Posts Tagged With: Aruba

Three Years ago…

Last weekend was the third anniversary of my engagement to Kathryn. As a few of you may remember if you have following this blog long enough, it happened during our brief get-together vacation at Aruba.

It was a memorable occasion; we reunited again after a three months separation and we got rooms at this fantastic place called Bubali Studios, which I heartily recommend if you ever feel inclined to spend some time in Aruba.

I will always remember vividly the way we both dealt with Oranjestad’s convoluted traffic to reach downtown. At the moment, we had our minds set on acquiring an engagement ring, and since Aruba is one of the most romantic locations in the world, the notion of going downtown to find a decent jewelry shop was a number one priority.

We waited on a very sunny curbside for a few minutes, next to a huge sign that detailed all the necessary data to deal with the local bus grid. Kath was rather baffled by its tropical intricacies, while me, more accustomed to a more chaotic and dangerous way of transportation, was able to decipher the information with an almost scary easiness.

After some long minutes, an open-sided tourist bus stops in front of us. I urge Kath to hop in, a suggestion she took with a fleeting look of doubt in her eyes. The driver was a garrulous, dark-skinned woman who seemed unable to keep her eyes on the road, but in the end we managed to reach Oranjestad’s main hub.

If you are not aware of the fact, Downtown Oranjestad is to the engagement ring industry like Las Vegas is to the quick-marrying chapel business; you can find a jewelry store in almost every corner. After looking a while and casting doubtful blanching stares at what some shops offered as “tanzanite”, we settled for an opal ring studded in itsy, bitsy diamonds at a Kay store. Well, Kath did the shopping, for I have absolutely no clue about jewels.

We offhandedly commented to the saleslady that it was an engagement ring, which she joyously celebrated by joking that I ought to drop to my knees and do the proposal on the spot. We quietly agreed and paid, coughing inwardly at the idea of such public display.

Then we spent some more time downtown, and decided to have lunch at some “Iguana-something” restaurant. We found the name amusing and somewhat ironical, as we did enjoy most of our meals at the Iguana Café in Curacao the first time we met.

It was very close to noon, which meant traffic had eased up, but also the bus frequency at the stops, so to avoid wasting time, we walked back in our lodging direction while occasionally checking for a bus coming at our backs. Believe me, this is something you do a lot in the tropics. Finally, the happy coincidence of a bus stop and a bus approaching to it happened at last, and we returned to our rooms.

And of course, there, in privacy, I asked Kath to take off the ring and I did the knee drop thing in front of her. I’m a bit old fashioned, after all, you know.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off.

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Five Days in Aruba…

All this week I was in a funky and mean, cynical mood, feeling so ready to leave in the dark all those curious of how the five days I spent in Aruba with Kathryn went. However, after four posts chronicling my airport pilgrimage, any of you folks who are still around to find out what happened, sorta deserve it…

Well, Kathryn and I met that same day and she was a bit jet-lagged (which is reasonable as it took her about yen, maybe eleven hours of travel time to get there). I had arrived six hours earlier, had time to take a shower and a nap and had scouted the area a bit, locating all the potential supermarkets (more on this later) and takeout places beforehand. Since it was ages since the last time I had some meat, I had settled for a BBQ locale known as Carnivorous (neat name!) and had myself an order of churrasco. So, if you are into good meat and ever go to Eagle Beach in Aruba (particularly if you stay in the Bubali area), I’d recommend you to check out this place.

The meat portions were humongous (which generated a ton of leftovers) and I had a side order of rice and some extra lentil soup, along with the salad of the day; I never had the notion that beets and mayonnaise could mix that way… but it did, which is something I certainly tried the moment I returned back to my home, crappy home.

What did Kathryn and I do in Aruba for five days? Well, we talked a lot, did some grocery shopping together, which I thought went fine (until a month later she confessed online that she was nearly having a panic attack), we did a lot of home cooking (which was our main intention on the first place), had romantic walks on the beach during the beautiful sunsets, did some more talking and then we talked some more. Yeah, I know… we’re just two talkative, boring nerds, and we meant to get to know each other in a better fashion than on our previous trip to Curacao, so what’s it to you?

