umm. Hello.

Oh shall we just not talk about it? How I ran away and needed some space and hid behind good books and watched such good TV drama and become intrigued with Breaking Bad and The Wire and continued my obsession with Mad Men? And about how, after watching said shows, like a real TV nerd I read intellectual reviews the next morning and compared notes with strangers. And about how I felt the loss of creativity but walked and walked and listened to This American Life and BBC podcasts instead? Yes, I dropped out but I was still here all the time, ticking away, trying to stay informed and connected and well read and smart and capable despite being all the way over here in the Desert Sandy Isle. And it’s true I hid from people too, and hardly had anyone over and lost some confidence but also lost some weight and danced instead of writing. I was teaching some, but getting a bit cross with it all. I had to think about resisting or relinquishing. And I was being a good Mom all round, driving and dropping and buying and signing notes and handing over piles of money and clapping and supporting and editing essays and projects and helping with the arduous task of writing revision notes. And maybe I didn’t bake a birthday cake but I drove some distance, twice, to buy one from the very best bakery in all of Bahrain. So yes, there was a birthday, or two, since I have been gone. And a trip to London to visit the Great Shiny West.

But it is time to come out of the lovely safe warm hole, where the sunlight hits the page just so and the herbal tea is warm and one or both of the girls joins me in a soft cuddle no matter how old and big they are becoming.  It is time to tell the truth. I am going to be blogging somewhere else for a time, as someone anonymous. There is so much that I want to say but can’t, things about work, amazing stories about the kids I teach, funny anecdotes about living here, thoughts on Bahrain. And being public has been holding me back. So I am retreating into a safe and quiet place to write with complete freedom.

 

I might check back and visit 3limes now and again. 3limes will always be a part of me and I cannot let it go, not when it has been by my side for so long and through so much.

I still don’t know what my voice is or what it will be and if I can be as sharp and astute as I want, or as honest as I dare. But I will try. And in the meantime, where ever you are, with snow in your mitten, sunshine in your mug or sand in your tea cup, I wish you well and I thank you for being here for the journey.

So. Hello. And bye, for now.

( subscribers, send me an email and I will let you know where I am.)

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Filed under Being brave, Family Stuff, pen and paper, personal

A state of mind address

Yes I have been quiet.

Do you know that I have been writing 3limes an average of two times a week for close to four years? (This is post # 425.)  And in that time I have written about the rain, the desert, Carnival, liming, zebras, lions in trees, car crashes, teaching teens, raising my girls as reluctant expats, the longing feeling for home, the getting used to the new, the craving for shiny shops and culture, the scary driving, the Canadian Lakes, the roads of London. I have taken many photos, sometimes inserted a book review or poem we are studying in class. I have told stories and hopefully amused and given some picture of what this crazy expat life is all about.

But there is a lot I have not said. I have not shared the tears, the heartbreak, and the true aftermath of all the goodbyes. I have not always told you everything about the schools where I teach, I couldn’t. Early on I made the decision that this blog would not reveal the personal, and I would not show photos of my family or tell you too much about them, outside of the anecdotal. I have held back, time and time again. There is an information overload out there; blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Stumble On, newspapers, Arts&Letters Daily, photography…the list goes on, the words tumble and crowd and fill me up ‘till I can’t hear the quiet anymore. And I have not been quite sure where I fit into the noise.

This is not a place for cute pics of my kids or the meal I made last night. This is not the place to fill you in with details of my weight loss, marriage, sex life or tearful rages. This is not the place to write about the days when I am too sad to write. So it is a place for stories, observations, a place to mark my days and remember what it was like. To try and find the pretty and keep moving. And recently I haven’t been very good at doing that, because I haven’t, honestly been doing a lot of seeing and doing.

I work. I work hard, hello IB? I deal with lazy students, incompetence, entitlement and bad manners. But I also teach open minded, wise, brilliant students, mainly girls, mind you, that open my eyes more than I open theirs. Teaching in this school has taught me more about the Arab and Muslim world than I could ever imagine and it has spun my ideas in circles many times. But I cannot write about these students, or this school. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

I go home and I take care of my lovely girls who work hard and discover and learn and sometimes get sad and homesick but mainly are good and fine and happy. I cook for them, I wash their clothes, and I shop, help with homework and drive them all over the place. I do the Mom thing, the best way I know how. And sometimes I fear it isn’t good enough. Don’t we all?

