Monthly Archives: January 2010

Feeling very proud of myself

I drove! I did it..all by myself. I am feeling very brave. I am pathetic.

It is confession time. I have not driven since the accident, except for one hair raising time when I had to drive F to the hospital. ( He had Vertigo, brought on by the whiplash from the accident, ironically). So today I had to go out and it seemed too silly to treat F as a driver, so I got into the car and with equal measures of trepidation and pride I drove out of the gate, all by myself.

Truth be told, I didn’t do a  whole lot of driving before the accident but since then the fear has worsened and then I started to hate my wimpy self and my husband was looking at me like I was really useless. When someone looks at you like that, they can’t fancy you at the same time. So for me and for him, I needed to tame that Beast. ( Who is by the temprorarly resurrected until we find another car.)

I am the kind of driver that loves a big Canadian Highway, tons of space, smooth concrete, no crazy motorcycles that appear out of the corner of my blind eye. So for me Kampala streets are basically a disaster. It is like a driving video game, only not as fast and if you do hit someone then you lose more that a virtual life. You need to drive with peeled eyeballs and never lose your cool. People do not follow rules here. Rules are not something they need. It is total anarchy on those roads and it is scary.

And since I am feeling so brave I am going to mention that it is the very last chance to VOTE! Yes, the bloggies are closing tomorrow and don’t let the fact that I am in Africa now, and rather far from Latin America (Trinidad),  bother you one bit.  I would say that is reason enough to win!

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Filed under Being brave

This time a year ago…

This time a year ago I was walking through the snowy streets of London filled with the expectation of a new life unfolding before me. I had just signed on the dotted line and accepted this post and this life here in Kampala.  It was an exciting and crazy leap but one that I still had months to digest. After a week in London I returned home to Trinidad for the final 6 months of our stay. When it came time to leave Trinidad it was absolutely heart wrenching, both because we were leaving a place and people we had grown to love and because we were jumping into the unknown. And now here we are, we have made the leap, we are surviving and those snowy walks through London, trying to imagine Africa, are but a memory. It is funny when, what once we couldn’t even imagine is now something we live everyday.

I had no idea what it would be, I just held my breath and jumped.

People have ideas about Africa. Some think it will be full of men in skins ready to dance or spin around a village, many can’t even imagine what an African city is like. I was one of those people. It defies the imagination, there is no way to know what an assault it will be, how the poverty will hit you, a little less everyday, but still hit with a pungent punch all the same. The things that were so strange at first slowly start to become normal and in this week, when I am looking back to those days at the job fair, I am trying to remember what the picture in my mind was. Did I even have a picture in my head or was I just hooked on the idea of adventure? Trying something different? Exploring another corner of this world I had never seen?

In two weeks, on Valentine’s Day, in fact, we will celebrate our 6 month anniversary here. I use the word celebrate intentionally, it has been hard but there is a lot to celebrate; what started out as a hand shake in the ballroom of a London hotel has ended up being a life.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

Hopeless.

Why I am so undomesticated? The little sewing project that I undertook, worked, only just and at some cost to my already feeble sanity. Most people would have whipped those spaghetti straps into shape with a couple of sharp moves of a knuckle and the sound of some thread being snapped between two teeth. I had to ask handsome green eyes to thread the needle first and then I had to do some messy guessing work with threading and knotting and where to start. It has got me thinking about matters of a domestic nature.

Some women are domestic goddesses and some are not. I was nearly one for a while back there in Montreal, I think I even made home made donuts at one point. Certainly my oven always had something in it and I was quite crafty with an icing pipe. But those days seem a distant rumour now. Where and how do people learn to be naturally domestic? I didn’t know how to boil an egg until I was 22 and I baked my first cake for my 30th birthday, I blame it all on my mother as one is wont to do in these circumstances. She was a highfalutin business women and we had a wonderful woman at home called Perlita who took care of everything. (Did I mention I was an expat brat? )So I never watched my mother, clad in an apron with flour smudged cheeks baring a rolling pin in one hand and a knitting needle in the other. We never had a garden and little pots filled with soil were too much trouble so I never learnt anything about planting and growing, seeds and watering and what not.

My mother is an excellent cook but she is an occasion cook who pulls her skills out of a hat when there is a dinner party or gathering of some sort that demands more that just M&S stir fry noodles. So I never learnt a stitch from her and I fear I might be leading Princess and Trooper down the same garden path, a path with no pretty flowers all in a row.