On March the 9th Kathryn and I went downtown to a jewelry shop and I let her choose an engagement ring (her department, not mine; she knows a lot more about gems than I do) and I paid cash for it, as my credit card isn’t any good outside my home country. The sales clerk squealed with glee when she found out it was our engagement ring and advised me to kneel down and make my proposal as soon as possible.

To celebrate it, we went to have lunch while in the area; I had a broiled chicken sandwich with salad and French fries and Kathryn ate some fajitas. (As a child of her times, she went and posted all about the event on her Facebook wall, with pictures of the ring and everything). Of course, I did the whole kneeling and proposal thing afterwards, in private. Something I believe she truly appreciated.

So, during our stay in Aruba we found out we were compatible while shopping and also had similar values in the kitchen (no one got poisoned and no one got stabbed in the back with a butcher’s knife), we deepened our bonds further and even got engaged.

What more can a man ask?

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Aaaah-ruba (Part 4 and Last)

Okay, let’s wrap this tale up as it doesn’t seem to hold anyone’s attention. My final stretch in my trip to Aruba couldn’t be less anticlimactic and unexciting.

I arrived to Maiquetia (Caracas’ airport) sometime around 4:50 PM (yeah, I wasn’t paying attention to time at the moment; just feeling an immense relief from finally arriving alive at the airport without any bullet holes). My first task at hand was to locate a place to crash for the next ten hours, the most direct route to a safe, drinkable water supply and an even safer route to the restroom.

Wonder of wonders; I found a nice spot to sit… but unfortunately the airport’s air conditioning was working at full blast, lowering the air temperature to something little less than 50°F, which for someone as me (used to temperatures bordering the 110s) was murderously cold. So I spent the best part of the next 10 hours freezing my butt off, in constant fear that the next time I stood up my ass would remain glued to my seat.

Time passed and with it the night. At 3 AM I went to the Imbecile Airlines check-in desk (as I fondly call the guys who supposedly would fly me to Aruba) and I already met a 20-people long queue in place there. Which is cool, as I was expecting that; the problem was that the clerks running the desk didn’t show up until it was nearly 4 AM. Sigh.

And these were the same idiots who endearingly urged me to show up at 3 AM to check in- Double sigh. Well, check in went okay (hurrah!) but there was a small issue with the airport tax; the thugs-in-charge of my country’s government had decided a month earlier that the airport tax fee should be raised unilaterally and I still owed 200 bolivars… which I grudgingly paid just to move on.

See? I told you the money I earned scavenging cans back in Caracas would come in handy. I felt so smuuuug at the moment that day. *chuckles*

Well, I got my boarding pass, went through airport security (which is about 45-particularly-humiliating-minutes-long in my home country) and finally made it to the boarding area. There, my butt kept freezing for the next hour, half expecting a flood, earthquake or an Act of God to stop me in my tracks to meet Kathryn again.



At 7 AM I boarded my plane without any incidents (save for the strange looking guy who occasionally unglued his eyes from the smartphone he was using to check weird videos online) and let out a sigh of relief when I finally got to my seat.

There’s not much left to tell you about this small odyssey; flight took off on schedule, arrived the same to Aruba. I went through a more decent immigration procedure (just filling a visitor’s card that looked more like those warranty cards you found inside a VCR box in the past) and then I felt the urge to use the nearest restroom.

I was floored the moment I opened the door of the men’s room at the Queen Beatrix’ Airport; gaudy neon yellow wash sinks with junglish and tropical touches decorating the walls. I’ll spare you my description of the toilet bowl (I couldn’t help but take a picture of the sinks after I recovered my breath; yeah, the pervert you see reflected in a corner of the mirror is me).

I made it.

Civilization at last!

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Ahhhh-Ruba! (Part 3)

Okay, we’re did we left off?

Ah, yes, I was about to embark in my pilgrimage across Caracas (while scavenging aluminum cans), so I could burn off the fifteen or so hours I had before I was able to check-in for my plane to Aruba.

Sure, why not? Here we go.

I started in Petare, around the subway station area; it’s the usual filth, with raw sewage spewing out of broken pipes and demolished walkways. This sorry spectacle will last until you walk out of the neighborhood and you arrive to El Marques, a more higher-class place where the filth is, well… classier.

