Saturday, November 15, 2008

Getting Ready to Bust a Move

I’m really bad a finishing a story, and answering the door. If you knock long enough, I’ll eventually answer the door, or the phone, so thank you to those friends who have emailed me asking what is going on.

I've been playing my cards pretty close to my chest as we were making major decisions and turning this way and that trying to figure our way out of this maze.

I feel like Rumpelstiltskin, having woken up from a 20 year sleep with the price of everything doubled. I thought I was going to go into shock walking down the aisle at Brodies where they hadn’t even bother to peel off the old price sticker before sticking down the new ones which were 50% higher across the board. In general, imported foods from the U.S. cost double, but we still indulge ourselves in a few luxury items. Most of what we buy is grown locally, rice beans, chicken, vegetables, fruit. It had been months since I had actually been grocery shopping. Bigness usually does the shopping in Belize City weekly, because prices in general are too high on Caye Caulker. If tomatoes are 1 bzd a lb (50 cents U.S.) at the central market in Belize City, then they are 4 bzd a lb. ($2 U.S.) on Caye Caulker.

He had been complaining of price hikes, but then again he complains about the price of everything. His favorite reminiscence is about Target in the 1990s where he could get a polo shirt for $4.

“Babes, next time you’re in de steytes, get some more of deez shuts fa me. I oonly peey foor dalla fa dis one” and he stretches the threadbare polo shirt over his belly.

“What century was that?” I answer.

I hate that friggin shirt, I think to myself and make a mental note to turn it into cleaning rags when he’s not looking. You know, the burgundy one with a stripe across his chichis and the moth eaten hole conveniently located at his belly button (ventilation).

With food prices up 50% on most of our essentials like rice, beans, and butane gas for cooking. Plus now with the great floods of 2008 detroying large portions of the rice, corn and sugar cane, Belize will have to import all these staples. Tourism reported to be down 25% for the last 2 quarters. Reported, that is by the tourist board, as an average for the country. But I know that for Caye Caulker we were way lower than the 25% drop that our tourist board reported. High season started late in 2007 and Easter came early in 2008. As an example, last year, even with hurricane Dean at the end of August, I still made my break even. This year, for the month of August I was down 75% from last year.

Even with downsizing, I now know I am not recession proof.

I made the tough decision to close my store after having a continuous presence on Caye Caulker for 7 years. I’ve decided to take a year off, close down and wait out the U.S. recession which has directly affected tourism in Belize. I am still going to have my paintings, prints and sarongs available throughout Belize at these fine stores:
Belizean Arts in San Pedro - prints, original art, cards and jewelry
Pretty Ethnic in San Pedro - original silk paintings, prints, silk sarongs and jewelry
Fine Arts in Belize City located near Wet Willy's outside of the Tourist Village has original silk paintings and prints
Caesar’s Place in San Ignacio on the Western Highway near Gerogeville has prints and cards
Art-N-Soul in Placencia on the sidewalk has original art, prints and jewelry
Los Cocos Cantina - in my old location next to the police station on Caye Caulker has prints and a few originals
De java House on Caye Caulker located next to Atlantic Bank has prints and jewelry

In the U.S. you can get my original art at River's Edge Gallery in Wyandotte and in New York City Chelsea District at the Agora Gallery.

In the interim I am only selling wholesale, to art galleries and on the internet and with 7 outlets carrying my art and merchandise, I'm pretty busy creating enough stock and painting almost full time now, when I'm not playing Spider Solitaire on my laptop.

Bigness and I are going to slide 6km over the border to Chetumal Mexico to lower our cost of living to less than ½ of what we’re living on now.

We have emptied out the Little House in the Bush, and put someone there to take care of the property since it has become too dangerous for me to stay there alone. We can not sell the property because we were SWINDLED by the former PUP Belize government (that is a WHOLE other story)... and a class action lawsuit. As we have recenlty found out that the DFC (Development Finance Corporation) has been lying to us for several years.

"Yah, we're going to get you your title, its in proces, the lawyers have it, everything is fine, just keep giving us your money, its going to go through before the election, no, we have to wait until after the election, we're reorganizing after the election blah blah blah." the lies go on and on and on with the DFC. So many rumours and nobody knows what's going on.

