Saturday, December 20, 2008

Little Bo Leep

Little Bo Leep
has lost her links
and doesn't know where to find them

Leave them alone
and NO ONE will come home
waggin their tails behind them

When I changed my template, I didn't read the fine print (a character flaw of mine) and poof they were gone. Ctrl-Z Ctrl-Z Ctrl-Z Undo Undo Undo I typed, but no one in cyberspace heard me. Crying and screaming didn't help, but it sure quieted the neighborhood down.

Please email me at caribbeancolors1 at because I'm too lazy to read through the 1400 pages of comments and click on the comments links.

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.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Visitors

I heard the neighbor’s dog bark, then the crickets stopped talking their sing song. I knew someone was approaching the house. The afternoon had slipped into evening and very few lights were burning, except for in my studio where I had spent all afternoon painting silk sarongs. I like it here in my little house in the bush, neighbors not too close, so quiet I hardly ever even hear car sounds from the highway a mile away.

Knock knock knock, at the front of the house, haloooooo anywan der? Halooooo, haloooooo, haloooo. Bam bam bam on the big steel door.

I think to myself, be gentle on that door whoever you are, or the newly installed alarms will announce themselves in the ear piercing squeal meant to warn me, and scare you.

I look at my watch, its 8 o’clock at night, pitch black dark. So absorbed in what I’m doing I haven’t put on the outside lights. No one comes a-knockin after dark unless its trouble. Even the Jehovah’s Wickedness missionaries only come to harass us in daylight hours.

I know its not my neighbor, Peanut with her baby boy, who lives across the way, because she hails me with her happy voice “Miss Lee Ann, Miss Lee Ann, whe yu deh, Miss Lee Ann.”

We don’t have doorbells here.

This voice calling me isn’t happy.

I walk down the hallway into the unlit living room and flip on the porch light. Its two women, one big and dark and angry, the other a Creole woman with her hair platted, and pretty face.

I don’t open the door, instead I haul up the miniblind in the kitchen and speak to them through the window. Rule #4) Never open the door at night.

“Is your husband here?” the Creole woman asks

I answer, “Why do you want to know?”

“We want to talk to him about something”

“What is it you want to talk with him about?”

And on it goes back and forth, with me not revealing that he is not at home, that I am alone, and them not revealing what they want to talk about. Each of us doing our verbal dance around the other.

She finally relents and tells me that she wants to talk with him about calling the court case off, which goes to trial the next day. I had already figured out what they were after. They want to convince Bigness to call off the court case, the case that we have been waiting 9 months to go to trial. She wants to appeal for her lee bredda (little brother) how he sowry fa doing da ting and he promise to nevva evva steal from us again.

I lie.
I tell them that he’s resting.
I lie.
I was giving him a massage.
I lie
He’s not going to get up out of bed to talk to anybody.
I lie.
That I know from my experience that he’s hard headed and once he puts it into his mind to do something, nothing changes his mind. Well, I didn’t lie about the last part. I tell them to not waste their breath.

But still they persist, they think they can work their feminine treasures on him.

I apologize for my husband’s bad manners in not coming to the door to talk to them.

They say, start with an apology before you drop the bomb.

I take a deep breath and then let loose.

“This was no random break in. Your Lee Bredda knew which house to target because someone, probably his family has been watching me from back there,” and I point with my lips over their shoulder to the area where they came from,

I have a problem with, once I start blowing hot air, I have a hard time stopping myself.

“Someone has been stalking me, watching my comings and goings. He knew no one was at home”
“Your brother didn’t just drive up one night and decide this was a good house to pick and then haul the big steel doors off the side of the house with his car.”

“What he didn’t know is that we have a neighborhood watch, and keep a check on each other in this here street. We all know who is who and what is what.

“He teif me and get caught red handed, the police did their job, there’s no discussion. I hope he can rehabilitate himself in prison, get his high school diploma, maybe take some computer classes so when he comes out, he will be ready to do something besides steal.”

