Tag Archives: expat life

Getting close to normal

Over the course of two days we received 94 boxes and unpacked them all. Finally we have duvets and pillows, favourite books, wine glasses and a tv. And lots more. I was shocked to see how much stuff we have and some serious culling was done before objects were shelved and placed. There is still one room which is a horror story of papers and office type things but we need shelves before much can be done with that disaster zone. This is the first time in two years that we have all our possessions in one place. I tell you, this lady, me, myself and I is in no hurry to move again. 

And According to Trooper we now have a Home with a capital H.

I am still without a laptop so uploading images is impossible. Thanks and praise to the iPad for allowing this little post to be. Although, honestly who can write properly on this thing?

What appears as a looming and insurmountable list of things and boxes that need to be ticked is no slowly shrinking , and things are nearly normal.  Moving across the world as often as we have makes us rather good at it and we attack our task with vigour. The car is purchased, the house unpacked, pictures hung, but it takes a little longer for the mind to catch up. The real key to feeling at home is routine and friends. 

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Filed under Family Stuff

The Times They Are A Changin’

The whole house is silent save the persistent bird who sounds rather cross outside my window. Handsome Husband, recovering from one of those weeks where the fight between Ugandan bureaucracy and sanity was bloody and valiant, still sleeps, Princess lies upon her bed as if a fallen angel from Mars, dreams of her own funky world, Trooper is away at yet another sleep over where she can enjoy the company of other teens, those strange creatures.

And I cannot sleep because my mind is a buzz with change, more change, the fear and excitement of it all. How can any family endure such frequent change and still stay normal? What is normal? We are living in the eye of the storm, the centre of a a whirling tidal wave and this time it is going to up chuck us onto an island.

Bahrain.

Say it again. The long ahhh, the soft, caress of the H and the promise of sweetness in the rain.

A tiny blip of an island sandwiched between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a place no one had really registered until it was plastered on the front pages less than a week after we had agreed to go. What timing.

I thought we would be in Uganda for longer, at least one more year and then, the plan was: we would see. But now the plan has been tossed, like a pancake right back into the fire.

There was a time I feared being trapped here. What if we never left? What if we became one of those who stayed in Africa forever, until the red soil crept under my nails, my skin and never left? I worried I would grow strange here. People who never leave sometimes do. I worried it was not my place, I never felt comfortable here, not truly. I didn’t like wearing the scratchy coat of the perpetual Other.

I should have trusted my gypsy soul. How could we not move? Isn’t there some giant conveyor belt beneath my world, pulling, tugging, propelling me to pack, say good bye, leave, un pack, say hello, begin again?

Handsome leaves in one week. He is the one who is pulling up the anchor, taking us away, to a better job, a more exciting opportunity for him. I am fiercely proud. And we must sit and work and wait for three more months, live here but have my heart over there, pulled by invisible marionette strings between Uganda and a tiny dot in the Gulf.

Bahrain.

Never would I have guessed.

So good readers, those of you who followed me from Trinidad to Uganda, will you follow again?

“Come with me on a journey across the sea.”

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Filed under Being brave, Family Stuff

Oh for a 20ft container across an ocean

We have been here 19 months, lived in two houses and are well into our second year at school. Yet my dearest possessions remain in storage in Montreal. When we left Trinidad, having no clue, really, where we were headed, we decided to store the majority of our things and hold the rest in storage until it was time to bring them over. They are still there and I am kicking myself for packing our few boxes so badly. Many times a week I shout “Damn! That is in storage!” while I hunt for a favourite book, cake tin, pie tin, spoon or scarf. I packed enough for a year, thinking that beyond that we would be reunited with all our worldly possessions. It has not quite worked out the way I wanted; the cost of bringing that beloved containerfrom Montreal across the Atlantic, down the Indian and over land  to Kampala is very steep. While I cannot rest easy and feel settled or home without my essential objets d’amour, the cost can be perceived to be an extravagance.  I think as we grow older our collection tells the tale of our life. I am highly sentimental and being far from places and people I love has placed many of my possessions on a pinnacle. Am I wrong to want the evidence of my life around me?