Mind you that I hadn’t done this for almost five years, and I’m a bit shocked after witnessing the many changes which the city of my birth has gone through in that same time period. They chopped down many of my favorite trees and they build a very inefficient, ugly overpass in the most inconvenient locations, robbing that physical spot of the very little personality it had. They renamed a park (just in spite) to a more patriotic denomination and have built many social interest apartment buildings in the most inconvenient of spaces. Ugh.

One incident of note: along the way, I picked up a sizeable amount of scrap metal, specially from a liquor store where a bunch of goons stared with amused grins of mirth as I stuck my head into a trashcan. These idiots merrily pointed a few obvious ones just for getting kicks of seeing this white boy scavenging aluminum cans; I could sense it in their voices. One made an ugly remark about me scraping enough money to eat that night. Bigmouthed as I am, I snapped back with a witty observation that perhaps he’d have a nice fantasy (about me picking up cans) that he could share with a bottle of his favorite brand of hand lotion. The startled expression in his face (and his flushed cheeks) openly told me that my snappy comeback wasn’t too off the mark

Ah, well, in the end I arrived to Plaza Venezuela, where I detoured from my intended route (by a few extra miles) to get rid of my newly-found cargo of scavenged scrap metal. Total amount of aluminum cans I collected: 13 pounds. I was paid a measly 150 bolivars for this, but the same as the bus fare hike earlier that day, this bit of money was destined to help me a little later down the road.

It goes without saying that I made the final stretch of my Caracas trip in the subway (both to avoid seeing a few cans that I may have missed along the way and to spare my trembling legs the tiresome walk)

Anyway, I reached the spot where I intended to board the bus to the airport sometime around 3:20 PM. And another bit of shock waited me there; I entered the Alba Caracas hotel to buy my pass and the female clerk who sold me my ticket kindly (kindly!) informed me that the bus would leave exactly at 3:30 PM. I admit that I was shocked by this… and the fact that the bus actually departed on schedule shocked me more.

I was flabbergasted beyond words!

(T minus 11 hours and 30 minutes to go…)

Well, that was it for now… see you around in a bit.

Edwin Stark

Signing Off

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Ahhhh-Ruba! (Part 2)


After I unloaded the aluminum cans, I walked the remaining mile or so on my road to Caucagua’s bus station. The sun, playful as ever, decided it was time to peek from behind the low clouds. This caused that every wet surface in sight (remember: it was a drizzly day so far) to warm up and steam to rise into the air, turning the entire area into one large sauna bath.

By the time I arrived to the bus station, I was sweaty as hell. Also, I was greeted by a vision that normally would have filled me with dismay: the long queue lines to board the buses. Since I wasn’t in a particular hurry (I still had 22 hours to catch my flight), I took this with equanimity and a relaxed attitude, ready to wait in line as long as necessary.

There were about a hundred people waiting, which is enough to fill at least a couple of buses (or maybe even 3) according to local standards.

Electronics and armpits don't mix (Steam, steam everywhere...)

Electronics and armpits don’t mix (Steam, steam everywhere…)

I was bored and I wanted to document this moment too, so I pulled out my small digital camera from the pocket of my jacket. I did my best to act as conspicuously as possible, trying to take a snapshot by concealing the camera in my armpit lest some pickpocket might feel tempted to rip the little gadget off my hands. Alas, as the blurred left picture  shows, sweaty pits and electronics don’t mix well.

Sigh. Well, I let the camera rest for a while to let the moisture evaporate and, after I made sure the image wasn’t blurry, I took the next picture, which illustrates how dilapidated and dismal the bus station at Caucagua is.

Well, I watched as two buses arrived to the depot, let people board and leave… at the rate of one every 45 minutes or so, as they don’t run on a timetable and their arrival/departure times are heavily dependant on transit conditions in Caracas. If there’s a massive traffic jam over there, well I could kiss my chance to get there goodbye.

About 10:30, I was fortunate to catch my ride and I was able to travel the 50 miles that separate Caracas from Caucagua in less than 2 hours (I told you, didn’t I?). Of course, this journey was shadowed by a very bad omen: where the hell did I put my baseball cap? I remembered I took it off and put it aside to take the pictures. During the entire bus ride I rummaged through my handbag, searching from top to bottom.