"Ahright den." the ladies say as they turn and leave.

I turn on the rest of the outside lights and then scurry to the bathroom to call my neighbors and then the police to report the harassment. Why the bathroom you ask? Its the only room in the house which is semi soundproof.

“Ah Miss Lee Ann, you aright?” Peanut is the first on my list of calls. “Me and Carmel Corn (her husband) see de people come up to your house and Carmel Corn haul out de machete and wait right by de door for watch and see iffan you be safe Miss Lee Ann, we watch for ah.”

I call Maria next, then Mr. Tony and give them the all clear. This area has become a passing through area for thieves and gangbangers from Belize City and Democracia.

I call Bigness and admonish him for leaving me alone the night before the trial, he should know how his people are. He had forgotten, they go after the family. I didn't sleep well that night.

Trial and Error

I woke early and had to leave for Belize City driving along the Western Highway to reach before 9 a.m. I parked the car at the Water Taxi lot and walked the two blocks to the Magistrate's Court. The arresting officer was already there and introduced himself to me as we stood on the courthouse steps. Bigness had ironed his shirt, tucked it into his pants, ironed his pants, was wearing a belt and shoes. Already the sun was hot. There was a delay, one of the prisoners had escaped and they had to catch him before proceeding with the trial. Oh joy!

We stood outside, and stood and stood and stood, making small talk. Several women tried calling to Bigness and I over and over again. The family of the thieves trying to appeal to our sense of something or another. I turned my back on them and hardened my heart. Bigness gave them his monster face. Lots of people milling around on the courthouse steps and I asked Bigness who they were. Two of the three thieves were right there right nearby. The arresting officer realized I was melting and put us in a side courtroom which was air conditioned to wait out the negotiations. You see, the ringleader had hired himself Liar (lawyer) and was claiming innocence even though they were caught red handed with the stolen goods. It came down to, did we want to go thru with a big trial which could take months and months wasting the court’s time when there were murderers to prosecute, and in the meantime all of our stuff would spoil in the police lockup. Or, were we willing to let them offer a plea bargain. One of Belize’s problems is inexperienced prosecutors trying to make the best of a jacked up system. The prosecutor on this case was a police sergeant. I am not blaming him for what happened next, its just a cautionary tale. The criminal attorneys are experienced, they know the law inside and out, and have been working the system for years. It seemed like when the prosecutor was faced with going up against this attorney, he backed down. So the plea bargain was offered and accepted. Two of the boys got off with time served and one (the driver) got one year for handling stolen goods, a lower offence than breaking and entering with the use of a vehicle.

I asked the police officer how much the lawyer charged the family and he told me it was nearly as much as if they had just bought the stuff and not stolen it. It took several days to get our stuff back, much of it was broken, some missing. Brand new items spoiled forever.

I stopped caring right about when I had to stand out in the sun that morning with the thieves watching me and calling to me to please feel mercy. I now know who I will hire if ever I'm in trouble.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Detroit Show

"ModernTechnology Meets Art" is the name of the exhibition ongoing with Ted Johnson at River's Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, Michigan