I wish I was domestic. I really do. I make a wicked lasagna and brownies, and soup and salad can be quite fun but when I stumble across one of those blogs with a name like Juniper and Velvet and I see gorgeous pistachio and cranberry granola bars sitting next to ricotta and cream cheese muffins I just groan. I cannot make anything out of material or marzipan, I cannot whip up a cute knitted baby bonnet for a friend or play any musical instruments. And while we are on this line of thought, what of sports? I cannot catch a frisbee, play tennis or do any sports at all, quite frankly. I cannot.

Is it too late?

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Filed under personal

Dance Adonis, Dance.

3limes is feeling like it time to shake those blue cobwebs off the shoulders and look around with new and fresh eyes. Yes, a dark cloud has been wafting about these past few weeks but there is nothing like a night out to see some fabulous dance to remind us how lucky we are to live in a country where it is not easy to be an artist and those that create are both brave and in need of some celebration.

Last night a small group of us headed to the National Theatre to see a performance of Keiga Dance Company with music by Joel Sebunjo.

There were 7 dancers, three musicians and one technician.  We were told during the introduction that we were about to see a showcase of modern contemporary Ugandan dance that unlike most dance, would specifically stay away from telling a story. However, what I liked most about the dance was that, in snippets, a story was being told and using gestures that we all use daily, only this time they were presented in an exaggerated and poetic manner with the body instead of words or expressions. At one point each dancer looked a member of the audience straight in the eyes and pointed between his eyes and ours as if to say, I am the one watching you, not the other way around.

The musicians played both with their voices and traditional instruments but the symbiosis between the live musicians and the dancers was like a taunt cord seamlessly strung between the two.

It cannot be easy to be a dancer here. There are no opportunities to go to dance school, nor is dancing considered a worthwhile profession is a country where it is imperative to work to feed perhaps your entire family, in addition to yourself. I sat spellbound throughout the performance and thought to myself how powerful the pull to create really is, no matter the place or circumstance of one’s birth. What ever changes in this crazy world of ours, art and creation will live on, no matter the pull or bias from society or family. The will to dance was there for these 7 dancers and I applaud them for their skill, passion, creativity and perseverance. This dance troop could happily find themselves on a stage anywhere in the West holding their own against other homegrown dancers.

I love to watch dance, often, more so than theatre ( which considering my education and training to be a drama teacher might seem strange. ) Dance has to power to express without words and that challenge, when it works is enough to move any heart.

It must be said that, as an added bonus, I appreciated some eye candy for the first time since arriving here in Uganda. Initially, in the first of 7 pieces I sat and regretted the baggy t-shirt attire of choice. Then when the dancers appeared bearing rippled chests I could sit back and appreciate what the human form can really do. A black dancer is the closest one can get to a living Adonis.

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Where are all the hours?

There are not enough hours in the day. I have two Oprah’s to read ( YES! All the way from the Great Shiny West.) I have a New Yorker to read, a rare pleasure that allows to me to read new fiction and read movie and theatre reviews of plays and movies I will never see ( frustration is bitter sweet), I have a number of new novels on my shelf waiting to be read, I have photos to take, new blogs to read, marking to do ( oh endless marking, why do I give homework? Because I must.) I have daughters to talk to, meals to cook, a top to sew ( yes, I know, I do not sew but how hard can it be to shorten some straps and it is a worthy challenge), I have emails and facebook messages to respond to and friends to Skype.

I have writing to do, lessons to plan and holidays to plan. I must cream my poor peeling chest where rather too much sun hit last weekend. ( Stupid, yes I know. Yes, I should know better. Sorry. Slap.) I need to sit and contemplate the new look I am going to give 3limes. I think she needs a little makeover, don’t you?

But right now I have a crisp green apple, cut into slices and smothered with Boursin to enjoy. There is cold white wine with sunshine dancing in the glass. Delicacies can be found here if you open your eyes, visit many grocery stores and hope.

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Trinidad, Je t’aime.

The Bloggie nomination has sent me spinning into cyber space to check out and discover new blogs. Blogging is a funny business isn’t it? Sort of like a club that all the people not in, don’t get. When I tell people that I have a blog, and surprisingly I don’t tell people that often, I get a funny look. One day a friend of mine explained the prejudice people who are not in the know feel towards blogs and bloggers. There is a feeling that we are a navel gazing, conceited arrogant lot who assume everyone is interested in us. Then once they start to have a read they begin to understand.

