Lanchitas – our first product

One hazy afternoon little Enok came round with an arm full of pompas – hard wooden segments that fall freely from the tree in the football field next to our garden.

 

We saw them and instantly knew their potential –  as the boats that transport people to and from the village to the next town. These boats here are called lanchas. They are brightly coloured and can hold up to 30 people.

The lanchas have roofs made from a taut material publicizing local beer, fizzy drinks, snacks. So we are going to use old drinks cans.

We have started to make them and show them to people, who seem to like them and think we can sell them. We hope to sell them in tourist towns – Antigua, by Lake Atitlan, as well as in our shop/workshop/diner that we are going to rent with Priscilla, the owner of the local  diner – ‘el comedor’. We are also going to pay some of the local kids to sell them in the hotels here to tourists.

The grand plan is to teach people how to make them and then pay them for the finished products they make and sell them under our brand, recognising each maker and paying them a good price.

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anato is born

anato, our company, is born.

anato – little pods with seeds inside used for colouring food or natural lipstick.  We were first shown anato by our Mayan guide in the Belizean jungle where we painted our lips deep orange and listened to howler monkeys

 

It is a good name for our company as it represents the stuff we believe in:

  • Being resourceful
  • Working with nature
  • Collaborating with local communities
  • Design, bright colours, decoration, beauty
  • Hidden potential
  • Enterprise

At the moment, anato has two main strands in development:

1/ Making 

Creating beautiful products from things that fall from the trees. At the moment we are creating little boats and pots. More on this later. The plan is to make prototypes then train local people how to design and make them and buy the finished products from them to sell here, in Antigua and beyond.

2/ Tours

Working with local young people who will be our guides, we have developed three tours for tourists which we plan to start next week.

Other things we are working on to fund living here: private English lessons, offering internet access: 1op for 10 mins, working in the local eatery, sign painting, selling mangoes, surf photography….

Other things we are offering the community for free: photography workshops for kids, teaching English in the local school  AND MORE….

We need to start looking for funding – for computers for the kids, for a photography exhibition we want to create with local families, for materials for the school, para muchas cosas…..

Sideways scuttle

Crabs. It is the season. All summer the crabs have been hiding in the sand, eating leaves, getting fat. Then the first rain comes. And they run out in their thousands, ready to breed. Everyone in the village goes out in the rain, big thick gloves on, boots to stop the snakes, to catch them. White sacks full of clackering crabs.

The rain has come.

Marcelo, one of my students, who talks faster than anyone in the village, gave us a little bag of crabs, purple, clawing at the bag to escape while I taught Simon Says.

He came home with us to show us how to kill them, cook them, hissing their final farewell. Salty boiling water. Crabs in quick. Thrash around, stunned, ready. Then Marcelo left us.

Lucky for us, Axel, our new friend, owner of the ‘hardware store’ (lots of bags of nails in boxes) popped in just as Marcelo left and showed us how to eat them, laughing as we scrunched up our faces at the strange innards going into our mouths. We now have the technique sorted.

Which is just as well, because the next night we were given more crabs, then the next night yet more – a big bundle of rare blue crabs which are only for the rich in the city – from a new little friend of ours Dinora who came to eat them with us along with the sign painter in the town.

We bought tortillas, made a tomato salad and sucked and cracked shells while lightning flashed outside and rain tested our palm roof. It was pure magic.

Burn or bury

Here there are no rubbish collections.

It is making us really think of everything we use and everything we throw away. Because we have no bin we have to find a use for everything.

We found these gorgeous old bottles buried in the sand which look beaut in the window with the light shining through.

All the organic waste we fling into the corner of our garden. A family of pigs have found it and make a daily venture there, staring at us daringly as they chomp on overripe mangoes, pasta scrapings, fish bones. 3 dogs also come for a rummage.

Plastic and glass we save and try and use: pots for our paintbrushes, candle holders, tops to stop flies…

The tops of the tincans are starting to make a beautiful little sculpture.

Used toilet paper and all other rubbish we have to burn. A little ritual every 2 days. Armando showed us true friendship when he burnt our shitty paper for the first time.