The thing is, my life seems to be coming together at the 11th hour. It is not for lack of planning, the plans are there... its just coming to fruition at the last possible moment, something breaks through. The plane ticket was purchased 2 days before flying from Cancun to Detroit, so I had to leave a day early to travel up the Yucatan to get from here to there. Bigness drove me to Chetumal, where I took the midnight bus to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico arriving at 4:30 a.m. I took a 10 minute cab ride from the ADO bus station to the other bus station where you take the shuttle to the airport. We had purchased snacks at Chedraui (the Mexican equivalent of Walmart) in Chetumal for me to have breakfast, some baked goods, a bottled coffee drink, peelable fruit. I avoided anything with meat in it. I arrived at the airport bus shuttle terminal a couple of hours before it opened, although it never physically closes, the ticket cages were empty, and all the benches were filled with sleeping people draped like they were melting in a Salvador Dali painting. I was so tired, already, and hungry. I ate my breakfast and then spread my windbreaker jacket on the floor of the bus station and layed down to take a little rest before running the gauntlet in the airport. I layed my head on my suitcase, wedged my carryon back pack behind me and physically layed on top of my purse. I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up about an hour later my stomach was ROLLING. You know the feeling, its the oops, what's happening to me feeling, I'm getting sweaty and clammy and I NEED TO FIND THE BATHROOM SOON! No one was stirring yet as it was still before 6 a.m., and the bathrooms were up the long long stairs. So, I drug my suitcase up up up, backpack on my back, and was confronted with the turnstyle entrance to the bathroom. I hoisted my suitcase over the turnstyle tipping it inside the entrance and let it drop, hoping that there were enough clothes inside my suitase to cushion the laptop from the fall (there were). I put my 3 pesos into the machine and stepped into the turnstyle with my backpack still on my back, not wanting to launch it over the barrier as it contained my camera. I got about 6 inches into the turn and the turstyle stopped. It appeared that I hadn't launched my suitcase far enough and the edge was caught in the turnstyle, and with the backpack on my back, I couldn't really move my arms . I'm stuck, I'm stuck, I'm stuck. A sense of urgency is about to explode from the depths within me. I can hear footsteps on the stairs behind me, let it be someone who can help I say to myself, and look over my right shoulder at a little girl, a real little girl with 3 pesos in her hand. And I said in my best immitation of a spanish accent "Por Favor". She climbed the gate, unstuck the suitcase, I passed through the turnstyle, she climbed back over, inserted her 3 pesos into the slot and passed through next. I did what I came to do and left for the airport with a burgeoning case of food poisoning, which had me sick for almost a week. I got better the day before the opening.

River's Edge Gallery scheduled a meet the artist reception the same night as the Wyandotte Wine Crawl. What a great idea. The downtown merchants sponsored it by buying the wine that was served at each establishment that participated, and 1000 wine glasses were sold. You would purchase a wine glass and go from place to place tasting samples of Michigan wines. If I look a little bit drunk in the photos, it is because I AM. The reception and show response and attendance was great, and the show will continue to hang in River's Edge Gallery until September 13. After that, you can still purchase the peices from them. Christmas is on its way. In my absence, Supergirl
and my Dad did all the framing and delivered the show to the gallery by the due date. I could have never achieved this without their dedicated assistance.

Check out the show review at The Detroit Fashion Pages.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Doing the Caye Caulker Shuffle

I know you all have been waiting for me to post an update. Where are you and what are you doing emails come daily. Long silence from me. Sorry. I've been composing this blog entry for nearly months, but wanted to wait to see all that would unfold.

When I arrived back in Belize at the end of October, Bignesss announced some BIG news. He wanted to sell the beachfront property on Caye Caulker. I kept the news to myself mostly, only sharing it with close friends who weren’t limelighter’s prone to gossip. I stopped announcing my upcoming plans a while ago because it keeps me one step ahead of the bitches and ho’s. It gives them less time to plot and plan against me.

So, I entered high season, not with trepidation, but with the beginning of a plan. No matter how long it takes, this property will sell. It is one of only a few pieces of prime commercial beachfront property available on Caye Caulker. He’s tired of maintaining this gigantic house, which when you add the upstairs to the downstairs is more than 6,000 s.f. The oldtimers are leaving Caye Caulker and leasing out their property or selling up and moving to the mainland away from hurricane threats and the high cost of living on an island.

Here is the shuffle that started last year:
Rasta Pasta’s lease was up, and they moved down the street. The property right across the street from us, which belonged to one of Bigness’s sisters and housed Barrier Reef Sports Bar sold last year and became Agave Restaurant, and the Sports Bar, having lost their place moved into where RP was, totally renovating the space. Smooth moves for everyone.

