Tag Archives: children

5 Beautiful Things. Much needed.

 

 

Some days you just need to be reminded of the beautiful things.

 

So on a day that has delivered some bad news, proved more frustrating than most and not shone as it should have I am looking for the beauty.

 

5 Beautiful things.

 

Princess is taking voice lessons. Last night she sang for us, warm, melodious, full of promise.

 

Queen of the night, a pungent, sweet, sexy scent that fills the air once the sun goes down. We planted it, it has wrapped itself around a tree and now sings for us every night with the strength of its scent.

 

Trooper just finished To Kill a Mockingbird. The wonder of the book is written all over her face. She is struck by the magic of a phenomenal book.

 

A new bed. Big, white, high, I sit upon it like a queen upon a plump marshmallow.

 

If you open your eyes you might see this.

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Filed under Being brave, I have two girls

A Bear Hunt in Camp Sweetness

Perhaps I needed a break from those pesky teens, maybe I just wanted to feel nostalgic for the Beatrix Potter days, I am not sure why, but the other day I found myself perched on a tiny chair reading ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ to 4 year olds. Occasionally I do leave the high school block, also known as Camp Hormone, and venture over to a gentler place, the Primary Block, also known as Camp Sweetness. Over there are the little people who still run around trees and squeal when shown a picture of a ‘Big Scary Bear’, little ones from 2-11 who sharpen pencils, raise their hands and walk in lines. I like to go over and see where it all begins-knowing full well where it is going to end- I think it gives me a good perspective after a day in Camp Hormone and more than anything those big smiles and little hands holding mine make me smile. It is very relaxing after a day marking descriptive essays or finding the hidden metaphor in an obscure poem.

For one hour I spun through a snow storm “Whoo Hoo!” and marched through “Swishy Swashy” grass and tiptoed through a “Dark Cave” hunting the elusive big bear. I was reminded of another era, the Winnipeg Days, when I taught dance to 4 year olds while pregnant with Trooper.

I might do it again next week. But let’s make it our secret… We don’t want the physics and chemistry teachers running over in their free periods.  Camp Sweetness is all mine.

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Filed under Miss Teacher

Kids are Cruel.

The tween and teen years are a time of terrible pressure and also petty silliness. Take these examples of things that make my students said. What is missing here is maturity and perspective, perhaps all that comes from having bigger problems to fry. But in the mean time their little hearts get sore and their heads in a tizzy all from, what seems to us, simple silliness. But to them these things are very real despite being very short lived.

“Jill told Jack to come and tell me my boobs are too big!”

“Frank and Jack were throwing my bag all over the place and I couldn’t catch it.”

“Al flagged me at lunch today.” (This means that he pulled her skirt down to reveal her underwear to the whole cafeteria.)

“Jess looked at me with a mean face and all I did was have lunch with someone different today.”

“John threw a pen at me!”

“Everyone is laughing and saying I love Josh but I was only worried about his face after the ball hit it!”

“Sarah gave me a present and then she took it back! That is why I hit her!”

“Miss, John told me I am ugly.”

The girls tend to make each other cry but the boys are simply crazy. They tease each other so much that their skin grows hard and little bothers them. However they have been taught to pretend nothing hurts them when often it does.  Kids are cruel.

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A bit more Lamu

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Filed under Photography

Hell is a cockroach

A cockroach jumped on me twice. The first time I was at the club, it was pouring with rain and everyone was huddled inside by the bar, wet towels in piles by our feet. Children shivered in damp bathing suits waiting for the sun to come back out and grown ups sipped beer and munched on guacomole and chips. All of a sudden I felt something on my leg. At first I thought I must have brushed against the strap of a raffia pool bag, but when I looked down I saw the horrid truth. It was a huge black roach crawling up my shin. Yes I screamed and shook my leg and pointed and made a spectacle out of myself, but I don’t care. Because there was a cockroach on MY leg. As I frantically shook my leg it came off and started to run, very quickly along the wall of the bar, still too close to my feet. Finally a bemused waiter came to sweep it away into the rain where it would battle against the sharp rain drops for it life. I would have preferred it killed, dead, squashed, eliminated, but that’s just me.

