Category Archives: Family Stuff

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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Filed under Being brave, Family Stuff, pen and paper, personal

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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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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Filed under Family Stuff, Finding the Pretty

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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Christmas in Bahrain

Well I thought it would be nonexistent, it being a Muslim country and all. But no, no no. There are Christmas trees galore, and tinsel and mince pies, little Santas and singing elfs, shelves stocked with glace cherries and marzipan and enough wrapping paper , garlands and pretty bows to fill a kingdom.

Everyone loves Christmas, even those who do not celebrate it. The season is infectious and each expat school has a Christmas fete, hotels have tree lightings and carol sing-a-longs and every mall is decorated to the nines. Of course this little island is filled with expat families who do celebrate, but they are not the majority.

We took a family vote and it was decided that Christmas day would be better spent at home than away. We have organized a holiday to Oman but will return for Christmas day. My vote was to stay away, in case you wanted to know. I find Christmas a quiet and lonely day without family and friends around but I have been assured that joy will be abounding.

We have had a few Christmases in the expat world. A Ugandan Christmas is quite odd. Obviously in a country as poor as Uganda, tinsel and trees are not high up on the ladder of importance. In fact the buying of presents is far below the buying of shoes. But there still exists the religious and more serious aspect of Christmas that is somber yet pure for its lack of materialism. Occasionally you might see a lonesome scrap of tree or tinsel strung above a shop, but for the most part, outside of expat stores, the shiny and glittery part of Christmas is lacking. The spiritual part is what remains. I was touched when Steve, who worked for us, brought his wife and daughter to visit and they presented us with a box containing cartons of juice. It was a gesture that resonated with all of us and remains today.

A Trini Christmas is like no other. They have their own food, music and customs and they take both the religious and glitzy side very seriously. No one in the world parties like a Trini and what better excuse to “lime” than Christmas? The decorations in the malls were literally stupendous, creative and festooned with colour. Initially I was surprised. What did a tropical island know about Santa and elves? But I was quickly pointed in the right directions and shown what a proper Christmas is all about.

And now Bahrain, where it rings false. There is no spiritual element. No, food drive or toy drive like in Canada. No sense that everybody is doing it. It is a fine excuse for a very rich country to wrap itself up in embellishments. But in our little world it is as it always will be. Chocolate peppermint bark, a few old traditions, a few new, a walk on the beach, Wham’s Last Christmas, hot chocolate in snow man mugs.

But first…. a new discovery. We are going to visit Oman and I will return with stories and photos. In the meantime 3limes will take a short hiatus to recharge, relax and refresh.

Happy holidays to all my readers!

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Filed under Bahrain, Family Stuff, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

A Bonus Sunday, overpriced Christmas trees and rainy days.

A rare treat: a Sunday at home, no work, courtesy of the Islamic New Year.  Happy New Year and welcome to the year 1433.

Not only was it a bonus Sunday but that meant the first Saturday night in months and a Sunday night that felt like a proper, night before the start of the week, Sunday night. Complete with eggs on toast and a side offering of baked beans.

Of course it also meant a 3 day weekend.

And well deserved it was too, after a week that culminated in a day and a half of parent teacher interviews. I was a little worried about getting all the Mohamed’s, Ali’s and Fatima’s straight. I think I did ok, considering that I have about two in each class. One thing I did notice is that the parents were most kind, very grateful to us teachers and that the mothers have an uncanny ability to lift their hands up considering the heavy bling.

This weekend saw more rain. Damp, flat, grey weather that reminded me of a London day in July. I loved it. And I have to risk the removal of my Canadian passport when I confess that despite being 18 degrees Celsius, it actually felt quite cool. Yes, I thought exactly the same thing when people told me it would feel cool. Are said “ are you mad?” I am a Canadian. I have lived in Winnipeg ( better known as Winterpeg in some parts). There is no way I will feel cold, ever, without serious frost bite chomping on my cheeks. But I guess 4 years of heat stroke will do that to you.

Ok it felt cool, not cold and I was just appreciating the seasons, that’s all.

Speaking of seasons….I have wondered about Christmas in the desert. How is it possible? And a Muslim desert, no less. But believe it or not, it is not even December and Muslim desert or not, the malls are top to toe in wreaths, garlands, tinsel and trees. I asked some of my students what the hell was going on and they replied that it was just another theme. And an excuse to shop. And eat out. And party.

So I guess Christmas spirit in all its materialistic glory will find its way to the Sandy Isle.

And here is the first evidence. Turns out you can get real Xmas Trees here. In my naivete I thought that meant there was a place tucked away in a green house that grew them. But no. They are flown in at great expense both to the customer and the environment. Exhibit one:

 

The smallest tree is $87.50 and that is for 1.5 metres. And the largest is a whopping $3.10 for 4 metres.

I guess we are sticking with the straggly, anemic, dwarf tree we bought in Kampala.

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Filed under Family Stuff, I miss shopping.

Looking for news on the domestic front

 

I must be starting to feel better as I am typing again.

Perhaps I need to hear the sound of my voice tapping in my head….it has been a very quiet week.