Supergirl took UNbaby back to the U.S. to start school in September 2007 and got a good job which was only to tide her over until high season started. She decided to stay and go back to college. What can I say, given a choice between serving coffee or becoming a secondary education teacher with a minor in history, I think she made the right choice.

So there I was, property coming up for sale soon and my #1 girl back in the U.S. living her own life. I coped, gave it my all, and the store did great. I hired Shirls with her big smile, to take over some of Supergirl’s duties, and everyone worked a little bit extra. I also did some soul searching and questioned where I was at and what I was doing. Do I want to do this for the rest of my life? Is my life, being a shop keeper on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere? Or is it as a world traveler, traveling around with the love of my life by my side, enjoying seeing new things and meeting new people, showing and selling my art.

In August 2007 we hunkered down for hurricane Dean, and then hurricane Felix slid by in September. I reflected on the fact that I had spent a year turning down shows, because I didn’t have enough time. I knew I had to clear the slate to get more studio time. It’s a daunting task to change direction, to take a risk on doing something new. No guarantees.

So I came back to the U.S. with a purpose, to get a show, and I got 2 shows. The first is at River’s Edge Gallery, voted metro Detroit’s #1 gallery by The Detroit News which opens the 3rd Friday in July, 2008 and runs through August. My work will be featured in July and August and in the front window of the gallery during the Wyandotte Street Art fair. My work isn't on their website yet, but it wll be soon

The second show is in New York City at the Agora Gallery, in the Chelsea district. I was accepted into the Latin American Artists exhibition which opens September 9, with a reception September 11, and it runs through to the end of September.

They reviewed my work and I’m in their upcoming art publication “Artist Spectrum” magazine which has a publication of 50,000 and distribution in NYC.
“The Detroit born artist, Lee Vanderwalker, now lives and breathes the vibrant culture of Belize, calling upon its history and aesthetic as a foundation for her art. The difficult medium of hand-painted silk, combined with her use of rich, smoldering colors, makes the work vibrate. Each culturally driven scene and image tells a story that is at once derived from the region and universal. Her depictions of village and island life, still-lifes of flowers and window-framed seas, and dream-like figures, masks, and Mayan symbols, come to life with each fold of silk and each vivid texture. Her work is exotic yet comforting, enticing in the way that traveling is or getting lost in a familiar book. These deceptively simple works spring from the complexity of tradition and weave together the deep roots of artistic history. In this world of velvety jungles begging to be explored and Caribbean legends hungry to be told, Vanderwalker's paintings allow the viewer to indulge in the distant adventure we all desire.”
I thought the review was quite sexy and they didn't just rehash the same old things that have been written about me for 10 years.

The one thing I’ve learned in life is that if opportunity knocks, you better answer the door. On Caye Caulker, most prime retail spaces are never publicly available or advertised, but are known word of mouth and by recommendation. My Belizean friend Eva, the massage therapist made a proposal. She wanted to have a giftshop gallery and sell healing jewelry and art. It fit the bill because I didn’t want to have to manage the day-to-day operations of a store, yet I didn’t want to give up the income. The building she is in, is located next to Madeline’s hardware, and Jan’s Place. So I went for it. Eva expanded her business and became a day spa, moving to the upstairs suite in her building and I helped her open Healing Touch Day Spa and Caribbean Art gallery. The gallery is on the ground floor and does the booking for the day spa. Miss Barbara came with me to the new store, Shirls opened her own coffee shop/cafe next to the Atlantic Bank, so all you coffee addicts (me included) now know where to get the same great brew, at Java House on Middle Streeet. She's open at 6:30 a.m.

As soon as the deal was done, Bigness approached Lloyd from the Sports Bar about taking over my space, and he considered it for about 2 seconds before saying yes. He’s opened a Mexican take away and has my art and prints for sale also. The best part is that I just go one day a week to take care of business. I plan on shooting more weddings in this upcoming year. It looks like I have a knack for it.

