Monthly Archives: August 2010

Happiness and Joy

Our housekeeper has had her baby and has called her Happiness Joy. I wish her all the same.      (I do love the African names…I have met a Hope, a Pretty, a Grace, a Precious, a Happy,  Jolly and an Innocent; the list goes on). Within a few weeks she will be back at work, baby on her back. African woman are a different and much stronger breed and thinking of the way we sit at home, have meals brought to us and gently rub cream on our sore breasts makes me smile. Not only will she be back to mopping floors within weeks of baby coming but she actually went into labour while walking to work.

At 8 am she was walking along Dead Dog Highway when all of a sudden she felt a twinge and by 9.20 am she was sitting up in hospital with a baby on her breast! Sadly in all the good news there was one small loss. At the moment that she went into labour she was carrying Handsome Husband’s favourite shoes that she had kindly taken to the cobbler. These shoes are now four years old and he refuses to part with them, always having the cobbler attend to their needs. Last night we received a text that said: “I was paining so much I lost your shoes. Please forgive me.”

Handsome Husband  is not so filled with Happiness Joy right now. There are no shoe shops of any significance in Kampala and apparently blue and brown don’t match. (?) I am more than impressed that she recalled losing the shoes and that she is not just wrapped up in leaky breasts and new born tears.

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From Shoebox to Villa

Moving is a strange and tiring experience. In Montreal there is an odd phenomenon that sees a mass exodus from one apartment to another each July 1st. On the same day, every year you would find people lugging fridges up the spiral staircases that hug the outside of Triplex or 5plex apartments. By the evening everyone is happily and tiredly sipping beer and eating pizza out of boxes in their new homes that echo with the possibility of change.

I was reminded of that yesterday when the motley crew of movers and their motley truck and boxes came to transfer us from one Kampala world to another. The move went smoothly, although the haphazard way that our possessions were tossed into boxes left me sorely lacking in the underwear department when I had to go to a teacher’s TGIF drinks function at the end of the day. Trooper and Princess, having spent the afternoon with their best friends and now neighbours (how lucky is that!) came laughing through the door with friends in tow at 4.30pm and immediately set upon the joyous task of arranging their rooms. Of course it being the very first night in The Villa, their friends had to stay over so despite having no glasses, plates, nor kitchen we have already had our first Villa Sleepover.

The first night in a new place is a little odd, mainly due to the surprising outside noises that play their melody all night long.  Last night that melody included our Chinese neighbours who obviously have a fondness for Karaoke,  a pack of very sociable dogs that had plenty to discuss, the wind that played through the trees in our new garden and some apparent drag car racers who chose our street with its sharp corner for some late night entertainment. Once we have curtains to muffle the sounds and we have grown accustomed to the newness of it all I am sure these night-time noises will slip into the distant background.

Handsome Husband, who I practically had to force out of the house for his Boy’s Poker Night, ( these things are important!)  came home in the region of 2am and, since I was still awake thanks to the aforementioned Chinese/dogs/cars and a pesky and persistent mosquito, I had the interesting experience of trying to bypass Fort Knox to let him back in. I have never seen such a collections of barriers, doors, gates and padlocks. When one door was unsuccessful we tried another and luckily found success. I think we might need to learn the system today, if there is one.

I love my new house, sounds, keys, cold water and odd flushing toilets and all. This is a new Kampala.

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Moving tales

Moving day approaches and we have run out of boxes. I called the trusty mover to suggest that maybe he should bring a LOT of boxes tomorrow and he said he has 8 ready for us. 8. I pointed out that it would be neigh impossible to pack up any home into 8 boxes and with a great sigh he asked how many we might need. 20 I said. Bring 20 to be on the safe side. Unhappily he agreed to try and make 20 appear out of thin air, rueing the day he ever agreed to take on this job.

Handsome Husband thinks it is hilarious that upon seeing supermarket boxes I had the gall to ask if maybe he had any of those lovely wardrobe boxes to carry clothes. You know, the ones with an inbuilt bar to slip hangers onto. I live in hope, always in hope.

We did a run over to the house with our car, the happy Beauty, filled to the brim. Tragically I broke a mirror as we were unloading.