Then this past Tuesday night I was standing behind Trooper who sat, texting like mad into her cell phone, with a large white towel wrapped around her damp freshly washed hair. I offered to comb it out and braid it and just I I whipped that towel off her head I felt something hit my chest. At first I thought it was a moth, the speed with which it has slapped into me and then taken off seemed moth-like. I screamed and jumped and acted a little freaked out until, out of the corner of my eye I spotted it. The roach was running along the arm of the sofa, inches from me and it was enormous, ugly and brown. At this point the jumping and screaming and scratching at my chest intensifed somewhat. Dinner was a mess, I couldn’t eat until it was dead and despite handsome and heroic handsome spraying cancer causing roach killing spray all over the place we couldn’t find it. Then it ran across the room. right under the coffee table, then under a chair and finally with more spray and squealing ( there were four girls there that night) the roach took one last gasp and stopped. A broom was brought into the sweep in outside.

Okay. You might laugh and call me hysterical. You might point fingers and ask how I can cope in Africa, but every one has their room 101 and that is mine. I cannot handle a roach.

To tell you the truth I think I may be mildly traumatized, I keep thinking there is something crawiling on me. Often it is just a stray hair that has fallen out, but my skin is crawling never the less. This morning two dead roaches, lying on the backs greeted me when I came down stairs. Must have been all that roach spray.

Just writing this has made my itch.

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Filed under Being brave, When the rose tint fades

The beauty of Sipi.

Sipi falls is 5 hours East of Kampala. It is a place for hiking, relaxing and gazing at the splendid scenery.

When we reached Sipi the first thing that struck us was the view. Thankfully, there are no mosquitos in Sipi as it is 4000 meters high, the air is clean and the sound of running water is always present. Three nights and four days is the perfect amount of time for a mini get away. You return to the regular life restored. How long that feeling lasts is another story..

There are three main falls in Sipi and they are not magnificent for their strength, power or sheer volume but rather they are very pretty by virtue of the extreme height of their fall. Our lodge was perched on the very edge of one of the falls. Our room, made simply in a rustic style, had beds built high enough to see the view from the comfort of our bed, it was not luxurious, but, it was all one really needed.  Like a little log cabin with thatch roof and knotty logs of wood for beds, each Banda was a brown dot in an otherwise stunning cliff top ridge. The falls were tucked under us, so, hard to see but we heard them and all Bandas and the restaurant faced an enormous valley hugged loosely by two tall cliffs. It was as if child, had, in an inventive moment laid a soft map of the world over two upturned chairs . The sky became huge as it spread itself above this valley, occasionally forming square shadows with it’s clouds.

When we arrived we set off immediately on hike number one. It is an hour and half hike to the bottom of the falls directly under the room we were staying in. But with three children 10, 12 and 12 who wanted to stop and admire, pick up and adopt every chameleon we passed and then stand under the spray of the falls , it took closer to three hours. The path took a winding route that passed a few mud homes, some cows and down past caves that looked like giant and deep scars in the face of the cliff. We then passed coffee trees that gave us some cool shelter before we came out and climbed down a giant steep ladder, kindly constructed so that between a choice of sliding on one’s bottom down a 90 degree mud wall or walk backwards down a shaky and steep ladder, we could choose the latter. By this point in the walk a few local children had decided to tag on. When we finally got to the bottom of the ladder after and slow and careful walk down, one of them just walked frontwards down the ladder as if it were a simple and dull flight of stairs. His friend chose the mud wall option, only he ran gracefully down.

Soon we arrived at the foot of the falls. Having passed through grass, mud, rocks and ladder we were now in a tall grassy field. As we passed through, the falls began to roar. We could see them before we felt them but once we climbed down some cool rocks we could feel the spray that came so suddenly, with a gust of air that literally took my breath away.

