Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bigger is not Always Better

Sometimes bigger is just bigger.

In Mexico, while it has everything a person could want to buy, eat or do. The people are not friendly in our area. In 9 months I have met 3 people. Yes, you read it right… 3 people. My BELIZEAN Spanish teacher, a BELIZEAN massage therapist and one neighbor who is originally from the city of Merida, a very friendly place. That’s it.

At first I attributed it to the fact that in the beginning I didn’t get out much, I was very focused on setting up my studio and painting. I have to remind myself, I always get what I want. On Caye Caulker I suffered from Noseyneighboritis, people always up into my business. People love to talk here, and there is a fine line between gossip and information, and I have to admit, I participated in the listening and the saying. But what it comes down to is I really need a very quiet controlled environment to do my best work. I can’t be talking, answering the phone or having interruptions. I am the most like my father in that attribute. I need mental space.

When we moved to Mexico it was to a middle class neighborhood of modest homes with two working parents and live-in Guatemalan maids. I felt the open mouth stares from behind closed drapes as we would exit the 10 foot high security/privacy fence to drive somewhere in the car.

“There goes the neighborhood” I imagined them saying to themselves. A white lady and a giant BELIZEAN! What is the world coming to?

My best friend became the pug dog living next door who would only growl at me if I spoke English, but he would try and talk to me if I spoke Spanish. He told me that he was lonely and could he please have a piece of chicken?

I found myself shopping at Chedraui, looking for white ladies to crash my cart into, just for conversation. That's really weird, and I know it, you don't have to tell me.

So, I really got what I wanted. I wanted peace and quiet, and no interfering neighbors, no one calling me bothering me, taking up my time, trying to get me involved in their constant small town drama. I wanted to lower my cost of living, and live in a safe neighborhood (remember my best friend the machette). But life is not perfect. And you don’t know what you got ‘til its gone.

I’m back on Caye Caulker for a few days taking a break from Mexico and to do inventory at the stores selling my artwork and prints. I’m here to TALK. AND TALK AND TALK, as I sit on the street side verandah and people call out to me walking past, in their bikes and golf carts cruising…

"Eeeey! Miss Lee Ann, when you come back?"

"Miss Lee Ann, where you been?"

"Miss Lee Miss Lee Miss Lee, how come I neva de see you again?"

"Miss Lee Ann how you like Mexico?"

"Miss Lee Miss Lee, bring me some ah dat cheap food from Mexico!"

"Miss Lee, I gonna come see you in Mexico!"

"Miss Lee Ann how yu like Mak Donals?"

“I like Burger King better” I reply

“OFF OFF OFF” the little kids chanted on the street as the electricity flickered on for a moment and then browned out again.

Caye Caulker in the dark with no boom boxes or lights, people sounds only, no machines. Its nice. I’m fine, I can operate on batteries for quite a while. There is a breeze blowing, no need for a fan.

“Shutup gial!” I hear a tired mother trying to run a restaurant without current hushes her daughter who is happy and excited about another power outage. "This current jussa harass mi!" To kids its fun, but to businesses its a killer.

“Gial, current gaaan agayn” Bigness booms from the bedroom where he was watching Belize TV news discussing the Maya alliance and their conflict with central government over land rights, titles and leases. This problem is not unique only to Belize, it is this way all over the world, indigenous people treated like immigrants and immigrants treated like royalty.

Current back on for a few minutes, I’m ready to plug again and down down down the lights go. I stay unplugged during these episodes until I’m sure its safe. I don’t like the effect that the power surge has on my things and we all know that the electricity company never wants to take responsibility for damage from power outages, brownouts and spikes.

“Gial, the TV cure itself” Bigness announces from the bedroom. As the power goes back on.

One good thing that came from this power outage is, the sound on the TV in the master bedroom magically started working again. For 3 days Bigness has been lip reading the news and watching 12 Corezones, and doing, of all things… reading. I told him the "sound out" was practice for when he goes deaf, and then instantly felt guilty for saying it. It got a chuckle out of him, he LOVES my insults. I know, that's weird too, you don't have to tell me. If my 74-year-old mother heard me say that to my husband, she would wash my mouth out with Fels Naptha soap.

Now that the current is back on the only thing standing between Bigness and Caso Cerrado is that the cable TV company isn’t back online yet.

I feel like telling Bigness to hit it with a hammer to see if he can make it work. That’s my father’s personality in me and something I heard him say over and over facetiously as I was growing up with a self-taught mechanical genius. But I stifle it.

We go like this in fits and streaks. Current will be good good good for months, and then blip blap blam, its off. We are not experiencing the blackouts that San Pedro and villages on the mainland are, due to the fact that our juice comes from 3 giant diesel engines on the back side of the island. We are not hooked up to the national grid, and I don’t know if we really want to be either. Given that the majority of Belize’s electricity comes from a national grid that is supplied by Mexico, and Mexican hydroelectric power is at a low due to less rain this year. The Mexican newspaper announced that there will be power outages as they are not able to keep up with demand. I’m o.k. with the 3 diesel engines on the back side of the island and marvel sometimes at how very reliable our current is.