I am worried about 7 years bad luck. Not sure I could take 7 years of bad luck in Uganda. Maybe in Montreal, London or Trinidad, but not in Uganda.

When we came home ready to pack clothes and shoes into a suitcase the shoebox was already deep into the darkness of a power cut. So I have selected to drink wine instead.

Tomorrow new house.

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Moving house the Kampala way

What was I thinking?

We have moved A LOT so when I called a moving company to shift our things from Shoebox to The Villa I thought I was dealing with a professional situation.  It  started well, a well spoken gentleman in a dark car with tinted windows came to look around and give us an estimate. I thought we were going to be in good hands. That was on Thursday at 6pm. By Monday there was still no estimate in my inbox. Finally I received a text saying that his email was down and that the price would be 660,000 shillings ( $325.) I am not sure where he got that price from, probably somewhere in his head because when I texted a quick reply that I found his price outrageous he, without much hesitation, came down to 555,000 shillings. No, I replied, that was still too steep, particularly considering the fact that we would be doing most of the packing and it was a simply a small shoebox full of things. I said we would not consider paying a shilling over 400,000. Then silence. Nothing. I started to panic. We were moving in three days and we had no men, no truck and no boxes. This morning I learnt the lesson I should have learnt back when I was 14. Play hard to get.  He called and agreed to my price and promised to come over at 5.30 pm to deliver boxes and collect his 50% deposit.

I was excited. Hope filled our small home as we sat and waited and waited. By the time he rolled up at 7.45pm we were deep into a power cut and the idea of filling boxes was turning into a fantasy.

You know how boxes normally come flat, new and stiff? Well silly me for forgetting I was in Africa. These boxes are probably on their 7th trip around the block, a motley assortment of sizes, they are and bent out of shape too. Did I imagine maybe 20 or so boxes? Well we have 7. They did use tape to turn them back into the boxes they once and more than once were but they had no scissors. Luckily we did.

Over in the Great Shiny West we use brand new boxes to move and then we throw them onto the curb. Here nothing is wasted, nothing is thrown out. No wonder he was insisting on unpacking in the new house. He wants his boxes back!

I have no idea how Friday will go.

The charming thing is that both Princess and Trooper ran upstairs to pack their room by candlelight.


Filed under Family Stuff, Might be funny, Uganda

“Did you hear what the teacher said?”

Well I am back at work and teenagers keep pouring into my classroom.  Funny how one new male student, with reasonable looks and a certain charm can throw all the girls into a tizzy. The whole class is like a mini hurricane and he is the eye of the storm. The girls don’t know where to look or put themselves so try teaching them grammar under such conditions. Meanwhile the boys are all aware of this new rooster in the flock so chests and puffed and struts are strutting. The hormones are a raging.

Now imagine this little scene. We have two text books with long and convoluted names; to make things easier I have decided to refer to them by the name of the author, one being Barr and one Cox. Today I directed them to the attractive steel prison grey cabinets to collect their supplies and once they were all seated, legs splayed and chests out I asked in my best cheery teacher voice:

“Ok everyone! Have you all got your Cox out?”

It’s only day two.


Filed under Might be funny, Miss Teacher

The week that went by too fast

I have been very neglectful of 3limes; let me explain. I landed back in Kampala town on a Friday, late afternoon and after a very pleasant weekend of family time and lengthly day dreaming and list writing related to our new house I was back at work Monday morning. Bright, early but not so bushy tailed and bright eyed it was time to jump back into the teacher’s saddle. Luckily there would be a whole week before the students arrived to try and figure out what exactly I would be doing this year. The week flew by at lightning speed and by Friday morning I had a plan for the year but not a plan for the first week, let alone the first day. This year I have some serious new challenges as I will be teaching courses never taught before and I needed to wrap my head around the planning stage.  I arrived at work very early Friday morning to scratch out some ideas for Week 1 and then the entire staff headed to a lovely resort on Lake Victoria, about 35 minutes outside of town. We were there for some team building, bonding and meetings. I was not expecting to have quite as much fun as I did and returned Saturday afternoon with an impressive hangover. This is not a common occurrence; in fact I estimate the last time I felt quite so “day after” to be close to many years ago. The evening was spent stroking the hair of the dog as I we were invited to a party where upon arrival I was promptly handed a much appreciated Bloody Mary. Bloody good it was too.

