Category Archives: Sisterhood

Wrapping friends up into a soft soft ball.

Reading the FT yesterday morning, as I am wont to do on my Saturdays, I read this article by Susie Boyt, a columnist I follow closely and enjoy immensely. There are people we read in the press that we falsely believe we know by virtue of reading their online persona each week. But I feel certain if Susie and I met for tea at Fortnum’s’ we’d have plenty to talk about. The staff would be tapping their heels and waiting by the doors to close and we’d still be chatting about the length of dresses, fluffy cakes, life changing books and the essence of what makes a good friend.

Today she writes about friendship and her words rang a true bell. I am one of those people for whom friends are on the A list, the cake rather than the icing. Friends for me sit in the very centre of my life rather than dancing around the periphery. One of the tragedies of an expat existence is that you are always far from friends, dear ones, with whom you would like a daily existence, a regular phone chat, a weekly coffee rather than a day or two every year or two.

The hardship of being so far from friends in one thing but the other sadness wells from the fact of having to say goodbye to new and wonderful friendships so frequently. With each move, I say “No.” I will not join my heart to another, I will not fall in love with a new friend, I will not get too close. And then, because we are human, we do. And then comes another goodbye. But with each move there are less goodbyes, once bitten twice shy. I am wary of too much love, these days.

This summer I will be going home to Canada after a break of two years. I will be, once again, with my sisterhood, but I am carving up time into portions to spend with them. Is this the way to live friendship?  Have a choice? They have all got their lives, they are busy and here I fly in, swoop down into their lives from my life far away and demand time with them, while I can only afford a day or two.

Like oil and water the true friends float up to the surface and make each moment one to cherish. But I keep collecting these wonderful friends and if I were to make a friendship map of the world they would be scattered like chicken pox scars on a child’s back.

I have had friends leave me, like a scorned lover and it hurts as much as ending a love affair would. There are 5 times in my life that I have been dropped like hot coal into the fire, and each time it is because I have inadvertently hurt someone too sensitive to have perspective. I argue with myself that these were never true friends, that I was mistaken, had it wrong, all along. If they would end our friendship over a silly slight, what were they to me? Still it hurts, because I never knew.

We collect people as we go through our chapters, and the more moves we make the more we collect, carefully, wrap in the softest of memories and carry in our pockets. Sometimes I long for my white picket fence and my friend round the corner, always there, living with me my days and me with hers.


Filed under Sisterhood

Kampala and the sisterhood

Kampala. I love it green, and raining, the water mirrors the day. We are slowly coming to an end, a term is ending and a break is nigh. We are hopping on a jet plane and heading to Bahrain to explore and see and find and learn. We will find a house, a school, maybe a job. We will start the slow move from one life to another as we imagine where we’ll be next year. No rain, just dry, no green, just desert, no children carrying water and majestic woman wearing bananas atop their heads, something new and different instead.

The Parrots and Hammerheads call to one another in the tree outside my window and I wonder what the sounds of the future will be. Will a call to prayer take over the bird calls?

I had a night or two recently that were different, one an evening of French folk, chic with their perfectly placed scarf, chain or glasses, the kisses and laughter better in French. There was good taste in the air with language and culture tying threads around the crowd.

Another a night of girls; talking, musing, wondering, hoping. I was the oldest, the only one married, the one who was meant to have some wisdom tucked between the folds of experience. We talked by candlelight of choice, hope and compromise and I sensed real friendship, the kind girls have whether they are 13 or 32.

And I thought of my sisterhood and how I miss it. One or two nights a year is not enough. Then I thought of all the wonderful women I have fallen in love with and then had to leave. I could never survive the highs and lows without the women. I build walls around my heart and say “no more!” And then I do it all again, the love, the wistful nights wishing we could all live happily in a commune of wine and candlelight.


Filed under Sisterhood

Dreaming of my tribe.