Saddest of all is that once, if ever, they do arrive, Princess will be too old to play with the toys we have stored. We have robbed her of these last few years of playfulness. She often muses on what she would play if her things were about her. Dolls feature highly, as does a certain Playmobil Castle. She daydreams of sitting on her floor surrounded by tiny plastic treasure. I daydream of books, a lime green sofa, paintings on my wall, photographs. Trooper in her most matter of fact manner, wants for nothing. With a good book and a bed, a laptop and some music she is as content as she should be. Likewise Handsome Husband misses nothing in that 20 ft container.

How different we all are.

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How many days until the Election of 2011?

Seen in the newspapers this Sunday:

Not a good start if the newspapers can’t agree.

The election will be held on February 18th.  Many people are fleeing the country for the slopes of Switzerland, the wines of Capetown, the cold of England or the plains of Ethiopia. Those that are staying here are stocking up on canned food, water and tucking cash into emergency envelopes. I am buying lots of DVDs and baking chocolate in preparation for long days at home.

I am optimistic that things will be calm and sane. I hope the newspapers sort themselves out. The first editions of the above papers that came out Saturday night read 13 days and 11 days. The Vision (the government sponsored paper) actually corrected itself before Sunday early morning, amending the countdown days to 12.

You’d think the government would know.

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Filed under Uganda

The classroom is a safer place, perhaps.

So now I have written my four posts about the Kenayapalooza Road trip that was, and having been back for two weeks now and back at school for one it is starting to feel like it all happened some time ago. As a family we have decided that it will be some time before we embark on any long drives and have equally agreed on the necessity to get back to the beach ASAP ( by plane this time.)

I have been so fortunate to have crossed Kenya and seen what a diverse and beautiful country it is. I really adored Kenya, the people, the landscape the stunning vistas. It has a very different feel to Uganda; one I am still trying to put my finger on. Partly it holds the colonial influence of the British in a way that Uganda never has. There are the towns that still have some old world charm, all the little shops by the road side have taken the time and care to paint signs and colourfully announce their existence. There is less rubbish strewn by the side of the road, the roads are smooth and mainly pot hole free, things work efficiently, I spotted more than one post office. It is a place I’d like to go back to, a weekend in Nairobi would be especially sweet.

What never fails to amaze me is the variety of crazy things seen on the road. The trucks that bend under their ridiculous load; threatening to topple over us as we overtake. The buses that are painted in honour of a foot ball star or Jesus Christ, the sheepskin rugs and juicy carrots sold to happy passersby, the random street signs, the donkeys pulling a load seemingly impossible to manage. It is never dull, always colourful, often funny, sometimes terrifying.

 

How many chairs can you fit on a bicycle?

Do you think you could fit one more on top?

Please note that some of the sand bags had fallen off the back. A case of overly optimistic loading.

Hello Jesus!

Princess and the Pea?

Doing the Matoke Push and Pull.

 

The view is different now. I am once again looking at the bowed heads of students scratching out a story, or the raised hands of children eager to have a turn. The classroom might be a safer place but as I help these kids get ready for exams, be ready and set for what comes next I jump over each hurdle, one at a time. It is a crazy road out there; I’m hiding inside Camp Hormone for a while.

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Filed under Miss Teacher, Travel

Faltering.

Handsome Husband seems to think that my blog is faltering. Faltering? Do you know what I have to do around here to get five minutes to tap furiously on the lap top in hopes of producing something somewhat entertaining or meaningful for my reader? Okay perhaps, I have taken my eyes of the target and been a little distracted. I am teaching the teens, surviving, living, going to the doctor, nursing sick princesses, co directing a pantomime and cooking for 19. I am planning for guests, reading the books, shopping the shops and walking the walk; so, faltering? Really? Am I not good anymore? Nor fun, not amusing? So I went and checked my stats. Not aways a fun idea because what we can learn from strangers who accidentally find me while hunting for Ugandan girls singing in the rain and killing chickens? Or the best one yet: Do Hippos Roar at the Moom? I mean how many of that number are real readers and not just people who stumbled by looking for Roaring Hippos and Trini Carnival?

But the truth is the number has gone down, the readers are running away!

So now to be perfectly honest I am having a bit of a wobbly. I am not entirely sure where I am going with this blogging thing. I am not sure how many grocery store mishaps, safari trips and Kampala stories I can write. I don’t want to winge nor complain but quite frankly often that is all I can do over here. It is not easy. But you don’t want to read about my homesickness, my longing for shiny shops and restaurants with clever handsome waiters.

