Category Archives: personal

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

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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Filed under Being brave, pen and paper, personal

Velvet and chocolate

I miss Europe. The ‘other’ world, Third, Second, Developing, what ever you want to call it doesn’t always fit so well. And of course it is that unease, that ill fitting life that makes me wide eyed ( though not so bushy tailed) most of the time. We grow by leaping, or falling, through the hoops out of our comfort zone. But every now and then, I long for the Great Shiny West. And it is not all about shiny shoe shops and the perfect cappucino, nor is it a longing only for order and tameness. No. I think it is a yearning for a beauty that feels familiar.

I come from both a literature and history of art background. So keep me a way from a museum, a film house, a gallery or a good second hand book shop for too long and I start to show symptoms. Like wise I need interesting architecture, a sense of history that seeps out of bricks and monuments, alley ways and cobbled roads. Like a nun who I presume does not miss sex, having never had it, I am fine for a while without it. But then I get a taste for it, as I did in Berlin and I am all lust filled once again, with nothing to press against a wall.

So I turn and look around  for a different beauty to satisfy me.

I found a cafe that is a delicious cross between Toulouse Lutrec Paris and Arabia.  It’s all velvet and tinkling crystal and chocolate.

It helps.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, personal, Photography

10 things I love

Just because, why not? It is healthy to focus on the positive and the lovely, especially during times of change, upheaval and boxes.

And before we begin I should quickly say that the list below, comes of course after the following:

Handsome, Trooper, Princess, Marks and Spencer’s, Sushi, my iphone and London taxis.

1. Getting lost in a sensual, evocative film and wishing it could never end. I love the movies so much it is quite an obsession, so much so that I have always told new parents that in my mind it is the only notable sacrifice to having children. Babies will impinge on that bi-weekly movie habit. When I was a teenager I remember taping Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie onto a VHS tape and storing it safely in a box so I could always have it near. Thereafter I started my Truffaut habit and it just moved on from there. In another life I would be studying film.

2.My Mulberry.

It is extremely beautiful and makes me wondrously happy everyday. I shouldn’t have, because it was simply too extravagant for words, but I am so glad I did. My handbag fetish is now appeased and quietened for sometime, this is because I was hunting and finally found perfection.

3 .The sea.

Looking at it, smelling it, walking beside it, swimming in it. It is the place I am happiest.

4 .Shoe shopping. Shoes make me very jolly, and you don’t need to worry about fitting into them. Luckily for my bank balance there is no shoe shopping in Kampala. Scary for my bank balance is that Bahrain has many a yummy shoe shop. But my dreamiest shoe shop is in Montreal; it is called Scarpa and is in Westmount.  I am day dreaming about it now, even that makes me happy.

5. A hike in the woods. I am not a fan of exercise but a good walk outdoors somewhere very pretty and wild makes me very happy.

6. Teaching Shakespeare or an obscure but wonderful poem and the class just gets it, Bingo. Makes me happy every time.

7. Taking a near perfect photograph. It doesn’t happen very often but it does give the best sense of achievement.  Looking at a great photograph taken by someone else gives me the same thrill.

8. The National Gallery, London.

How lucky was I to have compulsory scheduled Art History lectures in the National Gallery? And I still love walking through those hallowed halls. You could say it is as close as possible to a church, for me.

9. The post meal conversation. Picture the scene. Great friends sitting together, the meal is over, the wine glasses still full. The cigarettes are lit and the candles low yet flickering. The night is deep and slow and there is no reason the get up early the next day. The moment is still and perfect. Memories are being made.

10. Princess and Trooper are happily busy with friends, or horses or any such fun. The house is ours, quiet and alone and rare.

Thanks to Belgian Waffle for the excellent idea.

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The sea is mine, or Island Dreams

Englishman’s bay, Tobago.

 

So this will be a telling of change, a recounting of what it is to know you are moving and yet  there is a need to sit tight, put those hands under your thighs and stop fidgeting.

This will be a tale of trying to make the most of what time I have left. Look with eyes that know a good bye is imminent. I wish I had had my handy crystal ball, the one that would have predicted all this. Had I known I would only have two years I may have relaxed more, eased myself into Uganda with no fear of being trapped, I would have just breathed in and out and seen it all, fearless.

And now I am returning to the Sea.

I have always, really lived on an island, come to think of it. Ok, I was born at the bottom of the world, in South Africa, and that was no island, despite being the upside down tip of the top, the underbelly, the other end of it all.

But then England, Hong Kong, Japan, England again, New York, (France, exception), Montreal, Winnipeg (big exception), Montreal again, Trinidad, Uganda (exception) and now Bahrain. All islands excepting the exceptions; look closely and those were tricky places to be.

 

In France it was easy to forget, for a time that the sea was so far. I was in a town on the German border and its brittle cold Germanic beauty made me feel I was walking in a fairy tale. The buildings leaned and whispered into one another, the gothic Cathedral was filled with ghosts. I crossed the canal daily and felt charmed each time. I was not there long enough to feel parched for the sea.