I have a very small family. Outside of our little unit there are only 18 people in the whole world to whom I am related. (And some of those are through marriage.) Of those 18 I only see 6 on a regular basis and out of that 6 there will only be one who will visit me in Uganda.  So my family is a broken, estranged one that spans three continents. It is for that reason that I tend to adopt my friends as my family. Friends you can choose, friends can become sisters and brothers with no politics and friendship is usually a beautiful thing, while family is often not. My children have borrowed cousins in places where no family exists and this includes Uganda where they have become very close to a couple of kids, children of friends, and therefore family friends. I have moved too much and each time I shed a skin and become more vulnerable to the pain of separation. I am not inclined to become close to too many people here, especially knowing how transient the community here tends to be. I am still incredibly attached to my sisterhood back home in Montreal, yet I will not be going there this summer and there is always a danger that the ropes that bind us may fray, over time and distance.

Families in Uganda are so close that they often live together; if one family member has more money and better housing than others he is obliged to invite them to live with him. People are shocked when they hear how far we are from our families, it is a custom that we have, the moving away, that just does not exist here on the same scale. Those that move to Kampala will return to the village often, that is far more important than any vacation that could be taken away from family.

My good friends are my family and I treat them as such. I am a loyal and demanding friend but I work hard to stay in touch and I give as good as I hope to get. There are people in Brisbane, Denver, Trinidad, Montreal, London, Burma, Cyprus, New York, and Paris and I dream of casting a web to draw them all in, to a place where we can remember where we came from.

I miss my friends. All the exceptional people I have shared chunks of life with, that I can’t see now. Yes, facebook helps, and I even got to see some dear friends on a CBS clip on the internet today, but it is not the same as that evening when you are sitting, legs tucked, children in basement, wine in hand, laughing like there is no better place to be.


Filed under Sisterhood

A simple list

I have not been feeling happy. So to knock the blues on the head I have decided to try the old fashioned approach and twist my head the other way.

Happiness is:

An excellent cup of coffee, not filter, not instant, real expresso.

A day at the beach. Any beach, even it is cold, windy and the waves are cross. But even better if it hot and empty.

Slowing waking up and realizing there is a soft princess in bed curled up beside me.

A breakfast buffet in a 5 star hotel.

New shoes.

Seeing a daughter looking beautiful and excited as she heads out to a party


Eating outside, al fresco

A good book and nothing else to do than read it.

Fresh, unopened juicy magazine filled to the brim with pictures, articles, stories. Think New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Oprah.

A snow day , everything closed, a guilt free day at home.

Bottle of chilled white wine, good friend, no work tomorrow.

Dark cinema, film that envelops, comfortable chairs, popcorn and M&Ms.

Sushi with my sisterhood

Taking a fantastic photo.

The smell of puppy paws, crushed digestives and milk.


A class of kids that looks up at you, in silence, and you know that they are all there and they get it.

Seeing your kids smile and laugh in the company of really good friends.

Having a good friend where you can invite yourself over for tea and stay for dinner.

Getting 3 facebook messages from ex students on the day that Salinger died to say they were thinking of me.

A sunday with no rain.

Dancing to a little Bob.


Filed under I love food, I miss shopping., Sisterhood, When the rose tint fades


The truth is, a move is harder at 12 than at 9. My eldest brown eyed girl has been going through some changes and moving is making them kaleidescope.

Most days she couldn’t be lovlier but somedays that sweet brown eyed girl, who at one time curled contentedly on a lap, humming and chatting, turns into a grumpy, sour, cross and stomping monster child. It is a gradual change, over a period of some months, but then one day, seemingly overnight, the sweet poppet goes to bed and in the morning a new child is born. For girls this transformation happens between the ages of 11 and 12. They suddenly look different, sound different and act different. It is also at 12 that the Best Friend is born. Before that time. when there are no real secrets to be shared, friends are the best people around to laugh with, play with, splash with. Now, at 12, a friend is everything. She is a confident and the true understander, She is the sharer of secrets and the person you worry to, cry with and share the agony of boys.