I take care of my husband and love him up the best way I can. We love and laugh and read and watch movies and sometimes we look at each other and wonder how the hell we ended up here, in this life, living in this country. Sometimes I am in a time warp, driving in Bahrain and suddenly, in a flash I am simultaneously driving down a red dirt road in Kampala with the sun glinting off the rain splattered giant leaves. And there is that woman with the bananas on her head, and there are those children laughing and carrying water as the sun begins to dip. Or I am driving the girls to school in Montreal and the snow has turned to slush and we are listening to our favourite morning show. Or I am thinking about my day in this school in Bahrain and suddenly in a flash my worlds are colliding and I am back in a class room in Port of Spain, bare feet on blue carpet, hum of the air-conditioner, sun pressing against the window panes. And then quick flash, I am back in Montreal in a classroom of 32 girls, chalk on black skirt, wooden desks smoothed by the hands and pens of time. I am talking to a new friend here and then bang! I am in the garden of my dear A, back in her lushness in Kampala and we are sipping Espresso and watching our kids jump on the trampoline. Or bang! I am sitting on the wooden floor boards of my Montreal house with my best girl friends and the kids are tiny, barely toddlers.

Too many worlds have happened too fast. I am shell shocked.

Shall I tell you all this? Shall I tell you about my new exercise regime? My careful monitoring of everything I eat so that it is I who controls my body and what goes in it? My fantastic Latin Dance Class? My battles with teenagers, the constant negotiation and mapping of life with a teenage daughter, the sad, too sad week in school last week when I watched my dear students deal with a grief they are too young to comprehend?  Shall I write about the friends I miss and wish I could see again? Shall I tell you about my worries about the Summer, when I will go “home” to Montreal, to a place that is no longer home, where I have no home and hop from friend to friend in the hope that please can I not offend or disappoint anyone this year? Can I please NOT piss anyone off?

No. I cannot tell you everything that is in my mind, this is not that kind of blog. And I cannot tell you what I do every day because it is, quite frankly, boring. And who wants to hear what I am making for dinner? Or what I taught today? Who wants to see the photo of Princess in her cute new skirt or hear about how much sand we swept up from the front steps yesterday?  There are plenty of blogs like that, this is not that blog.

So where does that leave little 3limes? Faltering on her balance beam, not entirely sure which way to fall.

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Filed under Being brave, pen and paper, personal

Lists, old and new

I have been quiet, shedding layers of time and memory and feeling rather retrospective. Memory is on my mind. Perhaps it is because we are touching the cusp of a big 20 year anniversary: 20 years ago this week Handsome and I started our journey together in Egypt. It started in Dahab, took a long bus journey to Cairo followed by an 18 hour train trip to Aswan and then onto a Feluca ( sail boat ride on the Nile.) Many planes, trains, automobiles, donkeys, snow sleds, jeeps and rickshaws later and here we are in a funny circle: back to the Arabian Sands. I was 22 and had no idea where my life would take me but we shared a love of adventure and we both embraced the new. If we were to write a bucket list back then it would have included a lot of travel, children, exciting jobs ( his an intrepid journalist and mine a writer and a drama therapist) a sejour in Italy, a parachute or two and some rather romantic notions. Well things often work out differently once life throws you a hoop or two and 20 years later we have done many things not even dreamed up on a bucket list and made a few new lists too.

I once had the good fortune to teach a highly talented girl, hungry for life and on the brink of many a success. She writes a lovely blog and recently wrote her bucket list. These are the dreams of a 19 year old girl, a young lady of fortune, talent and opportunity. Reading this list I was transported back in time to my own eyes-wide-open -with-wonder moments and I remember when I was 19 I longed for a magic crystal ball to tell me what my future would be and if it would all be okay. In the end it all turns out…as it does, whether we tick off our list or make new ones.

Here then is her list. I am awed by her choices, her dreams and the charm of her wishes.  Can you remember yours? Is it very different now?