Whisper, whisper, whisper, goes the rumour on the street. At first it was funny to hear the rumours, then it just became annoying, so I had to tell my friends: "Stop telling me the crap people are saying." So, to dispell all the rumors, no I didn't shut my store down, no Bigness did not take me out of his building because we are getting a divorce. How could he? I'm Mrs. Bigness and to all the bitches and the hos - don't ever forget that.

Photos: black and white sunsets shot from the roof of the split at Hope and Ken's wedding reception on Caye Caulker

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Photo Friday - April 11 - Fragile

There's a famous saying for what I see when I look at this recent photograph of a wedding at Caye Chapel. I just can't think of it. Check out more Photo Friday submissions.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Photo Friday - April 4 - Far From Home

We did a house swap in Cozumel over Easter with someone I found on house swapping website. It was our first, and a learning experience. My sole purpose in going to Cozumel was to find a purple Volkswagen Beetle and photograph it. I completed my mission. (no... this is not a photo of where we stayed) I have from time to time been trying to get a swap for at least a year now, off and on, checking in checking back, sending inquiries.

First lesson: never assume anything. The place was in general, clean enough and almost O.K. after Bigness fixed the toilet, which is good in itself, because for at least 1/2 hour he wasn't bored. The place was a bit rusty and dusty. I can say for certain, that they got the better of the deal, but who's complaining, it was free accommodations in place that is usually expensive. The best feature was being 1-1/2 blocks from a giant Chedraui, the Mexican version of Walmart.

Second lesson: If I expect our house to be clean when we arrive back, I need to state that in a note to the swapper, what exactly it is that I expect them to do regarding cleaning up after themselves. Change the bed sheets, take your shoes off before entering the house, sweep and mop, clean the bathroom and kitchen, trash taken to the barrell and not left on the verandah, no taking livingroom or bedroom furniture out onto the verandah, no, no, no. Don't assume that they will leave your house in the same clean state that you have left theirs.

Would I do this again with her? Probably yes. I would be more specific in what I expected though. Life, its a learning experience.

A few days before the vacation, I had stepped wrong while carrying trays of brownies down the beach stairs and to the cafe. Don't worry, I saved the brownies. Its not quite clear yet still what the damage is, initially the right knee was swollen up like a watermelon, and I couldn't put any pressure on it at all. The doctor had to come and attend to me at home. We have a public clinic here on Caye Caulker, staffed by a Cuban doctor, who lives at the clinic. The Cuban Health system is superior to anything I've ever experienced. This doctor is trained from early in his career that he is RESPONSIBLE for the health of his community. HE IS RESPONSIBLE... to take care of us. It is ingrained. Its not about making money because they don't have money there, not like we have here. In Cuba they ahve 1 doctor for every 100 people. He thought it was probably tendons, and probably it is, although its making that weird crackling sound when I move it. If I was in aMerica, it would have been a costly trip to the emergency room for sure. Here, if its after dark, its not an emergency unless you've been shot, stabbed or broken your back. If you break your leg after dark, they put you on a boat (and you pay for it) and off to Belize City you go. If you break your back, they will call in the British Military rescue helicopter. They have to allow 4 hours for the chopper. And for any of you that don't know it already, O.J. from Oceanside Bar is our emergency person for Caye Caulker. Nurse Donna from the clinic is 2nd in charge for calling in the rescue chopper. So, next time you're here, be nice to O.J., because he just might be the man to save your life. So, 3 days bedrest was prescribed and some really nice injections. Its just not possible for me to be layed up in bed for so long unless I'm nauseated and can't sit up. While he was making his house call he took Bigness's blood pressure and reminded him about the low cholesteral diet he was supposed to be on. Bigness said "Uh, huh," and then put down his fried pork chop.

