Tag Archives: Family Stuff

Questions asked and answered.

A reader of 3limes recently wrote to say she was planning a move to Kampala and would I kindly answer some questions. I thought I might share them with you too, since whether or not you are moving to Uganda you might like to know if I have a washing machine or how I deal with the question of Malaria and bottled water. So here we are:

1. We do not have a washing machine but everyone else has one! It drives me crazy. I want to get one but will wait ‘till we move this summer to a bigger place where the machine could fit inside. ( Shoe boxes do not have inside spots for washing machines so it would need to be outside and that is not secure.)  They are readily available however.

2. I do not take anti malaria pills and neither does anyone I know. However once we leave Kampala and go the the country we normally do take them. Everyone uses mosquito nets and incidents of Malaria do exist in Kampala but are quite rare. Testing kits are available and any time someone has a fever they just get a quick prick to determine if they have malaria. Preventative medication is at all pharmacies for when you need to stock up before safari trips.  Trooper recently woke up with a fever and we did a home rapid test. When it came back positive we whizzed her to the hospital and within four hours she was medicated and ready to go. She didn’t get the malaria here in Kampala but on an over night stay at a farm about 30km outside of town.

3.We only drink bottled water but we do boil tap water for pasta. Everything else is bottled and again is easy to get everywhere. Most people have water dispensers in their homes.

4.Does everyone treat us differently because we are white? Mostly. Everyone calls us Mzungu and everyone thinks we are rich. Honestly, it makes me crazy. Mostly I ignore it but on occasion I have pointed out that I am a teacher and therefore not rich. However, being white equals rich here and for the uneducated people there is no getting round it. I think you get a hard skin and we all try to get used to it. There is no getting away from the fact that we are the OTHER and we live in a totally different world. Remember, though that there is a growing middle class here and some people do live like us with TV and internet and trips abroad.

5.Photographing people is a tricky one. I always ask and if they ask for money I refuse to pay. Something changes in the photos when it has become a financial transaction. Often the problem is not about money but about trust; they don’t understand what we want to do with the photos and don’t appreciate being photographed like animals in a zoo. The last time I photographed in the market I made a point of taking prints to hand out the next weekend. They were most grateful and will now trust me in the future.

6.How have my children adapted to living in Africa? It was a tough start but they are more than happy and settled now. Both my girls ( 12 and 10) love school, have many friends and have taken up horse riding. They swim at the club a lot and, I believe, probably live a better life in some respects than back home in Canada. They had a hard time with all the poverty at first but kids are so resilient and they got used to it very quickly. They have both become quite tough! All the kids we know here are so happy and enjoy all the freedoms of life here, being outside, lots of sports all year round, often big houses with gardens. They only big disadvantage in a kids life is that it isn’t really possible, apart from a few neighborhoods, to take a bike out and ride around. They can’t just go for a walk either, although most kids don’t do that any where until they are older.

Any other questions? Burning queries? Ask away…I don’t mind one bit.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Kampala

The longest goodbye

When I was 9 my family moved from Hong Kong to Japan. I wasn’t particularly upset about moving to a new country other than two wholly devastating events. I had to bid farewell to both my best friend and my dog. My parents decided that leaving him behind would be the best thing, considering that Tokyo was a concrete jungle bereft of green parks and places for a long-eared basset hound to run free.
I can still recall the tears. My friend I could talk to on the phone, perhaps even see again but my dog, keeper of my secrets, lover of my bed? No. It was goodbye forever.

Now as we embark upon the Great Departure from Trinidad I look at my two daughters, 9 and 12 and see history repeating itself.
We have a gorgeous dog; brown eyed, long in the ear, soft to the touch. We brought her with us from Canada and wept as we watched her endure the 4 months wait in Montreal, the long flight and the 1 month in quarantine before she finally arrived. She is named Zola and we call her our bear. We spend many a moment staring at her in awe. She is sweetness incarnate.

Yet we have decided to leave our beloved dog behind. She will not be joining us in Africa. This decision is based upon many factors, mainly practicality and the quality of life for our dog. The logistics of shipping a dog from Trinidad to Kampala are horrific, but can be overcome despite expense, time, and discomfort for the dog. But once in Uganda we have no idea if our apartment allows dogs, who would watch her when we leave to travel and explore, nor how she could endure the 6 month quarantine that would be demanded of her when we leave and try to bring her back. It goes without saying that the nomadic lifestyle we have unwittingly adopted is wholly unsuited to dog ownership. It is hard enough to drag a whole family across two continents, let alone an innocent and sweet unwilling pet.

