Category Archives: Being brave

umm. Hello.

Oh shall we just not talk about it? How I ran away and needed some space and hid behind good books and watched such good TV drama and become intrigued with Breaking Bad and The Wire and continued my obsession with Mad Men? And about how, after watching said shows, like a real TV nerd I read intellectual reviews the next morning and compared notes with strangers. And about how I felt the loss of creativity but walked and walked and listened to This American Life and BBC podcasts instead? Yes, I dropped out but I was still here all the time, ticking away, trying to stay informed and connected and well read and smart and capable despite being all the way over here in the Desert Sandy Isle. And it’s true I hid from people too, and hardly had anyone over and lost some confidence but also lost some weight and danced instead of writing. I was teaching some, but getting a bit cross with it all. I had to think about resisting or relinquishing. And I was being a good Mom all round, driving and dropping and buying and signing notes and handing over piles of money and clapping and supporting and editing essays and projects and helping with the arduous task of writing revision notes. And maybe I didn’t bake a birthday cake but I drove some distance, twice, to buy one from the very best bakery in all of Bahrain. So yes, there was a birthday, or two, since I have been gone. And a trip to London to visit the Great Shiny West.

But it is time to come out of the lovely safe warm hole, where the sunlight hits the page just so and the herbal tea is warm and one or both of the girls joins me in a soft cuddle no matter how old and big they are becoming.  It is time to tell the truth. I am going to be blogging somewhere else for a time, as someone anonymous. There is so much that I want to say but can’t, things about work, amazing stories about the kids I teach, funny anecdotes about living here, thoughts on Bahrain. And being public has been holding me back. So I am retreating into a safe and quiet place to write with complete freedom.

 

I might check back and visit 3limes now and again. 3limes will always be a part of me and I cannot let it go, not when it has been by my side for so long and through so much.

I still don’t know what my voice is or what it will be and if I can be as sharp and astute as I want, or as honest as I dare. But I will try. And in the meantime, where ever you are, with snow in your mitten, sunshine in your mug or sand in your tea cup, I wish you well and I thank you for being here for the journey.

So. Hello. And bye, for now.

( subscribers, send me an email and I will let you know where I am.)

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A state of mind address

Yes I have been quiet.

Do you know that I have been writing 3limes an average of two times a week for close to four years? (This is post # 425.)  And in that time I have written about the rain, the desert, Carnival, liming, zebras, lions in trees, car crashes, teaching teens, raising my girls as reluctant expats, the longing feeling for home, the getting used to the new, the craving for shiny shops and culture, the scary driving, the Canadian Lakes, the roads of London. I have taken many photos, sometimes inserted a book review or poem we are studying in class. I have told stories and hopefully amused and given some picture of what this crazy expat life is all about.

But there is a lot I have not said. I have not shared the tears, the heartbreak, and the true aftermath of all the goodbyes. I have not always told you everything about the schools where I teach, I couldn’t. Early on I made the decision that this blog would not reveal the personal, and I would not show photos of my family or tell you too much about them, outside of the anecdotal. I have held back, time and time again. There is an information overload out there; blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Stumble On, newspapers, Arts&Letters Daily, photography…the list goes on, the words tumble and crowd and fill me up ‘till I can’t hear the quiet anymore. And I have not been quite sure where I fit into the noise.

This is not a place for cute pics of my kids or the meal I made last night. This is not the place to fill you in with details of my weight loss, marriage, sex life or tearful rages. This is not the place to write about the days when I am too sad to write. So it is a place for stories, observations, a place to mark my days and remember what it was like. To try and find the pretty and keep moving. And recently I haven’t been very good at doing that, because I haven’t, honestly been doing a lot of seeing and doing.

I work. I work hard, hello IB? I deal with lazy students, incompetence, entitlement and bad manners. But I also teach open minded, wise, brilliant students, mainly girls, mind you, that open my eyes more than I open theirs. Teaching in this school has taught me more about the Arab and Muslim world than I could ever imagine and it has spun my ideas in circles many times. But I cannot write about these students, or this school. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

I go home and I take care of my lovely girls who work hard and discover and learn and sometimes get sad and homesick but mainly are good and fine and happy. I cook for them, I wash their clothes, and I shop, help with homework and drive them all over the place. I do the Mom thing, the best way I know how. And sometimes I fear it isn’t good enough. Don’t we all?

I take care of my husband and love him up the best way I can. We love and laugh and read and watch movies and sometimes we look at each other and wonder how the hell we ended up here, in this life, living in this country. Sometimes I am in a time warp, driving in Bahrain and suddenly, in a flash I am simultaneously driving down a red dirt road in Kampala with the sun glinting off the rain splattered giant leaves. And there is that woman with the bananas on her head, and there are those children laughing and carrying water as the sun begins to dip. Or I am driving the girls to school in Montreal and the snow has turned to slush and we are listening to our favourite morning show. Or I am thinking about my day in this school in Bahrain and suddenly in a flash my worlds are colliding and I am back in a class room in Port of Spain, bare feet on blue carpet, hum of the air-conditioner, sun pressing against the window panes. And then quick flash, I am back in Montreal in a classroom of 32 girls, chalk on black skirt, wooden desks smoothed by the hands and pens of time. I am talking to a new friend here and then bang! I am in the garden of my dear A, back in her lushness in Kampala and we are sipping Espresso and watching our kids jump on the trampoline. Or bang! I am sitting on the wooden floor boards of my Montreal house with my best girl friends and the kids are tiny, barely toddlers.

