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.