The walk back up the cliff hurt, and still hurt the next day. Shows how dreadfully unfit I am. Shameful, especially considering the number of women we passed who climbed that path and that ladder daily, with huge stacks of wood on their heads.

Children become completely  alive and vibrant under a waterfall. The joy of such abandonment is a thrilling thing. It is rare that I feel such unmitigated joy, such freedom to live completely in the moment without a care for tomorrow or even today. They are so lucky my children. In the past few days they have laughed with friends, had tickle fights in a tent, climbed hills, twirled in the spray of a beautiful waterfall, captured chameleons, run in nature and played. Played with each other and the space around them.

Kampala is a far life from here.

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Filed under Travel, Uganda

Miss Teacher

I think it is time for a teaching post. It seems all I do at the moment is teach, teach, teach.

Most of the time I don’t actually feel like a teacher; in terms of the fact that I assume most teachers feel and look like teachers, whatever that means. No, most of the time I feel like a photographer, a writer, a mother, a wife, a friend; and then I remember that I am a teacher, and that I love it. Some days are magic, everything works, the cogs feel oiled and everything simply rolls into place. Other times there is a sticky sort of feeling between me and the kids. They don’t want to be there, neither do I, they are wild, I am not, they make a noise or a mess, and I lose my patience.

Reports and marking are not my idea of fun.  Meeting parents? Not so much fun. Standing on a chair to tell a story? Might be fun. My philosophy these days is simple. When teaching people who are going through puberty you simply need to keep them AWAKE.  Or ENTERTAINED. Their minds must be swayed away from their pants. Therefore I must not be boring. Kids only learn if they are aware.

At the moment I am awash in projects. I have little patience for boring teachers that simply do exercise after exercise with little imagination of inspiration. I stay on the syllabus, I do, but once in a while I take a leap and land in some gentle field of poetry.

Right now we are writing our own Poetry Books. The deal is this. Three poems by the student, one by a famous poet, a gorgeous cover page, a page typed analysis about the chosen poem and all four poems need to be illustrated in a manner that reveals the theme of the poem. I think it will be fantastic.

We are also writing short stories based on a photo prompt that comes from the best photos of the week on a popular news website. These stories will be peer edited by at least 3 peers before I finally get to see them so I am hoping desperately that all people will consider themselves an I and not an i, that proper things will be CAPITALIZED and that sentences end in full stops. It is the simple things I am after. If we get some real quality fiction, that will be a bonus.

Another exciting project on the agenda is our class Newspaper. I teach 6 classes of 20 students each so it should be fun to see what they come up with. They have all been assigned journalistic roles and with the kind help of the IT dept they should be pretty and perfect by the end of this week. I am strangely optimistic.

Last but not least they will all be receiving their big term projects this week. This time round we are doing Biographies. They need to choose a person they know; so no danger of reading plagiarized reports of Obama over and over again.

Now just think of the marking! When will I have time to do all the other things that keep me ticking?

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A cure for the grumps.

Yesterday was a most frustrating day. I suddenly felt trapped, overwhelmed and generally in need of a Starbucks, a decent shoe shop and a group of girl friends all piled into a living room, wine and laughter a- plenty. I know there will be days like this, I am aware that my rose tinted glasses may smudge now and again, I just need to distract myself until the ennui passes.

My extremely patient husband offered an excellent distraction by way of a drive around the neighbourhood. Between work, the grocery stores and home, I haven’t let myself out of the cage much recently. And this drive was an eye opener. When I lived in Trinidad one of the greatest frustrations was my inability to walk anywhere. I was car bound, and (and here it is: confession time) I was a total wimp about driving there so really I was house bound and dependant on rides. Terrible.  Anyway here my frustrations are similar in that Kampala is not a walking city. Whenever we want to go out, we need to take the Beast.  Anyone from the burbs will be familiar with this concept, but as a true inner city girl, this hurts.

