Well, Mrs. 44 and I spent about 6 weeks in Aruba this time. We did many of the regular things as well as a few new ones. As we live in Aruba 6 months each year, our experience is a little different but the info here may be useful.
First off, let me say it did rain regularly during this period of November into December. This is the most frequent and steady rain I remember on the island. In fact, in nearly 15 continuous years of visiting the island, it is as green as it has ever been. This is good and bad. Bad because I couldn't paint anything around my shack and the mosquitoes were sometimes annoying. The good news is that the landscape is different, plants are generally good, and water brings life.
We dined at L.G. Smith's for the first time on our last night and found it outstanding. The price is not cheap but worth the quality of the food and service. I wanted to get back to Old Man and the Sea but couldn't. We also had a pair of Thanksgiving dinners with friends, one early - one later. So we were completely stuffed with all the things you would expect. These were particularly enjoyable events as new people were met and the company was quite interesting in terms of backgrounds, jobs, and so forth. Thus, it was a bit of Americana in a foreign land, the best of both worlds. Also, my regular Colombian joints: Pueblito Paisa, Rincon, Casa Vieja, and JoAnn Snack were all to my liking as was the Sultan. Tried Bingo's and Matthew's for the first time. Both good, reliable-type places. Great conversation to be had at Bingo's in the evening with people from Holland, which I enjoy immensely.
As we live on the island we do not dine out as much as others might. It would blow the budget and my belt, which is already too tight. Shopping at Ling and Sons provides most of my domestic comestibles, supplemented from New Food Center in San Nicolaas, which has better prices on canned goods and non-food items.
We also went on a pub-crawl with many people another message board. An absolute blast this was, from one end of Palm Beach to the other. Wow, time for a liver check.
Made some new friends among a registered group of expats. These people's diverse interests keep the meetings interesting, and now that our schedules are in synch, we get to share each other's company in daily life. Can't say enough good things about these activities. Each person has their perspective on the same place as well as where they come from.
Similarly, I'm grateful to everyone who came to my book signings. An Island Away has done well in Aruba and the US. Meeting readers who have finished the book or are new to it is tons of fun. One fellow seemed to know the story better than I do. Though he denies being in San Nicolaas with me during the 02-04 glory days, I think he may be hiding behind plausible deniability. At any rate, I'm appreciative to all of you who have posted comments about the book both on the boards and Amazon and the like. I will be doing a few more events between Jan-March, but it will soon be time for another book.
For those interested in the Aruba technical details here they are: in terms of infrastructure... the roundabout at Pos Chiquito is finished, quite nice and a big improvement. The road along the coast between Pos Chiquito and Savaneta (to the Flying Fishbone and Old Man and the Sea) took a terrible beating. Entire sections look like the 8th Airforce droped a couple planes' worth of 500 pounders on it. In the hotel area, SETAR was burying new plastic pipe for communication purposes. This left areas with piles of dirt and such around. Not pretty but necessary. Trenches and pumps also had to be dug and installed to help drain the wet areas behind the hotels. These were removed however as of this writing. The roads through Paradera and into Noord were repaved over the summer and are holding up well. Congestion between the Renaissance and the Valero Station is worse than ever. Traffic jam starts around 7AM and is off and on all day then terrible between 4 and 6PM. But this is common knowledge. Parking near the Paseo Herencia Mall is also dicey. Tow trucks were removing V and A cars at different times. It is wise to park in a regular spot or walk from another location.
I also noted a number of new windmills on the island (at least 5 in the 400watt to 1kW class). Ling and Sons had a display of a small demonstrator system at their entrance. Some lucky customer will win this installation. The island has decided to make it policy to allow such things with less hassle than before; this according to an architect I know, who is usually correct on these issues. This is a good thing, no matter what the price of oil.
There are a few negative items that I would be remiss if I didn't mention. First and foremost, the driving situation on the island can be downright absurd. I say this not only because my vehicle was struck and severely damaged, but also because both islanders and visitors alike seem to deny the realities of safe driving. The local papers are literally filled with crash photos every single day and they're not pretty. I mean, doesn't the pain of injury and expense of repair mean anything? Seriously. Take it easy and be alert. (And insurance never pays what it really costs.)
Also possibly negative but not confirmed, many of the big condo projects have suspended construction. I suppose this was to be expected. If you have purchased at any of these projects or are considering doing so, please, double check your homework to prevent a financially painful experience. Enough said.
All in all, Aruba is still the island I enjoy the most. Are parts getting a little crowded? Yes. Are other parts having some hard times? Yes, again. However, in Savaneta and some other areas, it remains the Caribbean: a place of congenial, casual living, of intimate, simple pleasures, where you can decompress and recharge as you so desire. And that's why I live there. That and the opportunity to mingle with people from around the world who come for a taste, or more, of this place that is like none other.
Thanks for the reflections. I read your book just before coming down this time and thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Your updates and videos keep those of who cannot frequest the island as often as you connected to our favorite place on the planet. Thank you!