Sep 23, 2010

One door closes and another opens!

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened" - Dr. Seuss

Goodbyes are always hard but we have decided that we must bid our loyal readers adieu. Where are we going? What are we doing? Why are we closing our blog?

Exploring Belize Continues was a labour of love. It took Colette up to 5 hours to put together a blog and as our new business, Conch Creative, started to take up more time - we realised that the blog was being seriously neglected. We also realised that much of our time and travels were related to our business.

So, we're not disappearing. We have started a new blog about our business and our work behind the scenes. We are very excited and hope that all of our loyal readers will subscribe. We can promise you interesting stories, cool locations and fabulous pictures. So, please do check out the Conch Creative blog

Before we depart, we wanted to share a few pictures with you. In September, Maya had her 50th birthday party. It was an amazing party. Earlier in the year, we bought a pig. Our pig lived at Darwin Farm, owned by our adorable (and we should add..startlingly clever) friends Kathleen and Andrzej in Succotz - near the Guatemalen border.

Darwin Farm is a magical place where the animals have names (our pig was named Goldman) and they are loved and cared for with great attention to their needs and quality of life.

Maya created a list of the people she wanted to invite and we sent out the invitation. She was super tough about who made it on the list and who didn't. 'The list' became a running joke amongst our friends and probably a source of consternation amongst those who didn't make it but thought they would.

We were grateful for Goldman's sacrifice and everyone at the party thoroughly enjoyed the traditional pibil that was made by Maya's favourite restaurant - a tiny little place on the Guatemalan border called Benito's or Benny's for short. Our friends then drove the pibil across Belize and flew over to San Pedro. They brought us some of their amazing artisan cheese and made the best home made bread for us. We tried to honour Goldman by creating a little shrine for him at the party. Thanks to one of our many friends who sent us pictures (believe or not we didn't take any!) for this one of the shrine and the party pics to follow.

And on that note, we say farewell to our wonderful friends, family and followers, who inspired us to share our lives in Belize. We hope you will tune in and subscribe to and join us on the next part of our journey.

Love and Kisses from Maya and Colette

Jun 2, 2010

Spring Sprang and the Dog Days of Summer are Upon Us

Dog Days were popularly considered to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, dogs grew mad and all creatures became languid causing to man burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies". Bradies Clavis Calendarium, 1813

Hello everyone! Have you missed us? Have we been very naughty bloggers? Will excuses suffice? Well, let's give it a try. We are really busy. We never thought that would happen again. When we arrived in Belize, we took to the relaxed, laid back lifestyle and thoroughly enjoyed pretending we were retired. But, as they say, idle hands makes for the devils work - or something along those lines. Even though some of you might say that we are a bit devilish (in the nicest possible way), we certainly can't be accused of being idle. So, things started filling our time. Colette started her Be Kind Belize programme, which has kept her very busy and been a huge success. She graduated nearly 60 children from the programme this year and will be running the scheme at the San Pedro Summer Camp, which she is very excited about. We also joined the AIDS Commission and help them out whenever we can, we joined Friends of the Humane Society (FOTHS) and are constantly involved in their very important fund raising activities. We built a house and had to deal with the mess that we were left with after our contractor walked off the job (and still are dealing with the mess).

Now, we have our new business, Conch Creative, which has been such an incredible experience. Neither of us could have predicted that this would have been the path we would follow but we have had the chance to see the most amazing places and work with some really cool people - not to mention the absolutely stunning beauty queens and models we've had the privilege of photographing. They do say life is a roller coaster and we're certainly enjoying every minute of the ride. Fortunately, our particular roller coaster travels slowly enough that we get the chance to stop and enjoy the view from time to time. We never ever forget how lucky we have been to end up in such a gorgeous and welcoming country as Belize. So much so, that Colette won first place in a writing competition, sponsored by about the first time we ever came to Belize. You can read it here along with a bunch of other wonderful odes to such a beautiful place. Her entry was called 'A Love Letter to Ambergris Caye'.

Now we can update you with what has been happening the last few months. So much has happened, we don't know where to start.