So here we are Sunday morning and facing Back To School in less than 24 hours.

So that is why I have been neglectful. I will make it up to you, promise. Once I get my teaching feet back on the ground I have a creative project in mind. Keep posted.

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Filed under Kampala, Miss Teacher

My patchwork summer

When I look back on my month in London it feels sort of like a giant patch work quilt; each quilt being a person from a chapter in my past. I had the great fortune, with thanks on the whole to facebook, of reuniting with some very special friends that I had not seen in a long while. I zigzagged London and the Home Counties on trains, tube and bus to see people, share fabulous meals, laughter and memories.

On one square of the quilt we have a friend who was my bestest friend in the whole world when I was 5 and living in Hong Kong. I wish I lived in the next village to her so I could sit at her kitchen table and talk about life, children and the chaos of having too many animals. On another, a teacher, in fact the best teacher I ever had who I had not seen since I was 13. It was a pretty awesome experience to meet up and have lunch with her. She has the same smile and energy she has always had and when we met and hugged on the street under her umbrella in the rain she said she would always have recognized me on the street, likewise me to her.  Another square holds my best male friend from University. We met in the Law faculty ( yes, I was very nearly a lawyer) at the age of 19 and shared many a meal together over those 4 years, both in my family home and in some fancy spots in London. We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years and like true friends it felt like yesterday. A pretty colourful square is filled with university friends; we spent a whole weekend together enjoying their tiny children and trying to remember names of songs we liked back in 1988. We were all convinced that we hadn’t changed a bit, and it certainly felt like we hadn’t despite the little naked children running around the garden.

Then there is a boarding school friend. We shared a dorm back when we were 14, now we were eating lunch while her toddler doodled, her baby slept and her teenage son played computer games. She had been at my wedding, I at her first wedding, many years had passed and we were still special friends. Another square holds yet another school friend (and fellow blogger) and her 4 year old daughter. It was a funny relief knowing that thanks to 3limes we could dispense with all the catching up, so to speak. We spent an afternoon at the Tate Modern and an evening drinking wine. She is an impressive and brilliant writer and business woman and it was great to listen and giggle together.

I realized, again,  how many of my friends have had children later than me when I met another University friend and her 5 year old son. This girl was the first person I met when I was a fresh faced fresher out on my first night in University. Now I live in Uganda and she is a clever scientist and mother living in London. A special square holds a precious piece of Montreal. Since I couldn’t make it there this summer and wonderful friend and godmother to Clea who I call my “big sister” flew to London for two weeks. It was simply amazing particularly seeing how quickly she and my mother became friends.

Another square from my more recent past in Trinidad holds a special colleague and friend from school there. We had an unexpected but lovely few hours in central London chatting about our favourite students, the past, the future and beyond. I never imagined a piece of Trinidad would come to London this summer, nor two pieces of Uganda, one whom I met for lunch and a few stolen minutes of quick shopping and another in my mother’s living room. In the last square my whole world collided when one old childhood friend met one Indiana from Kampala in the middle of my mother’s house. A loud ringing seemed to pass through my ears as time crashed into a small moment on a sofa.

My patchwork quilt proved that time is elastic and real friends stay true. It was something exceptional that I imagine my gypsy life needed. If I don’t know where in the world I really belong, I do know that there are people out there that tie my past together.


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Good News

Often I have a nervous Blog Moment. Does anyone really want to hear about my pregnant house keeper? My new house? Princess’s Chatterbox status, starting school? And then I plod on, typing away more for myself than in any vain hope that someone out there in the blogosphere is reading. It is a funny business though. So if you are bored and don’t want to read about the good news brewing in the world of 3limes, stop now.

We might need to change Princess’s name to Princess Chatterbox. Since returning to Kampala we have barely had a moment when she is not chatterboxing away; from the moment she awakes to the moment her pretty head hits the pillow she has something to say and the house is never quiet. Why is this good news? Because it means she is happy and when I think back to a year ago when we were waking up in the Cockroach Palace I think I have a different child.