Too many worlds have happened too fast. I am shell shocked.

Shall I tell you all this? Shall I tell you about my new exercise regime? My careful monitoring of everything I eat so that it is I who controls my body and what goes in it? My fantastic Latin Dance Class? My battles with teenagers, the constant negotiation and mapping of life with a teenage daughter, the sad, too sad week in school last week when I watched my dear students deal with a grief they are too young to comprehend?  Shall I write about the friends I miss and wish I could see again? Shall I tell you about my worries about the Summer, when I will go “home” to Montreal, to a place that is no longer home, where I have no home and hop from friend to friend in the hope that please can I not offend or disappoint anyone this year? Can I please NOT piss anyone off?

No. I cannot tell you everything that is in my mind, this is not that kind of blog. And I cannot tell you what I do every day because it is, quite frankly, boring. And who wants to hear what I am making for dinner? Or what I taught today? Who wants to see the photo of Princess in her cute new skirt or hear about how much sand we swept up from the front steps yesterday?  There are plenty of blogs like that, this is not that blog.

So where does that leave little 3limes? Faltering on her balance beam, not entirely sure which way to fall.

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Stuck in the Middle

I’ve been wrapped in a warm blanket on my sofa watching season 2 of Downton Abby. Not only am I crushed that it is over (what will I do without the drama?) I am sort of alarmed by how cold it is. I was warned it would get chilly but I just scoffed and said a little too arrogantly “I’m Canadian. Don’t talk to me about cold.” But they were right. I think it comes down to a few factors. First, the temperature dropped like 10 degrees in 2 days. Every morning when we get into the car we look at the digital reading of the temperature and I recall when I arrived back in August it was 42 degrees Celsius most mornings. Now it is 12. Last week it was 27. So there is the shock.

Then there is the fact that our house is all stone and has no insulation. So the desert winds just come straight through the walls and through my clothes.

Then there are the clothes. In Canada I would have a warm scarf, a gentle jacket, maybe even boots. And certainly if my house was 18 degrees I would have on some heating, or at the very least slippers and a sweater. I have neither. I am spoilt from 4 years of living in the heat.

But on the up side there is the sensation of seasons. And I wore black opaque tights for the first time in 4 years the other day.

But with a change in seasons comes a change in heart. And I am a thinker.

So I have been musing on time and being stuck in the middle.

I am coiled tight and tense against time. For some reason I am yet to explain, I am overly concerned with time these days. I cannot relax into a minute and feel anxious about wasting precious time. I have never had this sensation before and I cannot fathom why I am holding onto to time as if were priceless and threatened.

I am sitting on a sharp point between the past and the future, balancing on a tipping point like a wobbling weeble, uneasy with the sensation I might fall. To my right I see a long stretch of desert and two girls walking away with a cloud of hope and anticipation rising around them

To my left I see photographs, black and white faces of pale chubby cheeks, eyes of those no longer with us, a family of four smiling beside a mountain of snow. I see books I have disappeared into, pages worn with eager eyes and a tower of films I have loved and never wanted to end. I see a laughing circle of friends fresh out of high school, our lives on a plate ready for the taking. I see a young couple by the Nile, holding hands.

Is this what middle age feels like? Feeling like I am in the middle?

I teach seniors of the brink of possibility and hope. They feel the uncertainly of next year, where will they go? Will they miss home too much? What will they be? Who will they become? I write university recommendation letters and I feel the excitement and nerves of trying to get in. And I often write to former students, staying in touch with their lives; sometimes I even skype with students I haven’t seen for four years. I read the status updates on facebook as they negotiate the freedom of university with the tender pull of home. I feel their anticipation as they tip towards a different point.

Is this what is feels like to be in the middle and surrounded by those just starting?

So I have taken to baking. It has worked in the past and seems to be working now. I find nothing quite fills a void like melted butter, warm chocolate, spiraling egg yolks and lines of sugar.

 

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Not a good feeling

Something unsettling happened this week.

We had a small but significant theft. Trooper discovered that her wallet was empty. There were three possible reasons: a) she hadn’t in fact put any money into the wallet, or perhaps it had slipped her mind that she had taken it out and pushed it into the pocket of her jeans. So maybe it was all her fault. b) She has a Kleptomaniac for a friend; she had just hosted a sleep over and perhaps her friend had an “issue.” This was far more unlikely than the former option. Or c) Our cleaning lady had pinched the money.

