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When Randy Chollette and Nasaria Suckoo Chollette Pulled Up

November 11, 2012

Randy and Nasaria pulled up in the gas station as if a director just called “Action.”

I was sitting on the beach with artist Nickola McCoy Snell at the GrapeTree Café in Bodden Town.  She was in the midst of sharing some stories of her childhood friends and how she’d like them to be involved in Travel Gal too.  Of course, one of those friends was Randy, who just arrived at the scene.

Nickola waved him over.  Up walked Randy and his spunky wife Nasaria.  Randy is an amazing self-taught artist on the island (you’ll be able to check out his work on soon).  And his wife, an artist in her own right, was the educational coordinator at the National Museum.

Now what you might not know unless you read my older posts, is that this moment on the beach was about 3 months in the making.  After my failed attempts to connect with any artists in Grand Cayman via email prior to my arrival on the island, I went on a week long search for Nickola.  And I had all but given up when I was suddenly connected to her through another artist I met along the way.  Honestly, I had lost all hope at that point.  And I had given up on the idea of even working with any artists from the island.   Now, here I was, literally 24 hours after throwing my hands up in the air, surrounded by some of the islands most premiere talents.  How’s that for serendipity?

My new Cayman friends Nickola (and her son TJ), Randy and Nasaria at the Grapetree Cafe

Once Randy and Nasaria arrived the energy rose to a whole new level.  I got to share my hopes for Travel Gal with them and they entertained me with the stories of the island’s East vs. West cooking competition.

“People on the West side are always running so fast, they don’t take the time to do things right,” said Nasaria.  This lead into a spirited discussion on the difference between how Turtle and Fish are prepared on the West side in comparison to the East side.

“I just don’t get anyone that would rather use coconut from a can than to pick it fresh off the tree.  That’s just sacrilegious in my book,” said Nasaria.  Pure gold kept spinning from her lips.  And from the descriptions and the humorous banter between them all, I knew my future on the island would be a heaping plate of East side cuisine.

You see it’s moments like this that make travel so amazing for me.  I do like to see the sites but what I’m really after on any adventure is a moment of pure authenticity.  I seek opportunities to experience a snapshot of real life presented in a way that only a local could present it.  The 3 hours I spent talking to Nickola on the beach and the surprise appearance of Randy and Nasaria made the entire week I spent on the island worth it.

The banter.

The laughter.

The stories of the island from the people of the island.  You just can’t get that from a tourist book or by merely looking at historic artifacts.

And so, it began.  Nickola and I agreed to start building the very first Travel Gal Adventure to Grand Cayman.  After a month or so of planning, I received a disturbing email.

“Sorry for the long delay. However, there have been some major changes here in Cayman recently. We are now leaving the Islands to go back to England. It is a decision not taken lightly and one that was made within the last week. The political and economic uncertainty here along with no job has played a major part in our decision. I am seeking another artist to do the Travel Gal workshop and tours with you and Gordon Solomon has stepped up. I am including his email here for you to contact him directly as we will be leaving within a few days and cannot foresee when we will be back.  Again, I am sorry and wish you the best.  Regards, Nickola”

It took me a minute to absorb the news.

I was sad for the incredible stress and pressure I assumed Nickola and her family must have experienced in coming to their decision to leave.  I was fearful I wouldn’t be able to regroup with a new set of artists and make it all happen.  But mostly, I was excited for the unknown adventure that was about to unfold.

I emailed Gordon and set up a Skype call to discuss my ideas.

I launched my webcam and waited for Gordon to sign on, anxious to hear his thoughts and see where this new path would take me.

“Loading….,” came across my screen.  And what did I first see when Gordon’s camera first popped up?  Randy!  Are you kidding me?  This Randy just kept popping up at exactly the right moment.  “Hot damn!  Now, this is going to be good,” I thought to myself.

Gordon and his wife Alta, had rounded up Randy and his wife Nasaria to all throw their passion for Cayman culture and art into the Travel Gal mix.  As Randy, Gordon and I were getting to know each other and discuss this new adventure, in popped Alta from the side of the screen.

“You are helping us realize a long standing dream to share our culture through our experiences.  And we have lots of ideas.”

Over the years, as the island has grown and become more commercialized, it’s been more and more of a challenge for Caymans to hold onto, much less share their traditions.  It was touching to share this moment with them.  To my new friends on the island, I was helping them realize a dream.  But all I could think about was how they were helping me realize my own dream.  I guess you can’t ask for more than that.

My grandma used to always tell me “Be patient.  If it was meant to be, it will be.”  Now, I had absolutely no use for these words when I was 7.  I wanted everything NOW and NOW, or else.  Her words held real meaning to me though as I watched the expressions on the faces of Gordon, Alta and Randy.

WE were meant to be.

Ever since this Skype call, my new Grand Cayman artist team and I have been building the very first Travel Gal Adventure.  It’s a unique opportunity for a small group of explorers to experience the island through the eyes of the artists that represent it.   We’re going to give an insiders perspective into Cayman culture as travelers take part in cooking a Cayman delicacy…play with paint as our artists guide them through making their own creation…meet local fishermen as they come in with their catches of the day…experience the reef and friendly Sting Rays as a local would (on our own boat) and join in on a beach front jam session.  If you’re looking for a truly authentic travel experience, you should come along.  I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

If you want to know more, just send me a note.  I’ll also be posting all the details soon so stay tuned.

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