Category Archives: Uganda

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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Christmas in Bahrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays to all my readers!

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

Farewell Uganda

The day has arrived. The past week has been quite wonderful with dinners and breakfasts and coffee breaks spent with good friends. It has been a slow but soulful goodbye and I feel happy and ready to depart. Of course my mind swings back to the last farewell, two years ago, when we said goodbye to Trinidad.

I am absolutely sure that I will come back, I am already day dreaming about a visit next year.

In the mean time it is time to bid this great land farewell.

And 3limes will be taking a short break too. I am boarding a plane for Bahrain today, then a short week later I will hit London for the weekend. Finally on July 3rd we arrive in Montreal! It has been a long two years since we were home and I intend to have a splendid summer both lake side and in la belle ville.

See you later, Uganda, and thank you.

 

 

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A Hero’s day and a Safari Swan Song

It is Hero’s day here in Uganda and that means a bonus day off. I assume this day is in honour of real war heros or those who are celebrated for the part they played in the history and freedom of their country. Or perhaps we could take the time to consider all the real heros in this world who selflessly give up mountains of time to dedicate their lives for the well being of complete strangers. Okay I tip my hat to those variety of heros. Done. But to be completely honest with you I feel a bit like a hero at this moment and I am taking this bonus day off as a celebration of myself and all the heroic feats I am accomplishing this week, last week and the two weeks to come.

As you might have noticed there has not been a whole lot of blogging recently. However there has been a whole lot of marking and report writing and yearbook editing and adolescent rearing and photography club exhibition preparing and clothes sorting and sorting through the bureaucracy of car selling.

And there has been this: ( for all Heros deserve their just reward.)

Last week there was another national holiday here and this one was called Martyrs Day. We celebrated it with a day up north on the banks of the wild Nile, sipping wine to the tune of Hippo grunting, jumping into the best pool ever and gazing over the sunbaked stretch of stormy water waiting for the majestic sun to set. It felt a bit sneaky and spoilt driving 4 hours north for 24 hours just because. We wanted the Nile, one last time, and we wanted it with good friends in some luxury. And it delivered. We even squeezed in one last game drive and a squeeze it was. There were 9 of us shoved, sardine like, into a car intended for 7 and the windows had to stay sealed shut due to the extraordinary quantity of Tsetse flies swarming us. More on those later, my tale of martyrdom at the hands of a Tsetse still to come.)

One of the passengers in the car was the UWA ( Uganda Wildlife Authority) Ranger who was there to show us the way and hopefully find us some animals. As is customary for all rangers he came bearing his gun, well slung over his shoulder. Not wanting to be difficult, yet conscious of the small baby who would be sitting next to said gun, and all the other children in the car, I did ask, politely whether it as absolutely necessary for the gun to come along.

“Oh don’t worry Madam, this gun is very friendly!” He replied, big smiles all round.

And friendly it was. It remained cold and unwanted, un touched and nearly forgotten on the floor of the car. Still, a gun, friendly? I smell an oxymoron.

We drove, in the steamy car, shut up like sardines we were, breath pressed against glass, bottoms on laps on chairs, and we peered longingly out of the window looking for animals. This side of Murchison is not known for its Wildlife, it is densely forested with no savannah for cats to bound, hunt and pounce. Still we spotted three giraffes through the trees, one a triangle as it bent, head between legs to drink. Then we saw a group of highly suspicious buffalo who wagged ears and flicked tails worriedly as we stopped to look. Then much excitement as Princess yelled “Reverse the car! I saw something in the grass!” It was a turtle. Yes, a turtle.

Tired and dreaming of a sunset sundowner we turned to go back to the welcoming arms of our lodge. Never mind, we hadn’t been lucky this time.

“One last turn!” The ranger with the friendly gun, called out from the back seat.

So we did. One last turn, just seconds from the gate of the lodge. How could it hurt? Just 5 more minutes of squashed bums.

And then we saw it. And elephant crossing the road right in front of us. I saw his trunk first, then his ears, as he crossed through the foliage on one side and loped over to the other. “ He must be coming back from the river,’ we whispered.

And then another and another and another. And they just kept coming, one after the other until the road before us was grey with massive elephant, the wonder of it filling the space before us. Some smaller, and even babies, clustered in the comfort of their mothers and some enormous, old grandfathers grandmothers, the great, the old, the brave returning from their Nile bath. There must have been 50 elephants passing in front of us, this was the greatest elephant sighting so far in Uganda, and this, my safari swan song.