I worried it may be option c) so I asked Princess to check and low and behold, she too had money missing. It was looking like option (c) was the most likely scenario but I didn’t want to it to be true. I am very trusting; I have to be, if a person is to come into my house while I am at work and touch all my stuff. (I know I am very very lucky, there I have said it.)

I called her. She said she had no idea what I was talking about. The subject was closed but not solved. I was thinking Kleptomania…

Then the door bell rang. It was the cleaning lady in tears. She said it was her husband. He had come over to our house looking for her and when she refused to give him drinking money he walked uninvited into my house, walked into my daughter’s rooms, opened their sweet little wallets and pulled out their pocket money.

She didn’t give it all back. She says it is all there or at least what her husband claimed he took, but it isn’t.

I am sad. It was different in Uganda; I expected it, in a way. We had shoes, a laptop, a bag, a phone and two itouches stolen but never from anyone who worked inside our home. Now I feel the need to hide things away and I don’t like it.


 

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My big week off

I have been such a slow blogger of late, I fear my readers may just run away. To be honest with you, the reason I am so quiet is because I have been sick, and it is half term, finally, and who wants to spend their much deserved half term sick? I have a terrible cold/sinus/flu/ thingy and it just won’t go. So I am feeling very sorry for myself, and I have no energy whatsoever, and therefore not a great deal to share. I thought this would be a half term of exploring Bahrain, picture taking, discovering, but no. It has instead been a time of shepherding children from one friend to another, criss crossing Bahrain, errands and catching up on all those little things that work stops you doing,and lots of sleep. I can safely say that I will not hit that mall again for 1 whole week.

But on the upside I am getting a new phone, eventually? Tomorrow? So I will finally be reconnected now that my phone took one last breath and died. In order to keep the same number I had before there needs to be come technological mating ritual between two companies, the one I am leaving because I hate them, and the one I can moving to. Since it has been Eid everything is closed and the mating can only resume tomorrow.

On the upside I have found a place to re heel my shoes. It has only been 3 months so that is one big shiny tick, right there.

On the upside we were invited to a BBQ, and I got out of bed to go; I was not to miss our big social event of the past 3 months, now was I? So the social calendar is perking up. It was great fun and the end of the night saw teenagers squirting dish soap all over the pool side stone floor and sliding, full body prostrate, from one side of the terrace into the pool.

On the upside we had one very exciting and rare experience of rain. Yes, the desert rains came. And they were definitely making up for 7 months of no show. Big dramatic clapping thunder, sharp flashing lightning and thick juicy raindrops that fell all night long. The next day the temperature had dropped and it is now a chilly 21 degrees Celsius.  We drove out to a sodden desert the next morning and roads that had mini floods. We have no idea when we will see rain again.

On the upside Handsome had a birthday. Sadly it was the day after the rains so he did not get the hot sunny beach day he requested but he did get a breakfast fit for Kings, a walk on the beach, a movie, plenty of divine chocolate cake and a date with his lovely wife to a seriously trendy Japanese restaurant. I tried to remove the pliers that were wrapped around my head for the day, pull myself out of the cold funk and pretend I was not sick.

There are still four more days of my big week off. I am off to find some fun.

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First World Problem

The internet is driving me crazy. I was under the missapprehension that I would have none of my Uganda slow internet issues. Okay I have power, I have hot water in the kitchen, I have no potholes, now can I please have fast internet? Skype is a nightmare, downloading takes forever and if I want to watch a TV show I need to start streaming it hours before. I am looking for solutions but I hear that all the internet comes into Bahrain in one pipe (!?) and that it is notoriously slow.

My First World Problem.

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A soup made of old and new: African and Arabian skies.

Trooper is drowning already. Homework is piling around her, her bed is covered with papers, her desk has no surface, her face has that “what the hell” look about it.

Princess cooks, between bouts of less homework, she has perfected the art of perfect banana bread.

Both are surviving the change. There are well weathered in this “move around and start all over again” malarky, even though they hate it.  They have fit their shoulders around the feel of their new uniform and are learning the ropes of new hallways, the strange jungle of making new friends and the touch of a different morning routine.

Sometimes I wonder how our heads don’t spin out of control with all this change.  We are nomads who have to jump in and adjust, no matter that the smell of the old mingles with the new. Some days I am living a parallel life, I am in my old house listening to African birds and lying under a burnished African sky and I am simultaneously looking out of my window at a desert and an Arabian sunset.

When I enter the cafeteria here at school and hear the musical Arabic voices I am simultaneously back in the Kampala lunch room, with the Ugandan breeze touching the heads of those I know so well.  As I sit in my classroom and tell the students to please stop talking in class and if they must then please only speak English, I am immediatly back in my old classroom telling the girls to stop their chitter chatter, feeling the heat of the windows press on my back and brushing the red dirt off my black skirt.  When I drive past a cleaner-than-thou mosque, resplendant in marble, I am walking through Bukoto market worrying over the Boda driver who nearly knocked me into a ditch.

I am the old me and the new me. the past and the present mingled with memory and tears, hope and fear all at once.

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