David Beffort is the brainchild behind the recently-launched Friendly Flip Flops, the footwear that keeps a foot on each side of the island. The flip flops represent this lovely dual nation island and are distinctly designed with the left side being in the colours of the Dutch St. Maarten Flag and the right side in the colours of the French St. Martin flag.

The unique footwear and souvenir items were originally introduced at the St. Martin/St. Maarten Day ceremonies in French Quarter on November 11, 2016, and were transformed into reality last week when launched. Part proceeds from the footwear sales will go to associations working on behalf of the island’s youth under the campaign “Walking Forward Together.”

The flip flops are all the rage with the two airports on the island agreeing to create displays of the big flip flops, while French St. Martin Tourism Office plans to promote them on their travels to trade shows. Also, some 700 taxis will have a miniature pair of flip flops to hang from their rear view mirrors.

Who is David Beffort?

I am a creative and passionate person who loves life and is very curious. I am very curious about life. I think I look at life through the same eyes that children do. I don’t see labels and limits.

Education?

I did sports and study school. In the mornings, I attended regular school classes and then trained for dance – modern jazz and ballet – in the afternoons. I finished school with a letter of recommendation to attend Claude Bessy Opéra de Paris, which is France’s national secondary school. I obtained a Baccalaureate Mention – Assez-Bien.

How did you end up on this beautiful island?

I am originally from Chevreuse in Paris, France. My mother sent me here to St. Maarten to heal and live with my godfather after I was involved in a serious car accident. Dance was finished for me due to the accident. I was 19 when I came here in 1993. I didn't know what to expect. I do know, however, that within five minutes of stepping outside of the airport, that not only would I be healed, but that I was at home. The energy and spirit of St. Maarten captivated me immediately, as did its incredible beauty. But it was the people most of all who made me fall in love. This cosmopolitan melting pot effortlessly sustains people from different cultures, different religions and different backgrounds – all under the maternal watchfulness of the Caribbean. The community embraced me and I quickly came to realise why St. Maarten is called “The Friendly Island”. You have to look no further than the story of the Treaty of Concordia and the commitment of the French and Dutch to peacefully co-exist in order to capture the essence of the island.

What inspired the idea for The Friendly Flip Flop?

I realised how powerful it was to be able to stand on the border with a foot in both countries.

What is the concept behind Friendly Flip Flops?

It signifies walking forward together and is part of a fundraising initiative to benefit our youth. Everyone can support us by just liking us on Facebook_Walking Forward Together. Our campaign is: “Like us is a donation.”

Why should every resident and visitor to St. Maarten own a pair of Friendly Flip Flops?

They need flip flops. We all need flip flops; so it’s better to buy something that is a great souvenir and at the same time useful to the community. A pair of Friendly Flip Flops costs US $20 or €20 and is available in many stores and boutiques on both sides of the island. The sale points will be listed on our Facebook_Walking Forward Together.

What would you say to encourage youths with ideas like yours to pursue them?

I would encourage them to believe in themselves and to always persevere. I would have stopped doing so many things had I not stuck with them. Stay true to your dreams even if you are alone.

What else do you do?

I am an international marketing consultant.

Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows?

My friends call me Davidou.

Pet peeve and why?

Bad wine – Damn it!

Biggest fear?

That I might not be living life to its fullest.

Favourite quote?

Albert Einstein: “There are not great discoveries and advances, as long as there is an unhappy child on earth.”

Role models?

Everybody.

What’s your favourite type of music?

I like many different kinds of music such as Jazz, Motown and Classical, but if I had to take one CD with me to a desert island, it would definitely be reggae.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you serve?

I would invite Prince, Bob Marley and Michael Jackson. They have influenced anyone else I would have invited. I would ask them to take a vote and then I would prepare and serve whatever they came up with.

Ajay Rawtani, who goes by the deejay name Ajay Raw, will be heating things up at Big Fish Restaurant as he helps patrons to ring in 2017 this New Year’s Eve. Rawtani tells us more about himself and what patrons can expect from him on NYE.

Who is Ajay Rawtani?

I am someone who cannot be labelled. You might not see me coming, but when I do, I am a force to be reckoned with. I am a loyal, passionate, dedicated, patient, creative and kind person. While I am somewhat shy; I can adapt to different social settings and I’m also outgoing, but a homebody at the same time. Music is my heart; family is my soul.

Place of birth?

I was born in Pune, India, but I grew up in St. Maarten since I was six. I lived in the states for more than eight years and returned to St. Maarten in 2003. When someone asks, “Where you from?” I always answer, “I from here.”

Education?