The former PUP government who dreamed up this project called Mahogany Heights on Mile 31, did not have clear title to the property before they sold us ours (and to 300 other families), and they knew it, and still did it. Someone needs to go to jail for this. Might I suggest someone with the initials of SM, RF and GG, all former leaders of the People's United Party?

We’ve decided to go to Chetumal to wait out the sale of Bigness’ prime beachfront commercial property on Caye Caulker. We are in no hurry to sell and will be waiting for the right buyer. WHO will the right buyer be? The one who has the money.

Plans for the future? We are not giving up on Belize, but are taking a break. Once the property on Caye Caulker sells. We plan on staying in Belize, but splitting our time between it and the U.S. In the meantime I am setting up my studio in Chetumal and will only be here in Belize when I have to do business, or if friends are visiting, or when we have a check-in to the beach house.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I bet you wish he was your boyfriend too!

Bigness has tired of the power outages, the water outages and has pretty much dumped me in the bush to finish my projects while he goes to Caye Caulker to live in the middle of a party.

Peanut, the closest neighbor across the way, has been admonishing me for my non-Belizean faux pas while helping clean and cook at the little house in the bush. When I’m involved in a big painting production, I barely take time to even bathe. I don’t actually need help at home, but its nice sometimes to get some help and to hear a human voice.

“Miss Lee Ann noh hang yu laundry close to da chaya tree. It make you itchy itchy.” Peanut moves the laundry from where I pinned it out, to a different spot on the line.

“Miss Lee Ann mek Mr. Bigness chop down dis chaya tree, it too close to yu batroom window and pipple can peep on you. Mek I call Carmel Corn (her boyfriend) ova to do dis ting.”

“Miss Lee Ann mek I kill de spring chicken inna for you batroom” and she points to the little tiny frog clinging to the wall of the shower.
“Dey is pieyzon”
“Noh mek he piss pon you. Pass me the fish spray”
(Fish spray is a super toxic insecticide made in Trinidad)

“Miss Lee Ann, dis how you have your machete?” Peanut points with her lips at the machete laying on the floor next my bed that I named “Boyfriend”.
“Sure,” I say puzzled, not knowing where this is going
“Ayee yi yi gial! Yu not fraid fu cut up fa yu foot?
“Ahhhh” I had never thought of it that way. You know you’re in for trouble when you name your machete “Boyfriend” That's a rule in life, also here's another one: don't ever date a man who is named after a disease.

“Mek I show you how to do it.” she takes the sharp edged 30” blade and slips it between the mattress and foundation, then lays down on the bed to show me where her hand easily dangles near the handle.
“See how easy easy easy?”
“Ooooo. Kaaaaay.” I answer wondering how I made it this long without killing myself.

I went to bed that night with the satisfaction that my sheets wouldn’t itch me, the poison frog wouldn’t piss on me and I wouldn’t step on the machete.

After the break-in last year in December, Bigness installed additional outside lighting, motion sensors and some simple battery operated door alarms you can get at Radio Shack. I used these alarms years ago during my three daughters’ teen years to keep them in the house and to keep boys out. They work with a little key and can be set for instant alarm or give you 15 seconds to disarm after entering. They emit the most annoying blood curdling scream that could drive you to murder. At night I set them to instant. It had gotten to be a routine, and I started to feel like I was being security paranoid. I would let them go off every once in a while for a few seconds just to remind everyone within hearing distance that we here were PROTECTED and READY FOR INTRUDERS.
A couple of things I’ve learned since living in Belize are: hide your purse in a closet and away from even closed windows with burglar bars, keep your cell phone charged, and keep credit in your phone. Run out of phone credit in the middle of the night and there ain’t no 7-11 on the corner open all night.

Minutes after 4 a.m. I was woken up by the hair-raising shrill screaming of our door alarm system. Disoriented with the alarms screaming at me I thought the intruders were already in the house.

I hauled out the machete now conveniently located near my dangling hand, slammed shut and locked the bedroom door and called Peanut. She and Carmel Corn were closer to the house than the police. (more reliable too)

“What happen Miss Lee Ann?” a sleepy Peanut answers the phone
“Look at the house, Peanut” is anyone out there?”
“Nooooooooh, Miss Lee Ann……… oh FAAAAAAAK, Carmel Corn, git up!” a man was crouched beneath her window.
Carmel Corn sprang into action like the little incredible hulk that he is and chased a young man around 18 years old, thin and dark skinned wearing a white shirt and khaki pants back into the bush behind their house where he lost him. He melted away into the darkness.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night and in the morning found a piece of rebar bent to the shape of a square C that the would-be burglar used to push through the burglar bar screen door to try and pop open the steel door.