So we started the trip out with a little handicap (me) and knee wrapped. I had to hold onto Bigness as I wobbled and hopped on one leg through Mexican immigration. When checking out of Belize they didn't even make me get out of the car. Fortunately for me, there's a lot to hold onto with Bigness, and his grab handles are well placed. The trip to Cozumel was uneventful, we make the trip to Playa Del Carmen, several times a year. It starts with a car ride to Chetumal, Mexico, leaving the car in the mall parking lot under a light, then a taxi to the bus station, then a 4-1/2 hour bus ride to Playa Del Carmen and then a 45 minute water taxi ride to Cozumel. We arrived late in the evening and gave the address to the cab driver because we didn't reallly know where we were going. 10 minutes later we pulled up, and the key was hidden right where she said it would be, and we let ourselves in. It was midnight.

The next day I was curious about the lady. I didn't poke and pry and sniff around, I just looked at the pictures on the wall, the color choices, the decorating and the photos. This is not CSI Miami. I did not have the magnifying glass and tweezers out.

I made some assumptions:

-She was small and short, the doorways were short, the livingroom furniture was small, and Bigness had to duck through to move from room to room. The doorways are always small in Mexico, Bigness informed me, its dem small people. The lower items were dust free, the higher items were dusty (wrong - she was as tall as me)

-She liked TV, for there was a TV in each bedroom and the livingroom (probably right)

-She was in her early 50s and a widow, lots of dusty silk flower arrangements and kitschy fish knick knacks. (wrong - much younger, and not sure of the marital status)

-She has short hair. I have long hair and shed like bigfoot. Hair in my drain, hair on the brush, hair hair hair everywhere, its a problem. I found no hair anywhere. (wrong - she has long hair)

-She likes wine because I saw 4 wine cork screws in the silverware drawer, and she had an empty wine rack in a cupboard (probably correct)

-She liked men (probably right, because she brought a boyfriend to Belize)

-Her favorite color combination is orange and turquoise (probably right as those were the predominant colors)

-She loves tropical fish, there was an encyclopedia of tropical fish on the stand under the TV, hand-painted fish plates on the table, starfish candles, a framed Matisse print on the wall of a glass bowl on a table with fish. The guest towels in the bathroom were decorated with fish. She had ceramic fish hanging on the walls.

She had a few complaints about us, the sink drain in the kitchen ran slow, which is true, for the past 2 weeks. (its fixed now) The water pressure up and down. True again, that's life living on an island with no municipal water supply, we rely on wells and cisterns. We have a 100 gallon gravity feed reservior on the roof and if the demand is high, the water comes slow. Hey, we're lucky we even HAVE water, its the dry season. Its like everything here in Belize, don't get too upset about it, because if you do, its just going to take longer. Everything is a little bit broken, just like the government.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Illustration Friday - Garden - March 14

Red hibiscus flower from my friend's garden, hand-painted silk 24" x 24"

Love in the Afternoon

Caye Chapel, what a lovely place. Located just minutes south of Caye Caulker, you pass it right before you reach Caye Caulker when you arrive via water taxi from Belize City. It always amuses me when the water taxi stops there to drop off workers, and the tourists say in awe and wonder... "Is this Caye Caulker??? WOOOWWWW!!! I didn't know Caye Caulker had a golf course. This looks way better than in the guide books."

Sometimes I quietly tell the person next to me that is it "Ahem... not Caye Caulker, its a private island. $1000 bucks a night here..." But most of the time I keep quiet and count one-onethousand, two-onethousand, three-onethousand, and usually by four-onethousand, the gushing has stilled because they have read the sign that says "Private Island" and have seen the security guards.