Practicalities and rational thought aside, this whole affair is breaking my heart. 31 years after the fact I am reliving the terrible farewell I bid to the first dog I loved. Here I am doing it again. I cannot say the words out loud “she is just a dog”. She is not “just” anything. I have raised her from a pup, cleaned up all of her bodily secretions, trained her, loved her, and slept with her. The bond between her and the family is one that travels deep.

We are all silently dealing with this in our own way. We awake sad and slightly shocked; we look at her, touch her and stare into her eyes as if for the last time. The next 4 weeks will be the longest goodbye.
Last night she slept beside my youngest, curled beside her head like a pillow. At night she likes to visit us, one by one in our beds, a quick check to ensure her pack is in place.

Will her heart break like ours?




Filed under Family Stuff, I love dogs

MR. Mom and the dog ear cleaner

It is not a common occurrence that a mother leaves the roost in the capable hands of the father for 10 days, but I did just that. I have been home a week now and I have observed some small but significant changes.
First, they managed so splendidly without me that I have been made aware that I am no longer indispensable. My role, while of course still crucial, has shifted somewhat. For example, the only thing that went even slightly wrong in my absence is that during the transfer from one lemon car to another, a lovely beach chair was lost. This had nothing to do with parenting and everything to do with the tendency that handsome husband has to lose something every few months.
Second, MR. Mom has moved in. When my daughter needs ear drops, it is MR. Mom to the rescue. When a yummy Saturday lunch is wanted, once again it is MR. Mom to the rescue. When I arrived back from the London cold, coughing and spluttering it was MR. Mom who handed me a fizzy vitamin C drink every morning.
Third, MR. Mom has learnt a very important fact. Not only did he realize that he can survive so well without me, but that he can actually do it better! A Delicious meal incorporating ALL 5 food groups? Ask MR. Mom. Valentines Day pancakes with maple syrup? Ask MR. Mom. Chocolates for the valentine’s daughters? Ask MR. Mom. 

I think tonight he is making Risotto. Luckily, the fact that I have no Penis prevents me from feeling emasculated.
When asked what exactly my purpose was, now that finer dining, Band-Aids, nail cutting and reading with young ones has been taken over, I was handed Dog Ear Cleaning and Giver of Kisses.
Kiss, Kiss.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Might be funny



It’s funny how different my daughters are . One brushes her hair three/four times a day, loves to borrow all my lotions and potions, soak in bubble paths and spend hours choosing the perfect outfit. She is soft, self aware and very feminine. He older sister needs to reminded to cut her nails, shave, sometimes even wash her hair. She is a natural beauty but doesn’t care too much about clothes, would rather be comfortable.

Is this nature or nurture? Did I focus more on one’s prettiness than the other or are they just wired this way?  One has a voracious appetite, the other eats like a bird. One knows how to play the charming game, can coyly say just the right thing to get what she needs; her sister is so concerned with telling the truth, she has no concept of conveniently leaving out facts for the sake of diplomacy.

As much as one is intensely curious and needs to know it all now, her relaxed sister is content to let things lie until the moment determines her need. One loves to play with babies and small children, always the first to help out and show her maternal and nurturing side. She is empathetic to a fault and loved by many friends. This comes from a drive inside her that needs the affection of others. Her independent sister likes the limelight to shine on her and at times lacks the empathy she needs.  




Someone wise once told me that we never love one child more than another. It is just that some children are easier to love. In fact some people are easier to love. In my classroom I don’t have to try and treat all my students equally. I do. It is easy to like them all, truly I have come across very few that I have disliked. But having said that there are some students, just as there are some people, that shine. There is one girl who sits in a corner with a smile and a gaze that glows. She is a person that will glow through life. Easy to like, easy to teach , she is popular amongst both teachers and peers. Life will come much easier to her, just as it does to all people that are charismatic, smart and attractive. There is another student who is prickly. Many students are rubbed the wrong way by him. He is stubborn, arrogant, talkative, crude and often contrary. And yet. There is something gentle and brilliant and vulnerable about him. I can see through the bristly exterior to some thing deep inside. I know that it will take a special and patient person to find that core and appreciate it. 

I realize now that the reason I love to teach is that I love people. I am too optimistic to be a misanthrope. I know that I will never reach some, there are people who walk out of my class and instantly forget what we did. But I do not consider that a failure.  They were there for a time and if I did my job right they will remember most of it some of the time. And truthfully I am not being altruistic. I am not only there for them. I am there for me.