Shopping seems as good a place as any. Colette likes to take off on trips to Belize City for a bit of shopping and culture now and again. This time it turned into a really girlie trip. Many purchases were made, including a large number of shoes. Colette has been sworn to secrecy regarding the purchasers of shoes, but only one of these pairs is hers. We'll leave you to guess!

Shopping builds up a huge appetite, so the girls all hit the wonderful Riverside Tavern, where they had delicious burgers and mucho mucho beer.

After that it was back to the Great House Hotel, which is just a gorgeous place and Colette shared a room with the gorgeous and sassy Christine. There was much giggling, a few gaseous moments and much amusement at the hole in Colette's pajamas but the girls did have to justify their trip with some culture....and they got some great culture indeed.

The girls got all dressed up and hit the town. The Bliss Centre in Belize City is the centre for everything cultural. It was built with money provided by Baron Bliss, who loved Belize very much. On this night, the Indian Embassy was sponsoring an evening of traditional Indian dance. It was splendid, dramatic, colourful, graceful and hugely entertaining. The whole place was packed and everyone had a great time.

Colette and the girls were all happy and refreshed having burned off their island fever and so it was back to San Pedro. But, as we're on an Indian theme, we should fast forward to another amazing night. This time in San Pedro. In Belizean culture, the coming of age is a girl's 15th birthday and that is when they have their quinceanera party. We were honoured to share this celebration with a wonderful family for their beautiful daughter Elizabeth. We had no idea what to expect but WOW is all we can say. What a party. It was Indian themed.

Elizabeth arrived on an almost life size papier mache elephant, powered of course by a golf cart. The party was at the local Tennis Club and they had created Indian tents and decorated quite fabulously.' The last we heard, the elephant is in hiding somewhere on San Pedro.

Elizabeth performed some traditional Indian Dance and was absolutely, without a doubt the Belle of the Ball.

It was just so much fun. Colette and Maya took pictures as a gift to the family. Maya often finds herself perched in precarious positions when taking photographs, so luckily she had her lovely assistant to give her some support when she needed it most. Thankfully our friend Shamir, another great photographer, was there to record the event for us. Thanks for the pic Sham!

So many of our great friends were at the party. Maya couldn't help share some love with her 'brother from another mother', the indomitable Will.

Then it was Maya's turn to deal with her own island fever and she was lucky enough to be invited to visit the American Crocodile Education Sanctuary (ACES) in Punta Gorda. She tagged along with our friends Tamara and Nana and even became known as the 'Crocodile Whisperer' as she amazingly started a conversation with a rescued baby croc, who actually talked back. If you don't believe it, check it out on You Tube here.

Once she came home, we had our own flora and fauna to deal with. It was time to harvest our fruit. Freshly and organically grown bananas and papayas are just so luxurious and delicious. It is so awesome to be able to pick them right in our own garden.

We have our share of birds here too as we just about live in the trees. Some of them stay outside, like our nesting White Wing Doves but some are more troublesome, such as the Hummingbirds who find their way into the house. You should see the palaver required to escort one of these outside.

Maya also is required to hunt and gather for the household, which she did in tremendous style by catching this enormous and delicious grouper, which was about 20lbs.

This blog is a doozy, isn't it? I can hear you all saying - 'What happened next?'. Colette's turn this time. She decided to visit the USA where her Mum and Stepfather live in the deep deep south. This is where Colette went to school as a kid and so one of the best surprises she had was that her schoolfriend,Nancy, from way back when popped down to St. Simon's Island to visit her. They were both animal mad then and not much has changed. Nancy is helping to get a sanctuary for rescued exotic animals off the ground in Georgia called Tiger Stripes. They drank far too much, Colette had the worst Margarita she has ever had in her life (bars - if you have real limes, don't use a crappy mix to make a Margarita - it is just gross) at a local establishment which will remain unnamed to protect its embarrassment. Colette sneaked back home at an ungodly hour feeling like she was a naughty school girl staying out past her curfew. But they did solve all the world's problems that evening so we can all rest easily now.