Part of the problem is that I am not allowed to write about Camp Hormone anymore, well not in any detail and that is really what I do all day and I used to love writing about the teens. Not anymore.

So this is a small crisis. Not a big one, and certainly to be expected after 2 and a half years of writing 3limes.   Just feeling a bit lost and faltering, that’s all.

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Filed under Being brave, pen and paper

Choosing what I want to see

I confess I am not terribly engaged with current events here in Uganda. I am not political; I am not saving the world, working for VSO or an NGO. I am a teacher living a predominantly expat life style here in Kampala. I have nothing to apologize for, this is just the way it has worked and how I choose to live. I am aware, very aware of my surroundings and perhaps if I were more engaged with the reality around me I would not be able to live here, as I do. It is a hard place, rife with corruption and people living a hand to mouth existence. So I leave all the newspaper reading to Handsome Husband and I stick to my IB literature texts.

Obviously I am aware that there is an election looming, it is impossible not be aware of the congestion during the political rallies, the posters everywhere, the game people play guessing the date. The latest is February 18th. Some people are worried; some say nothing will change while some say nothing should change. I am staying detached; to live otherwise would be too difficult for me. Not for everyone, just for me. It is very tricky to teach your children that we live in a democracy where an election may very well be a foregone conclusion.  There are issues associated with this that I cannot discuss here, there are students I teach who are personally connected to the people who hold the reins of power here, so I will not write about it.

What I will write about is the funnier side to living in Uganda. Funny for some.

Like the teacher who can no longer use her printer because a mouse crawled in and died. Only after she could no longer ignore the disgusting smell did she figure out what had happened.

Or the small droplet of mouse poo I found on my desk when I came into school today. Maybe I will choose to live in denial and pretend that it was a scrap of black eraser flake. Yes, that works, it must be that.

Or the mysterious hole in our garden that we really hope has nothing to do with a snake.

Or the sweet baby gecko that lives next to my tooth brush.

Or the fact that a Boda Boda crashed into the car and broke the rear light.

Or the dog I pass everyday whose nipples are scraping the red dust as she walks.

No instead I will focus on the gorgeous red light that makes me up every morning, the sun breaking through in a haze of pink optimism; or the chatterbox bird that has a long story to tell each morning while I drink my coffee. I will think about those Vervet Monkeys that hop around while we rehearse the pantomime, leaping from tree to tree and cackling to each other as we stand outside during the warm and sudden sunset.  It will be the tiny children who carry their Jerry Cans filled with water, without complaint, laughing with each other while barefoot they run home to help their mother’s with the chores.

These are the images I will keep in my mind. Not the mouse poo, dead mice or elections.

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Filed under When the rose tint fades

Good manners

Living in a place which is so culturally different can lead to some unfortunate lapses in manners. No one explains what the rules are, I at least was never presented a neatly bound guide to Ugandan manners and customs, and so how am I to know when I inadvertently commit a faux pas?

Our guard and gardener, Steve, a wonderful gentle soul who lives on our property and works for us approached us two weeks ago deeply distraught. His father had unexpectedly died and he needed to leave immediately to attend to his family and the burial. While most of us would have just written a note and left town, he waited all day to get our permission before leaving. I thought this was disturbing but apparently this is that way things are done so of course I just sent him off with a wave and my condolences. He assured us he would return in three days. He only returned five days later, with explanations of a dead phone battery. This is understandable as there is no electricity in the village and therefore nowhere to charge the phone. It didn’t explain where he was but I left it at that, presuming his family had needed him more than us.

Then this past week a collection envelope was passed around school to collect money for our receptionist whose father had died. The same week another colleague lost her mother-in-law but no envelope was passed around. I decided it was time to investigate. The rules are thus: if the person who has died is like your ‘king’ or you are the ‘king ‘to them then collection is taken to raise funds to the equivalent of half their salary. Having a ‘king’ relationship is a monetary one; either you support that person or they support you.  Where I come from no money is collected on the occasion of a death, often a donation is made to a chosen charity and flowers and a sympathy card are considered polite. Unfortunately it turns out Steve had huge expenses associated with the death of his father and perhaps the reason he waited before we left was to collect some money from us. But we never knew. Only yesterday did I remedy the situation by giving him an envelope of money, two weeks late.

