Monthly Archives: September 2015

dushi dushi


Arubans have an affectionate term they use to describe all things wonderful in life: dushi. It is a Papiamento word meaning sweet. You might use it to describe a pastry, but you could also use it to describe your adorable niece or nephew. Another word you often see and hear around this island is lekker, which is Dutch for tasty. Everything about life in Aruba could be described with either of these two words. Everything is dushi this and lekker that; all things on the island of Aruba are sweet and tasty. You can think of it as a collective island philosophy, and one of the places this sweet island life triumphantly prevails in Aruba is along the neighborhood streets, especially in the southern portion past Santa Cruz. Anything that involves hundreds of people dancing down the street dressed to the hilt in satin or ruffled chiffon, festooned all over with sequins. All around this pantheon of color are booths serving up delicious, authentic cuisine that some generous, kind soul prepared at their home beforehand. It is Heaven on Earth.

Arubans love festivals so much that they actually have one every Thursday evening in San Nicolas, the Carrubian Festival.  San Nicolas is the southernmost city in Aruba. It is famously known for its red light district and Charlie’s Bar. The bar is densely decorated with a variety of bric-a-brac, including a NYC parking meter which somehow made it through customs. Apparently, a cop working with the NYC Traffic Department pulled items from many Big Apple landmarks to add to Charlie’s collection years ago when you could get away with deviant acts. The Carrubian Festival is held every Thursday outside of Charlie’s Bar.  We finally made it there after work the week before last. I ate some Jamaican jerk pork with corn on the cob. My teacher friends bought some homemade wine. Other handicrafts were for sale all along the street. I bought a replica of a cunuco house from one of the local artists. Cunuco houses were the original houses built on the island 150 years ago. On our way back to the car, we stopped in front of a stage area to watch a man swallow sticks of fire and another very talented dancer who could have been Michael Jackson resurrected.

Another way to fill the streets is with parades. Of course, there is the celebration of Carnival in just a few months. Parade-goers are already preparing their costumes. There is an entire aisle at Island Asia that sells all the materials one needs to build the perfect Carnival costume; I never knew you could buy glitter in bulk. But there are also other parades throughout the year like the one we went to two weeks ago in Brazil, which also happens to be located on the south side of the island, very near San Nicholas. Centro di Bario Brazil organized the parade from their center to the Church Cristo Rey and back. From what my teacher friend gathered speaking with the neighborhood spectators in her native Dutch, the parade commemorates the history and culture of the area. Sixteen different groups dressed in clothing from different historical eras. We stopped at the community center first and grabbed a Balashi beer and homemade empanadas. Lekker. Then we were on our way to grab a spot under the divi divi tree to watch the parade.

This weekend was the Caribbean Jazz Festival. Next week is the Aruba International Film Festival. Alas, I will miss that one because I will be on a plane headed back to Texas. There is always next year. And I do feel somewhat compensated because I get to go to the Texas State Fair. I could write a book on the amplitude of annual festivities held there. Life is meant to be celebrated wherever that might be.





donkey sanctuary


Yesterday we went to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. It was established in 1997 to care for the many neglected donkeys roaming the island. They arrived 500 years ago and carried people around until cars replaced them. Eventually, some terrible affliction reduced the donkey population to only 20 in 1970. Then their numbers began to slowly increase simultaneously along with the number of people and cars on the island. After that, donkeys became a serious hazard to people behind the wheel of the many automobiles on Aruban roadways. It was far worse for the donkey, however. Injured people could recover inside the hospital, while donkeys were just left to die on the side of the road. The Donkey Sanctuary Aruba was founded to save these unfortunate creatures from needless suffering.

Before I moved to Aruba I assumed all the donkeys lived in the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Indeed many donkeys do live there, but some still roam the island, along with the traveling herds of goats and an occasional vicious pack of wild dogs. I have had so many encounters with animals in just a short span of six weeks. Animals are just part of daily life here. I don’t even flinch anymore when a lizard darts between the bottles of shampoo and conditioner while I’m showering. I calmly step on the brakes to watch a peep of chickens waddle in front of my car to cross the road on my morning commute to work. My favorite animals are the goats. I always abruptly pull off the side of the road to try to snap a photo. It’s pointless though to try and capture that kind of experience inside a frame. It is one of those things you just have to be here to see, like so many other things I love about living in Aruba. Besides the goats quickly disappear into the desert brush to graze on all the trash that blows about. Other encounters aren’t so easy to spot. Rather, you have to look closely to find some of the camouflaged creatures because they blend in with the landscape. Iguanas hide out in the tall green grass and bop their head up and down when you walk nearby. One magical evening, I was lucky enough to see a moonlit silhouette of donkey ears: a drove of dozens of donkey ears juxtaposed amidst hundreds of cacti. It was truly a magical site.

Most animals travel in groups and I am as fascinated with the odd names for these groups as I am the actual animals. You do find some solitary types as well, mostly reptiles and dogs. One Friday a baby boa constrictor was found dangling from a pipe outside of my classroom. The next Friday another was found slithering across the playground. Apparently, boas have invaded the island. Once upon a time, some twenty years ago, boas didn’t live here in Aruba. The first one was found in 1999; people say someone carelessly released pet snakes. Whatever happened, the boa quickly multiplied and easily adapted to the scrubby, desert terrain, spreading out all across the island by hitching rides under car hoods. Along with the solitary snakes, most dogs haughtily zigzag their way down the roads and in-between buildings. They fascinate me with their individual morning habits and routines; they are so oddly similar to us as when it comes to predictable behavior. Every morning I see the same dog asleep at 6:45 on the side of Route 4, just before the Valero gas station. There is another odd breed with Yoda ears that is always standing, attentive and alert, at the corner on Caya G. F. Betico Croes, nearby the roundabout before Banco di Caribe.

I love all animals, which is why I agreed to volunteer at the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba. Training starts Saturday.