I wonder what kind of students my girls are?  

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Filed under I have two girls, observations, personal

10 wishes

January 1st was a miserable day. I have never been a big fan of the New Year. Rather than looking forward I seem to brood and look back. It is a day of uncertainty and worry for me and I tend to feel anxious rather than positive about what lies ahead. 2008 was an amazing year for me personally. I loved my job, I started a blog, I read an extraordinary amount, I felt creative and artistic and generally more comfortable with myself than I had ever felt. But for our family it was a difficult and uncertain year since it was the Year of Unemployment for the Handsome Man I Live With.

Now as I am facing 2009 I have no idea where, what, how we will be. I know that we will be leaving this sweet island on July 1st. That is it. Can you imagine havimg no idea where you will be in 6 months? 


For that reason I have only one resolution and that is to stay positive. And if I fail I will hide under my blankets until the moment passes. 


These are my wishes for 2009:


  1. Employment x2.
  2. To move somewhere warm, safe, inspiring that we can bring our dog.
  3. To write, photograph and create.
  4. To see my girls flourish and be happy and not be too sad or shattered by yet another move.
  5. To get all the cousins together and to hear them laugh.
  6. To live the adventure as a family and not let the stress get us down.
  7.  More Love, Sex, Laughter.
  8. Energy and Health.
  9. To keep a sense of Wonderment.
  10. Gentleness.

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Hiding from the Children

At what point did I start hiding from my kids? You spend a good chunk of your adolescence running around behind parents’ backs, sneaking and stumbling around hoping they don’t notice that you aren’t sober.  I went to boarding school so the sneaking around bit was amplified by it being teachers I was hiding from. Breaking curfew, crawling down the balcony to break into the boy’s dorms and hiding the stash of vodka were all part of the thrill of being 16. Then you grow up and get to have fun without hiding. Still a party but without the risk and thrill of being caught.  ‘Till you have kids. At first they are too young and unsuspicious. They think we are saints and when we are out of earshot we are simply still being parents, planning the next birthday party or surprise.  I remember lying in bed when I was around 7 or 8 and and hearing Roberta Flack playing really loud barely masking the sounds of my parents and their friends laughing.  I wondered what they were doing. How could they be having so much fun without me?


Then at a certain point the kids grow wise and suspicious.   We have a Very Important Rule in our house. No one can disturb Mommy and Daddy’s saturday nap. Ever. Unless someone is bleeding. And now we have another rule. If adults are in the sun room ( my “sin room”) at night, children cannot come in.  

My 11 year old always tells me “I know what you are doing, Mama.” 

“What?” I say, trying not to look nervous.

“You are smoking!”

“Yes.” I sigh. “But it is a really bad thing and you shouldn’t know about it or see me doing it”

“But why Mama? It’s okay. You’re allowed to have a cigarette sometimes. I don’t mind”.

So now I am getting permission from my daughter. 

Yesterday I was busted. She came into a room while a friend and I were leaning out of a window, cigarettes in hand. “Urggggg.” I exhaled.

I am running around behind their backs, sneaking cigarettes.  I am only a social smoker, never alone, never in day light and never without drink in hand. I want them to know that smoking is Really Bad.  But I also want them to know that by hiding it I am being a hypocrite, doing it but passing the message on that is is not a good idea. It is all just a silly game.  

The eldest was standing in the room while my friend and I, moments after being busted, were in the kitchen discussing how to mix the best Mohito. Once we realized it was too strong, since my husband hadn’t realized that he had picked up 70% proof rum at the store, we decided to split the mix into two jugs. Then, of course, we had to squeeze more limes, melt more sugar. The whole process was taking a long time. The eldest, at the very least will be a pro mohito maker at her parties. But what I am teaching them? Where is the good example? Is this a case of do as I say and not do as I do? 

Like many evenings and weekends here in Trinidad they are seeing a lot of drinking.  They don’t see any one drunk or foolish but they do see us having an excellent time. I worry that I am condoning drinking and smoking. But why should I be a saint, all sensible and pure and no fun just so that my kids will grow up untainted by the sight of their mom laughing up a storm, cocktail glass in hand. 



Now that their bedtime gets later and later they just seem to be around all the time. This is almost always a good thing. Sometimes, though, it is just sweet to be a grown and not a sensible one.