Other things I have learnt concerning Ugandan customs this week: it is considered the height of impoliteness for a woman to show her knees. Breasts no problem, but knees are a serious offence. Wives are generally (and this does apply more to rural rather than city dwellers) not supposed to look their husband directly in the eye. When someone leaves your home it is considered polite to give them “a push down the road”, meaning to walk someone part way along the road. This implies that they are always welcome to return and you are reluctant to say goodbye.

I wonder how often I have offended people by not being aware of rules and customs; hopefully if I have done so it is with the understanding that I was ignorant and not rude.

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Filed under Uganda

Where have I been? On Mars?

( Photo:Trooper walks to school)

Yes I know I have been quiet. Things at Camp Hormone however have been busy and that has been stealing my attention and time away from all the fun over here at 3limes.

So what else has been going on? I know one of you is interested because I got a concerned email.

Trooper has turned into a sports fiend. Once a week she wakes up at an ungodly hour, before it is even light, and heads out to jump into a cold cold pool to do laps. From where did this girl appear? Handsome Husband has gallantly taken it upon himself to do early morning swim drives. As he so nostalgically put it:  “If I was in Canada I might have to be up and driving to Hockey! At least I am not standing in a cold rink holding bad Tim’s coffee.”  Well put, I thought. Then in the afternoons she can be found chasing a ball around a soccer pitch. I, being the unsupportive mother who has little faith in her football abilities rudely posed the following questions:

“Did you foot actually touch the ball?”

“And did your foot actually move the ball?”

It appears she is rather good. So she has obviously not inherited my attitude towards school field hockey: A great excuse to stand around and gossip.

Saturday she spent the entire day pool side representing her school at a meet. Each morning she walks to school.

I look at her, shake my head in wonder and think envious thoughts about her new found love of exercise.

Princess is quickly growing out of her name. There is nothing Princess about her at the moment, save her bright pink bedroom wall. Having returned from her class camping trip she has decided that she is a bona fide camper and wants to start a camping club at school. Apparently two nights in a tent was not sufficient. She has told me, in her sweetest voice that she thinks she could easily manage two weeks.

Again, there has been more head shaking and bemused looks of wonder. Where do these children come from?

I, on the other hand, have been staying well away from tents, cold pools and soccer fields. I am still walking the dangerous path to school every day and I have seen enough on those walks to fill a blog post. One will be forthcoming. Instead I have been spending my time either buried in essays or streaming the first few episodes of season 7 of House, Grey’s and Entourage.  Over here we need our fill of American Culture, just to remind us that we are all on the same planet. Sometimes I feel as if I were on Mars.

With campers and exercise bandits.

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Filed under I have two girls

Hammocks, Muzak and a little joke.

Here is my current favourite spot.

Busy weekend here cooking and entertaining. Now that we finally have a kitchen I am thrilled to be back in the swing of cooking and happily cooked for people two nights in a row. One night was happily spent in the company of a good friend, Pims ( yes, I found it here) and the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Much to Handsome Husband’s despair  I am busy planning two parties in the near future; one being a sleepover for 7 kids. Having space has simply made me want to fill it up with friendship, good food and laughter. Just the other evening, walking around my house I welled up with the sadness that comes from being too far away from the friends and family I love. I had an all dressed up and no where to go sort of feeling, and found inviting people over to be quite the tonic.

I am very spoiled. Two men came over today to dig a hole, pour cement and plant a pole from which I will hang two hammocks.  The concrete has yet to dry but there will be a time very soon when I will lie under a tree, in my very own garden, in my hammock listening to birds. Or if I am very unlucky my Chinese neighbours, who have a strong fondness for Muzak and Karaoke, will be blasting some rare treat from the Commodores 1977. As I groaned into my pillow at 8am this morning trying to block out the sound of an instrumental version of “You don’t bring me flowers”, Handsome Husband said “ well, they are Chinese.” Not sure that excuses them.

I heard this joke at school the other day and laughed when I saw how long it took different kids to get it. You could see the punchline working its way from ear to brain and while some laughed, others creased their brow with a concerned and confused look.

“What is the difference between roast beef and pea soup?”

“Well, anybody can roast beef!”

I am off to watch season 3 of Gavin and Stacy. From Kampala to Wales with the push of a button.

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Filed under Family Stuff, I love food, Uganda