The next night went by uneventful, however nervous I was, I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep only to find that in the morning the screen on the front door had been peeled back in another attempt.

What about the police? I called to inform them of what had happened, but no one came, it was after the fact. They suggested I get a gun.

Bigness assured me that it was ONLY sprungheads trying to phish the room, for whatever they could pick with a stick and sell for 5 to buy a rock. He reassured me that the only way into the house was with a car, a chain and a bumper.

I think that’s pretty facey that the house would be under attack when I’m there. Its obvious, the car is in front, the lights are on. These bad boys are getting BOLD.

In MYSPACE they have a mood section, I am unnerved.
Art credits:
Hand-painted silk
Bamboo & Banana Leaf 20" x 28" $250
Lillies in the Window 20" x 28" $300
Sweet Plumeria 20" x 28" $250

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Conspiracy Theory

The Little House in the Bush
If something drastic electricity-wise (read: exploding transformers or downed lines) happens on Caye Caulker, after dark, we know that we have to wait until daybreak for a technician to come over by boat from San Pedro. On the mainland of Belize where the Little House in the Bush is, we don’t have transportation issues in getting repair technicians in place, we have problems with theft and sabotage.

Recently, the whole area was without water for 5 days because theives had stolen the pump and water purification system from the community well. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face...

The electricity went out at 9 p.m.

FAAAAAAAAAK!” I said very loudly, and instantly felt better.

I had consumed 2 big cups of coffee an hour earlier so I could stay up late and paint. Bigness was already asleep, but the dead calm blanket of air air woke him up.

“Better jump in the shower to cool off before the tank empties”, I called from the kitchen where I was looking for the lighter to get the candles going.

“FAAAAAAAAAK!” he said very loudly, and instantly felt better.

We lucked out, the water in the community well’s holding tank lasted until both of us could shower and I could fill up the two five gallon jugs we keep for spare water.

I unhooked the computer from the UPS battery backup and hooked the fan to it setting it on low to conserve the battery. It was so hot, the air hardly moving at all, like breathing through a blanket, the air hung on my neck.

The laptop battery was fully charged so I set it to low consumption and put in the DVD, “Teeth” a movie that I had just received from the bootleg movie guy. Every man’s nightmare, a cautionary tale. I love Indy movies, and this one won a Sundance Award and a bunch of others.

A totally pointless and psycho movie about a high school girl, not very in touch with her own body, and to put it simply, a girl who’s coco chews off boy carrots if they are not nice to her.

Bigness was my captive audience. I knew as long as the fan was semi-blowing, he wouldn’t stray too far.

It made him chuckle, and then laugh the unabashed belly laugh I love to hear, especially during the really gory parts, blood squirting, boy carrots being flung hither and yon. He stayed awake during the entire film, which is a record, since usually 30 minutes into any movie he’s snoring, unless there are nekkid ladies jumping up and down.

The movie finished, and the computer died. After 2 hours I called the electric company and a very nice young man answered the complaint line when I inquired why and for how long. He told me that someone had cut a high tension electricity pole with a chain saw to steal the copper from it. The electricity company techicians had to install a new pole.


That just pissed me off.

I finally slipped off to sleep, sweating under the sheet that was keeping the mosquitoes at bay and woke up hours later to the sound of the big ceiling fan in the bedroom on high speed whamp whamp whamp sounding like a helicopter rotor, and the lights blazing through the house. Only, after turning the big overhead helicopter-sounding ceiling fan off, I realized that I was actually hearing a helicopter outside in the night. The only legitimate (read: legal) helicopter sounds we hear in the night are British military search and rescue. This wasn’t a British military helicopter I was hearing, this was someone else taking off and landing on the next field over. Helicopters in the night, are never a reassuring sound. I try to not ask too many questions, but why are helicopters taking off and landing in fields in the middle of the night just west of my little house in the bush near Mile 31 on the Western Highway?

Things will get worse before they will get better.