Monthly Archives: January 2012

Cold Winds Blow, over seas and time.

My blood has settled itself into a warm and comfortable position; these years of living in the tropics have soothed my cold and chilly scars from many frigid Canadian winters. In Winnipeg I lived through an interminable winter season that broke records for the number of days below -20, where cars had to be plugged in nightly so they would crank to life again the next morning. I survived the mornings in Montreal where the car had to be dug out of piles of snow before I could drive my little girls to school and I lived through that day when I burst into tears while stuck in the ice on a hill and had to listen to angry and impatient honking from drivers who preferred to berate me than get out and push. In short, winter was often a trauma and I pulled through. My best winter memories are those weekends spent in the country where the silence is only broken by a branch cracking and falling with a soft thud onto a bed of white driven snow. Where the beauty of an afternoon’s walk is followed by a scrabble game in front of a roaring fire while icy socks hang to dry.

But now I am freezing cold and it is no joke. For the past two days it has been 8.0 degrees Celsius when I got into my car and that is colder than London right now. Now normally I would shrug this off and know that it is nothing compared to a mid February night in Winnipeg but the difference is that our homes are all stone cold marble floors, glass floor to ceiling windows that know not the meaning of insulation and no central heating in sight. We are wrapped in blankets and layers of sweaters. The wind rushes cold sand through our bones and my blood, so lovingly warmed by the tropics, is in rebellion.

 

The weekend was a happy one, before the cold winds came. I shrugged off my hermit ways and actually went out for two nights in a row. Night one, a sort of pub crawl that finished in a karaoke bar with a lime green and peach colour palette, fake potted palms and a random furry fringe on the sofa cushions.  There was much laughing. Night two, a more restrained and adult affair saw us seated around a table in a Tex Mex restaurant making new friends.  The night ended outside in the garden of a bar, wrapped in fleece blankets with our faces turned to the heating lamps, like night time sunflowers. The cold was stepping in. And Saturday was spent celebrating Princess who turned 12. She was born under the bluest skies of a Montreal Winter’s day, -24 winds welcomed her into this world. When I took my little bundle home, wrapped up so tight I feared she couldn’t breathe, I never dreamed that 12 years later I would be serving her a mountain of Profiteroles, in lieu of cake, in Bahrain.

Now I am going to find another blanket. Remember this when I write about the summer heat. Remember.

 

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Books books books

(Photo of my desk)

I am an English teacher and a reader. These two facts do not always go hand in hand. Often I am forced to sit and read the very thing I have no desire to delve into, and learn about people and places of which I have little interest. So in my “free reading “time, when I can read whatever I choose I am very picky. Last year I think I only read 5 books outside of my teaching.

At the moment for my work reading I have been lucky as I am reading texts that are either quite wonderful, or books I have always wanted to read but never got round to picking up.

For example: Brave New World by Aldous Huxely. How I managed to do both A level English and a Literature degree and never read this seminal work, I have no idea. I even owned my own copy but had never felt the urge to read it, fearing it might be dull. In fact it is a truly amazing and gripping work and very interesting to teach. I urge you book club people to give it a go and I promise you will be arguing about whether we can actually be happy if we never know misery, and the virtues of a peaceful and bland world that can only exist without truth, knowledge or human connection.

I am also teaching the deeply touching and strong story of Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God. Again, this is a book I actually owned but had never read. This is a great read and all of my students embraced both the book and the characters.

And for another class: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I read this one years ago and I must confess, as much as I liked it, it happens to be one of the only books I know of, where the movie is even better. Normally it is the reverse when it comes to books and their film adaptations. With a second reading I am enjoying it but the students are finding it a tough read. The plot jumps all over the place and for students more accustomed to video games than books, it is proving a challenge.

Next up is The Colour Purple and I must confess that I had never read it. How is this possible, I ask?  Obviously it is a wonderful, though harrowing read and I am wondering how to approach all the sexuality and abusive subject matter with my students.

Earlier this year I taught A Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriella Garcia Marquez, Metamorphosis by Kafka and The Stranger by Camus.

And for fun? I have read and enjoyed the following:

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

The Stranger’s Child by Allen Hollinghurst

So many books… so little time.

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A trip around the corner, and back in time.

