Made it safely to Aruba. The huge lines for immigration were just as I remembered, as is the VERY long traffic light at the intersection to leave the airport and head into town. Renting the car was much faster than we’ve ever experienced, and we got a brand-new Hyundai i10 for the week. It even has aux and USB jacks in the stereo! It has a blistering 76 horsepower, 85 ft. lbs. of torque, and it goes from 0-60! Despite all that, it’s very comfortable, handles well, and it perfectly suited for island driving. It’s also very cute, in the way that hamsters are cute.
The hamsters under the hood, specifically.
Got checked in very quickly as well; no swarms of loud, impatient New Yorkers at the front desk exclaiming how “harrible” everything is. *eyeroll*
Dropped off our stuff in the room and took in the view from the balcony: pool, lagoon, beach, ocean, palm trees, and pelicans flying overhead. I find that I’ve missed this place, despite the ball of stress and frustration I was last time we were here. Called Aaron’s folks, then went into town to get some groceries, drop them off, and walked to Don Carlo’s for dinner about 15′ from the water. Had a fantastic grouper with lemon sauce and capers, and split an order of fried calamari, which usually don’t interest me, but these were perfectly done.
After dinner we walked back, got the car, and headed to the northwest end of the island to check in with the folks and drop off a half gallon of milk, since the mini-mart near them was out of stock until Monday. Now we’re in the room, decompressing, and headed to bed shortly. I want to be up early enough for a workout, breakfast at t’Pannekoekheus, and picking up Clif at the airport around 1pm. After all the redeye flights he’ll have been on, he won’t be much good for anything but lying on the beach until dinner at 7, which is fine with me.
Heard interesting news from a chatty woman and her husband behind us in the immigration line. Apparently the new Riu resort was built in one year, using foreign workers, and it’s a monster that resembles a giant Turkish palace. This is remarkable because NOTHING in Aruba gets built in a year using Aruban labor. They are all most definitely on “island time”, and it’s hard to accomplish much when only one hand is doing work because the other is holding a cell phone all day; construction, grocery stocking, you name it. There is also a contingent of time-share owners who bought into the place while it was going up, but now whom the Riu would like to be rid of so they can be an entirely “all inclusive” resort. Allegedly, they’re resorting to some dirty tricks to do it: ignoring needed repairs, being unresponsive to time-share owners’ requests, robbing safes, etc.
Now just an hour ago, Aaron’s folks told us that The Aruban Resort behind their place hadn’t paid their workers in two months, went bankrupt two days ago, and turned all the guests out on the street. Now the other resorts, and even the government (who takes damage to the tourism trade very seriously), are scrambling to find accommodations for these people. Aaron and I drove past there as we left La Cabana and, sure enough, the lights were on but no one was home.
On top of all that, the refinery on the southeast side of the island closed recently, putting 7,000 people out of work (on an island of about 100,000 people), many of the shops and restaurants in Oranjestad have closed or changed owners, and the resort construction at the cruise ship docks is still stalled after four years. You can see that the tanking of the global economy has even affected a place like Aruba. Despite this, there is new construction that’s actually being completed, the Seaport Casino shops have been renovated, and (horror of horrors) Starbucks has finally opened a store right by our hotel, signaling that their global domination is nearly complete.