There was genuine panging sadness to leave our little house in Caye Caulker, our breakfast of fried jacks stuffed with chicken, beans, cheese and eggs, the friendly faces we had got to know (but not the venomous mosquito spray that a van sprayed round the town at 5am every morning). We asked about staying – a wooden house with a kitchen would cost 900belize dollars (£300)./ month. We could make and sell art, spend more time snorkelling on that divine reef and live a mighty fine life….
But it was not yet time to settle.
Straight off the boat into Belize city we got our toenails painted by an enterprising lady, then a cab to the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) at Bermudian Landing, an hour west.
A wooden hut. A couple of people hanging. Some dogs playing. A noise, in the distant trees, like elephants.
Um, can we stay the night and see some monkeys?
Not many people (noone) stays the night here. Which led us to 2 incredible days.
Sleeping on a borrowed blow up mattress on the floor in the community library, watching iguanas, fruit bats and blue herons from a canoe, helping our canoe guide Kade create his Facebook gangster profile, learning Creole from the local old men as we drank rum with them on their van bonnets.
Stroking the belly of a black howler monkey baby, borrowing beach cruiser bikes and cycling with Kade to the next village ‘Double Headed Cabbage’, picking up other kids on bikes along the way as the sun set. Sampling cashew fruit wine, drinking coconuts straight from the jungle, eating rice and beans with a local family and learning all about the fantastic projects CBS do in the local community. We could have stayed longer….but next stop San Ignacio.
Last night, we arrived at Caye Caulker, a little island off Belize.
And it is love at first sight. Wooden houses, bright colours, rustic charm, incredibly friendly people and street food to lick lips constantly for.
Since arrival last night we have filled our happy bellies with these things that have come our way:
Shrimp coconut curry, Pineapple and vanilla cake, Fried jacks filled with chicken, cheese, beans, scrambled eggs, Chicken tamales and cherry oats. YUM!!!
And we have a house that is my dream home with a Tennesse style balcony and hammock. Can life really be like this?!
Our home for three nights – M & N Apartments
The snorkelling here is insanely good. We went on a full day trip with Ragamuffin tours with three stops – the second one amongst stingrays and nurse sharks, the third to the most incredible coral reef after The Great Barrier reef. We saw green turtles, purple coral and a green eel that snaked through the water, teeth gnashing.
We are still waking up at 5.30am and so I used the time this morning to draw the view from our balcony. I did it ‘etch a sketch’ style.
The beach at Tulum on the East Coast of Mexico is stunning. However, there is a lot of junk that gets washed up on the beach every morning – mainly plastic. The local restaurant owners have to pick it up.
I collected some of the small bits. And thought about how to transform this junk into something that could turn this potentially dangerous and very unsightly problem into something beautiful that could be sold to tourists.
Maybe jewellery? A brooch?
Or a bracelet?
The colours of these plastics are jaded and pastel, like the colours of the Caribbean, so they work as a memory of that place, for tourists. I would love to develop this idea further….
Our rucksacks are way too heavy.
We have just done our first cull.
But these are the first things we have had to give or throw away, trying to save milligrams of weight. We will need to be more ruthless, soon.
Adios to my good intentions to do yoga every morning. The mat just weighs too much. I had to give it away too.
We’re off to Belize today. Tulum was just not for us. Too touristy. We’ve contacted a few potential volunteering projects so fingers crossed we will be starting in the next couple of weeks. It is so nice to be walking around barefoot again.
The hood in East Haringey between Turnpike Lane and Seven Sisters tube stations, is a rising star. Young professionals priced out of Stoke Newington are slowly creeping their way North, where many of my friends and I have lived for three years.
Green Lanes has just received a development grant from the Mayor of London to renovate the shop fronts and bridge and create ‘mini squares’ at junctions. Exciting news for the area!
Existing great things about the area:
- Superb transport links – Seven Sisters is on both the Victoria line and overground to Liverpool Street, stopping at London Fields on the way. Green Lanes buses get you to pretty much anywhere.
- The Salisbury – a fantastic, friendly and unpretentious pub – with great food and beer, lots of cosy corners and booths and a back room which can host special events
- The best Turkish restaurants in London – try tasty lamacun (a steal at £1.50) , paticlan soslu (aubergine, tomato sauce and yogurt) or succulent lamb chops accompanied by fresh mountainous salad. Favourites are Antepliler(47 Green Lanes) and Gokyuzu (27 Grand Parade)
- Jai Krishna – home cooked, good value, delicious South Indian vegetarian food owed by an extremely lovely mann
- Chestnuts Park (good for running circuits and nice tennis courts), Dowanhills Park and Cafe and Lordship Rec (both featured in my post Tottenham treasures and Escaping the City) which are currently being regenerated
- Yasir Halim, Green Lanes- cheap fruit and veg, amazing bakery, vats of different olives
- Baldwins Butcher, 469 Green Lanes – deli products, free range meat, good sausages
- Fair Deal organic shop, by Seven Sisters tube
- Haringey Independent Cinema – a group of community orientated citizens all living in the London Borough of Haringey, screening monthly interesting films and documentaries at West Green Learning Centre on West Green Road
- Avenue Road Orchard and Art Project
- Harringay Green Lanes Food Festival
HOWEVER There aren’t any nice little cafes. Not really. Not that have a nice atmosphere, comfy chairs, tasty snacks and great coffee, newspapers and specials. Not that have quirky little objects or postings of cool stuff in the area. You have to go all the way to Stoke Newington, Dalston or Crouch End for that – where they are sprouting up every day.