It’s not like this is some episode of Weeds. Aren’t I just a grown up bon vivant?  What to do?

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Filed under Family Stuff, I have two girls, Might be funny

Leaving Carnival behind

Leaving Trinidad at Carnival time is considered a huge faux pas. After all, how can you miss the biggest party in the world and the best that Trinidad has to offer? Carnival is a loud bacchanal of color, skin, music and costume. For two days people dance and “wine” in the streets before the austerity of lent sets in. We decided to do exactly the opposite and headed off to Bequia, a tiny island in the Grenadines for 4 days.  Bequia is off the beaten path. Although, if your path is one sailed then it is most definitely on the path. The tiny harbour is filled with sailboats of all sizes ranging from large chartered boats sailing the Grenadines to families who have left their lives for a year or more and are sailing the world. We met one such family who were on the Atlantic Arc and were home schooling their three children aboard their boat for a year.

Bequia is only 7 miles long and 3 miles wide and taxis are either small speed boats or jeeps with open backs. It is a magical place. Between aging hippies playing backgammon, sailors loading up with fuel, gourmet supplies and checking their emails at the internet café there are travelers and families looking to pause for a few days and forget the race of life. The pace is so slow it took a day to slow my pulse down until it was barely there. The airport is miniscule so most people take the 1 hour ferry from St. Vincent. St. Vincent also has a tiny airport, so tiny that flights only come in from the Caribbean. As the ferry approached Bequia, the first island in the chain of emerald islands that makes up the Grenadines, I thought it was uninhabited until we turned a corner and saw the little harbour dotted with boats and the coloured roofs of small homes.

It is easy to see how someone could fall off the speeding wagon we call the rat race and come rolling to a stop in a place like Bequia. Our needs suddenly become very small when witnessed from a hill top over three bays and water the colour of pale lapis. As sometimes happens when I listen to a piece of music so beautiful my skin is raised I was touched by the beauty of this simple place.

The only time my system was shocked was when, in the middle of the night, I was greeted in the bathroom by a spider so huge I instantly believed it must be a Tarantula. I didn’t take the time to assess how hairy its legs were. All I knew was that I had to sit for a moment and I didn’t want to look at that creature. I placed three towels over it and hoped it wouldn’t escape. I crawled back into bed and woke up my husband to tell him that we had an uninvited guest. He grunted and turned over and I was left with my thoughts. Of course my daughters thought she was beautiful and promptly named her Gertrude. How did I, the one with the paranormal fear of creatures have two girls so fond of bugs?

I have a theory that people who can see the horizon are happier. Just as I believe that people who speak Spanish are more beautiful, I believe this fact like an uncontested truth. We need to be able to see as far as the eye can see. If our view is always obstructed by concrete or brick we cannot feel the full potential of our eyesight. Although perhaps when we can see too far we are no longer hidden by our protective distractions. We are forced to be honest with ourselves.

Bequia created within me a longing to be on a boat. Unfortunately at the same time as this longing arrived I was watching my poor husband empty his belly over the side of a boat. Just a few minutes from the main harbour is a pretty snorkelling spot and despite the short distance it proved too long a trip for him. Likewise on the ferry back to St. Vincent I watched as he struggled with the nausea that plagued him for the whole hour. I already knew before hand that I couldn’t handle moving objects and had taken strong pills. After all, once you have filled a paper bag on a 747 you are never quite safe again. He, on the other hand tried to brave it out. He is now having second thoughts about our intended sailing trip planned for next year. The idea of being on a boat is endlessly fascinating. The perspective of the world is entirely unique, it harks back to the way most of the world was discovered and yet despite the open horizon all around one is trapped with nowhere to run, drive, walk or escape an annoying spouse or child. I have the greatest respect for those families that survive a year on a boat together. Surrounded by so many sailors, I felt the idea quite captivating. We shall see how long that idea germinates and whether it ever sprouts.

So did I make the right choice? It was certainly a different view than I would have had on the streets of Port of Spain. The tassels on those bikini costumes shake quite fast, the bottoms of those women do spin, the men, cut like sharp but warm tools press against those women in a frenzy of simulated sex. The rum flows, the music thumps and the heat bores down until all inhibitions are lost. Driving home from the airport we saw bejewelled and costumed men and women, tired feet and feathers array trying to get home.  We looked out of the window, fascinated as if we had just arrived from another planet and been dropped at the end of the biggest party in the world. I suppose we had. As we looked the calmness sat in me. I could still see the horizon.


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