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.)

3 Comments

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.

12 Comments

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.

3 Comments

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under I miss shopping., personal

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.

1 Comment

Filed under personal

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.

3 Comments

Filed under personal

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under personal, Uganda

Another bit of fun? Why not…

Procrastination is always one of my favourite things to do and guess what I found? Another pleasant waste of time.  Play along if you wish.

Favourite time of day

I don’t get to enjoy my favorite time of day very often because I have to wake up too early and teach the teens but I love after midnight when the house is quiet and I can pad around and write, read, talk on the phone. I love the night, the dark. Unfortunately I am in bed long before midnight these days. So on a school day I would have to say that I love climbing under crisp, freshly washed sheets to read a book and enjoy the sensation of a day well lived.

Where and when did you meet the love of your life?

Dahab, Egypt 1992. We are still married and he is still handsome. See here for the full and rather romantic story.

What three words would your friends from outside the blogging world use to describe you?

Honest, loyal, funny and Fairy Godmother of birthdays.

What country would you like to visit and why?

Argentina. The people are beautiful, the music is beautiful and I have always wanted to learn to Tango.

What’s your favourite dish to cook?

Lasagna and brownies. They are my specialty, and my friends have come to expect and depend on them.

Salt or sugar?

Sugar, in the form of chocolate. Preferably Toblerone. I have a long and complicated relationship with Toblerone. The only thing that might get in the way of our relationship is Crème Brule. Which is cream and sugar with more sugar on top.

What are your favourite make up and beauty items?

Not long ago I  unpacked my bathroom and having spent a good long year in a Shoebox with no shelves to display my “spa” I am now shocked to see how many products I actually have. I might have a problem here that I had hidden in boxes and bags! So my favorite things are hard to choose but here is my effort:  OPI nails ( I like We’ll Always have Paris),  Bare Minerals powder foundation, Estee Launder moisturizer, Shu Uemura eye liners and Diptych perfume. Oh and I am recently addicted to Morocco Hair Oil.

What are your favourite flowers?

Orchids. I just adore how they look and how stubborn they are to grow and love.

What are your worst vices?

Can I publish that here? There are parents and teachers and students reading! Okay, I’ll find one or two. The odd cigarette, but only after dark with red wine ( I have my rules), Impatience, Handbags, hating exercise.

At what time of your life were you happiest and why?

Hardest question of them all. I believe that life is like a pearl necklace and we collect perfect moments as pearls as we move through time. I have had extraordinary moments of joy which may arise in a pretty dark period. I was very happy when I was 22 and traveling, having my babies, beach days in Trinidad, vacations just the four of us, my 40th birthday party in Montreal, surrounded by my sisterhood, this past summer in London, driving in the passenger seat of a 1973 VW orange Beetle through the Manitoba prairies, laughing in the Trini Sin room with good friends. When I am with the people I love in beautiful surroundings I am happy.

2 Comments

Filed under personal

Ambitious projects for the remainder of the year.

Time is skipping on by, winged chariot and all and there are things I really must do before 2011 rolls round and I am hit with that awful sense of zero accomplishment. Is there a word for that? I will make one up: under-accomplishment. There.

Perhaps if I write a list, put it up here in the most public of places then it will be more likely to happen, owing to the shame and name rule.  So here it is: my short list of big things to do.

1.     I must buy a spare bed. We have guests arriving from the far away Land of Oz and there is nowhere, presently for them to sleep.

2.     Buy Christmas gifts, easier said than done if you live within money throwing distance to a glorious temple of commerce, otherwise known as a Mall. Here the options include African crafts, handmade tree decorations, Wildlife Photography books and some lovely material to wrap around one’s waist.

3.     Invite people over to dinner. Why is this so hard to do? I can teach a room full of Camp Hormone inmates, co-direct a pantomime, drive a car through scary pot holes…but invite people over to my house to eat? Not.

4.     Throw things away. I hate clutter and there is a scary pile that has appeared on my desk. Not entirely sure where it came from, but there it lies, taunting me, and I need to head into the red room and sort it all out. Soon.

5.     Find a costume for Veruca Salt. Apparently she needs some sort of fur wrap. Likely one that. More head scratching needed.

6.     Gather all the wires, for all the electrical paraphernalia we have, including USB cables, chargers, TV wires, other black or grey wires that have no name and sort-them-out. I am being taken over by wires.

7.     Go out on another photo walk-about-trip.  The last time I did this it was very successful, although somewhat tiring considering the number of times I had to ask people if I could take their photograph and explain who I was and why I wanted their picture and promise that I wouldn’t use it in any untoward way. I think it is time for another walk about. Each time I feel more fully engaged with the place that I live rather than seeing it through fleeting and rushed moments while either walking to school or driving around.

8.  Bake a cake. When I lived in Montreal I was a true baker, often pulling treasures out of the oven 2 to 3 times a week. It has been a while since the warm scent of fresh cake wafted through my home and it is time.

9.   Read something other than a prescribed IB text. I have two books by my bed I am aching to get into. I need to make the time to start them as I have a small window of opportunity before the next IB text rolls around.

10.  Lie in my hammock. Just once.

3 Comments

Filed under personal

Meet Irma

Photo not in the slightest bit relevant but it was taken in London by Princess, and I think it is gorgeous.

What kind of crazy person drinks strong expresso at 6.30pm?  Of course I only remembered drinking the coffee with a sort of “ohhhhh…” feeling when I still couldn’t sleep at 1am. So here I am downstairs typing in the dark in the middle of the night. I am safely back in Kampala and after a month away very content to be a family again. Handsome Husband stayed behind to work while we were all off playing in the Great Shiny West and it was a happy reunion at the airport, which is a strange sort of symmetry was also the exact 1 year anniversary of our first arrival in Uganda.  What a difference a year makes, and what a difference a month away makes too. I have been thinking about how different places make one feel like different people. I generally feel quite good about myself here, I even have days when I feel a tinge of glamour. In London, however I tended to feel like a country bumpkin, especially in the first weeks. After a while I started to recover my composure, or perhaps that was the shopping.

In any case this is something wrote early on in my month long sojurn. Welcome to Irma. ( with apologies to any seriously Glam Irma’s out there. It was the first name that seemed to fit the way I felt. Doesn’t everybody name their alter egos?)

After about a week in London I start to feel like Irma. She is the name I have given to a fictional character in my head. A slightly frumpy school librarian whose daughters are at camp for the summer so she has decided to come to London to visit her glamorous and sophisticated friends. Wearing too much linen, Birkinstocks and with the ubiquitous Coach bag slung over her chest she screams of a comfortable existence in the American backwater. Irma, lives in my mind, and an Irma day comes from spending too much time with my very thin and fashionable Mother and Sister.  When I wake up feeling like Irma my Handsome Husband always reassures me that I am no Irma and that I must take myself off, head high, to buy some shoes. He knows the therapy I need.

So Irma, did indeed head off for a day of retail therapy in Selfridges with said thin and glamourous mother and sister. By the end of the day Irma was beginning to shed and my inner city self, hidden for too long, began to emerge. Honestly there isn nothing like a Chanel red lipstick and a pair of heels to shake Irma away. Now what am I to do with heels and red lips in Kampala, I have no idea. There in a nutshell do we find, once again the in-between world of 3limes.

Irma hasn’t surfaced for awhile. She seems not to visit Kampala that often.

3 Comments

Filed under Might be funny, personal