Monthly Archives: March 2011

You Rule

Good morning and welcome to the Birthday Post. Every year I write on my birthday. I started this blog when I was 39 and went through all the agonies, fear and ultimate satisfaction of turning 40 on these pages. Today I am 42 and that looks a lot older when you see it up there on the screen than it really feels.

Despite Handsome Husband being so far away I am still being made to feel special on this birthday by the lovely Trooper and Princess who laid a trail of mini happy birthday cards leading from my bed room to a balloon adorned dining room this morning. There I was presented with a gorgeous present that I had picked out myself and presented to them for wrapping; it is a butter soft brown leather clutch bag with African beading design, and handmade cards. I was also shown the Chocolate Cheese cake that we are going to eat later. It was made by them while I was out last night and they are thrilled to bits with their inventiveness and prowess about the kitchen.

So I am a lucky girl, and birthdays are meant to be celebrated no matter the number. I am the Fairy Godmother of Birthdays, according to my friends, they cannot go by unnoticed.

In other news we celebrated Athletics this week at school and it was a most excellent display of school spirit and athletic ability. Lots of running, leaping, throwing and jumping. I managed to get out of the Teacher’s Race, not having enjoyed the mirth that followed my slow sprint around the track last year. I found some PE dept volunteers who were more than happy to give us a fair chance of winning. This photo sums up the day. I like both the message and the medium.

Yes: You Rule and it is so much better said with a Sharpie on a bare leg.

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Filed under I have two girls, Miss Teacher

Being brave, driving, finding snails and the pretty.

I am not writing enough. Perhaps I am in less of a reflective mood and more of a get on with it and cope mood. We are trudging along here with out our Handsome. He is happy over there in our future home; he has survived one sand storm and multiple temptations in the shopping department. He has a car now and is installed in a small and sweet apartment on the beach. And us? Well we have been keeping ourselves sane with homework, Thai food, the occasional Margarita and plenty of cutting out of paper fish. ( Poisson d’avril, ladies and gentleman, will soon be upon us.)

I am being terribly brave and driving all over the place. As one or two of you may know I am very frightened of driving in Kampala, and Handsome Husband did very nearly ALL the driving when he was here. Now it is me behind the wheel and it is amazing what happens when you take away the element of choice. We just have to cope. The bumps, the pot holes, the crazy boda boda drivers, the maniacs who think you can just cut someone off, the pedestrians who assume we will stop or slow down, the nonsensical  magic roundabouts, the lack of traffic lights, I am fighting fierce and doing it all.

Do I have anything else to tell you?

We had a giant snail walking up our wall. Here it is:

And sometime next week I will be another year older. I have purchased myself a lovely birthday present, quite a feat to find something I am so excited about in Kampala and it has been hidden away in Trooper’s room to be pulled out on my birthday. I can’t tell you what it is, because we are pretending it is a surprise.

But it is pretty and we all need pretty things now and again.

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Filed under Being brave, I miss shopping.

My International Weekend where I met a Waterboy in Kampala

It started Friday with International Day at school, one of my favourite days. The entire school marched, Olympic Ceremony Style, country by country. We had our first bearers of the South Sudan Flag, a small but significant Albania Team and even a tiny tot from Nepal. It is a reminder of one of the best things about being involved with an international school, we have over 50 different nationalities here and they all play, work, learn, laugh and eat side by side every day. When do you ever get a chance to see the Israeli and Lebanese flags waving proudly side by side. In these fractious times, such a march gives hope.

Then Friday night I became just a little bit Irish as I headed down to a popular watering hole to listen to some Irish tunes. A live band flown all the way in from Ireland played for our delights and inspired some high leg kicks on the dance floor. The entire event took place under the pink glow of the super-moon, not the only moon I was thinking of, however. It turns out the fiddler in the band is a member of both the Waterboys and World Party. Since I am a huge fan I became star struck and did indeed see the whole of the moon. We should have been at the always lively Journee Francophonie, thereby adding a little French to my weekend, but other events transpired and the French day never happened for us.

However Sunday saw coffee with the Spanish and lunch with the Americans.