I graduated from Stetson University in Deland, Florida. I majored in Computer Science with a minor in Business Management. My best friend, Ryan Gumbs, introduced me to computers early in my high school days. From then I knew that IT was something I wanted to do as a career.

How did you end up as a deejay?

Deejaying stemmed from the first time I ever walked into a nightclub. Back then, it was Studio 7. There was something about the sound, lighting and people letting themselves go dancing the night away that mesmerized me. The DJ was at the centre of it all. He took everyone on a journey for that night; without him, there was no party. Seemed like a pretty cool gig to me.

What sets you apart from other deejays?

I guess what sets most DJs apart is the music they choose to play. I personally do not care for pop music; I don't like to play it. I love being surprised by a chunky track that I have never heard before that just makes me move. Too often you go to a club and hear the same songs night after night after night. This is not me.

What is it about deejaying that you like?

Deejaying and my music release you from the stresses of everyday life; it’s exhilarating. I like that feeling that you get when you have the floor gyrating to your grooves or when someone comes up to you and says, “Dude, you rocked my night!”

How do you think you contribute to a better society as a deejay?

People go out to listen to music for different reasons. But when they enjoy the music, it moves them and takes them to a happy place. Getting people to a happy place – be it just by the bar or going crazy on the dance floor – as long as it moves you; I think it contributes to a better society.

What are some of the challenges you encounter?

The biggest challenge is club owners or managers, who sometimes want to dictate what you do or what you play. This gets in the way of creativity.

Who are your all-time favourite artistes?

Sasha and Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, Erick Morillo and Chus and Ceballos.

What do you like best about your job?

What I like about it is that this isn't a job for me. I can’t imagine doing this more than once a month. The late nights take a toll on you in many ways. My job is IT and management – deejaying is just my fun.

What can Big Fish patrons expect from your New Year’s Eve performance?

I just recently started having dinner at Big Fish and the owners and chef are great, and I love the venue itself. It’s got this Bagatelle (St. Barths and NY) feel to it and that super club vibe that is just screaming for a party. So I'm planning to bring it. The music will be that deep, chocolaty, funky, tribal house that will progress as the night does. I’ll be on from 9:00 to 2:00am.

Why should people choose your NYE performance over others’?

For me, NYE has always been about a fabulous big night doing something different than what I do the rest of the year. Why would you want to ring in the New Year at the same place you end up every weekend? This is why I am looking forward to Big Fish. Change!

If you could meet any deejay in the world, who would you want to meet and why?

I think it would be Erick Morillo. This guy puts on a hell of a show when he deejays and you can't help but rock out to his tribal funky grooves. He keeps the dance floor packed.

What message do you have for youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps?

Study; get a degree, get job, then have fun deejaying. Deejaying can be very positive, but there are negatives like drugs and alcohol all around the scene. You need to be level-headed and not lose yourself in this industry. Be strong and just say no.

What else are you involved in?

Besides my IT career, I am on the esteemed boards of St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Social Economic Council SER. Both boards are active in shaping and advising on legislation put forth by government. St Maarten is in an economic slump and both organisations are now more important than ever and I do hope that government taps into these resources. The experience and expertise of the respective board members are very valuable.

Do you have any (other) special talents?

I am a major foodie. I love my mouth. I have been inspired by my mother, my aunt and many other tremendous chefs over the years to cook myself. I would like to think I can bang out some great meals. I have a thing for photography too.

Wine or beer?

Definitely wine. I love a good Bordeaux or Margaux. These days I love whites – Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, New Zealand Savignon Blacs.

Dream holiday venue?

London is one of my favourite cities, but anywhere in Europe really. I love the history, culture and the food.

Pet peeve?

Most drivers on St. Maarten roads, especially the ones who drive 10 miles per hour or those who rubber neck and slow traffic when there’s an accident.

Favourite quote?

Never marry someone you can live with; marry someone you can never live without.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you serve them?

Ajeet Nandwani, Vicky Chugani and Bob Marley – all taken from us way before their time. We would start with oysters and champagne, salmon carpaccio, then a juicy medium rare rib-eye steak with truffle mashed potatoes and a blue cheese and arugula salad then end with a grand marnier soufflé.

Paula Gordon is one of the persons coordinating GEBE’s Christmas Village on Walter Nisbeth Road. She tells us more about herself and the work that goes into such an event in this week’s Hot Seat.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m 40 years old. I was born in St. Kitts. I’ve learned so much from my time here on earth that I feel the need to always give back. I’m a super busy person, but I try to balance my life. I play volleyball and I love sports. I drink way too much Coca Cola, but I’m trying to stop. I have a beautiful18-year-old daughter, Anandah Brandy. My proudest moments were my daughter’s birth, being crowned Miss Mature in 2013, graduating from University of St. Martin (USM) and University of Curacao, joining the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise and joining St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m an energetic, full of life, no-nonsense type of person. I like to work with the youth, which I’ve been doing all my life. I really love pageantry, cooking and experimenting with different foods. I research recipes and cook all the time. I recently got my diploma in sewing and I sew at home when I have time. My job keeps me very busy.