My favourite cafe in London is in Stroud Green – the Front Room cafe. It just has the right combination of wood, big windows, tasty cakes, cubby holes, privacy and chattiness and some tables outside as well as lots of interesting little objects and artwork to keep your eyes happy.
My friend Richard and his local Haringey friends are organising the first planning meeting for a cafe/community hang out in our area on Monday. A group of people coming together to chat about how to make this happen. Very exciting! I will keep posting any news on this…
Blogs about the area I will keep adding to:
eatlikeagirl.com The author of this award-winning food blog lives in the hood and often writes about the great food in the area
Harringay online – an online community for local residents
Potential leads/links to funding/partnerships are:
- Meanwhile Space – working in empty shop fronts
Whilst in Scotland, I’ve had time to start creating an online project portfolio which has brought up some interesting stuff I never really had time to think about when I was entrenched in work.
- Leo Smith, who I met when he was artist on the (x)change project at Stoke Newington Academy I facilitated, is midway through a residency at VARC in rural Northumberland. It would be superb to link with him when in Guatemala and collaborate in some way. He is running some really interesting workshops – Night Photography and Creating Artworks for Outside Spaces in the next few weeks. He is exploring inserting text into the rural environment in subtle ways – LOVE the wall idea….hope you are having fun Leo and enjoying the stillness and big black skies…
- I’ve revisited The Elementals Project – the first big creative community project I produced – in a park in North London in collaboration with 3 primary schools and a group of artists and musicians in 2005 (including Suborg, The Opala Group, Jason Dickinson). I was always uber-inspired by some of the artists involved who had lived in northern Morocco and who created an arts festival in Chefchouen, a small mountain village. I’d love to do this kind of work again….
- Reading again the story of Monkeybiz in Cape Town, it would be fabulous to go to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, 13-15 July 2012 to see other folk craft/design makers from around the world. It’s not so far from Mexico….
- Cherie Blair is looking for business women to mentor others in the developing world. This is a great project:
- I stumbled across Onaway Trust in the window of the electrical shop in Pitlochry (!) amongst adverts for chefs and cleaners- it focuses on initiatives supporting sustainability and survival of language, culture, life ways and traditions in Central and South America and India. I’ve written to them to see if I can apply for funding….So bizarre how things fit into place if you have your eyes peeled….
I’m still at my parents’ in Pitlochry. Yesterday we went to the Linn of Tummel, a beautiful waterfall, where we spotted a couple of interesting things –
1/ a humane trap for American mink with just a sandy bed which records their footprints if they pass through
2/ an early example of a salmon ladder
Dad, who used to be an environmental scientist, explained about the journey of salmon upstream (and fish ladders help them get past waterfalls and man made dams) Salmon return to the same river each year to lay their eggs. Not only to the same river, but in long rivers like the Tay (100miles long) to the exact same point where they were born. This is because the salmon are adapted to the exact environmental conditions of that point and the offspring they create will be able to thrive in those conditions. Man shouldn’t mess with this – fish farms ruin the natural balance of different fish moving downstream at different time when they escape and everything goes wrong.
Fact – fish scientists in the UK have been finding male fish with female features due to the high levels of oestrogen in our rivers probably from women taking the contraceptive pill
Skimming stones across the Tummel I will always be impressed dad
you can hit the other side
And mum proudly feeds you smooth flat stones
Afternoon tea there was too much chocolate on that plate
But great for a pipe band raffle prize
That morning, a jacuzzi, shared reluctantly with two old women who knew
everything about me and I politely smiled when they labelled me free spirit
and showed empathy
That her dog died of epilepsy
I scoffed the salmon, smoked to perfection but failed to see there was no sell by date
and i bore the consequences until I lost a few pounds
And didn’t know how to answer my 80 year old neighbour when she asked my opinion
on legalising drugs
Some good things coming up…
- My Peruvian friend Arturo is coming to visit from Holland for 3 days amidst the chaos of moving. We hung out for 2 months in Cusco 15 years ago and have only met once since but he has remained a big force in my life from afar. It is amazing how some people stick and others lose their grip so fast they are only a shadow passing through. The day I met him he taught me how to breathe through one nostril then breathe out through the other, on a day when I was just another lonely backpacker with a notepad in the square.
- Carla and I have booked our first 3 nights in a hostel in Tulum, which is supposed to be very friendly, but bed bugs have been reported. We will use our special sheet sleeping bags to protect ourselves.
- We have booked tickets to see Paper Cinema at Battersea Arts Centre on 9 Feb. It looks fabby.
I love Battersea Arts Centre. It’s such a magical place with so much character and innovative programming. The last great thing I saw there was 1927’s All the Children and Animals took to the Streets
They are a company to watch out for.