Third World

Continued . . .

Upon arriving in Boca de Tomatlan, our vans pulled up to a folding table on a dusty, dirty road at the bottom of a hill.  There stood a woman with a safari-type hat, water shoes and a clipboard.  It was such a random and almost comical sight as young boys appeared seemingly out of nowhere and began unloading suitcases.  There was chaos and instructions being called out in broken spanish/english as the woman was trying hard to look at labels on bags and assign spaces. - I was trying to wrap my head around the whole scene.  She was clearly going to organize us but the pieces weren't fitting together in my mind.  Why weren't we pulling up to the Casa de los Artistas and could these young boys be our bellmen?

Some bags were being loaded into a fishing boat and some were being lugged by boys in all directions.  It was LOCO!  I tried so hard to keep my eye on my own suitcase but lost track of it quickly.  When the dust finally settled,  I was the lone person standing awaiting my room assignment.

It was at this point, I discovered that the woman was an "intern" and it was only her second week.  I signed up for the retreat a little late to get a room at the Casa, so I was supposed to be in a  "sister" house.  I really didn't know what to expect or how far away I would be from the group.  She explained that my apartment was on the "other side of the river" from The Casa and she gave me a map and directions to where I was staying and gestured me on my way.  "Meet us at the Casa at 6pm for cocktails," she called after me.  "You can either cross the river to get there, or walk the long way through the jungle - just follow the map!"


So off I went down the calle (road) in the direction she pointed, and urgently called my daughter..

"What have I done?" I cried to my daughter on the crackling phone connection as I stood alone on a dusty road in a tiny, remote fishing village in Mexico. Protectively clutching my purse and trying to roll my carry-on suitcase over the ruts and cobblestones with my cell phone wedged between my ear and shoulder, she said, "Mom, what did you expect? You're in a third-world country!" Click. The phone went dead and I looked around as I silently FREAKED out.

With my previously cute but now sweat-soaked sundress and little wedged sandals that were caked in dirt and completely inappropriate for the environment, I realized I didn't BLEND. My look screamed "Tourista!" I imagined the locals were looking at me, laughing and calling me Gringa under their breath. {This couldn't be further from the truth, but at this point, hysteria was about to set in.}

I made it down the road and after a few minutes, I found my casita which happened to be right next to the Tortilla Factory.  I shoved open the heavy iron gate out front and found my door, just as the intern described.

A charming elderly gentleman appeared - his name was Jose and he proudly announced that he was the landlord.  After unlocking numerous locks on the barred doors,  Jose took me into the casita and showed me around.  Much to my relief and surprise, it was sparse but very clean.  It was actually pretty adorable.  A tiny front room with a mini kitchen led into a bedroom and private bath.  All the basics and no frills, but that was all I needed.


Once Jose left me, I took a breathe as reality set in and I collapsed on the sofa and sobbed.  Thoughts flooded my mind like how quickly could I make my way out to the main road and catch a cab to the airport and get the hell out of there and go home.  I was a bundle of nerves and the hardships of the past year just came crashing down.  The flood gates opened and there was no stopping the tears.  When and how did I become this scaredy-cat who just wanted to hide?  That was never me in my past life, yet here I was having my own private


After 5 minutes of feeling very sorry for myself, I got up and went to wash my face.  And that's when I saw it . . . on the little fridge in the kitchen was a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was overwhelmed with strength and peace - sort of a "snap out of it" moment - and I knew I was going to push through and stay the week.  I surrendered . . . knowing Our Lady would help me through!


Hola Amiga, Quieres Cerveza?

Okay, so where was I with the story? Geez, I can't believe it has been several months and I left everybody hanging!  It's like binge-watching your favorite Netflix series and then having to wait FOR.EVER for the next season to come out!  I can't believe I am actually comparing my meager blog to Netflix, but you know what I mean.

So my story picks up with me sitting at my gate at the airport.  It's not like I haven't traveled alone before, but this time it was different.  I made a few little sketches as I waited to board.  Dear Mexico, please forgive me for the massacre I made out of your lovely flag and my attempt at an eagle.  My intentions were good.


I was giddy and a little apprehensive as the plane lifted off . . . 

4 hours later

The barrage of sights and sounds as I entered the baggage claim in Puerto Vallarta were slightly intimidating and a little exciting.  I had my first "what the hell was I thinking" moment, which quickly passed as I made my way to the airport bar - our designated meeting spot.

Now what?

A moment later, a friendly bartender said, "Hola Amiga, Quieres Cerveza?"  A smile crept up on my face as my high school Spanish came flooding back.  "Why yes, I said, "Por Favor!"

Two hours to wait for my group and nothing to do but drink ice cold Modelo and begin sketching. After two beers, I was calling my daughter telling her how AWESOME Mexico was.  (You can tell I'm a lightweight at this point). I tried to pick out the other "artistas" in the bar, but everyone looked like a tourist to me.  There were a handful of really "cool" artsy looking bohemian types and I was certain they must be one of "us." Surely the girl with the fabulous head wrap (which I would later learn was called a Dhuku), amazing red lipstick, and funky linen diaper pants was an artist!  She was rocking the look and for a moment I regretted my choice of Lilly Pullitzer sundress and basic Jack Rogers sandals - but only for a moment. Remember what Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Nothin gonna take my joy today!

After a few hours, Bob Masla came into the airport, and sure enough, as we gathered together, the "cool boho" people were with our group!  Brief introductions, tagging of luggage, lots of very fast spanish and shoving into a few taxi vans and we were on our way to Casa de los Artistas!