The weekend was busy and involved a fair amount of ferrying children from one place to another. Thursday night, normally reserved for a definite couch slouch, found us hosting a casual dinner party with candles and after dinner drinks in the garden that went on way too late. The moon was winking when I went to bed, ” you need to wake up early, tomorrow” it sniggered as I plunged head first into my duvet. Friday morning Trooper had her Duke of Edinburgh ( bronze) practice hike. This involved 70 teenagers let loose in the desert with a map and a packet of crisps. She needed to be delivered to school at 6.30 am. Initially I had optimistic ideas of an early morning walk, an efficient run around a grocery store and back home for coffee all by 9am. Obviously, considering the too late to bed thing, this was not to be. By 3 pm, having woken from a brief nap I had the feeling I was wasting my day and needed a jolt to bring me back to life.

“Let’s go somewhere we have never been before” I suggested. I am tired of the same tried and true arteries I drive up and down all week, rarely venturing off my beaten and safe path.

So we did.

We found an ancient Portuguese Fort that I see in the distance when I am on one of my safe highways, but had never visited. It was close enough to be there and back in an hour but far enough to feel I had stepped back in time and seen a different corner of Bahrain.

And we were there in time to catch the sunset.

It is important to sometimes take the other road, the one you always wanted to see but never found the time. Maybe right around the corner is a slice of magic and you never knew.

 

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Chasing Sunrise

It is the little things, the sunrises, the sunsets, the gasp of cool air, the unexpected summer shower, the splash of colour in an otherwise dark day, the clouds that appear to dance.

The first time I really noticed the sunrise I gasped. “Look at that sky girls!” I said as I was driving. The sky was tumbled rose, the sun was rising slowly above a mist, hardly touching the palm trees but casting a shy pink glance over the desert. I came to school and told some of my students about it. Most of them had never noticed the sunrise, driving to school with eyes closed and ears locked into their private music. One asked me why I hadn’t stopped and taken a photo. I explained I didn’t want to be late.

And I heard myself and promised that the next day I would stop the car for a moment. Breathe, grab the sunrise by its shoulders and say hello.

And I did.

Four times so far. Four sunrises. My prize for getting up that early. And I have learnt to be thankful for my drive to school. I have no traffic, living at the nether end of the Sandy Desert Isle. And we have no ugliness, which is why I chose a house where I did. Because you have to find the pretty where you can.

And I started thinking about all the morning drives I have done. How different they are, my ‘school runs”

When they were tiny, we walked to pre-school, and in the winter I pulled a sled. Then a change of school and a typical Montreal drive that started out with the striking beauty as I crossed the mountain and ended with a nonsensical and mental breakdown inducing red traffic light.

And another change of school and this time a short drive through slush and slippery roads, grey and heavy with winter in the cold, and a sunny, happy walk in the summer, past a park and trees laden with green.

And did we really change schools again? This time a longer drive, to three schools, one for each of us.No sunrise between the tall buildings, traffic lights, crowded roads with lines upon lines of cars waiting to arrive.

In Trinidad we lived on the same street as our school and won the shortest commute in history prize. We walked swiftly past the cars waiting to turn into school, waving at classmates and bouncing our backpacks on our backs.

In Uganda it was a winding drive, over potholes or past goats and chickens and for a time we walked.

And now it is the sunrise and the desert; the open spaces where our eyes can see as far as they wish.

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Fan Mail

Dear Readers,

As you may know if you look to your right, you will see that I have featured on the bloggies for the past two years. Once for Latin American Blog, Once for African Blog and this year wouldn’t it be fun ( and some small reward for all the home hopping) to be nominated for Asia? Yes, Bahrain is in Asia.

If you are a fan and think that 3limes should sit proudly on the Asia list then why not head over to the bloggies website and put in your nomination. You only have until January 15th and then nominations close. Oh and you have to put in three different blogs so you can vote for some other favourites at the same time!

These are my votes:

Best Africa Blog: House on the Hill

Best Writing on a Blog: Minnesota Matron

Best Fashion Blog: Liberty London Girl

Here is the place to go: http://2012.bloggi.es/

Thanks all!

x

Photo found here

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A New Year’s look at How You Found Me

New year, new month and time for a new look at the search engines. How in earth did you find me?