Carla’s sign painting dream

Here we have space and time to make all those things we have always wanted to do in our lives – those little fantasies that don’t go away – happen.

For Carla, my travelling buddy, kindred spirit, and my recently named ‘heterosexual life partner’, one of those things has been to travel round Latin America painting signs. A couple of days ago, she completed her first commission. I think it looks fab.

She already has another three jobs lined up. These are some preliminary sketches.

  

This town is not good at signs. There are none. The fruit and veg shop is in someone’s house. The hardware shop is in someone’s garage. You’ve got to know where to go. For those passing through, this makes for a tricky visit. Some visitors we met recently travelled an hour to the next town to buy a pineapple as they didn’t know where to get fruit in town.

Carla is gonna revolutionise this town. She’s also going to make money so we don’t have to make the boat/tuk tuk/bus journey to the bank.

First business ventures

William has come up trumps! He and his friend Juan Carlos spent the afternoon making the pots we had commissioned and they brought them round. We paid them the amount they asked for – Q50 for ten items (about £4)

  

We are going to paint them with some unique new designs in collaboration with artistic talent of the village, hopefully eventually to get a production line going so people can start to generate a proper income.

Our second business venture is selling mangoes. They are dropping off the tree in our garden, waking us up in the night as they fall onto our metal table outside. We are going to sell them for Q5 (about 50p) a bag in the surf camp. Here are our first bags, ready to sell. Fingers crossed!

 

Beyond coconut earrings

On Sunday, Carla and I had a date with the folks who have already started to create jewellery and other ‘artesania’ products to sell to tourists. An American guy came last year to teach the locals how to transform coconuts into earrings, peach stones into carved key rings, mobiles, purses and more. The Mayor has invested money in equipment to help the process. The American guys didn’t come back for the second phase but there remains a lot of nice work created during the course, and some people keen to respark the business. The key players seem to be Janet, who runs the ‘beauty salon’ here, Dora who is the Mayor’s sister and looks after all the equipment and William, who knows how to use all the tools and is currently making more products to set up his own kiosk.

We were shown all the products already created. Here are a few examples, and the tools that exist.

Carla and I got quite inspired at the possibilities for using the equipment, which Dora said we can borrow. We think the jewellery and existing products are a bit fiddly/naff/not unique and don’t have a lot of potential for profit so we are thinking to create a new range of products which can be made quickly and easily by a range of people and which draw on the things unique to El Paredon.

We spoke to William about the potential of these morro fruits. When the inside is scraped out, the cask is very hard and light – perfect for souvenirs. We have commissioned William to prepare 10 for us, of different shapes.

After that meeting, we were given a big bag of shrimps for free by some local fishermen and so we took them to Sandra’s house and cooked them up for her family. After we ate, Kayley showed us some products she has been developing in her spare time – bracelets and these funny little creatures, which I kinda love.

It would be cool to find a space in the village to sell all the best work by local people and also the work we create through our project.

Step one to finding a Guatemalan husband

In order to find ourselves Guatemalan husbands, we have been told we need to learn how to make a good tortilla. Every meal here comes with tortillas – soup, fried chicken,even pasta. When you walk round the village, you can hear the sound of women slapping the maize dough between their hands to make the perfect discs before sliding them onto hot metal over their open fires.

We wanted to learn. So we asked our friends Gracie and Lindsey and they said their mum could show us. This is Lindsey in the bedroom where everyone sleeps. Sparky, sparkly, affectionate, wide eyed – a little monkey – she has already found a place in my heart.

This is Gracie, her sister, in the kitchen. Calm, wise, smart and great to be around.

Their mum made the dough and we rolled it between our hand with just a little water. Slap slap from one to the other. And then..on the floor! Drop. Into the sand, there are no second chances. This is not easy.

 

In the end, la señora made most of the tortillas while we kind of gave up and played with the kids.

But she gave us loads to take home – Carla carrying them Dick Whittington style back to our house where we ate them with guacamole.

The here and now

Here is little Enok, our neighbour, dancing in our garden yesterday. Video credit to our 13 year old friend Derrien.

there is just now

now

now

now

now

now

now

now

now

 

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