Given how short the distance is between Colombia, Venezuela, and Aruba, one who didn’t pay attention to history would think we would encounter a slightly modified version of Latin American culture here. On the contrary, Aruba has proven to be delightfully complex. Imagine a satellite of South America run by the Dutch for a few centuries that accepts US dollars and has Chinese-founded restaurants and grocery stores everywhere. The people have Latin American, European, and African blood. There has to be some Asian in there too. They eat empanadas (they are called something different but I swear that’s what they are) after they eat their pancakes and strangely sell porcelain windmills in the gift shops despite the absence of dikes. They perform dances with a clear African influence, but to trumpets and trombones, and wear costumes for Carnival inspired by India. There are only 110,000 residents of this island, but they have developed their own language, Papiamento, that is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and English. For example, bon nochi is “good night.” Arubans speak English and Dutch too, because that is the language of their money, but they fluidly switch between languages when convenient, even in the middle of a sentence. After 10 weeks in Colombia, Mel recognizes 50% of the words when she hears it, which leaves her very confused. This must be what aphasia is like.
Accordingly, Mel feels that Aruba would be the perfect candidate if we as a planet ever needed to send out a chunk of Earth into space to be our ambassador to the rest of the Universe. It sums us up. Plus, it’s only 20 miles long. I think it would overall leave a very positive impression on the aliens who encountered it, with the only negative thought perhaps being: “Wow. That was one expensive mojito!”
Yes, to fully enjoy Aruba, one has to be flush with cash. Much of the island is a massive marketing experiment into what tourists want and how much they are willing to pay for it. So we have taken it slowly and haven’t gone for any big-ticket items just yet. That will start tomorrow, when we go into the submarine… In the meantime we have enjoyed a beach day on a local island resort that we have access to with our marina fees, and we have attended the Bon Bini Festival, a celebration of folk dance and music that is essentially Aruba’s Prairie Home Companion. But the hotels, shopping, diving, and casinos call to us. We could easily empty our wallets here if the usual cruiser duties of fixing broken things and learning the layout of yet another foreign grocery store didn’t demand a lot of our time. And that is the upside to having your house as a base instead of a hotel room. You can’t play craps because you have to fix crap. And so, Mel bids you te aworo. For some reason she feels it is time to clean the bathrooms…