My 12 year old beauty is going to have to say goodbye to these friends and to the Trinidad that she calls home. The world is very intense and small when you are 12. Yes, there is Facebook and MSN and email (which I didn’t have when I said goodbye to my friends at 13) but it is also THE END OF THE WORLD. Young teens have no perspective and teaching it is a near impossible feat. We just need to hold them, pull them up and remind them that the world is only beginning, not ending.

I also have friends that I need to say goodbye to. The practice of bidding farewell has served me well and I can numb the pain in the way that a child cannot.

The one that will really pinch is Cassandra. We have, if not seen each other daily, then at least spoken multiple times a day. We have been each other’s best friends for well over a year now but more than that we have also been each other’s family. She is the person who knows exactly what I mean when I call her and groan. She knows what I am thinking just by looking at my face. She can tell my kids to behave, tell my dog her ears stink, tease my husband and watch me sort out kitchen cuboards. I have learnt all sorts of advice, from her. She has taught me cooking tricks, and to wear deodorant on my thighs so they won’t chafe. Like me she can laugh on the beach, sneak wine into the movies and worry over her kids and the move.

She is moving too. But unlike the 3rd world adventure that I am jumping into, she is moving to a wonderful city in the US complete with big and plentiful grocery stores. There will be the joy of concrete sidewalks, museums and safety and I know that after 10 years of moving she will finally feel at home.

In this week of goodbyes ours will be a hard one but I  know that we will be connected for life.

Of my friends that I met when I was 12, my best friends, my sleep over buddies, I am still friends with a few. Others have been popping up on facebook. In this funny thing called life it is the people that matter. I hope that my sweet monster girl, the one whose brown eyes will be so sad in a few days, will carry those special people in her heart.

1 Comment

Filed under Sisterhood, Teenagers

The day we fell in the ocean.

I don’t think I have ever written about that day we all fell in the ocean. 


It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, the wind, a sailors dream. Imagine the scene. 4 adults, no kids. They had been shoved into a house together with a couple of babysitters and a lot of glitter glue. We had a boat, a 25 foot sail boat, small but sweet, and free. We had an ocean, a clear sky, a cute boat and barely anyone who knew how to sail. Cassandra and I saw the opportunity a mile away. And we saw the look on the husbands faces as we lugged on board champagne, paper cups, gourmet sandwiches, a camera and smiles ready for fun. 

“What do you think this is?” one of the husbands said as his hands grew raw from pulling ropes and fixing up the sail.


We just sat there and tried to look pretty as maidens as hunky men got the vessel sea worthy. Once aboard things were looking great. The sails flapped in the wind, the sea tilted ever so thrillingly towards us, the windswept hair looked a mess but felt great. Eventually sandwiches were eaten, champagne was sipped and life was good. This was my very first time on a sailboat that didn’t have a captain and I didn’t have a clue how to sail. I still don’t. D, our good friend and sometime sailor seemed to have a sort of clue, which helped us head in the right direction. Us girls sat on the rim of the boat, feet trailing in the sea and laughed, happily. I clicked away, taking pictures. When we saw a huge fish leap up from the great depths I quickly pulled my feet out of the water, imagining that whatever was chasing that fish was pretty big. I did not want my toes to become bait. Oh, how silly I was, imagining that was the worst that could happen.


D thought he would be nice, helpful and congenial and handed over the reigns of the steerage to my lucky husband who had never touched a sail boat, let alone steered one before. Somehow we tacked, which was meant to mean that we all hurl ourselves to the other side, carefully avoiding the boom. I think, in fact, that  was the one thing we had actually practiced, responding mighty fast to the word, TACK.


Well, this time there was no word, just a strange sensation of suddenly going from very dry and happy to very wet and worried. It was so rapid a transformation that I was amazed that my sunglasses remained on my head and my camera in my hand.


We realized, very quickly that all four of us were in the water, that we had no life jackets (who needs a life jacket when you have champagne?) and that the boat was slowly but surely drifting away from us.