I'll try hard to not leave you dangling too long - just to whet your appetite, here is a brief shot where we stopped for a break on our hour-long scenic drive.  I couldn't wait to get there!

To be continued . . .

* For this trip, my sketches were done on  Saunders Hot Press Rough 140 lb watercolor paper. I have a sweet little Schmincke watercolor travel set and I use a Pitt Pen (size .05) for sketching and writing.  For applying paint, I switch between a Sakura Koi Waterbrush and a Loew Cornell Ultra Round #8

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Packing, Prepping, Painting


[continued from previous post on May 10, 2017]

I was panicky for a month after I signed up to go to Mexico on my {non refundable} trip but the holidays came quickly and I didn't have time to over think it.  In fact, having something exciting to look forward to made the holidays a little less painful as I wished the days past so I could be on the other side of them.

I decided to do what I used to do when I traveled with my husband in the past - I created an art journal/sketchbook to document my journey and prepare for the adventure.  It was harder than I thought because the process always brought about excitement just thinking about all the fun things we would do.

This sketchbook would be different . . . it would be about me and my first solo trip. I remember clearly I made a very conscious decision at that moment.  I could sit every day for the rest of my life and merely exist OR I could TRULY LIVE.

I choose to live

I choose to live.  Fully.  Happily.  Wholeheartedly. It is how my husband lived his life and it is how I know he would want me to live out mine.  More importantly, God created us to be creatures of JOY.  He wants us to be joyful. I choose to live joyfully {as best I can at the moment . . . but I have faith it will come}.

So, here's a few peeks at my travel journal.  I'm doing this.  I'm going to Mexico! Starting this journal, warming up to an artistic life again, all positive steps forward.

I created the cover by hand lettering in pen and coloring in the designs on each letter and the sombrero with Tombow Markers.  I love the way they bleed a little when I wet them with my waterbrush.  I love this festive decoration on the front of my journal!

I decided to work on loose pages for this trip to make it easier and lighter to carry around.  I I tore sheets of watercolor paper and folded them to create folios.  I like texture in my work, so I used Saunders Hot Press Rough 140 lb watercolor paper. It holds the pigment well and even though it is a little bumpy for writing, I like the imperfection. I have a sweet little Schmincke watercolor travel set and I use a Pitt Pen (size .05) for sketching and writing.  Once I get home, I will bind the pages together.

For every trip, I like to draw a little map of the area or where I'm going.  It sort of sets the stage for the adventure.  I also like to create my packing list right inside my art journal.  As I think of things, I write them down and also make little drawings of items to decorate the page.

Finished prepping!  Now all I have to do is get on that plane!!!

{to be continued}

Two Bob's and an Impulsive Decision

[continued from previous post on May 4, 2017]

The sight of a paintbrush and palette excite my brain and arouse my senses.  The messier and juicier it is, the more stimulated I am. I seemed to have lost this desire to create so as I drove to North Carolina, I was hoping that somehow I would find my {he}art again.

It was nice to get in the car and drive for 14 hours . . . I highly recommend it for privacy, quiet time and the ability to get away from distractions.  Road trips are essential.  I listened to an audio book for hours {a luxury} and I sobbed out loud at times {a gift to allow myself the private time to do this.} I prayed and I pondered and I stopped to stretch and to eat and to refuel.

I checked into my hotel, slept soundly and got ready for a day of art classes. I was looking forward to disappearing in the crowd of other students.  I knew no one, and not a soul knew my story. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

I chose my classes based on technique that I wanted to learn - especially loose and painterly styles.  I have been so closed up lately that I wanted to free myself from the choke hold that my life had on me.

Good luck with that

I started the first class and found I was immediately stuck and uninspired.  The paintbrush felt foreign in my hand and I created mud when I mixed colors.  I wanted to get up and walk out but I pushed through it and by the end of the day I was feeling worse than when I started.  Maybe I just wasn't ready.

The next morning, I considered packing up, skipping the rest of the Expo and driving home. I decided to give one more class a try . . .  

Enter Bob #1

Bob Burridge started his morning class by telling everyone to take everything off of their tables.  Get rid of the cups of paintbrushes, the totes full of art supplies and anything else that would only get in the way of expressing ourselves freely and with abandon. My heart raced a tiny bit.

Paint was squirted directly onto our plastic-covered tables and we were given heavy watercolor paper.  We were allowed one fat brush and a paper towel or two.  And our fingers. That's it.

I instantly loved Bob #1

There is no way to accurately describe his giant personality except to encourage you to go to his website HERE and check out his FREE weekly Bob Blasts and sign up for his newsletter.  I don't make recommendations about other artists and classes lightly, but in my search for professional instruction - this was the closest I had come to being expressive in the way I wanted to be.  He made me recognize that Art was FUN and it was okay to HAVE fun.  Hours later, I realized that I thought about nothing else except creating art.  I forgot who I was and how I felt for FOUR HOURS. I didn't care about a single piece I created or how good or bad it was.  I was so lost in the process that the final outcome had no importance and I realized that the beauty is in the creation.

I changed my schedule around the next day to take a second class from Bob.  His enthusiasm was contagious and I felt walls that had been built around me begin to crumble.  Whatever was happening, I wanted more of it! Hours and hours of creating and at the end of the session, a guy walked into the class and Bob #1 interrupted everyone and said, "hey guys, I'm teaching in Mexico in a few months . . .

Enter Bob #2

Bob #2  (also know as Bob Masla) proceeded to tell us about a very special place called 'Casa de los Artistas'" and the retreats he hosts in Mexico for artists.  They had me at Artista.  I signed up at that moment {and then quietly freaked out!}

[to be continued . . .]