Category Archives: pen and paper

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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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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Losing Things

That little theft we had this week got me thinking. Back to all the things that were pinched in Uganda and further back to an earlier and more devastating theft. And that led to thoughts about things, having them, losing them.

Things. I get very attached to things and when I lose them I get terribly sad. I have had two major losses of material objects in my life and neither time was my fault. Things never get lost easily with me, unlike my handsome and absent minded husband who could fill a book with the objects, ties, cameras, pens, sunglasses, umbrellas, clothes he has let slip through his fingers through the years, I am terribly careful, perhaps obsessively so. I check taxis before I exit to ensure nothing has fallen out of my bag, and likewise I check hotel room drawers, cupboards, airplane front pockets. I did once lose a roll of film in a dark but comfortable second floor hotel room in Mumbai that overlooked a courtyard filled with drinking travelers. It must have rolled out of an overstuffed backpack. Over 18 years later I still feel cross about it.

But the two great losses were completely out of my control and the greatest things were taken from me; sentimental, valuable and in the case of the London loss of great significance to my intellectual sense of well being.

It was summer and I was back in London at the parental home for a few weeks before heading back to Montreal. My mother was in a cleansing mood and was going through the storage area beneath the outside basement stairs. There were two arched caves there and my father was probably pleased that more space would be made for his growing wine collection. Inside one of those caves were two large trunks filled with the school paperwork, letters and paraphernalia of my sister’s and my school life. Upon being asked if she wanted to go through any of it my unsentimental and highly pragmatic sister said “ No . Chuck it.” When I arrived in London her stuff was already behind the house waiting for the rubbish collection the next morning. My box was waiting in the centre of a bedroom for the excavation that would begin the next day. I still remember that morning, at breakfast, listening to the large rubbish truck picking up her stuff, thinking how cleansing and unsentimental it was to just let it all go, all that clutter that we hold onto for so many years; school books, notes and letters from friends and old boyfriends that years before we clung to, promising to never let go.

When I went down and opened my box there was the usual collection of soppy letters and teenage angst written diaries, some embarrassing letters from an ex whose face I could barely remember. There were some charming and amusing school books from my primary years and one or two school projects from when I was an eager 12 year old, obsessed with the French Revolution. I looked around for the box containing my university and high school books and couldn’t see them. Thinking they might still be in the musty cave I went to check but having no luck I asked my mother if, perhaps she had put them elsewhere. No, she had no idea.

After some head scratching and searching that over the next half and hour became increasingly frantic, it was determined that the missing box, the most important box of all, the one containing my University Thesis and all my English A level work had been disposed of with all my sister’s stuff that very morning. At this moment it was probably being tipped with a simple lack of grace into a rubbish dump somewhere in East London.

I lost it. Tears, recriminations, more tears. Urgent phone calls were made to the rubbish company, tearful apologies were made but it was done. Remember that this was in the pre dawn days before computers, hard drives, USB sticks and the internet. The thesis that I had worked so hard on, for so many months, was gone forever, now a soggy stained mess rapidly turning to mulch.

I still mourn the absence of that box and often think how much I’d like my daughters to read that thesis one day.

The next great loss happened on September 13th 2004. It was 12.15 pm and I had just popped home to get my debit card before doing to do some grocery shopping. Uncharacteristically and in the mood of walking light, I left my handbag and wallet on the dining room table and simply tucked my ATM card into the back pocket of my jeans. I then left the house and walked to the nearby store. It was one of those wonderful late summer days in Montreal, where the light dappled though the trees and shadows played happily on the sidewalks. I walked to a coffee shop with my groceries, stopping to chat with a friend and making the most of my freedom while the eldest daughter was at school and my little one picked up at school and taken to a play date. It was rare that I was alone at this time since my curly headed youngest ended pre school at midday.

When I got home at about 1pm I couldn’t open the front door. The chain was hooked on the inside. My skin pricked and my stomach belly flopped. There was someone inside. I rushed to the back gate, entered though the garden and saw with a gasp that the glass door to the kitchen was smashed. The rock that has been used to break it had been tossed into the garden and was resting in the grass. I quickly went next door to the neighbour’s and called the police, thinking how lucky I was that I had no children with me. Within five minutes there there were, guns poised at the ready, on the alert in case the intruder was still inside. I wasn’t allowed in until it was declared all clear and then they walked me through the house.