Well, I peed immediately. I needed to go anyway and the shock just helped it along. Then I looked around and noticed that we were far from shore, maybe a mile, looked really far, but strangely way too close to the Alcoa aluminum bauxite plant. So my choice seemed clear.  Cancer or sharks. Luckily, while I was imagining the worst of my two deaths, D was swimming like mad towards the renegade boat. D is a fast swimmer and an oil man. He is a great husband, father and hero as you will soon find out, but more than any of that, D is a surfer. I think he only had to imagine some giant surfboard getting away from him and he was there. It took him 4 times to bring the boat around. He pulled one sail down, to make it slow down ( I had no idea) and kept swinging the boat round to pick us up. It was hard and windy and tricky, but he finally did it. One by one we climbed aboard.

“Cool, let’s do that again!” Said D. 

“No. let’s not.” Said Cassandra.

“Oh. Fuck. My camera.” Said I

“Any champagne left in that bottle?” Said husband.


For the record, salt water damages the inside of lovely little canon cameras. 


I bought my brand new camera with Mastercard.


Price of the boat $0. Price of the camera. $600. Price of a day on a boat with good friends? Priceless.



1 Comment

Filed under Family Stuff, Might be funny, Sisterhood, Trinidad & Tobago

Four O.

Three auspicious things going on today. It is Chinese New Year, and the Year of the OX at that, it is Australia Day, so that means lots of BBQs on the beach in OZ and it is my dear friend Clare’s 40th and that means a big O.  That is an interesting thing, especially because the biggest O of them all is the Oh nO! It is me next! I am turning 4O

This will probably become a common theme in the weeks and not so many months ahead. I am trying hard to embrace this fact. Of course, I do not mean, by embracing, anything to do with letting the hair go grey and letting it all hang out. No.  I mean the 40 is the new 30, it is the best time of your life thing. Hmmmmm.


But if my friend Clare can do it with such panache; she had flown down here to Trinidad from a chilly NYC to celebrate (see the “celebrate” instead of “commiserate”?) the big day, she has two yummy daughters, a lovely Swedish, marathoner, diplomat husband and a gorgeous pregnant belly. She is also lovely, and has been like a sister to me since I was 11. If she can throw 40 together, toss it up in the air and catch the confetti,  then I can too.



1 Comment

Filed under How old am I?, Sisterhood

A Hangi on top of the world


I always feel that my New Year’s is September when school starts. I feel much more attuned to the academic calender. Yet despite that when New Year’s eve (‘Ole years here in Trinidad) rolls around there is all this pressure to do something. Staying home with some champagne and some good TV is not acceptable. So in the end we set aside our exciting plans at home and we went to a big Lime which was a mesh of Trini and Kiwi cultures. 


We had just enjoyed a fabulous 3 days with some dear friends from Montreal who hopped over from Barbados where they were spending Christmas. Seeing Trinidad through their eyes was a special experience. I became more aware of how this little island is a real collection of cultures and influences. So going to a Trini/Kiwi celebration for New Years seemed fitting. 


Our host lives on top of a mountain and we felt on top of the world as we climbed the tikki lamp lit staircase to the garden. We were led to the edge of the hill where the Hangi was dug. A Hangi, I have just come to learn is a traditional Maori method of cooking meat and root vegetables using super heated rocks buried in the ground. The hole had been dug at midday and the food was cooking as we watched steam rising through the soil. 





At around 9.30 pm 3 kiwis ( probably the entire Kiwi population of Trinidad) and a few game men appeared with rakes and shovels. The unveiling began.






Our Chef is a well known high end Kiwi caterer here but for this event he was putting on the ritz.




Obviously this was a great event for the glam paparazzi.







The digging and scraping and pulling took a bit of time.







Once the meal was dug out and dished up we all dug in.