BUCKET LIST:

  1. Go to Venice- not only for Carnivale ( which is a must!) but to learn, to be inspired and to write.
  2. See the Northern Lights
  3. Go to Australia
  4. Decorate my very own apartment
  5. Celebrate each Carnival around the world
  6. Ride the Orient Express train through Europe
  7. Publish a best selling novel😉
  8. Live in an apartment with my sister
  9. Get my British Citizenship
  10. Become fluent in a second language and then become fluent in a third language
  11. Learn how to play an instrument
  12. Meet my favourite author
  13. Create one work of art of which I am proud
  14. Do a night dive and a wreck dive
  15. Travel in Space
  16. Make a profit at a casino
  17. Sleep under the stars ( ignore the mosquitoes, the discomfort and all the monsters obviously hiding in the shadows.)
  18. Go on a road trip
  19. See my favourite musician perform live
  20. Found a charitable organization
  21. Travel to Antarctica and see the penguins
  22. Sponsor an endangered animal and travel to wherever it is in the world to meet it
  23. Sing Karaoke in front of a crowd and not be ashamed
  24. Make a positive difference; in one person’s life, in many people’s lives, in a town or a country or the world
  25. Be remembered for something great

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Filed under How old am I?

Scenes from a Bahrain Sunday

I have clambered out from beneath a mountain of report writing, exam marking and planning. And now “hello fresh air!” I have a whole week off to breathe.

The winds have been wild; sandstorms blew sand from furthest Arabia into every corner, crevice, nook and cranny. We are sweeping sand and dust away and with it the cold wintery air. I heard from a wise man that the winds signal change and that a new season is around the corner.

I got a bit down, doldrum like. Bahrain was feeling small, dusty, dry and too quiet. I was dreaming of my perfect Sunday; a walk in a frosty park over leaves that used to crunch and past skeleton trees mourning their leaves; of a warm coffee shop with muffled chatter and a book shop with tables piled high, the smell of invited hope and paper. I was dreaming of a friend and a hot pot of tea. A week of time stretches before me and it winks at me with space and possibility. I am strange, alone in my house rather than at my desk, with peace and quiet rather than a classroom that twitters with teens. It tastes bitter sweet to have this time; like a dipped toe in a another’s life. I wish to spend it with friends who pop round for coffees and catch up but they are an ocean away.

So as always, to shake off the cobwebs I went out to find the pretty. Yes the grass is always greener, isn’t it? I know that the walk in the London park would be too cold, the friends would be busy, the books too expensive, the gallery closed. Princess told me, with all her wisdom, that we need to be happy with what we have. Thanks to The Prophet’s Birthday we all had a bonus Sunday off so we headed off to see something different.

Here then are my weekend moments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bahrain, Finding the Pretty, When the rose tint fades

Cold Winds Blow, over seas and time.

My blood has settled itself into a warm and comfortable position; these years of living in the tropics have soothed my cold and chilly scars from many frigid Canadian winters. In Winnipeg I lived through an interminable winter season that broke records for the number of days below -20, where cars had to be plugged in nightly so they would crank to life again the next morning. I survived the mornings in Montreal where the car had to be dug out of piles of snow before I could drive my little girls to school and I lived through that day when I burst into tears while stuck in the ice on a hill and had to listen to angry and impatient honking from drivers who preferred to berate me than get out and push. In short, winter was often a trauma and I pulled through. My best winter memories are those weekends spent in the country where the silence is only broken by a branch cracking and falling with a soft thud onto a bed of white driven snow. Where the beauty of an afternoon’s walk is followed by a scrabble game in front of a roaring fire while icy socks hang to dry.

But now I am freezing cold and it is no joke. For the past two days it has been 8.0 degrees Celsius when I got into my car and that is colder than London right now. Now normally I would shrug this off and know that it is nothing compared to a mid February night in Winnipeg but the difference is that our homes are all stone cold marble floors, glass floor to ceiling windows that know not the meaning of insulation and no central heating in sight. We are wrapped in blankets and layers of sweaters. The wind rushes cold sand through our bones and my blood, so lovingly warmed by the tropics, is in rebellion.