Now to rewind slightly. Colette had the chance to meet up with our wonderful and much loved friends Bill and Becky while in Savannah. They had lunch on the river and caught up with all the Island gossip. So you can imagine it was a rather long lunch as San Pedro provides so many fun stories. We're very excited that they will be visiting us soon again.

Colette did lots of family visiting and eating. Here is a picture of her Stepfather, Ray, dissecting and performing surgery on the old grandfather clock.

Here is her Uncle Mark, Auntie Ann and Mum looking like a proper family. Aren't they cute?

Here is the amazing low country boil that Mum put together for a group of close friends. Low country boil is a traditional southern meal but Colette (and Mum's friend Rachel - who normally gets the leftovers) was horrified when Mum threw the uneaten food over the deck and into the sea. She claims she is helping more shrimp to grow. We're not sure about her reasoning. But you don't argue with Mum.

That wasn't the only great meal to be had. Rachel, as is the custom, took everyone out for a delicious Japanese Teppanyaki food. The chefs always put on a great show and the food is yummy scrummy delicious.

Colette headed home so grateful to be back in Belize. Her trip was somewhat grueling. All she will say is that she won't be trying to save a bit of money by traveling through Mexico again. She returned to complete her Be Kind Belize classes and of course there aren't many things that beat cute pictures of children. So here they are.

There is just one little project left that we wanted to tell you about. It sort of screws up the timeline of this blog, but hey, we are rebels. Over Easter, there was a kite flying competition. Now, sometime before this, a friend of ours, Paul, who is an amazing glass blower, had sent us some of his stunning marbles and asked us to place one where a child could find it. Paul owns Artemis Glass Studios.

Well we thought the kite flying competition would be ideal, so we headed to the beach and planted our magic marble in the sand. What we hadn't reckoned on was that during a kite flying competition no one looks at the sand. Everyone is bloody looking up at the sky. It took a bit longer than planned and Colette had to be on sentry duty as the occasional adult would stumble across the marble and attempt to pick it up. Colette would rush at them shouting 'that is for the children, keep your mitts off it'. You have to laugh. Eventually though a lovely little boy called Christopher from Holy Cross School found the marble and was so thrilled he couldn't quite believe it was his.

We think this blog has been long enough, so we will bid you all farewell for now as we have so many more adventures awaiting us. We do hope you'll check out our website, Conch Creative . We update the photos and try to make sure that there is something for everyone's taste. But more selfishly than that, the more people log onto our site, the higher it goes in the search engine ratings...and well..that is what it is all about these days. On top of that you could be personally responsible for making a bride like this a very happy woman by helping her to find us.

Jan 17, 2010

Family, Fruit and Flowers

"Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when all the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring." Oscar Wilde

Firstly Happy New Year to everyone we know and love and even to those people we don't know yet but who we probably would love if we knew you. We should start by warning you that even though we have launched a photography company, this blog is not a showcase for our photos. This is a personal blog about our lives and experiences in Belize and so what you get here are snapshots and photos of our day to day lives in Belize. We may, if we happen to be feeling extremely generous, tease you with a proper photo now and again, but we will be changing the pictures on our website
regularly and hope that you will check in now and then to see what we are up to. We have also created a Facebook site for Conch Creative where we will provide sneak previews of new work before it is put up on our website. If you are a member of Facebook and want to join our page, you can do so here Conch Creative on Facebook.

Now on with our blog. November was a big month for us because we had family come to visit. We were so excited as this is only the second time Colette's family have been to see us in Belize. Colette prepared a huge Thanksgiving feast. There is a saying that 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating', well in this case, the proof of the pudding was in the sleeping because everyone just passed out after the meal, which we think is a good sign.

Oh Rachel. We are almost sorry about posting this picture.

This is Keeva, Colette's brother, after Thanksgiving dinner.

This is Charles, Colette's brother's friend, after Thanksgiving dinner. You getting the gist?

This is Mum and Ray. We were too chicken to publish a picture of them asleep.

This is the whole family post recovery.