If I have to be anywhere in the world when the electricity goes off, it would be Caye Caulker with its people noise and the sound of palm trees in the breeze.

So, during my self imposed exile I created many many many little things. With this economic climate people don’t want to spend much money, so if any sales are made, they are the smaller pieces. I have new jewelry and small paintings. I’m now creating a silk self matt for these 10” x 10” silk paintings. They are available online (soon to be offered on my website) and at River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, Michigan, in Belize at Pretty Ethnic in San Pedro, Caesar’s Place in San Ignacio, Fine Arts in Belize City, Los Cocos Cantina on Caye Caulker, and Art-n-Soul in Placencia. The price for a framed painting at River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, Michigan is $97.00. I am offering them unframed in Belize for $47.50 U.S. and for an internet sale add $30 U.S. for shipping.


Anonymous said...

Some words of advice. Be the person that smiles first; say hello first; be kind first; be open and inviting first and you will meet more people and feel better about your neighbors and the area you live in. It sounds like you want others to throw themselves into a friendship with you; yet you have done nothing to welcome this and in fact say you want your space. Which is it?

Also, it is great that you are learning Spanish but maybe you feel others need to speak English to you? You are in Mexico; and you should speak in their language, take an interest in them, their culture and I am sure you will see results. I have always felt that in Mexico people have been warm and inviting and I have traveled to many parts of Mexico.

In conclusion, relax about what you think others are thinking or saying about you and just smile a whole lot more and kill them with kindness. Al

Caribbean Colors said...

Good advice. Thanks Al. I know that what I am going through is typical when you move to a new place, and it takes time to work through it to feel comfortable in my new environment.

Anonymous said...

The art is gorgeous as usual. Thanks for the interesting report. MB

Guyana-Gyal said...

How I missed you...you are funny, entertaining, honest [you don't pretend to be what you're not and I like that].

I understand the need to be alone to create. If I'm writing, I need solitude even if I'm in an office...but then, I'm one of those gregarious folks who need people too. The trick is to balance the two needs.

I've never been to Mexico, so I can't say. Here, we're friendly but if you stay away, we'll keep our distance, not wanting to disturb you.

Oooh, look at the gems you created while you were away!

Caribbean Colors said...

Thanks for the kudos MB.

I think you hit it right on the head GG, I need the solitude and then when I´m ready to come out of my cave, I´m ready to talk talk talk. Having days and days on end with no interruptions (talking) has helped me to make things that I´ve never even seen before. I´ve reached way deep inside. I´m working on jewelry now... so keep your eyes peeled for a next installment.

I have to post from an internet cafe in Mexico because I don´t have access at home, and can´t upload pictures from here. When you see pictures, its because I´m posting from Belize.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say your artwork is unique and special. I wish I had your talent.I love your work.

Lorraine said...

You are such a vibrant friendly person, I have a hard time finding that people don't talk to you. They don't know what they are missing!!! You are a great conversationalist. We talked so much before we met and then when we did . . . . it was like we had known each other in a previous life. I know how hard is is moving to a new place and meeting people, but you will. People come, people go, but friends are there when you need them. I'd rather have 3 friends than 30 acquaintances . Smile, cuz I consider you my friend.


Pablo (yo) said...

Great blog!!
If you like, come and visit mine: http://albumdeestampillas.blogspot.com


Anonymous said...

your blog is facinating. I am in the US. Planning a tourist trip to Belize. The idea of travel (re-)awakened my ex-pat daydreams. (yup, I'm an impulsive idiot)

In my reading on Belize, it seems a little like a frontier. Takes guts, which appeals to me and terrifies me at the same time--i have kids.

I wonder, why don't you want to go back to the USA? financial reasons or are there others?

You say that the US has a choke hold on the taxpayers, and that is true and likely to get worse, but in my small rural town the worst thing I have to deal with is a doped-up, cussing neighbor and I call 911 and the police are there in less than 10 minutes. I feel babysat.

I earn about $20/hr with tips waitressing. Is it really so much better in Beliz/Mexico? Once you factor the expenses against income our tax load doesn't seem so bad. My life isn't so far from paradise-the setting isn't as beautiful, is all.

On the other hand it sounds like a bit of an adventure. Now I just have to figure a way to make that $2000 a month from outside of Belize...you seem to have found a way.

sorry this got so long. I am very curious about many things, comes from having such an uninspiring job.


Kari said...

Wow, 3 months without an update - I'm missing you! Hope you're having a happy time. Any idea if you'll ever go back to Belize? it has been such fun to hear about small town life in a different country.

Best wishes,