It is self contained with its own power plant, water plant, a golf course, club house, swimming pool, bar, restaurant, little mansions on the east side and casitas on the west side, plus a deep water marina for you to put your yacht in. Caye Caulker - I WISH!
(The young Belizean man in the foreground was an amazing and accomplished saxaphone player. For someone so young, he knew all the old sexy, slowdance, kiss me on the neck and hug me up songs. I was IMPRESSED)
I was surprised and pleased when I got the request for information on wedding photography. So I quickly sent them the link to my flickr photography site which I recently upgraded to a Pro account. If this all sounds like the lead in to a shameless infomercial, it IS. I would like to do more wedding photography.
So, I put on my "good clothes" and tried to not get dirty. It was difficult though, because the weather had turned what we like to call "cold" which means temperatures under 75 degrees F, and hard breeze from the west, so the water taxi dropping me off had to go on the east side of the island. On arrival, I literally slung my equipment UP onto the peir and crawled out of the boat as Harrison grabbed me and pulled me steady.
Those embarrassing moments are best met with humour, so I turned around and gave a curtsey and announced "Well that was fun" to the departing water taxi. I got a little bit of applause and cheers, plus some open mouth stares. Alway remember the rule your mother told you about wearing clean underwear, you never can tell who will be looking. I brushed myself off and checked for bird poop and walked to the golf cart and cold bottle of water waiting for me.

So my first wedding shoot there went pretty well, even though the photographer was more nervous than the bride, as usual. I've learned to accept it, I think it gives me my edge, which with art we all need our edge. The couple and their friends were so nice, and the staff at Caye Chapel, helpful and attentive.
I spent my conscious thoughts on trying not to sweat or hyperventilate, the shooting was easy, the conditions perfect. The weather gave us a break for a while. It was cool enough that the groom was able to wear his Scottish kilt and whole getup including daggar in his woolen socks and real brogue shoes. The bride was barefoot, of course.

Less work for me, I was thinking, as I did not have to scour the beach looking for stray trash that might interfere with the photos, or have to be airbrushed out later, the beaches are raked clean from dawn each day. I also didn't have to shoo any dogs out of the pictures, or quietly shoosh local children, but that is the charm of Caye Caulker. My thoughts strayed to the wedding months back where UNBaby (in her blue bathing suit) held the lace train still from the breeze, for a bride who was wearing a vintage 1970s dress from her mother in law while I photographed them sitting on the little rough bench in front of Tia Ilna's house. And now UNBaby is in school in aMerica, wearing shoes every day.
We put the FUN in the word FUNKY. The dogs, the drunks, bicycles, the kids, the rastas, the seagrass, the split, that is WHO WE ARE.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Devil is in the Details

I always miss out on all the fun. Miss Barbara informs me the new Prime Minister for Belize, the Honourable Dean Barrow was in the store for a few moments after giving his speech taking a turn about town, getting to know Caye Caulker. I think I’m safe in saying that we hadn't seen hardly any major politicians on Isla Carinosa, until election time. Years pass and if we’re lucky the government ignores us.

“What would you do if the Dean Barrow wants to stay in the Beach House?” I asked Bigness.

“Charge him double” he answered, a fomer hardback PUP supporter, (now claiming to be "None of them P's) and continued to grumble about government this and government that.

“Hey, you don’t understand government interference until you’ve lived in the U.S.” I try and explain to him the chokehold that taxes have on the American people. But he doesn’t want to listen. He longs for the old days when Caye Caulker was just a village of 100, with picados between the houses, no roads, no electricity or tourists, no engines on boats. Just sailboats and lobsterfishing. And poverty. The good ole bad ole days. The oldtimers are leaving, selling up, leasing out their property and moving inland to the Belmopan area.

A rare site, a helicopter buzzes up and down the island a couple of time around 10 a.m.
“Is that the BDF?” I ask Bigness
“Does the BDF have a helicopter?” Bigness answers a question with a question.

I figured the Prime Minister would stop by to say Hi. The gallery is not easy to miss, centrally located between the beach and the street, just over from the central park and basketball court, next to the police station and right next to the most photographed sign on Caye Caulker “Drugs are Illegal in Belize”

The afternoon that the Honourable Dean Barrow, Prime Minister for Belize, came to Caye Caulker, I was fighting my way out of the village to get to a wedding to photograph the Costarican/Ecuadorian Latina (gorgeous) bride.

