Monthly Archives: January 2011

Peeking at Pearls

Miss Princess has started a blog. Yes she has. And she asked me very politely if I may mention it to you. I said I would, and I am, but only because it is really rather good and sweet. I hope she keeps it up since it is a very good idea and a great discipline that will keep her “Friends” DVD consumption at bay. I feel she will attend to it regularly as it is about her most favourite obsession: fashion and design.

So check it out. You won’t be sorry.

Peeking at Pearls .

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With apologies to Montreal

Oh God. I complained about the snow and the cold and the ice and the shovelling for 15 years. Now I am too hot, my classroom is a sauna and I need to run to the IT lab, the only room in all of Kampala with air conditioning to do my marking. Yesterday Handsome Husband lost me in a large over priced appliance store: I was standing in front of a portable air conditioning unit. Generally we are lucky here, it never gets that hot, thanks to the altitude, but now it is the dry season and the heat just climbs and clings and settles on my head and around my body stifling me. I am longing for a cold day so that I may beg to be warm and wrap myself in a long soft and warm shawl, scarf thing like this:

Thanks Sartorialist.

Sorry Montreal friends. Really I am. I know that it was -21 at 6am the other day and I know that you are all fed up right about now. I would be too. This would be the one week of the year I would refuse to go out, it would be my hibernation week and I would be calling friends to bring me Starbucks and Sushi STAT. So I know I should keep my mouth firmly buttoned up as I have no right to complain. But I just wanted to say…the grass is not always greener on the other side. Sometimes it is dry and yellow and hot.

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Filed under Kampala, observations

Television: friend or foe.

I have been thinking about the Television. The whole family wants cable and I am resisting. Other than Dvds we have no TV at the moment, it has been close to two years since we have any TV at all. The girls are both tucked into their Friends DVD set and we download Glee when we need to. I just prefer my home without the drone of television. I prefer not to see my daughters slumped in front of the Disney channel. Am I cruel? Am I right?

So it has got me thinking about television. In Tokyo where I spent my formative years there was only one TV show in English each week. We had a special machine that could reverse the Japanese dubbing and return the one and only show back into its original American drawl. The show was Little House on the Prairie and we would dash home from wherever we were every Sunday night at 6pm to watch it. Like dogs, parched after a long walk, we would lap at the bowl of TV with relish. When we were desperate for more we would sit, open mouthed and panting in front of a Japanese Soap, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, hoping that the foreign words would seep into our brains through some form of osmosis and click with meaning. They never did.

Then the era of VHS dawned and we could rent movies and watch them all summer long in a  darkened room, curtains drawn, the air conditioner humming.

Boarding school had a TV room, but it was primarily for Thursday night Top of the Pops and that was basically it.  Then my parents moved to New York and suddenly we had a TV in every room, we prayed to the altar of American TV nightly, starved had been, and we soaked it up, every last drop of it, soaps, trash, the lot. We became addicted. Early morning MTV would flick on, then the morning shows, then Family Ties and all the shows we had missed in our Tokyo years. Like deprived orphans we took advantage of the bounty.

When I moved to Montreal, in the early days TV was my constant companion while Handsome Husband worked at the bar nights and I didn’t know a soul. We had a tiny apartment on Jeanne Mance, with brick walls and a claw foot tub. Our futon bed doubled as our sofa and our TV was tiny, black and white and needed a spanner to turn the channel dial. I sat, spooning Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream into my mouth and watched bad TV in shades of grey. Finally on one memorable Boxing Day, frigid with cold and with sharp winds whipping our cheeks we heading out to part with some valuable cash. It was time for a colour TV and we splashed out on a 14” Mitsubishi. It even had a remote control! Now we could watch hockey in colour! The Habs in all their scarlet glory!  We didn’t care that we couldn’t afford cable; we we thrilled with the news in Technicolor and having no further need for the spanner we lost it behind a book shelf.

The love affair with American TV continued, through LA Law, ER, Chicago Hope, those medical dramas filling my Thursday nights at McGill.  But not until Winnipeg did we get cable and then came those long nights breastfeeding Trooper, when I would watch Law and Order, one after the other while she sucked in my arms.

The years went by and the interest came and went. Always my TV deprived childhood years a justification to my addiction to a few shows. I would only allow myself 5 shows a week. Anymore and it was TOO much. I would be a TV whore.

And here we are now. Handsome Husband and I sit with a lap top on our bed and we stream the few shows we love. The internet is sometimes shaky, we always have to start the process a good 20 mins or more before we settle down to watch, get the show downloaded before the power cuts at the very least.  Sometimes we head over to the well stocked pirated DVD shop to buy an entire series that we can watch in luxury, on the proper big screen TV from the comfort of our sofa. Mad Men is a current favourite.

But still the call for cable comes at least twice a week. Mainly from HH during some major sporting event. But the way it stands now, I have managed to weed out the junk and monitor the intake.

Still, I do love my American TV. Now more than ever, that I am so far removed from the culture of the Great Shiny West. I need my McDreamy, my House, my Donald Draper, my Hank Moody, my Sue Sylvester. We let these fictional people into our lives and they never want to leave.