I started this blog back in 2008 in Trinidad. I was seeing and experiencing so much over there; I felt if I didn’t get it down, somewhere , I would burst. The result was that I loved and enjoyed Trinidad so much more knowing that I was now looking to write and collect stories, and Trinidad in turn inspired me more than ever. Blogging became an online travel diary of sorts, a place to try and capture what I was seeing with my eyes.

I strove to find a balance between the personal and the quietly observed. I was never going to be the writer that would reveal my whole life, warts, prickly bits, and all.  And I was careful to never use this as a forum for whining or examining my navel too much. Over time I found myself inserting teaching posts, post about my kids and the personal price of upheaving a family and moving across the world twice in 3 years. But the main subject has always been the country where I am living and rereading some of those Trini posts has made me think a lot about that special island.  It is a place of colour, character and culture and the people have Personality with a capital P. It is a shock to all of us how much we really miss Trinidad. I don’t imagine we thought it would get under our skin the way it did after only 2 years. Yet it has and with Carnival only 19 days away I can imagine the spirit and excitement all over Port of Spain. I can sense the frisson and shiver in the air around the Savannah as the stage is erected and all those girls getting ready to don sparkly bikinis and feathers jog past the coconut sellers, getting fit and in shape. I could wax lyrical and get soft and nostalgic, but, no whining allowed. Let me just say three simple words:

Maracas, Doubles, Mango Chow.

I could do with a little Trini spirt over here.

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Filed under Travel, Trinidad & Tobago

Lovely star

Yesterday Princess turned 10 and the Bloggie nominations were announced.

How was I to know that while I was munching on some Chinese Eggplant with ginger and telling the story of a little girl that was born on an ice cold day 10 years ago, over in cyber space 3limes was enjoying a momentous moment of its own?

This morning I woke up to a piece of most splendid news. 3limes has been nominated for a Bloggie!

Despite the fact that 3limes has now jumped over an ocean and a lot of land to plant itself in Uganda the nomination is in the category of Best Latin American Blog (for all my Trinidad posts). Maybe one day 3limes will be listed under best African Blog but in the meantime….if you are a fan please take a minute and vote.

You can vote each and every day until January 31st.
If you want to step back in time and visit Trinidad have a look here and here and here .

The day is smiling.

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Filed under personal, Trinidad & Tobago

Living inside a computer.

Not really very much to write to be truthful. So the question begs, why write at all? Well I made a decision, a resolution really, about writing and I must keep to it. I feel it is good for me and in many ways keeps me sane. There are dark thoughts going around my brain, there are school matters proving most distracting and there are matters of a parental nature, more specifically parenting a nearly teenage girl, that are spinning my thoughts asunder.

It seems not that long ago that Trooper was small and wide eyed, eager to learn all and curl up beside me for a good cuddle and a read. Now things have disappeared into a world of cyber possibilities where gossip and love stories zip across the continents, where hearts are spilled on status pages and multiple conversations take place at once, sometimes between Facebook, MSN and Skype. It has all suddenly appeared to be out of control. Perhaps once school is over and the minimal homework that is doled out is completed, there is not enough to do. We have no TV, there are no neighborhood kids with whom to ride bikes or kick a can, no ice cream shop to walk to and how many hours a day can one really read? So the computer has become a world unto itself and I am not sure I like it.

It cannot be banned, it is here to stay and in fact a very healthy and normal part of adolescence, similar to the amount of time we spent on the phone, those many pre-cell texting years ago, with school friends that we had seen mere minutes before. Then when I went to boarding school we were always together, attached through meals, visits to the loo, long homework sessions where novels were written in the form of  “notes” and we didn’t need any devices to keep us connected, only apart!

A plan is needed. Horse riding lessons will be booked forthwith!

In other news the Entourage addiction continues. We are now on season 5 and I doubt I will ever return to watching TV with commercials. It is quite pleasant to sit and watch two episodes without being interrupted by averts for itchy skin, adult diapers or anti-anxiety medication. If there is one sure way to send you into a depression, American ads will do it. Between shiny cars, oozing beef, and dandruff shampoo, it is quite common to find scary legal firms offering us help with law suits and pharmaceutical companies selling us pills for problems were didn’t know existed. It is not a pretty picture of the world. I do not miss the ads one bit. But I did miss the Golden Globes terribly and I must confess to spending my break in front of People.com looking at the best and worst dresses of the night.


