitting next to her with the impressively large flat screen display it is just that I like sitting on the couch and blogging. I am a multitasking kind of person I need to blog, while watching something on TV and reading an economic treatise. It might not be the ideal concentration situation but it works for me so I am counting the  days till Harry replaces her hard drive and I can pack her for my upcoming trip.

 

Speaking of my upcoming trip it is nice to see that things are slowly coming together because the logistics are headache inducing. Planning a trip of a limited number of days but still managing to see as many hotels, restaurants and sights is not an easy business. Arranging accommodation alone is a major task since no hotel can reasonably host a travel writer for more than a few days and not the duration of a visit. I am really looking forward to Bucuti in Aruba as my pal of last year ,Susan, has graciously offered to host me for a few days. Having a chance to experience a hotel that seldom has a vacant room and that takes style and environmental consciousness to a new level is going to be one of the highlights of this expedition. Still, I can’t help hoping that the global economic downturn will not take a toll on the tourism income of the ABC islands that rely on visitors.

 

The world economy has been one of my major focuses these days both for work and personal reasons. I have long love the magical science of economics and have been boning up on as many studies that I can so I can seem semi-literate when speaking to both economists and politicians. It is a complicated business but, ultimately, economies have cycles of ups and downs and no amount of intervention can stop them. The world will pull out of this slump once we establish a nadir and inevitably we will, after months or years, start the upward journey again. 

 

Here at home the main problem is inflation heavily fuelled by massive government spending on non-productive projects. Sure, there are a few areas that may spur productivity such as infrastructure but tall government buildings and unnecessary stadiums i shardly likely to bring a return on investment. They don’t seem to have studied the whole FDR New Deal thing properly. Inflation has now reached a worrisome 14.8% and is almost certainly likely to climb. This is the headline inflation  but food inflation is the especially troubling part. Newsday condensed the Central Bank’s analysis of the situation :

 

Food price inflation, considered a key driver of the headline inflation rate, was recorded at 34.6 percent in September. This represents an increase from 30.2 percent, as a result of increases in bread and cereals (63.2 percent), fruits (38.4 percent) vegetables (42.4 percent) and fish ( 25.1 percent). “

 

For people living on the edge such price rises can lead to catastrophe and for some I am sure it already is. Governments have two ways of dealing with rising prices one is curtailing demand and the other is addressing supply. Clearly, as the figures are not measuring caviar prices, it is impossible for people to cut back on consumption if they are already having a hard time affording food to feed their families. On the supply side government has been proposing that people start small gardens which is hardly a useful suggestion in a largely urban country. It has also been pushing the import substitution agenda saying that we should substitute local things like eddoes ( taro) and cassava ( manioc) for imported potatoes. Great suggestion except last time I checked both local items were a lot more expensive than potatoes. Things must really be desperate in their “Vision 20/20 heading for developed country status”world if they have to dredge up unworkable solutions last employed by underdeveloped nations in the 1970s.

 

The other budget “initiatives” involve a “new” agricultural thrust calling for everything from mega-farms run by Cuban farmers to improving access to rural areas. It is like a tired and fading echo now. They have been promising such things for years and nothing has been delivered. I wish they would just get sense and let the private sector do what it does best – get results. Offer meaningful incentives for people to grow food crops. If they want to make it more attractive than long hours slogging in the hot sun and fearing floods then make it more attractive and modern. The simplest solution is to promote things like large-scale hydroponics and aquaculture. Offer potential farmers a $200,000 grant ,a $500,000 interest free loan and a 10 year tax holiday to undertake such projects and I can guarantee that we would be overflowing with food in a matter of 6 months.

 

On the other hand, we can keep making misguided halfway efforts to do things the old way and hope the population doesn’t finally get fed up.