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When a girl has a birthday…

The Festival of Turning 11 has passed with success and some pomp. There were presents, flowers, pink icing, happy girls, movies, giggles by the pool and  the happy flurry of girls taking over the house. In a nutshell here are the scenes from this past weekend:

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The in-between world of 3limes

Excuse me while I pat myself on my back. I have been writing 3limes, posting on average 2-3 times a week for two and a half years. This morning Princess asked me this question:” What if you don’t have a good week or nothing fun happens, what do you blog about?”

Good question. The rigour of finding something to say, that might not bore my readers to tears is a discipline I need. No matter what is going on, I need to find something to write, say, and comment on, photograph. I am generally an open book who finds it hard to hide behind words. There are things I cannot write, people I cannot mention, and a school of which I cannot write. There are marital dramas, painful episodes, loss, love, picking up and wondering how you got there, wonder at it all, fear, discomfort, anger. All these things can be hinted at but rarely spoken. And yet I persevere, keep writing, leaking little clues.

The other day I met a woman who knew within days of moving here that she would stay here for life. She instantly loved it and felt at home. I envied her, wishing that I too had that certainty about where I live. As a child I moved every four years, I never broke the spell until Montreal and for that reason despite my gypsy rearing, Montreal has always been home. And yet it is no longer. I fight the desire to return.

I live in an in-between world. I am a teacher but don’t live the life of an expat  teacher, having a family, a husband and being generally 10 years older than most, not having the freedoms they have. I am an expat but do not have the husband with the job that provides the expat perks, I am English but so very not English, more Canadian really, but then again, really not Canadian either. I am writer, but not published, a photographer who is too busy to organize the exhibition that is brewing in my mind. I am a mother of two girls who wishes for a third, a son preferably, yet I will not have any more children. I am a sister, a daughter and aunt but live 5000 miles from any family.

I live in Africa on borrowed land. This is not my place.  Whenever I complain to Handsome Husband that my soul is uneasy, I do not feel myself here, he asks the million dollar question: “so where?”

And all I can ask for is the sea, where I find the peace my wandering soul asks for.

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11 years later.

 

Princess is 11 today. There will be a festival of sorts, cupcakes at school, dinner with friends, a Saturday night party, more cake. She deserves it; after all she is my sunshine girl.

Princess is so much more than her name. Camper extraordinaire, friend to all, t-shirt designer, Sartorialist obsessed, champion shower singer; her room is a blaze of pink and softness, her wardrobe a cornucopia of colour, hair bands and scents. She will curl up and read beside me for hours or stand in the kitchen chopping onions and stirring warmed chocolate, preparing a feast of some sort.

She cried for the first year and a half of her life. While the rest of the world settled into the comfort of knowing the new millennium would not strip us of water, power or the internet, in short the world would not stop, ( do you remember that crazy worry? the stockpiling of water and tins of chick peas? What was that?) Princess was crying, screaming even most days, cross with something that none of us could figure out. As soon as she could speak and express her discomfort when things were not specific enough for her, she stopped crying and started smiling and talking. She has not stopped since.

The first three weeks here in Kampala, back in August 2009 when we leapt over two continents to move here she was not happy. In fact she was terrified, devastated and turned inside out with misery. She wanted to leave and she wanted to go NOW. It was the first time since those early years that we had seen her so miserable and we worried that she might not overcome the discomfort of being here; the cockroaches in the “palace” the abject poverty, the dirt, the chaos. Princess likes everything “just so” and Kampala at first was anything but.

Now she often thanks us for her life, exclaiming that she is so happy, she loves the adventure of her life, the opportunity to see and feel and do so much more than her friends in the first world. I love her grateful manner and her positivity that shines through each day.

I am thinking of 11 years ago. Sharp blue skies, bone chilling wind, a late January Montreal day. As I held my little blanket wrapped parcel of love and looked out of the window of the Queen Vic, across the sheer white fields of McGill I could never have fathomed how life would change so much. Here I am 11 years later, marking the passage of time with a curly girl in my arms and I am amazed.

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5 Beautiful Things. Much needed.

 

 

Some days you just need to be reminded of the beautiful things.

 

So on a day that has delivered some bad news, proved more frustrating than most and not shone as it should have I am looking for the beauty.

 

5 Beautiful things.

 

Princess is taking voice lessons. Last night she sang for us, warm, melodious, full of promise.

 

Queen of the night, a pungent, sweet, sexy scent that fills the air once the sun goes down. We planted it, it has wrapped itself around a tree and now sings for us every night with the strength of its scent.

 

Trooper just finished To Kill a Mockingbird. The wonder of the book is written all over her face. She is struck by the magic of a phenomenal book.

 

A new bed. Big, white, high, I sit upon it like a queen upon a plump marshmallow.

 

If you open your eyes you might see this.

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Kampala through the peephole

I often get requests for more photos of Kampala.  People ask: ” what do the streets look like? What about the shops?” I will endeavor to bring supermarket snap shops in the near future but in the mean time here is a glimpse of Kampala, through the peephole.

Here is the neighborhood disco. It might not have the glitz and shine but it certainly has the boom boom.

Hitch a ride on our chairs for free! Honest!