Education?

I attended Basterre Primary Girls School in St. Kitts; St. Maarten Academy; Evans High School in Orlando, Florida, where I obtained my high school diploma; USM, where I obtained my AA Degree in Business Management; University of Curaçao, where I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

How did you end up in beautiful St. Maarten?

My mom moved to St. Maarten in 1979 to work. I lived in St. Kitts for a few years with my aunt. During my younger years, I attended school at the old Grand Case Police Station and went back to St. Kitts for three years until I officially moved to St. Maarten in 1989.

How did you end up at GEBE?

In 2007, I applied for the position of assistant secretary to the then Managing Director William Brooks (may he rest in peace). I was hired on August 13, 2007. I’m now the Corporate Communications Officer and I’ve been in this function for the past three years.

What do you like about your current job?

It’s a very intense position and I am constantly challenged. Every day is a learning experience, which is the best part.

How did you end up on the planning team for GEBE’s Christmas village?

As secretary for GEBE’s Social Club, our president Jewel Daal pulled me into it as we’ve worked on many projects together.

What’s the purpose of the Christmas village?

The purpose of the village is to bring life to the Philipsburg area and to have families, friends and visitors enjoy Christmas in a different way. I’m the assistant president of the Social Club.

What sort of planning goes into such a major event?

It takes many long hours of actual planning. We’ve had to pull in the technical guys from the distribution department and get their expertise. GEBE is full of talented people, so we made contact with everyone we knew would play a major role. Of course, everyone has different ideas, but after several meetings, we came up with a plan, which we put on paper and then invited other sub-committee members. It took a lot of sleepless nights to actually get the village up and running.

Challenges?

Trying to keep it a secret until it was time to be revealed.

What would you say to encourage the public to come out to attend the Village?

Come out and enjoy the amazing days of festivities. This is for the community of St. Maarten. Everyone should attend because this village was built and created by the staff of GEBE with love.

How do you think this event will help spread Christmas cheer?

For the opening night, which was December 11, we invited 25 seniors who were each presented with a food basket – an event we do yearly. If you were at that event, you could feel the joy, love and Christmas spirit in the air.

What do you do outside of working at GEBE?

I play volleyball, sew, volunteer, chaperone and mentor young ladies, go to the beach and explore St. Maarten; and when I can find some time for me, I love being at home with my daughter watching TV.

Future plans?

Personally, I want to expand my chaperoning business and help to take pageantry to a whole new level. I can’t wait for the day to turn the keys to my own home, which is in process. Professionally, I want to get my MA in Communications and open my own business.

What is your advice for youths?

Life is full of surprises, nothing should be regretted. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Live, laugh and love. Don’t take things too personally. Make sure you have plan A, and if that doesn’t work out, remember there are more letters in the alphabet.

Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows.

I don’t watch scary movies at night or I won’t be able to sleep.

Pet peeve?

When people say they will do something and you expect them to do it and they don’t. That irks me because I’m very structured and organised. As busy as I am, I know what I will do this afternoon and tomorrow at any time.

Biggest fear?

I have a fear of being hit by a big truck.

Favourite quote?

The next time you think you’re perfect, try walking on water.

Role models?

My mother Juliette Caines, my sister Nadia Dormoy and Josianne Fleming- Artsen, my former USM boss – these are all strong, beautiful women, who have taught me to be the person I am today.

Special talents?

I wish I could say that I have a great voice, but I would be lying. But I’m a mean cook. I can throw down in the kitchen. I learned cooking from my aunt at a very young age.

Dream holiday venue?

Paris the city of love, and Dubai.

What would a perfect romantic evening be for you?

I'm a simple girl and everything is a moment for me. I'm a hopeless romantic, so something very simple, such as a collection of the ultimate love songs; walking on the beach and holding hands of course – if the moon is out, even better; watching a romantic comedy; having a drink and closing down the restaurant with silly conversations… these are romantic to me.

If stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you need?

If that deserted island has power and water; then my TV, my loving partner and a boat so we could leave whenever we desire.

What’s your favourite type of music; what artistes do you listen to?