Then a maternal beast, shoving the bottom of her baby with her trunk come out from the trees and spotted us. She turned, lifted one thick foot as if to charge, raised her trunk in anger and flapped her enormous flag like ears.

“Reverse, Now!” called out our ranger. “She is not pleased.”

And so we did. For a bit before we felt brave enough to approach a little closer, again, after a time. One more, than another crossed before us. One with a “fifth leg” as the children called it, I thought “ oh the trunk of the one behind is between that one’s legs!”

But it wasn’t. He was just a little frisky. The ranger laughed and called it his “Roucka!” The girls giggled.  The boys blushed.

And then home to our lodge, filled to the brim with the magic of what we had seen.

And time to watch the sunset from the porch of our tent, perched over the Nile so the water was the music of our night.

Oh Africa. Oh Africa.

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M7 Celebrates

I did not gather with the crowds to celebrate Mouseveni’s inauguration. I consider such celebrations and the exorbitant expense of fighter jets and extravagant elections campaigns rather sour and in poor taste  in the context of recent rioting,  protests and the dire lack of access to health care for the majority of Ugandan citizens.

However I was very grateful for my bonus day off. I specifically ordered a bright and beautiful sunny day by the pool and that is what I got. Playing the Proust Questionnaire Game ( back page of Vanity Fair for those not in the know) with good friends is a perfect way to pass an afternoon in my opinion.

And certainly one of my favourite occupations. ( question on said questionnaire.)

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Countdown days and goodbye eyes

I hit Kampala with the ground running and it has been full steam ahead as term 3 is underway. Princess has created a countdown calendar, sadly not with colourful markers and giant paper but rather on the computer; in any case there is a calendar that she dutifully crosses off each day. It is entitled “Days Until We See Daddy” and we have 51 days to go.
There is huge relief all round that we went to Bahrain, saw it, explored it, ( it is tiny and doesn’t take too long to see nearly ALL if it), visited the school, saw our future house, imagined how often we could eat at Johnny Rockets without getting fat, things like that. There is some comfort in knowing what things look like and where we are going.
Of course this also means that I am very aware of what I am leaving. I have returned looking at Kampala with “goodbye eyes” and see the green so much sharper, the colour so much brighter. Our drive home from the airport seemed to be in Technicolor. Princess said “look at that lady with all the eggs on her head!” That is not a line we will ever hear in Bahrain.
So I resolve to love my last days here and soak up all the best of Kampala and brush off the frustrations. I now have one foot in the desert and one in the jungle; I am split in two. So in these last days I will eat as much sweet pineapple as possible, laugh with my friends, walk the dusty streets, see the eggs atop the heads, rise above the pot holes and boda jams. They will all too soon be a memory. I am imprinting these last images onto my mind for safekeeping.

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Easter eggs and Dodo brains

We are nearly there: The flight takes off tomorrow afternoon and before long we will be one family again, in the same place, sharing the same hug. I love the closure of end of term: asking where everybody is going, hearing the exciting travel plans. One friend is going to run the Two Oceans Run in Cape Town; another is going Gorilla Trekking, another to a wedding on the beach, another welcoming family and showing off Uganda. And we are going to see where our new life will be and put some footprints in Bahraini sand.

I promise to take my camera and bring back some photos to share.

Just for the fun of the things and because it is the end of term and there is that wonderful feeling of my desk looking a bit tidier than usual I thought we should have a little visit with the search engines.  How are you all ending up here chez 3limes?

peeing chimps

Those people who are planning on spending some time chimp trekking in Kibale might just experience the joy of being peed on by a chimp. For the very lucky folk, the chimps come down off the trees and sit quietly in a circle picking lice out of each other’s hair. But for us we had the special joy of craning our necks way high to stare at dark shadows in the tree tops and enjoying the spectacularly frequent splashes of pee. They pee, a lot and all the time. The amount is akin to having a large bucket dropped from a great height over and over again.

tree that spread her roots by the river is?