We ate and danced on top of the mountain until midnight when a few friendly pyros set off an impressive firework display. We had a beautiful view both of our own pryotechnics and those dotting the skies of Port of Spain. By the end of the evening I had fallen in love with Trinidad just a little bit more. 


































Thanks to the one hour time difference we got home in time to watch the ball drop in Times Square. I went to bed dreaming of a Trini Kiwi serving up silver truffles on top of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sisterhood, Trinidad & Tobago

A cosmopolitan life

You know you are in trouble when you order a Cosmo and 10 minutes later you see your waiter carrying cranberry juice from the bar next door. A few more minutes pass and there he is again this time carrying martini glasses. We sat there giggling wondering what else he would need to fetch from next door.  Perhaps we should save him the trouble and actually move to the next bar.  25 minutes after ordering our drinks our waiter sheepishly approaches and quietly says

“I am so sorry but our martini glasses have a dysfunction.”

“Really?” we say, suppressing laughter. “What shall we do?”

“Well, can I suggest that I bring them in wine glasses?”

We sighed with apparent despair. “Ohhh. Alright then. But the glasses are the best bit!”

He didn’t quite grasp the concept of a group of girls ordering drinks because they liked the glasses. He apparently had no idea that most of the fun of a Cosmo was the martini glass.

A Martini glass holds within its shape a whisper of promise. Of nights full of romance and sophistication; of nights when we can imagine ourselves wearing white, heels sharp and hair all a gloss. It is not just a glass. It is the moment when we can forget for a moment the drudgery of the morning, crawling under the table on all floors to scrape scrambled eggs off the carpet. It is a sharp contrast to the tumbler of water or juice we chug down between carpools and a far cry from the warm tea we drink at night all cozy in pajamas. No, the Martini glass represents another life where we can pretend just for one night that we are someone different. That is why we love the Martini glass, with the drink carefully prepared, shaken, not stirred.


When he finally delivered the drinks he told us that “no one will even know! People will just think you are drinking pink wine!” He seemed very proud of his reasoning.

But that was the exact reason we wanted the glasses. Who drinks bright pink wine?

Anyway the Cosmos were delicious.


Filed under Sisterhood, Trinidad & Tobago


People have friends for all different joys. Some people are just perfect for long Starbucks coffee mornings and shoe shopping. Some are the ones you want to lie on your bed and chat with, pretending you are 10. Then there are the friends that let you clean out their closets and the others that you shop, eat or see Alvin Ailey with. Some are just perfect for chatting about the kids or moaning about your thighs. Sometimes, you find a friend that wraps it all up into one. When that happens it is magic. Best friends don’t try and change you or make you go to the gym. The best thing is when someone just understands what you need and loves you warts ( or wobbly bits) and all.

Being in a rut is awful. Nothing is getting you moving. You know you should shake and move, and you hate the guilt of the sofa but climbing off it is just too hard. Occasionally there are bursts of activity and inspiration. Moments when “Aha!” is more than just the sound made after finding that lost shoe.  Ever so rarely a glimpse of what could be comes through. But then the cave closes again and you’re back in the rut. 

My rut lasted awhile.  Once or twice I caught myself looking out of the window and sighing. In my manic moments I baked a lot but quite frankly I was bored and couldn’t snap out of it. Then one day ( and I am not kidding, it happened on a Wednesday) I decided I wanted to be a teacher. My biggest regret had been my teaching degree. A miserable experience that put me off teaching and wasted 3 years of my precious 20s. Suddenly I needed it, wanted it and was off running around trying to re-activate my expired teaching license. Once I started work the sun came out. I had found out what I wanted to do and I was out of the cave.

My friend Cass is in a rut. I keep telling her to be gentle with herself. It’s good that she feels guilty because that means eventually she’ll move but in the meantime she can stay in her rut. One day she’ll wake up and know what she wants. It happens at a different time for different people. In the meantime I’ll visit her in the cave whenever she wants. And I’ll bring chocolate.


Filed under I have no idea where to put this, Sisterhood