And all the while I was missing a piece of me in Bahrain.

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The rains have come

The rains have come. The smell is green and deep and musty and the parched yellow grass has already perked up and turned green. In fact the whole garden looks shiny, dark, lush and alive. The change in seasons is welcome as it had become too hot and sticky here. Now it has cooled down to a refreshing degree, I nearly wanted a sweater this morning. There are so few opportunities to feel cool in Kampala.

But every time the rains come there is a small nudge of fear, of worry that something might go wrong. Last year saw the terrible landslide tragedy at Bududa in Eastern Uganda near Mt Elgon. The destruction was a direct consequence of deforestation since there were insufficient trees left to prevent the land from slipping away. The trees are cut down to make charcoal which is then used  for heat and cooking. What alternative do they have? With no electricity and a lack of funds to purchase solar powered panels, charcoal is their means of energy. But the earth suffers and the scars left by the landslides are the proof.

And a less tragic, yet sad all the same, consequence of the rains is the destruction they cause to the mud huts. Mud likes to melt in the rain and when your house is sliding to the ground the only thing for it is to rebuild, and rebuild again.

So while I am breathing in the mulchy goodness and loving the cooler nights a thought must be spared for those whose lives are inconvenienced by the rains.

The earth is angry elsewhere too, as we well know. We are all thinking about Japan. At first we felt relief that this was a First World country with an infra structure prepared for disaster, to a point. Yet the first world comes with First World problems and leaking radiation would be that.

I lived in Japan for 7 years. I normally tell people that I grew up in Japan. When I think of my childhood, it is Tokyo. It is bike rides to school, cherry blossoms crushed under bike wheels, it is the smell of Roppongi, the steam coming from tiny noodle shops, white gloved taxi drivers, orderly, safe, honourable, kind. It is earthquake drills at school where we had to crouch under our desks, it is always wondering if “the Big One would come” it is the Iced Coffee in a thin tin can from a vending machine, it is the smell of the stationary shops.  It is so much more. Japan is deeply rooted in my early memories and my sensual recollections. I am remembering and thinking and hoping. For Japan.

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Filed under observations, Uganda

Nobody died.

It is often very complicated to get the simple things done over here. The frustrations of modern life are magnified by Ugandan bureaucracy and tempers either flare or wine is consumed while mumbling TIA, TIA frequently into the bottle. Here is an example of how to make life so much more complicated then it needs to be.

Handsome Husband needed a police clearance form, something regularly requested by future employers, and this involved a number of visits to a particular police station to collect forms to prove that he is an upstanding member of society with no criminal past lurking in his closet.

It went like this:

First a phone call or two was made to determine where the station was. Not any police station will do. In the end a helpful Ugandan man who has taken many a teacher through this process accompanied him to show him where it was. While there Handsome was handed a form and told that since he is Canadian he would need a letter from his country before the Ugandan police force could do anything for him. He was also told that money would need to be paid into a specific bank account at a specific bank and a receipt collected in proof.

So a trip was made to a bank and to the Canadian Consulate to request a form saying something about him actually being Canadian and not just pretending to be.

Then another trip back to the consul to collect the form and wads of cash were handed over.

Finally back to the police office. This time I went along, just for the fun of it. What you might expect is a proper office with steel cabinets, walls made of wood or concrete, maybe paint and certainly a few chairs in a waiting room.

What you get instead is a plywood corridor with small rooms off to one side. The rooms are furnished with two benches and two desks. The walls are all plywood, not a lick of paint, and I believe I saw a calendar from 2009 thumbtacked to one shaky wall.

Forms must be filled out, one letter must be copied exactly as the one on the grubby  wall, many waiting people are either squeezed onto one bench in the hall way or crouched on the floor.

Then time for finger printing, then you are sent to a small sink with a timid flow of water to rinse off the ink, then another man behind another desk collects even more money.

( I took a few clandestine photos with my iphone.  Don’t tell.)