 

The weekend was a happy one, before the cold winds came. I shrugged off my hermit ways and actually went out for two nights in a row. Night one, a sort of pub crawl that finished in a karaoke bar with a lime green and peach colour palette, fake potted palms and a random furry fringe on the sofa cushions.  There was much laughing. Night two, a more restrained and adult affair saw us seated around a table in a Tex Mex restaurant making new friends.  The night ended outside in the garden of a bar, wrapped in fleece blankets with our faces turned to the heating lamps, like night time sunflowers. The cold was stepping in. And Saturday was spent celebrating Princess who turned 12. She was born under the bluest skies of a Montreal Winter’s day, -24 winds welcomed her into this world. When I took my little bundle home, wrapped up so tight I feared she couldn’t breathe, I never dreamed that 12 years later I would be serving her a mountain of Profiteroles, in lieu of cake, in Bahrain.

Now I am going to find another blanket. Remember this when I write about the summer heat. Remember.

 

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Books books books

(Photo of my desk)

I am an English teacher and a reader. These two facts do not always go hand in hand. Often I am forced to sit and read the very thing I have no desire to delve into, and learn about people and places of which I have little interest. So in my “free reading “time, when I can read whatever I choose I am very picky. Last year I think I only read 5 books outside of my teaching.

At the moment for my work reading I have been lucky as I am reading texts that are either quite wonderful, or books I have always wanted to read but never got round to picking up.

For example: Brave New World by Aldous Huxely. How I managed to do both A level English and a Literature degree and never read this seminal work, I have no idea. I even owned my own copy but had never felt the urge to read it, fearing it might be dull. In fact it is a truly amazing and gripping work and very interesting to teach. I urge you book club people to give it a go and I promise you will be arguing about whether we can actually be happy if we never know misery, and the virtues of a peaceful and bland world that can only exist without truth, knowledge or human connection.

I am also teaching the deeply touching and strong story of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Again, this is a book I actually owned but had never read. This is a great read and all of my students embraced both the book and the characters.

And for another class: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I read this one years ago and I must confess, as much as I liked it, it happens to be one of the only books I know of, where the movie is even better. Normally it is the reverse when it comes to books and their film adaptations. With a second reading I am enjoying it but the students are finding it a tough read. The plot jumps all over the place and for students more accustomed to video games than books, it is proving a challenge.

Next up is The Colour Purple and I must confess that I had never read it. How is this possible, I ask?  Obviously it is a wonderful, though harrowing read and I am wondering how to approach all the sexuality and abusive subject matter with my students.

Earlier this year I taught A Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriella Garcia Marquez, Metamorphosis by Kafka and The Stranger by Camus.

And for fun? I have read and enjoyed the following:

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

The Stranger’s Child by Allen Hollinghurst

So many books… so little time.

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Filed under Lying in bed with books, Miss Teacher

A trip around the corner, and back in time.

The weekend was busy and involved a fair amount of ferrying children from one place to another. Thursday night, normally reserved for a definite couch slouch, found us hosting a casual dinner party with candles and after dinner drinks in the garden that went on way too late. The moon was winking when I went to bed, ” you need to wake up early, tomorrow” it sniggered as I plunged head first into my duvet. Friday morning Trooper had her Duke of Edinburgh ( bronze) practice hike. This involved 70 teenagers let loose in the desert with a map and a packet of crisps. She needed to be delivered to school at 6.30 am. Initially I had optimistic ideas of an early morning walk, an efficient run around a grocery store and back home for coffee all by 9am. Obviously, considering the too late to bed thing, this was not to be. By 3 pm, having woken from a brief nap I had the feeling I was wasting my day and needed a jolt to bring me back to life.

“Let’s go somewhere we have never been before” I suggested. I am tired of the same tried and true arteries I drive up and down all week, rarely venturing off my beaten and safe path.

So we did.

We found an ancient Portuguese Fort that I see in the distance when I am on one of my safe highways, but had never visited. It was close enough to be there and back in an hour but far enough to feel I had stepped back in time and seen a different corner of Bahrain.

And we were there in time to catch the sunset.

It is important to sometimes take the other road, the one you always wanted to see but never found the time. Maybe right around the corner is a slice of magic and you never knew.

 

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Filed under Bahrain, Photography