I think you are the same poetic lovely who searched for twisted tree roots. I think we should meet, hug trees, lay down by the roots and have a picnic. I picture a large willow tree that leans precariously yet determinedly towards a running brook. The water is dappled with broken sun light, the poet Rupert Brooke has flung himself upon a field nearby and is tousling his lover’s mane in his bare, strong hands.

dodo brain

That would be me. I am the one who owns the dodo brain, so welcome, come in and take a look. The evidence is clear. I very nearly forgot my niece’s birthday today thinking the 21st is a date more apt for a birthday than the 20th, though after 11 years I should have known. I slipped up and forgot it was my class assembly and only found out an hour before we were due to go on stage. I owed them a lot of chocolate after that performance. I lost my passport while all the time it was sitting on a book beside my bed, I went out for dinner last night with my bag and wallet, phone and lipstick and not one cent of money. I pride myself on holding it all together and keeping my memory intact. But recently the hard drive has been full up there and things have been leaking out. See now, I can hardly remember all the other mistakes I have made and I am sure there are plenty. So if you were looking for the brain belonging to the long deceased Dodo bird then you might want to go to google images. Here it is all dodo brains and worry.

Ta ta for now, holiday people. Enjoy those Easter eggs. We have Neuhaus eggs in our fridge which is a treat from the Great Shiny West and one that exceeds excitement.  In the land where chocolate tastes of sour milk even a Cadbury cream egg would have made us jump but Neuhaus? A box of delightfully wrapped coloured mini eggs?

Too much fun.

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Cases from the Uganda Strange Files.

What have I seen recently?

1. An owl perched on a ledge above the school Bursar’s office. It was asleep but I swear it was still staring at me. It was just fast asleep staring. It was beautiful, all tucked up into itself, furry and tempting to touch. The Ugandans were concerned as apparently an owl is an omen of death. However those of us who do not believe in owl omens were transfixed.

2.  A moth. I killed it, I confess, as it was eating my curtains. I kid you not, within 5 minutes a whole troop of ants appeared out of nowhere, surrounded the dead moth, picked it up and carried it away. Okay I confess I disturbed the parade of the dead moth about half way across the room as it was attracting more ants and it was starting to be ugly. So I swept ants and dead moth into the bin. I hope they are all happy.

3. A police man stopped my car at a security check, opened up the most obvious place I would keep a bomb, the glove compartment, and then proceeded to ask me to buy him lunch.

4. A deluge. It rained so much one night that I literally had to drive through a brand new lake in the morning. The girls asked me to drive “really fast and make a huge splash” but I, always the sensible one, and mindful of the condition of the car I will need to sell really soon, erred on the side of caution and drove really slowly. The water still covered all four tires. Crazy rain. By 4.30pm it was gone.

5. My fridge had been broken for 2 weeks, only staying cold intermittently. I had no idea how to go about fixing a fridge. There is no yellow pages here, no handy number to call. What is a girl with spoilt milk to do? Driving home from the grocery store with Trooper we realized we were just behind a blue pickup truck with the words Mr. Chilly painted in white along the back. Below was the number clearly written for ease of viewing.

“Call it!” I instructed Trooper, trying not to sound as excited as a person who just saw her favourite and much coveted Prada boots on sale.

She did. He stopped to answer the phone. I pulled up alongside his truck, waved frantically at him while he was answering my call.

“Do you fix fridges” I asked in exactly the same tone I would use to ask “are those boots really only $399 and in my size?”

He answered yes. I asked if he was busy right now and he said no.

So he followed me home and fixed my fridge. Easy peasy.

And that is the tale of how I picked up Mr. Chilly on the way home.

TIA.

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The rains have come

The rains have come. The smell is green and deep and musty and the parched yellow grass has already perked up and turned green. In fact the whole garden looks shiny, dark, lush and alive. The change in seasons is welcome as it had become too hot and sticky here. Now it has cooled down to a refreshing degree, I nearly wanted a sweater this morning. There are so few opportunities to feel cool in Kampala.

But every time the rains come there is a small nudge of fear, of worry that something might go wrong. Last year saw the terrible landslide tragedy at Bududa in Eastern Uganda near Mt Elgon. The destruction was a direct consequence of deforestation since there were insufficient trees left to prevent the land from slipping away. The trees are cut down to make charcoal which is then used  for heat and cooking. What alternative do they have? With no electricity and a lack of funds to purchase solar powered panels, charcoal is their means of energy. But the earth suffers and the scars left by the landslides are the proof.