It was a slick job, neat. Apart from one muddy foot print on the carpet of my sweet princess’ room, a foot print that made my eyes smart with tears, there was no trace of the robbery. He had known exactly where to go, the underwear drawer was tipped, the jewelry was all gone; the computer and camera had been un plugged and lifted from their spots on the desk in the office. There were a few glass shards in the kitchen, a small indentation on the wooden floor where the rock had hit and that was it. It must have been a two man job. One to call, by mobile phone, when I was seen leaving, another to enter the house and quickly remove all that I held sentimental.

We replaced the window before the children even came home and until a friend carelessly let out a remark about the robbery some months later they never knew. I insisted on it, not wanting them to feel scared or unsafe in their home. I remember my husband coming home from work, quickly and I remember sitting on the carpet in the front hallway and sobbing, really sobbing with anger and grief over all that was lost.

I still think, often, of items that were in that jewelry box, and I think with anger how someone came into my house and took things that were mine; valuable and sentimental things. A charm bracelet that once belonged to my grandmother heavy with charms given to her over many years by my grandfather, each charm from a different place on their travels. A watch, very valuable that I had received for my 21st birthday, the necklace that my real father had worn, was wearing when he died. The presents from Tiffany that my daughters were given on the occasion of their births, the first ring from my husband that he bought for me in Boston when we were so so young. And more, much more. A diamond pendant I got for my 30th birthday, a tiny ring I got when I was 12 that I was saving for my own daughter’s 12th birthday. The list goes on. It was devastating. The camera I was using professionally so that I had to rent another one for a wedding I was doing the next weekend. The computer filled with work. I felt invaded.

Yes, I know they were merely objects and no one was hurt. For a time I became extremely disinterested in jewelry or anything sentimental that I feared losing.  I had been burnt by investing too much emotion in pieces of metal.

But we do, don’t we? Isn’t it normal to invest time, thought and love into something precious? I wish I didn’t and I am fully back on the jewelry wagon, but objects are important to me, maybe because I move so much I have held onto to these trinkets as concrete pieces of memory.

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Twisted tree roots and water child carry

This is not going to be a full look at the search engines, we will save that for another time when we need a lot of cheering up. But two things did catch my eye today, more for their poetic imagery and tone than anything else.

twisted tree roots

Now I can only imagine what led you to type this. You woke up feeling a little out of sorts; you looked outside and saw only concrete, steel and traffic. You could imagine the noise of the city while you were quietly sealed up behind the window and you suddenly longed for a walk in a forest, a park, a place where nature’s knotty membranes would speak to you more than the man made rush outside. It is disconcerting to feel so apart from our surroundings, a sense of not belonging, a disjointed oxymoron.

When you want to run your hands over nature’s knotty membranes

And not the salty city metal bars

When you prefer the shade of an ancient tree

over the plaster of another man’s house

when you prefer the rain soaked dark earth

to the slippery slick concrete

when you search for solace in twisted tree roots.

So for you there is this:

water child carry

I love the idea of a water child, some small innocent nymph like creature with webbed toes and effervescent skin. My imagination is running circles around this one.

Water child carry me

to your hidden world

of whispering reeds

dancing to the silent  aqueous tune

water child carry our drenched thoughts

down deeper into your deep blue bath

But I think you mean the water a child carries, every day, on her back, her shoulders and sometimes on her head. The community of children who walk and fetch and carry water every evening from the broken pipe down the hill to the shack she calls a home.

For you there is this:

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This time…Africa.

I am thrilled to be nominated once again for a Bloggie. This time for Africa! If you look to your right, just a little bit, you will see that last year I won for Latin America (that was for all The Trini musings) so I am very excited that all the Uganda writings have been appreciated. Considering my recent faltering this is a very special boost so thank you to all that nominated me. I started 3limes in July 2008 at my dining room table in my fish bowl house in Trinidad. The sun was straining to get past the sheer cream curtains, Princess and Trooper were at sailing camp and I had the mad but happy idea to start 3limes. Two and a half years later and a move half way across the world and it is still going strong.

If you enjoy 3limes please consider voting. Wouldn’t it be fun to be the first blog to win in two continents?

Voting closes February 20th.

http://2011.bloggi.es/

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