But we are not done! One week later a visit must be paid to the central Interpol office in Kampala. It is a totally difference experience, in that the building is larger and in a different neighbourhood. But the differences end there. A wait of close to one and a half hours must take place on a bench. And lo and behold once you get to the front of the line it appears that more money must be paid! But no! Not in person. Another visit to that same particular bank ( why do it the first time? Why that would make too much sense!), and a deposit must be paid, a receipt must be grabbed and brought back pronto, creased in palm, put of breath, panting. Could this be the end? Are we done here?

Not quite yet. More waiting. And finally a lady descends some stairs. She is holding a pile of letters. Letters that say that you are a good, decent person, who has not committed a crime, yet. But give us another hour of this process and maybe that will all change. Maybe a crime will happen. here in this very place, something crazy and impatient and bloody.

Yes she has your form in her hand. But no you cannot have it yet. You must have your photo taken and damn it if looks like a mug shot, you are tired, you have had enough.

When the paper is finally handed over, it is carried to the car carefully, like the most precious piece of paper ever carried. It is like gold, only more precious. It’s value cannot be measured in the hours spent, the sweat poured, the money handed over. This piece of paper is proof that you have survived.

Incidentally I required a police clearance in Montreal, once. I went into an office, filled out a form and paid $15. Done. 10 minutes. It was mailed to me once it was ready.

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Transitions

I was terribly spoilt living with Handsome Husband. Since he had the car and the flexible work hours he did all the grocery shopping, all the hard labour ( collecting portable gas for the stove, charcoal for the live in help), all the car maintenance, all the bureaucracy  ( car insurance, bill payments, banking), and all the driving. Now it is my job and quite frankly I feel a little daunted by the task. The last time we were separated for any considerable length of time was in Montreal when he left for Trinidad, 5 months before us. But that was easy compared to this. I was in my home, with my comforts, my friends, my easy routine, my grocery store I could walk to, my on line banking, my smooth roads.

Now, plenty of people do it. I know a fabulously brave woman who moved to Kampala as a single mother of two children, works full time and has recently adopted a third child. I am not in her league of braveness but perhaps I am braver than I think. I had been regretting my lack of independence in Kampala and now I will get it back in spades. How often do married people ever get a chance to live alone? A couple tends to grow dependant on each other and a separation helps us to stretch our independent muscles and go it alone. I have a rare chance to experience the independent single life, (although without all its benefits.) Most people, unless they marry a soldier in the oversees forces, barely have a day or two alone. And here I get three whole months.

Still I will miss him. And worry. What sort of cosmic miss-timing sends a person to Bahrain to start a new job the day before Martial Law is declared?

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Whose world I am living in anyway?

Handsome Husband has left. He left his three sad girls in a Kampala house on a rainy day and flew off into the skies over to a country that is up in arms, cross, angry and full of hatred, fear and the expectation of change. I have no opinion on the troubles in Bahrain, I am not equipped to judge. I do know one thing though, a visit to Uganda would throw some perspective into the mix. They might realize that their lives aren’t that bad, that protesting and halting an economy might damage the good they don’t know they have. Just a thought.

So since I am here and he is there I am going to focus on what I am here to do. Teach. After all I am only staying here, husbandless for the next three months, honing my survivior skills, selling a car, lovely handmade and personally designed furniture ( I thought I was staying longer so I invested….) so that my self and my two girls may finish up the school year.

So time for a Miss Teacher post.

Look what delightful reading matter I am teaching, all at the same time. It is a wonder I don’t get very confused or at least have some very odd dreams.

Madame Bovary

Midsummer’s Night Dream

Much Ado About Nothing

Romeo and Juliet

Medea

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Quite the mixed bag, I say. And when I am not swimming in the seas of Alabama, Rouen, Athens or Verona I have my head stuck in the sand and the sand is all full of Mad Men. I am actually living many worlds, my days are spent with the above, I particularly like having conversations in my head with Emma, ( come on pull yourself together! ) or Hero ( don’t take him back! He called you a “stale!”) or Medea ( you go girl! He ripped you off! He ripped out your heart!) or Romeo ( Don’t do it! Don’t kill Tybalt it won’t end well!) or young Maya ( sit up straight and be quiet. It will all be fine in the end.)

My nights are spent with Don Draper.

I live in many a world.

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