And a less tragic, yet sad all the same, consequence of the rains is the destruction they cause to the mud huts. Mud likes to melt in the rain and when your house is sliding to the ground the only thing for it is to rebuild, and rebuild again.

So while I am breathing in the mulchy goodness and loving the cooler nights a thought must be spared for those whose lives are inconvenienced by the rains.

The earth is angry elsewhere too, as we well know. We are all thinking about Japan. At first we felt relief that this was a First World country with an infra structure prepared for disaster, to a point. Yet the first world comes with First World problems and leaking radiation would be that.

I lived in Japan for 7 years. I normally tell people that I grew up in Japan. When I think of my childhood, it is Tokyo. It is bike rides to school, cherry blossoms crushed under bike wheels, it is the smell of Roppongi, the steam coming from tiny noodle shops, white gloved taxi drivers, orderly, safe, honourable, kind. It is earthquake drills at school where we had to crouch under our desks, it is always wondering if “the Big One would come” it is the Iced Coffee in a thin tin can from a vending machine, it is the smell of the stationary shops.  It is so much more. Japan is deeply rooted in my early memories and my sensual recollections. I am remembering and thinking and hoping. For Japan.

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Filed under observations, Uganda

Nobody died.

It is often very complicated to get the simple things done over here. The frustrations of modern life are magnified by Ugandan bureaucracy and tempers either flare or wine is consumed while mumbling TIA, TIA frequently into the bottle. Here is an example of how to make life so much more complicated then it needs to be.

Handsome Husband needed a police clearance form, something regularly requested by future employers, and this involved a number of visits to a particular police station to collect forms to prove that he is an upstanding member of society with no criminal past lurking in his closet.

It went like this:

First a phone call or two was made to determine where the station was. Not any police station will do. In the end a helpful Ugandan man who has taken many a teacher through this process accompanied him to show him where it was. While there Handsome was handed a form and told that since he is Canadian he would need a letter from his country before the Ugandan police force could do anything for him. He was also told that money would need to be paid into a specific bank account at a specific bank and a receipt collected in proof.

So a trip was made to a bank and to the Canadian Consulate to request a form saying something about him actually being Canadian and not just pretending to be.

Then another trip back to the consul to collect the form and wads of cash were handed over.

Finally back to the police office. This time I went along, just for the fun of it. What you might expect is a proper office with steel cabinets, walls made of wood or concrete, maybe paint and certainly a few chairs in a waiting room.

What you get instead is a plywood corridor with small rooms off to one side. The rooms are furnished with two benches and two desks. The walls are all plywood, not a lick of paint, and I believe I saw a calendar from 2009 thumbtacked to one shaky wall.

Forms must be filled out, one letter must be copied exactly as the one on the grubby  wall, many waiting people are either squeezed onto one bench in the hall way or crouched on the floor.

Then time for finger printing, then you are sent to a small sink with a timid flow of water to rinse off the ink, then another man behind another desk collects even more money.

( I took a few clandestine photos with my iphone.  Don’t tell.)

But we are not done! One week later a visit must be paid to the central Interpol office in Kampala. It is a totally difference experience, in that the building is larger and in a different neighbourhood. But the differences end there. A wait of close to one and a half hours must take place on a bench. And lo and behold once you get to the front of the line it appears that more money must be paid! But no! Not in person. Another visit to that same particular bank ( why do it the first time? Why that would make too much sense!), and a deposit must be paid, a receipt must be grabbed and brought back pronto, creased in palm, put of breath, panting. Could this be the end? Are we done here?

Not quite yet. More waiting. And finally a lady descends some stairs. She is holding a pile of letters. Letters that say that you are a good, decent person, who has not committed a crime, yet. But give us another hour of this process and maybe that will all change. Maybe a crime will happen. here in this very place, something crazy and impatient and bloody.

Yes she has your form in her hand. But no you cannot have it yet. You must have your photo taken and damn it if looks like a mug shot, you are tired, you have had enough.

When the paper is finally handed over, it is carried to the car carefully, like the most precious piece of paper ever carried. It is like gold, only more precious. It’s value cannot be measured in the hours spent, the sweat poured, the money handed over. This piece of paper is proof that you have survived.

Incidentally I required a police clearance in Montreal, once. I went into an office, filled out a form and paid $15. Done. 10 minutes. It was mailed to me once it was ready.

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