 

the inside of an art museum in London

Well it has been a long time, my friend, too long in fact. I am not fond of going too long without access to some fine oil on canvas, but I live in the desert so what can you do? If you are heading to London and want to look inside an art museum I suggest you go to the National Gallery for starters. You will see all the great classics and get an ace view of Trafalgar Square from the balcony. Then pop next door to the National Portrait Gallery for some real treats; look for photography, oil, sculptures and even neon portraits of people both famous and unknown. If you go to the Tate Modern (and I think you must) then try and take a taxi on the Thames for a change. You get a great view and it’s much nicer than the stuffy Tube.

escaping camp

Now this is a good one. Those of you who have been hanging around 3limes for some time know that I am a reluctant camper and yet did more than my fair share of camping in Uganda. If you are looking to escape camp I suggest you find a lovely hotel nearby. Failing that you can simulate an escape with my no fail easy camping tips:

Take a Duvet, not a sleeping bag.

Take a comfortable rolled mattress and not a thin rubber mat.

Take your own feather pillow

Employ your children to put up the tent while you sip wine

Take a cooler full of wine

And Champagne

Make tasty sun downer treats beforehand. Sushi works well.

Plan a meal that is easy and fun to make. No one wants to cook for hours when camping.

Take a head lamp so that you can use your hands in the dark and still see.

Always pee before you sleep and stop drinking two hours before bed so that you don’t need to creep behind the tent and risk scary night creatures in the middle of the night

Take a Pashmina

Go with an open mind

Only camp for one night and then head to your nearest luxury hotel for soft beds and a warm shower.

It is worth it, really.

And by the way…I am yet to try it but I hear that Desert Camping in Bahrain is quite the thing. Apparently they have large canvas tents, air-conditioning, servant’s quarters and 42 “ Plasma TVs! Now what kind of camping is that, I ask?

sheet metal gates for industrial facility

Really? You typed that in and found 3limes? I must be doing something wrong.

i have 2 girls for my birthday

People I do not make this stuff up. Now I have two girls too, but certainly not for my birthday. If that is the sort of birthday present you are after, you have come to the wrong place Sir! ( And Happy Birthday and good luck to you.)

wooden name letters decorated in snow

 

Lovely image! Not sure I really understand how you arrived here in the blog of sunny climes, however. You see it has been 5 years since I last saw snow. That is a long time, according to my daughters way too long. They fear they may have forgotten how to ski. I must admit, I had a pang for snow the other night, the soft white fluffy variety that one could ski on and admire shimmering like crystal under a lone lamp post. Not the brown, thick variety that gets stuck in the car tires. That is called Snow Poo and is great fun to kick off with a solid snow boot. Anyway, I can imagine your twinkling home, nestled in the heavy snow laden forest; the wooden family name touched ever so slightly with a dusty cover of snow, telling your friends and neighbours they have arrived. Happy Winter to you from the Sandy Desert Isle.

where can i buy chloroform in kampala Uganda

Again, what have I done to call you forth to my humble blog? Why do you think I would know such a thing? I am going to presume that you are putting an injured goat out of its misery, a sad, limping goat who has been hit by a renegade Boda Boda driver. No more.

white powder on prunes

Welcome! It is lovely to have you visit, albeit briefly as I am sure that you have long disappeared after your fruitless search for the white power on prunes. It does so happen that I have an idea of what you are searching for. A long long time ago, back when I was a wee child living in Hong Long, ( era: 1974-1979) I used to eat these sour yet sweet, chewy, dusty prunes, topped with some white power, presumably sugar. I can still remember the taste and have been searching for them ever since. I have no idea what they are called but I can still taste the sweet and sour chewy delight when I remember them.

Another sensual memory from those early Hong Kong days is the tiny green plant, like ground cover or  grass, that would close quickly but gently when touched with a small finger. I was charmed by them as a child and file them with the sweet and sour prunes in my memory cupboard of childhood thoughts. I did find them again in Trinidad. We had them in our garden and I was thrilled to sit on the ground and play with those tiny plants that grew shy and closed with my touch. Of course Handsome thought I was quite mad when he turned around and found me on my knees touching the grass.

 

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Oman in Photographs

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Oman and desert nights

The Desert. Oh Arabian Nights!

I wanted the real desert, not the desert of oil pipe lines and gas flares. I wanted golden dunes and mysterious silence, camels and glamorous bedouin tents, not the scrubby rolled stone and boiled sand that makes up our tatty desert. No, I wanted the desert of Lawrence of Arabia.