The only eating wasn't just done at our house and we all went out for a sushi evening at Hummingbird Sushi Bar. Because Colette's brother is vegan, we had to pick and choose our culinary destinations carefully, but we don't think that her brother Keeva, or his buddy Charles had any problems in the hunger department. In fact, Colette fixed them a vegan meal the night they arrived (oh did we forget to rub it in about Keeva forgetting to renew his passport and turning up days late? That's OK, we've done it now). Our lovely friend Melody joined us and the lucky boys had a wonderful escort after dinner to show them the town. Colette packed them up with leftovers for which they were apparently grateful after rolling in late that night with a huge hunger.

Everyone say 'SUSHI!'

We told you not to use so much hot sauce Keeva.

Mum and Ray both got into the Belizean laid back atmosphere and had a wonderful time. The whole family stayed at Caribbean Villas Resort and loved the rooms and the location as well as the beach bar. The hotel is run by a very hospitable British couple and they made my family feel especially welcome. Shame they couldn't do something about the weather though. It seems like the bad weather started way back then and even now, it is still cold, windy, grey and not very Caribbean like at all. We suppose this is pay off for having a wonderful summer with no hurricanes, but it truly feels like a winter season this year. We've had blankets on the bed and have had to wear socks and coats.

Mum chilling out at Crazy Canucks Beach Bar on Belize time.

What did warm up their trip though was that they arrived in time for San Pedro Township Day, which celebrates San Pedro's declaration as a town. This was a big one - San Pedro Town was officially 25 years old. San Pedro loves parades.

A pick up truck is a perfect ride for San Pedro Princesses.

The little Princesses haven't graduated from a golf cart to a pick up truck yet.

Then, on the 1st of December was World AIDS Day. The San Pedro AIDS Commission organised an education day at the Roman Catholic Primary School on the same day as another parade. We're not exactly sure what this parade was for, but all of the children dressed up and of course were as cute as buttons. Anyway, Colette was there and able to catch some of the activities.

As cute as a bug and as beautiful as a butterfly.

The kids take learning about HIV/AIDS very seriously.

Colette also started her Be Kind Belize humane education lessons in schools again and she kicked off the year with a 'Dog Smart' lesson, teaching the little ones how to be safe around dogs. They had a great time and really enjoyed the colouring books, which had so generously been donated by the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. This is a good time to remind everyone that if you want to help Colette with Be Kind Belize there are a number of ways to do so. If you are in Belize, you can volunteer as a humane educator. If you are not in Belize, you can help by supplying prizes for the children as rewards for demonstrating kind behaviour - or you can order a funky Be Kind Belize T-Shirt, tote bag or even a thong at Be Kind Belize's online shop at Cafe Press. Colette is currently running the full 8 week curriculum in two schools in San Pedro and will hopefully be adding a third later this year. The kids, teachers and schools love it. Colette just wishes she had more volunteers to help teach.

Be Kind Belize makes children smile.

Meanwhile, Conch Creative has been taking off leaving Maya less time to tend our beautiful garden. But the garden continues to grow and supply us with fruit and beautiful flowers. Even in the cool weather we've been having the papayas, bananas, passionfruit and other plants continue to thrive.

This is a banana flower from our garden.

These are bananas growing in our garden. Maya has big bananas.

This is a manzana banana flower in our garden. Manzana means apple in Spanish.

These are manzana bananas. They taste like apples.

These are Maya's papayas.

This is the bud of a passion fruit flower. Can you feel the passion yet?

This is, a passion fruit flower.

This is unsurprisingly a passion fruit.

One of Maya's stunningly huge melons. Watermelon juice - Yum!

These are orchids but we have to wait for the flowers. Hopefully the dog won't eat them this time.

This is an orange hibiscus.

You'll never guess....this is a pink hibiscus.

We did promise a teaser every so often from Conch Creative, so we will finish this blog with a photo from one of our recent shoots. We hope you like it. Even if you don't, we still like you! We send you all our love and kisses and hope that your New Year will bring you everything that you wish for.

Maritza Rivas, Miss Nicaragua and Miss Costa Maya 2009 at the Phoenix for Moondancer