My favourite type of music is soca, St. Kitts Pep riddim and R&B; and my favourite artistes are Mariah Carey, Luther van Dros, Salt and Pepa, Tupac, KC and JoJo, Machel Montano and my list would not be complete if Sugar Band from SBK wasn’t on.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

I would invite Chance and Miracle Cranstoun-Gordon and Randolph Corachi Martinus. I would cook a combination of meals for them starting off with my parmesan garlic chicken wings as appetizer, my specialty broccoli casserole, coconut rice and peas, with my Thai coconut curry chicken and shrimps, followed by my delicious upside-down pineapple cake topped with vanilla ice cream.

Who is Geraldine Ladera?

I’m from Caracas, Venezuela, and I’m an architect. I would describe myself as a very curious person who likes to explore her artistic side. Since I moved to St. Maarten, I started doing illustrations and writing about my surroundings. Actually, I like to do experiments with recycled materials and create new forms.

Education?

I studied architecture at Universidad Central de Venezuela in Venezuela. Then, I transferred to Turin, Italy, to finish my studies at Politecnico di Torino. This way, I obtained a double degree in architecture and a Master’s degree in architecture (rehabilitation and revaluation) and as I always loved to draw, I also pursued and obtained a master’s Degree in graphic design at ESECAV in Alicante, Spain.

How did you end up in beautiful St. Maarten?

I left Venezuela 10 years ago to study and work across different countries: Italy, Spain, Argentina and United Arab Emirates. I was living my dream, which was to travel and live and work in different countries and cities as a lifestyle and to have my passport full of stamps. I was living in Dubai for almost two years when I decided to do a big change in my life for personal reasons. I wasn’t sure where to go so I did research about jobs, then after one month, I moved to St. Maarten to work. The island has been my home since 2013 and I love it.

Why did you decide to enter the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry Art Competition?

I read about the details of the Art Competition, which had been published in The Daily Herald and I thought it was a great opportunity to do something new where art and creativity were involved. I think it was a great initiative for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to offer an opportunity for local artists to showcase their work.

Tell us about the process to create your winning pieces.

I decided to participate in the 3D category which required building furniture (stools/chairs) with repurposed materials with a seating capacity for four persons. As requested by the guidelines, I decided to create five benches using repurposed materials coming from a local St. Maarten company. I chose The Daily Herald for this purpose and collected carton board rolls paper left over from the printing process. Some of the rolls came with extra paper so I decided to use both materials to prepare my pieces. Some of the carton boards were cut to create the height necessary to build the benches. The concept was to depict the colourful vibes of St. Maarten, transformed from neutral and plain surfaces. I also used acrylic paint, spray paint, multipurpose glue and liquid nails as my raw materials.

How do you feel about winning the Chamber competition?

It was unexpected and it feels awesome. I put a lot of energy into my design and I was very happy with the results.

You are also a published author; please elaborate on what you’ve published.

A year ago in August 2015, I published a Spanish eBook entitled Pasa, sucede y acontece which contains 10 stories written in normal form. Each story is based on true events and persons who I met in different parts of the word. The stories focus on the human relationships. Currently, I’m working on the English version.

What do you do outside of architecture?

I also like to write short stories and make illustrations. I would like to develop my work as a writer in the future, maybe along with my own illustrations. I think I have a lot of stories to tell from all my travels over the past 10 years.

Future plans?

Since the art competition organised by COCI, I have more ideas to create furniture with recycled materials and another version of the original benches I created. I also started a sketch for a novel based on people I met on the island, but one which continues from the topic of my first book about relationships and the thin line between love and hate. I like the challenge and I focus on how to build the characters, express their feelings and depict scenarios.

What is your advice to youths?

Never believe the persons who tell you that you will never accomplish your goals. This is toxic. I think you have to learn to trust in your own capabilities and that is an individual process.

Tell us something about yourself that no one else knows?

I read biographies. If I hear about an artist, writer or politician, I have the compulsive habit of going and reading about them, their stories, their work… everything.

Pet peeve and why?

When persons don’t answer when you say good morning; I think this is rude.

Biggest fear?

Not seeing my family for a long period of time.

Favourite quote?

If it is meant to be, it will be.

Role models?

My parents! They are the best teachers I could ever have imagined; also my adoptive mother in St. Maarten. She’s an oracle.

What’s your favourite type of music; what artistes do you listen to?

I’m Latin so I listen to a lot of Latin bands such as Soda Stereo (an Argentinean rock band), Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and my favourite band Los Amigos Invisibles – a Venezuelan band that plays a blend of disco, acid jazz and funk. Since I moved to St. Maarten, I also love soca music.

If you could ask any three persons (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would they be and what would you cook for them?

I love to meet new people so I would choose three random persons on the street and surprise them with a delicious Arepas (typical dish from Venezuela). I think it will be a good way to break the ice and start to make new friends.

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