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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