So back to the point. Yesterday I carried my bad mood into the car and as we drove around and observed life around us, the mood slowly started to slip off. Mere minutes from our house, life is very non urban. In fact, it closely resembles an African village and it is easy to see how anyone who has made the move from the country side to Kampala could feel instantly at home.  It emphasizes my previous point about Kampala being a place of two cities.

Turning left outside our gates the road continued on its bumpy route for a very long way. So long in fact that we needed to turn the Beast around rather than continue and risk getting lost.  Without pause there were small shops, stalls and many children lining the road, alongside sleeping dogs and the odd bemused looking horned cow. The little girls here, who mainly wear the clothes that children in the Big West neither want nor fit, were by and large attired in what seemed to be old party frocks. The clothes that we saved so lovingly for that special occasion are now mud splattered yet happily worn by smiling children who yell “Hello Muzungu!” to each and every foreigner that drives past.

By the time I got home, I felt refreshingly alive and freed from the dusty cobwebs of my grumpy mood. I was reminded that I live in Africa, and no matter how cross I may get, I love the fact that each and every day an eye opening world exists right outside my gate.

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Filed under observations, Uganda, When the rose tint fades

From a child’s perspective

It is always rather different from a child’s perspective and it is easy to forget that they are seeing and hearing everything for the first time. Last night both my Trooper and Princess had a melt down.  It is an overwhelming experience for me so I can hardly imagine how they really feel. Most 9 year old expats, especially those working for large organizations or embassies would have been swept into an air conditioned car and driven from the airport to a large leafy breezy home without a slum in site. There is a district here called Kololo and that is exactly that. Then they would be chauffeured from home to country club to school and back again.

 

In sharp contrast my little princess has been walking through pot holes, past ditches filled with a grey and murky sludge, and past the most extraordinary array of smells. Uganda refrigeration seems to favour keeping the chickens alive and well in coops along the street. There is a huge sensory assault every moment and the combination of culture shock and home sickness is quite intense. She complains of having a pain in her chest all the time. Trooper on the other hand seems to take things in her stride but yesterday after the 4th Boda Boda drive and seeing poor children sitting in the centre of the street, seemingly alone, the sense of being overwhelmed hit her hard.

 

On the other hand they have met great people and when they are in the pool they are more than happy.

 

The milkshakes go down a treat too.

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The warmth of Uganda vs the crunch of a roach

 

The walk to school along the red dusty road was like being thrown right into the African pot. Children in dusty faded colours were running around after their mothers, playing with rocks and small pieces of wood. Women were peeling giant bananas or cooking over a small flame and men sat sewing or fixing in front of tiny huts that looked like a swift wind could knock over. We decided to ask a driver to take us around for a few hours and the first stop was a mall where we could get some groceries, mosquito nets and cell phones. To my glee we stumbled across a fabulous coffee shop called Africa Coffee that made a fine Latte. There is nothing like a good coffee to lift the spirits. Then we got our new phones without a glitch and moved onto the supermarket. Before leaving I had made a fun list of items that I doubted we would find. To my surprise and relief I discovered a well stocked and highly comprehensive store. Everything from El Paso Salsa to Lindt chocolate was available ( at a price) and the store also stocked  lots of appliances from microwaves to BBQs, cheap shoes, buckets and brooms. With a spring in our step and a depleted wallet we headed out to so some apartment hunting. The first place we really liked, not a palace but defiantly place we could make home. Unfortunately the cost of rent is steep and I am trying to figure out how much room there is for negotiation. 

 

We have been welcomed into people’s homes, greeted with smiles and generally felt the warmth of Uganda every where we’ve been. Once we have a home to call our own I know that we will make a good life here.

 

By the way in the battle of the roaches the score after 3 days is 15. We are winning the war but the crunch is certainly unpleasant. 

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