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Sunshine blinding, boys hopping and dinner invites.

It has been an up and down and all around sort of week.  I have felt displaced, tired and mildly overwhelmed by the work I have thrown at myself. As part of the yearbook committee I have undertaken to photograph each and every student and class in the school. That is 500 kids. I cannot abide by a bad photograph and cannot sit by and let the yearbook look like a cheap piece of pulp, so I have adopted that small cause. In addition, as part of an effort to increase school spirit I have put together a “Spirit Board” where all achievements will be celebrated. So far there is one shiny fabulous posting on the board, a photograph of a student of mine who recently represented Uganda in the Sub Saharan Swimming games and came home with a bronze. On the inverse side of this celebratory board is a Wall of Shame that I have created on my white board. Exasperated with the number of students who have repeatedly failed to hand in homework, I have turned to public humiliation as a worthwhile deterrent. I think it might be working, at least, many have expressed fear at the thought of their names up there for all to see.

The highlight of my school week was the solar eclipse this morning. Between 7.45am and 8.45am a group of students, parents and teachers stood outside the school to peer through slivers of x-rays at the extraordinary sight before us. Despite not looking directly at the sun, I still spent the rest of the morning and much of the day with a strange pain behind my eyes. It was my first solar eclipse and followed nicely on the footsteps of the New Year’s eve lunar eclipse that helped bid farewell to 2009. The best thing about this morning’s eclipse was the changing light and shadows on the faces of the people watching. The light went from blinding bright to dramatically dim in a few moments. I felt like a tiny ant of the surface of a beach ball.

Shocking news at the social front is that I went out two evenings this week. Even Princess and Trooper looked at us aghast and said “ You are going out again!?!”

Yes we did. Twice, for dinner, with perfectly lovely people. The first evening was spent in a house with a garden the size of a football field, so big in fact that there was plenty of space to grow the salad that we ate as a first course. I came home to my box and sulked. The second evening was spent with 8 people cheerfully squeezed into a house smaller than mine, where wine and good food was served and enjoyed and I came home inspired.

Now with the weekend beckoning with open arms I am hoping to recharge some of those teaching batteries. Only week two and I am losing patience with the throng of puberty. The boys have been literally nuts all week, unable to stop moving. They have either got ants in their pants or they have just realized what else lives in there.

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Swamp Jam

Driving in Africa is a dirty affair.

A rather odd Sunday. At least compared to those in Montreal Skiing, those in London staying out of the snow and all cosy with the papers or those in Trinidad on the beach, also those who did anything today other than wake up and go searching for rare and near extinct birds called Shoebills.

The Shoebill is an enormous bird, sort of like a stork that is very rare, there are only 138 in all of Uganda and between 2000-8000 in the world, mostly in Sudan. Bird watchers spend thousands of dollars to fly here and seek out these birds, but then bird watchers also spend thousands to fly to Trinidad to see the ugly and elusive Oil Birds.




We woke up at the crack of dawn, with bleary eyes threw together a picnic and stumbled into the Beast ( with fingers crossed). An hour and a half south west and we arrived at a spot by a papyrus swamp where our friendly guide, Hannington, directed us all into dug out boats. For the next 3 hours we drifted through the swamp searching for the Shoebill and  got tangled in thick lilly pads, stuck in dense swamp ( I named it a Swamp Jam) and looked longingly through binoculars, hoping, searching and waiting for this ugly grey prehistoric creature to appear.



Finding a Shoebill is like coming across an elephant in the swamp. It is enormous and unexpected. I am not a bird watcher and I was along for the ride and the day out, more than the thrill of seeing a bird, however weird and rare it maybe.


I never got close enough to take a picture as I was standing at the back of the third boat with lots of tall people standing in front of me, but I did see it and its very strange beak through my trusty binoculars. I also saw it fly away, and it has quite an elegant flight style for a bird so large and ugly.

Here are pictures to show you what all the fuss is about. How sad that I had to download it from Wikipedia. The shame of it.




The question, of course, is what kind of shoe is that exactly?

Far more delightful were the gorgeous Lillies that covered the swamp like a lush purple blanket. Some were so pale as to be almost white, some closer to pink and some deep purple. I couldn’t take my eyes of them.



These I did take. Thankfully.





And one for my toe.

Something different for a Sunday, non?

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Filed under Photography, Travel, Uganda