And I found it. It didn’t come cheap, but we stayed at Desert Nights Camp and it was an experience to remember. The road getting there was a little hairy, especially in a low, basic Yaris but I take my hat off to Toyota, because even with all the sand we collected under that car it still ran on and on and got us there and back without a hitch.

The camp is in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It is only 11 km from the nearest village but it might as well be on the moon for the desolate silence, the soft footed and gormless camels, the dramatic stars and the dune scape. Within minutes of arriving both girls were up a dune and running down as fast as they could. A little later we were driven up a mountainous dune for the sunset and we all ran back to camp giggling and feeling the fun and freedom of running over a mountain of sand. Handsome and Trooper Sand boarded the next morning ( think snow board, then think sand) and all three of them took a hair raising excursion on an ATV for an hour. There was a short camel ride, tea and dates in the shade, a game of cards outside by the fire, shisha under the stars, wrapped up in a warm shawl.

It took my breath away.

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Oman: land of contrasts and magic

Oman is a country of contrasts. Muscat runs like a sliver along the coast, ancient forts and highways, palm tree dotted roads, decorated roundabouts and shiny sky scrapers; blue tiled mosques, a winding labringth of a souk and five star hotels all face a lapis sea. Behind this sliver lies a majestic and imposing mountain range, brown in some lights, red or grey in others, barren rock that winks at the sun. And if you take a road that cuts like a glaring wound through the mountains you will arrive at a desert the likes of which only live in the Arabia of legends. An infinite and harsh landscape of undulating dunes, as high as mountains that stretch on and on ad-infinitum, like rolling ski hills with no snow. And the sand is red, gold, thick with gold dust; footsteps are erased minutes after we walk, as if we had never existed. And then back through the rock, sharp gashes through stone until, once again we spy the sea, glinting in the sun.

Deep in the mountain ranges of Oman live tiny villages with communities of people who walk for hours with a donkey to get supplies and news of the world. There is a first world that hold hands with the third here, and a modern land that holds history in its palm. It is a place with ancient traditions and a time line that stretches back to the days of slave trade and a port that saw people come and go from Iran and India to the eastern coast of Africa. There are windows that I saw in the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya and faces that I knew had the Indian sub continent in their past.

We spent 5 days in Oman, four nights in Muscat and one in the desert, also known as the Wahiba Sands.  Hotels are pricey in Oman, especially as there is a general refusal to put a family of four in one room, demanding that we get two. So the likes of the splendid Chedi and Al Bustan were out but we decided to stay at the Intercontinental who were very accommodating in giving us a room with two Queen Beds. Or so we thought. Turns out there was an entire Italian Opera company staying at the hotel at the same time as us; the brand spanking new Oman Opera House had invited them to perform Carmen ( although not a ticket could be had for love or money.) So the Italians filled the hotel to the brim and had taken every last room. Oh what is a family to do? The hotel kindly popped us into the Royal Suite, complete with a living room, dining room, kitchen, three TVs and three bathrooms.

So between living like Kings and hearing the bellowing voice of a practicing Tenor down the hall, sharing a line for the breakfast cappuccino machine with loud Italians still wearing traces of theatrical makeup from the previous night’s Opera, and walking on the beach with the sharp and powerful mountain range behind, we felt we were in a story book.

Oman is like that. Stories swirl in the air, between the tiny walls of the souk and the camel’s tread in the desert, or the echo of a cave in a Wadi, it is a place that leaves its magic hanging, long after you leave.

Particularly if you purchase Frankincense and one of the lovely burners that are sold in the Souk. Frankincense and its accompanying cloud of fragrant smoke is the scent of Oman, and now we have it at home, for with a strike of a match and a magic bean of the golden stone, we too can remember some of the magic.

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New Year, New Year

A very busy start to 2012 here in the home of 3limes. First an amazing trip to Oman, then a quiet and unusual Christmas Day spent on the Beach in Bahrain and finally a touch of home and family with a visit from my sister and her whole brood who came over for 5 days over New Year’s.

And now as the flurry of excitement and holiday is over and it is back to work I am left with stories and photos to sort, Christmas ornaments to carefully pack away and an empty fridge to replenish.

I will come back soon, I promise. But in the meantime here are three little memories from the past few weeks, and what lovely weeks they were.

 

 

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