Here is a local convenience store. Airtime, coke, lentils, bread and conversation.

Moonlight Butchery. We ‘ll do it at night. They’ll never know.

All you need is an umbrella and a chair and airtime is good to go.

If we say it is divine; it really is.

 

We are practicing something to do with guns. We use sticks instead of guns and we have no uniforms. But we are still practicing.

Don’t you agree it is better to put all the merchandise on the sidewalk? That way no one needs to come inside, no one needs to advertise. It is all simply there. Window shopping without the windows.

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The classroom is a safer place, perhaps.

So now I have written my four posts about the Kenayapalooza Road trip that was, and having been back for two weeks now and back at school for one it is starting to feel like it all happened some time ago. As a family we have decided that it will be some time before we embark on any long drives and have equally agreed on the necessity to get back to the beach ASAP ( by plane this time.)

I have been so fortunate to have crossed Kenya and seen what a diverse and beautiful country it is. I really adored Kenya, the people, the landscape the stunning vistas. It has a very different feel to Uganda; one I am still trying to put my finger on. Partly it holds the colonial influence of the British in a way that Uganda never has. There are the towns that still have some old world charm, all the little shops by the road side have taken the time and care to paint signs and colourfully announce their existence. There is less rubbish strewn by the side of the road, the roads are smooth and mainly pot hole free, things work efficiently, I spotted more than one post office. It is a place I’d like to go back to, a weekend in Nairobi would be especially sweet.

What never fails to amaze me is the variety of crazy things seen on the road. The trucks that bend under their ridiculous load; threatening to topple over us as we overtake. The buses that are painted in honour of a foot ball star or Jesus Christ, the sheepskin rugs and juicy carrots sold to happy passersby, the random street signs, the donkeys pulling a load seemingly impossible to manage. It is never dull, always colourful, often funny, sometimes terrifying.

 

How many chairs can you fit on a bicycle?

Do you think you could fit one more on top?

Please note that some of the sand bags had fallen off the back. A case of overly optimistic loading.

Hello Jesus!

Princess and the Pea?

Doing the Matoke Push and Pull.

 

The view is different now. I am once again looking at the bowed heads of students scratching out a story, or the raised hands of children eager to have a turn. The classroom might be a safer place but as I help these kids get ready for exams, be ready and set for what comes next I jump over each hurdle, one at a time. It is a crazy road out there; I’m hiding inside Camp Hormone for a while.

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Hot bath, Great Dane, Aussies in Distress but no Leopards.

We were greeted by a collection of cheerful dogs, ranging from Obelisk the magnificent Great Dane to Sock the Daschund puppy with one white foot. The children poured out of the cars and began to embrace and hop about with these fellow puppies, excited to use some of their pent up energy. The adults searched for beer and sorted out who would be sleeping where. The girls were all put into a little two story cottage with miniature deck poking through the leaves. We were shown to Acacia cottage. Kembu farm is a very special place.  It is owed and run by the Nightingale family who has lived on the farm for 5 generations. It is a working farm with cottages and camping, happy bar and campfire. On our second night there we were treated to homemade pizza cooked in the genuine pizza oven by Mr Nightingale and his sons. A true, welcoming family experience, it is the sort of place I could imagine staying happily for a whole week. Especially in Acacia Cottage.

Our cottage was like a story book house in the English Countryside. The walls were brick and adorned with old black and white family photos, the table, set with white linen and flowers faced the window which faced an ancient tree set upon a rolling lawn. It was the perfect space to sit and read. But best of all was the hot bath that I climbed into with some glee within minutes of arriving. It was a particularly relaxing place. So much so that we all decided to stay put and read the next morning. Then it was time to visit the famous Nakuru National Park.

This park is small, and is set around a lake famous for its flamingo population. It is also renowned for its Rhinos and leopards. I have now been on a considerable number of game drives and have been fortunate to see everything from Cheetahs to Hyenas, Rhinos to Lions, elephants to Giraffes and Zebra. The only animal that has evaded my beady eye is the leopard. Nakuru has the densest leopard population in Kenya so I felt certain it would be my lucky day. It was not to be. And it has now become a standing joke amongst Kampala friends who see these fabulous cats within minutes of their Murchison Falls drives. Instead I did see Rhinos and towards the end of the drive an Australian, standing in a bright red t-shirt behind his white car waving furiously with his arms to get our attention. Our friend had run out of diesel and how lucky he was that we were there, and even luckier to find a safari vehicle with strong rope to lend us so we could pull him out. It all could have been a lot worse. I did think for a moment that perhaps that would be the moment a leopard would come out and greet us, but gratefully it was not to be. The running out of diesel story meant that we were delayed leaving the park and therefore had to drive like a bat out of hell through the dark to return to Kembu farm. It was the one and only time we drove at night the entire trip and thankfully  only for 20 minutes. Driving at night in Africa is to be avoided; having had experiences involving scary cows, pot holes, bikes and sadly a crossing dog, I do not say this lightly. Our last night in Kenya and it was Pizza, a cuddle with the Great Dane and a hot bath before bed. We had an early start the next morning and at least 9 hours before we reached home.

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