Queues, queues everywhere...

Queues, queues everywhere…

It’s not that I put too much importance into such stuff, but that’s no way to start a trip and a baseball cap is a must in the area where I live, especially at noon, lest your brains fry out. I was about to arrive to Petare, the eastern tip of Caracas, when I finally picked up my bag with both hands and looked at its underside. There was the cap, smugly grinning back at me. (Ohhh, here I was! Wasn’t that a nice game of Hide and Seek? Yay!)


Also, by the time I paid my fare, I was very glad that I had spend an hour scavenging scrap metal: the guys running the bus company had raised the fare almost by 50 % overnight, which would have caused that I’d be rather short strapped for cash in local currency during the rest of the trip.

I got off the bus at Petare sometime around noon. And I pondered about what I could do with all my spare time: I was supposed to be at Maiquetia, Caracas’ only International Airport and check-in at 3 AM, and the last bus going there departs at 9 PM, which still gave me plenty of time before I reached my final intended destination.

What to do?

Ah, well, I chose to walk across Caracas, from Petare to Parque Central, which is about a 5-mile long walk. And of course, I had my trusty plastic bags at hand: this city is now a filthy cesspool and there were hundreds of aluminum cans calling me by my name.:

Eeeeedwiiiinnn Stark

Signing Off

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Ahhhh-ruba (Part 1)

I returned last week from Aruba, after enjoying a six-day stay with Kathryn over there. I must admit that I’m still a bit in aftershock. My trip really began on an early Friday, two weeks ago, even though my plane did depart on Saturday. Why? Let’s face it: getting my sorry ass out of the jungle isn’t for the fainthearted, since I have no friends or acquaintances who could conveniently drop me at the airport during the wee hours of a Saturday morning.

I have every intention to chronicle this trip in my usual ironic way, since it was a very important event in my life, as the series of blog posts that follows will attest.

Miles of Road, Miles of Road everywhere....

Miles of Road, Miles of Road everywhere….

That day started rather ominous; it was raining (as always, duh!) but I was fortunate enough to have a neighbor give me a ride to La Recta de Caucagua, at least saving me from walking the 2-3 miles out of the housing development where I reside. The picture to the left depicts La Recta, which is just a straight three-mile, two-lane highway that connects the only supermarket in the area with the main town. See that red circle, highlighted by a bright yellow and red arrow? That marks the town borders and it’s halfway the road that I still have to walk.

By the way, this picture was taken sometime around 8 AM and the weather was already showing a very bad attitude towards me right then. It was drizzling every five minutes and only the occasional sliver of sun was able to make it through the overcast skies above.

It’s a very lonesome road, with only the sound of the passing cars that rush past to keep you company. Of course, I could have taken the bus from the supermarket to town and save myself the hassle, but why hurry? I had a whole day to reach my intended destination and the prospect of reaching the airport too early didn’t really excite me much.

Aluminum Cans, Aluminum Cans Everywhere...

Aluminum Cans, Aluminum Cans Everywhere…

Anyway, I couldn’t but resist the temptation to do a final roundup of scrap metal scavenging before embarking on this little adventure (as the picture at the right shows). I was opening a can (pun definitely intended) of worms with this, you know; what if the guy that buys them out from me wasn’t open that day? It was early Friday and the locals are known to goof off the day before any given weekend. If this was the case, all my work picking up aluminum cans would be lost. What could I do with them? The guys running the bus to Caracas wouldn’t allow me to board it while carrying two filthy bags smelling of stale beer. Of course, I could conceal them under some brush and come back for them a week later, but my chances of this were few. I tried this ploy a couple of times and the bags weren’t there when I returned for them even only a day after.

I nerved myself and headed straight to the place where I could ditch my crushed cans.

Fortunately, nothing of this happened and I was able to exchange nearly six pounds of cans for the measly sum of 87 bolivars. In the end I was glad of this, since the money proved useful to cover some unexpected expenses I met along the way.

So, I was now relieved of my smelly cargo and it was still early: 9 AM. Where to now?

Onward to the bus!

Well, that’s about it for now. Stay tuned for the continuation of this exciting (YAWN!) journey!>

Edwin Stark

Signing Off


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