We are moving out of the Shoebox! In two weeks! While we were in London galavanting Handsome Husband wasn’t just working, swimming laps and sipping beer. No, he was house hunting and after visiting close to 15 houses he found us a real gem. We are hopping with excitement, girls are day dreaming about paint colours and I am imagining sunday morning coffees on the veranda. Handsome Husband will be bending over, shovel in hand planting beans and carrots while I stare at the trees and sip coffee.

We are getting a washing machine. I am ridiculously happy about this point. I am 41 and drooling over a square machine that washes clothes. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Our housekeeper is pregnant.  (Yes I have a housekeeper. I live in Africa people and I will take the perks!) This is not really good news, to be perfectly honest. She already has one child and no husband. However this is her affair. She never told us she was with child, probably fearing the security of her job so finally I decided to broach the subject. After some months of watching her putting on weight it was becoming too obvious to simply blame on an over dose of matoke. The conversation went well. I assured her we would take care of her, pay her during her time at home and informed her that we would be moving to a larger house and that she would therefore be getting a raise. But nothing made her smile quite as much as the news that we were finally getting a washing machine. For 10 months this sweet young thing as has bending over and hand washing for a a family of 4. This is soon to come to an end.

Back to work tomorrow. No this is not really classified as good news other than the fact that finally getting down to some work will appease my stress over the fact that I have not yet read one single text that I am due to teach.


Filed under Family Stuff

Meet Irma

Photo not in the slightest bit relevant but it was taken in London by Princess, and I think it is gorgeous.

What kind of crazy person drinks strong expresso at 6.30pm?  Of course I only remembered drinking the coffee with a sort of “ohhhhh…” feeling when I still couldn’t sleep at 1am. So here I am downstairs typing in the dark in the middle of the night. I am safely back in Kampala and after a month away very content to be a family again. Handsome Husband stayed behind to work while we were all off playing in the Great Shiny West and it was a happy reunion at the airport, which is a strange sort of symmetry was also the exact 1 year anniversary of our first arrival in Uganda.  What a difference a year makes, and what a difference a month away makes too. I have been thinking about how different places make one feel like different people. I generally feel quite good about myself here, I even have days when I feel a tinge of glamour. In London, however I tended to feel like a country bumpkin, especially in the first weeks. After a while I started to recover my composure, or perhaps that was the shopping.

In any case this is something wrote early on in my month long sojurn. Welcome to Irma. ( with apologies to any seriously Glam Irma’s out there. It was the first name that seemed to fit the way I felt. Doesn’t everybody name their alter egos?)

After about a week in London I start to feel like Irma. She is the name I have given to a fictional character in my head. A slightly frumpy school librarian whose daughters are at camp for the summer so she has decided to come to London to visit her glamorous and sophisticated friends. Wearing too much linen, Birkinstocks and with the ubiquitous Coach bag slung over her chest she screams of a comfortable existence in the American backwater. Irma, lives in my mind, and an Irma day comes from spending too much time with my very thin and fashionable Mother and Sister.  When I wake up feeling like Irma my Handsome Husband always reassures me that I am no Irma and that I must take myself off, head high, to buy some shoes. He knows the therapy I need.

So Irma, did indeed head off for a day of retail therapy in Selfridges with said thin and glamourous mother and sister. By the end of the day Irma was beginning to shed and my inner city self, hidden for too long, began to emerge. Honestly there isn nothing like a Chanel red lipstick and a pair of heels to shake Irma away. Now what am I to do with heels and red lips in Kampala, I have no idea. There in a nutshell do we find, once again the in-between world of 3limes.

Irma hasn’t surfaced for awhile. She seems not to visit Kampala that often.


Filed under Might be funny, personal

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Yes. Leaving today and heading home to the real world of Kampala after a whole month in London! It has been the dose of the west I needed and I am returning with renewed vigour, good spirits and hope for a good year. I have eaten my fill of cheese and Waitrose food,  shopped ’till I dropped, coveted soft leather handbags, bought red lipstick, been to the doctor for an all over check up and out, spent good times with special people, loved up my nieces and nephew,  laughed with Sophisticated Chelsea Girl, my sister, and stared at good art. I am happy, satiated and content. And now back to Africa.

I will post more London memories in the coming days but for now I leave London with a last few pictures. Next time….from Uganda.


Filed under Great Big Shiny West, Photography