In both Winnipeg and Uganda, despite the proximity to those huge lakes, I always had the sensation of being land locked. If I stretched my arms as far as they could go, the tips of my fingers could not sense the sea and I felt un-moored, detached, flattened.

It took a while in The Peg to figure out what it was. Winnipeg is not an easy city; the cold is like nothing anyone not from the Peg has ever experienced. The winter I was pregnant with Trooper we had over 60 days below -20c. It was a record. Then almost overnight the scorching sun came out to play and summer arrived. I went into the hospital to have a baby in cool weather, the radio still talking about the terrible Red River floods, warm in a sweater at 6 am we raced along silent prairie roads to the hospital. 4 days later I came out and it was 35c, the heat bewildering, heavy as if it had come out to welcome little Trooper to the world. So I thought for a long time it was the weather, the impenetrable cold wall that made me feel so misplaced, and in many ways it was. Or maybe it was also the loneliness of a place whose license plates read ‘friendly Manitoba” yet seemed to me to only be friendly to those born and bred there. Slowly I became aware that the land, so flat, stretching those endless miles and those prairie skies so enormous, were flattening me. I longed for the sea and felt as a parched star fish would if it were miles from its beloved sea bed.

Here in Uganda I had the great fortune of climbing up into my car one dark morning in December and driving all the way to the coast. Somehow knowing it is 4 days away has made it worse. I can nearly smell it; I know it is not close enough. Lake Victoria is green abuzz with lake flies, heavy with Bilharzias. It is no replacement for the salty licks of the ocean.

The sea is mine.

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The in-between world of 3limes

Excuse me while I pat myself on my back. I have been writing 3limes, posting on average 2-3 times a week for two and a half years. This morning Princess asked me this question:” What if you don’t have a good week or nothing fun happens, what do you blog about?”

Good question. The rigour of finding something to say, that might not bore my readers to tears is a discipline I need. No matter what is going on, I need to find something to write, say, and comment on, photograph. I am generally an open book who finds it hard to hide behind words. There are things I cannot write, people I cannot mention, and a school of which I cannot write. There are marital dramas, painful episodes, loss, love, picking up and wondering how you got there, wonder at it all, fear, discomfort, anger. All these things can be hinted at but rarely spoken. And yet I persevere, keep writing, leaking little clues.

The other day I met a woman who knew within days of moving here that she would stay here for life. She instantly loved it and felt at home. I envied her, wishing that I too had that certainty about where I live. As a child I moved every four years, I never broke the spell until Montreal and for that reason despite my gypsy rearing, Montreal has always been home. And yet it is no longer. I fight the desire to return.

I live in an in-between world. I am a teacher but don’t live the life of an expat  teacher, having a family, a husband and being generally 10 years older than most, not having the freedoms they have. I am an expat but do not have the husband with the job that provides the expat perks, I am English but so very not English, more Canadian really, but then again, really not Canadian either. I am writer, but not published, a photographer who is too busy to organize the exhibition that is brewing in my mind. I am a mother of two girls who wishes for a third, a son preferably, yet I will not have any more children. I am a sister, a daughter and aunt but live 5000 miles from any family.

I live in Africa on borrowed land. This is not my place.  Whenever I complain to Handsome Husband that my soul is uneasy, I do not feel myself here, he asks the million dollar question: “so where?”

And all I can ask for is the sea, where I find the peace my wandering soul asks for.

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The end of the year and the start of a long road trip

Two weekends ago I danced on a bar stool and didn’t fall off. It was fun, and rare and since it was  the closing night of what was a fabulous panto, had such a sense of celebration and relief about it. It was a dancing tonic; so much so that now it is my New Year’s Resolution to go out and dance a whole lot more. It is necessary to get out more, feel alive and grab a bar stool to dance upon now and again. I certainly don’t do that enough. So with thoughts of New Year’s resolutions it is time to wrap up 3limes for 2010 and take a short break. Of course it is always tempting to look back on the year in a sort of Top 100 moments flashback series but I won’t. The few highlights that spring to mind start with the extraordinary New year’s eve of last year, spent camping on the Delta in Murchison Falls. Then more trips spring to mind; Lamu, London, Amsterdam. I have been a lucky girl travel wise this year. On the home front the pictures that make me remember and smile tend to involve the girls. Princess on stage in the Sound of Music, both girls as mice in this years Pantomime, Trooper on the soccer field giving it all she has, Princess as Veruca Salt, singing her little heart out despite the fever she was fighting. They are good, happy, thriving,

 

We are heading out on a Road Trip Through Kenya in a few days; in my mind it will be the Road Trip to End All Road Trips. 17 people, 4 cars, 2400km, 5 stops. I will return with a survival tale and photos. I promise.

 

Until then it is time for 3limes to take a little holiday, freshen up and come back more inspired and ready to see things in a new light.

 

Happy Holidays to all.

 

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