I woke up remembering a promise I made and failed to keep: I declared that when the rains came I would stand up and defend the right to dance in the rain. I would take to the garden and twirl and splash and then we would all go bowling. For isn’t bowling the best of all rainy day games?

 

But I did neither. The rains came late at night and carried on through the dark hours and when the sun came up and rains stopped  the urge to bowl and dance was no more.

 

So now I will probably have to wait 7 months to keep  my promise.

 

On the domestic front, with little to report and digging for something good, Princess and Trooper have discovered The Gilmour Girls. Remember that? They are half way through season two and I am catching snippits while I walk through the living room enroute to the kitchen/bathroom/bed. It is making me believe I am back in Montreal and it is Sunday night. Was it Sunday night? I can’t believe back in those days we had to wait a whole week to watch the next episode. No flick of the remote to move forward a week. My girls watched 10 years of Friends in 5 months! It was like fast forwarding through Jennifer’s Hair, Matthew’s Weight and the Evolution of Jeans from too high waisted to low and hippy.

 

Today I am going to take a thick black sharpie and place a juicy tick next to an item on my list. Princess is going to the Orthodontist.

 

Love ticking.

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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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Filed under Being brave, Family Stuff

Halloween I miss you

Halloween was the very best sort of fun back in the day. Handsome would come home from work, roll up his sleeves and dig out all the soft, pulpy pumpkin flesh. We would lay out newspapers on the kitchen floor and scoop out the insides of two or three very large pumpkins. Then a small Trooper and an even smaller Princess would carefully draw the face with black Sharpie and Handsome would pull out the sharpest knife and start to carve. By the time we were finished it was dark and the perfect time to drop little candles into the belly of the gourds. Costumes would be donned, and then coats to cover them up since it was Montreal and already far too cold. Then hats and makeup, boots pulled up, enormous trick or treating pillow cases slung over shoulders and off we’d go. Handsome and I both wanted to trick or treat. There is nowhere better than our old Montreal neighborhood for house hopping, even people from the burbs would drive over, spill out of minivans and use our roads to collect good loot. So we’d take turns. One of us would stay behind and hand out candy, one of us would take Princess’ hand and guide her up the stairs to each house, prompt her to say ‘trick or treat’ and ‘thank you’ in the smallest voice and then onto the next house. Then home to switch and the other would do another road. We always shared Halloween with the same friends, ate the same blood red spaghetti sauce, drank the same red wine.

A Trini Halloween was fun, as everything in Trinidad was. It was all rum and candy and loud music and it quickly turned into a street party, a lime. Not coats needed there, the teenagers loved to wear the skimpy costumes, to laugh the loudest, come the last. All my students would turn up and show off their imaginative outfits, and share candy with us.

In Uganda we carved a Watermelon, having no pumpkins on hand and Princess had a party. There was no Trick or Treating but we couldn’t drop the tradition. There was still dress up and candy and costume. Then last night, our first Bahrain Halloween and…nothing. We live in the wrong neighborhood for Halloween. I heard there were some parties, some costumes and even some trick or treating over there where the majority of expats live. But it all feels a bit half hearted. So I miss it. And I miss home and our traditions.

So I feel a bit sad today. Halloween I miss you, cobwebs, chilly night, tiny children in oversized witch hats, over eager parents, pumpkin carving, too much candy, non-stop door bell ringing, scary noises, ghoulish over priced decorations, ridiculous merchandise, hand made costumes, competitive parents, many little spider men, princess tiaras; the lot.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Great Big Shiny West

A funny sort of week

It’s been a funny week on the whole. Trooper suddenly came down with something rather nasty and had a day off school. Then once she was up and running Princess fell with a fever that kept her home for two days. It is to be expected. We have hit the 6 week mark and that means major assessments at school, added pressure and lots of weariness. We have one week left and then a whole week off. I am calling it half term, here it is called Eid.

With Princess home. I had to stay home too, at least for the first day and that had me spinning webs of order around my house. I had not had time, the most precious commodity of all, to organize drawers, clean shoes, do some sorting and catch up with the minutia of home life.  Playing house made me feel domesticated, a feeling rather rare and strange as I normally feel anything but.

Hitting the 6 week mark at school also led to the Day of Angst that must hit teachers everywhere. The questions fly like curve balls: ” Am I actually teaching them anything? Do they understand? Am I going to make it on time? Will they be ready? Have I done it properly?” We close the door and teach in a self enclosed bubble and sometimes we have our moments of self doubt. Often it is all cleared up with a simple prescription: assign an essay and see if they can do it. If the majority wins, you win. But there is always a taste of doubt left sitting on the tongue.

But now it is the weekend and I can put Camus down, brush off the bikini, suck in the stomach ( ask whether I really should be wearing a bikini) and head to the beach. Trooper is swimming in an open sea competition. She is determined to come last and swim lazy strokes beside her new good friend. Best of all my mother has flown in for a sweeping 4 day visit. So there will be restaurants and visits to places and a chance to see Bahrain with visitor’s eyes. She is our very first visitor so we have plumped pillows, laid out fresh towels, arranged roses and planned a fun weekend.

So I must push away the lurking feeling that I, too,may be getting sick, banish those worries and self doubt, stop thinking and go out and Have Fun. It is just what the doctor ordered.

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