As I was leaving, he was arriving and the village was in lockdown, all the police serious, dressed up in their best uniforms sharply creased, nobody running jokes.
“Nobody to pass tru.” the police lady said
“But I’m your neighbor” I reminded her as she took a second hard look at me, gave a little laugh of recognition, and motioned me to pass.
I have never seen so much traffic on Caye Caulker. Bicycles, golf carts, gawkers and walkers.
It looked like San Pedro.

As I headed out of town I focused my attention on what would be the best way to get to this remote location south and west of the airstrip, off the grid. Driving, biking or walking the orchid trail which snakes around the southern point of Caye Caulker is like an episode of survivor. There is no way the motorcycle would make it over the rickety bridge through a particularly swampy area. I couldn’t walk it with a 50 lb backpack of photographic equipment and laptop. Riding down the airstrip is out of question, at least for me, until after dark when no planes land. So the only solution for me and the motorbike was to cut through the Puest del Sol area and Pelican Point subdivision and hope that there would be someone there to help me heist the bike onto the less rickety bridge to cross. Step careful, pay attention, don’t look down, I told myself. Don’t be nervous. Midbridge I remembered lovingly the Pelican waterproof camera case I lusted over on Calm yourself. Did I remember to take my pill? Look at those toes, girl you need a pedicure. Eyes back to the front, keep moving that motorcycle. Focus on getting there.

I defied death once again.

I was only 15 minutes late even with waiting for help to cross, and taking Island Time into consideration, that’s not bad. It was o.k. since the bride had a clay mask on her face and the hairdresser was still doing some serious work to her nearly waist length hair. The bride was trying her best to adjust to Island Time, and to remember the sign that said “Go Slow”

You see, if you go slow, you don’t sweat so much.

The guests arrived by boat, and next time, I’ll consider doing that too. I’m not into extreme sports. I would come in a row boat.

The wedding was at the Yoga Center, located off the grid in the quietest most serene part of southern Caye Caulker. My friend Sallytheyogateacher (hereafter referred to as Sally) and Sallyshusbandjohn (hereafter referred to as John) started this project several years ago. And now they are living the dream. Built bit by bit on frequent trips to Caye Caulker over the years, the center opened for its first season last year. Its so quiet, all you can hear is the breeze.

The wedding was a first for them (family wedding, good to practice on) and I can see how this facility could become an amazing conference center, that is, if they can stand the interference in their lives. Tough call. They now spend winters on Caye Caulker and Spring/Summer/Fall in Maine. Having the best of both worlds didn’t come cheap, fast or easy. They thought out this project way before the first shovel hit the sand. How do you live off the grid with solar power, generator, rain water cisterns, and not pollute the environment? They are doing it, living simply, creating the least amount of garbage as possible, yet still having some creature comforts.

I left late, after the cake was cut, the bouquet and garter thrown. My job was done They partyied on until late, the DJ thump thump thumpin, booties shakin their bon bon. I picked my way down the trail to the airstrip and then let’er rip. I got up to 30 mph on the way home.

So, next time you’re here between the months of January and May, check them out. If walking or biking, take the beach path south until it looks like it ends, then turn right onto the orchid trail. Make sure you bring water and slather on the bug repellant. With walking over the rough spots and riding slowly the rest, it should take you about 20-30 minutes from the village. Or you can take my route through the Puesta Del Sol area by going down Back Back Street until you get to the lane just before the airstrip. Take it right and just keep bearing left until you see the barge, the bridge and the gas pumps for boats. The bridge has a gate at each end, and there’s usually an attendant to help you. If not, make sure you close the gates after crossing. After crossing you’ll see the trail head ahead of you. Cross the airstrip (look both ways for landing planes) and look to your right. Just head down it and you’ll see it. If not, at least you’re in the neighborhood and can do a shout out. They are the only John and Sallytheyogateacher on Caye Caulker.