Here's why you should always talk to strangers on your vacation!

Written by Diane Manson.

When we arrived to Maya Beach, about 10-ish kilometres from the town of Placenia, we passed through Seine Bight, a very small village that I’m told is the second Garifuna settlement in Belize. Amongst the roadside signs was one that caught my attention. LOLA’S ART. Yesterday I donned two wheels and set out to find Lola. The sign had an arrow, which led to another sign with another arrow. Which lead to a back-lane, a small, purple painted bike rack and an open door. Entering the wooden, dimly lit, rustic space I tentatively called: “Hello. Hello. Anybody home?” A bra-less woman with big glasses sat at a small desk. She was surrounded by pots of colourful paint and had a paint brush and cigarette in hand. She welcomed me with “Come on in, Luv.” I was immediately drawn to Lola’s work. Her creations were of beautiful, full-hipped Garifuna women, colourfully clothed, against Caribbean green water. They were happy paintings. They spoke of the camaraderie of women.

Frogs were not in Lola’s art; however, frogs subtlety surrounded her. I asked Lola if she liked frogs. She explained frogs were her spirit sign and described that as a young girl her father took her to see her grandfather, a shaman, where she spent a night sleeping in a tree house. After her night’s sleep, her grandfather asked Lola what she’d dreamt of. She told her grandfather “frogs and leopards.” Her grandfather asked Lola’s dad if he could raise Lola—dreaming of two animals was considered special and she had the ability to become a Shaman. Lola smiled and said her dad was not willing to give up his daughter. It was then that I noticed Lola’s leopard-print handbag. In this simple gallery, Lola was surrounded by herself.

Our conversation continued about many things. She laughed when she told me her parents said her first work of art was on a wall, using her Mothers lipstick. Lola placed my purchase in a plastic bag, I thanked her and we shook hands. Pedaling down the lane and back onto the highway, I knew my life was richer having met Lola the artist. Though she was a complete stranger Lola openly and genuinely shared moments of her life with me. In the front basket of my bike sat my new treasure, a small piece of art – with five colourfully clad women. Happy women, just like Lola.