Tag Archives: friends

Looking for news on the domestic front

 

I must be starting to feel better as I am typing again.

Perhaps I need to hear the sound of my voice tapping in my head….it has been a very quiet week.

I woke up remembering a promise I made and failed to keep: I declared that when the rains came I would stand up and defend the right to dance in the rain. I would take to the garden and twirl and splash and then we would all go bowling. For isn’t bowling the best of all rainy day games?

 

But I did neither. The rains came late at night and carried on through the dark hours and when the sun came up and rains stopped  the urge to bowl and dance was no more.

 

So now I will probably have to wait 7 months to keep  my promise.

 

On the domestic front, with little to report and digging for something good, Princess and Trooper have discovered The Gilmour Girls. Remember that? They are half way through season two and I am catching snippits while I walk through the living room enroute to the kitchen/bathroom/bed. It is making me believe I am back in Montreal and it is Sunday night. Was it Sunday night? I can’t believe back in those days we had to wait a whole week to watch the next episode. No flick of the remote to move forward a week. My girls watched 10 years of Friends in 5 months! It was like fast forwarding through Jennifer’s Hair, Matthew’s Weight and the Evolution of Jeans from too high waisted to low and hippy.

 

Today I am going to take a thick black sharpie and place a juicy tick next to an item on my list. Princess is going to the Orthodontist.

 

Love ticking.

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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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My patchwork summer

When I look back on my month in London it feels sort of like a giant patch work quilt; each quilt being a person from a chapter in my past. I had the great fortune, with thanks on the whole to facebook, of reuniting with some very special friends that I had not seen in a long while. I zigzagged London and the Home Counties on trains, tube and bus to see people, share fabulous meals, laughter and memories.

On one square of the quilt we have a friend who was my bestest friend in the whole world when I was 5 and living in Hong Kong. I wish I lived in the next village to her so I could sit at her kitchen table and talk about life, children and the chaos of having too many animals. On another, a teacher, in fact the best teacher I ever had who I had not seen since I was 13. It was a pretty awesome experience to meet up and have lunch with her. She has the same smile and energy she has always had and when we met and hugged on the street under her umbrella in the rain she said she would always have recognized me on the street, likewise me to her.  Another square holds my best male friend from University. We met in the Law faculty ( yes, I was very nearly a lawyer) at the age of 19 and shared many a meal together over those 4 years, both in my family home and in some fancy spots in London. We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years and like true friends it felt like yesterday. A pretty colourful square is filled with university friends; we spent a whole weekend together enjoying their tiny children and trying to remember names of songs we liked back in 1988. We were all convinced that we hadn’t changed a bit, and it certainly felt like we hadn’t despite the little naked children running around the garden.

Then there is a boarding school friend. We shared a dorm back when we were 14, now we were eating lunch while her toddler doodled, her baby slept and her teenage son played computer games. She had been at my wedding, I at her first wedding, many years had passed and we were still special friends. Another square holds yet another school friend (and fellow blogger) and her 4 year old daughter. It was a funny relief knowing that thanks to 3limes we could dispense with all the catching up, so to speak. We spent an afternoon at the Tate Modern and an evening drinking wine. She is an impressive and brilliant writer and business woman and it was great to listen and giggle together.

I realized, again,  how many of my friends have had children later than me when I met another University friend and her 5 year old son. This girl was the first person I met when I was a fresh faced fresher out on my first night in University. Now I live in Uganda and she is a clever scientist and mother living in London. A special square holds a precious piece of Montreal. Since I couldn’t make it there this summer and wonderful friend and godmother to Clea who I call my “big sister” flew to London for two weeks. It was simply amazing particularly seeing how quickly she and my mother became friends.

Another square from my more recent past in Trinidad holds a special colleague and friend from school there. We had an unexpected but lovely few hours in central London chatting about our favourite students, the past, the future and beyond. I never imagined a piece of Trinidad would come to London this summer, nor two pieces of Uganda, one whom I met for lunch and a few stolen minutes of quick shopping and another in my mother’s living room. In the last square my whole world collided when one old childhood friend met one Indiana from Kampala in the middle of my mother’s house. A loud ringing seemed to pass through my ears as time crashed into a small moment on a sofa.

My patchwork quilt proved that time is elastic and real friends stay true. It was something exceptional that I imagine my gypsy life needed. If I don’t know where in the world I really belong, I do know that there are people out there that tie my past together.

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Party marathon. ( my sort.)

Oh what a weekend.

I ruined a perfectly pretty pedicure by wearing closed shoes and dancing up a storm. I think at one point I may have stepped on a dog and caused a dog fight.  The night was gentle and starry at first, the martinis flowed, the food arrived, the music got higher and things became rather interesting. There were silent dialogues flowing above our heads and beneath the table all evening long; there was verbal sparring easily confused with foreplay, there were tears, recriminations, flirting and dirty dancing. Oh what a night.

The next day beckoned and with it a BBQ. Characters were tossed and delivered into a beautiful garden overlooking the city. If you tilted your body to the left next to one of their trees you could even see the lake. I met new comers to Kampala, people who were leaving, old timers who had seen it all; I met travellers, actors, the beautiful and the dammed. Food was divine, so was the wine and without a glance at a watch a midday lunch ended at 10pm. There was gentle chat, laughter and garden games. Then stolen cigarettes and cocktails as it grew dark; it was a very happy day.

Sunday and our stamina looked weak. We were operating on less hours of sleep than we needed and through our veins flowed more wine than blood, but we did it again. Another BBQ, this one more tame but a social activity never-the- less that was celebrating the achievements of one friend. It was a totally different crowd, no scary unspoken drama, just a lovely dinner.

Coming back to school feels like a rest.

Next weekend? Surprise birthday party for one 13 year old.

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Being sociable

I don’t often feel at all sociable, in fact I generally exist between school and shoe box, only going out when I feel obliged to or sense the need to shake off some unhealthy cobwebs. I find the longer I hide at home the less tempted I am to go out and actually talk to people, don’t I talk to people all day long?  Honestly, after a day battling with puberty, I rarely have the energy to do more than shower, cook and tuck myself up with a good book. However it has been a very sociable couple of weeks here in the land of 3limes.

Some recent highlights:

Trooper and her best friend made home made pizza ( including the dough) for a group of us. It was a perfect sunday evening of wine, friendship and laughter.

A dinner party, Mexican style where we sat under the stars and  ate guacamole and drank tequila Mohitos. The group was a happy clan of UN employees, a couple of teachers, some business people. We had 4 Canadians, 1 Brit and a Kenyan.

A visit to the home of The Beautiful Ones who live on the banks of lake vic, where children dip in the pool or shoot bows and arrows.  I love an alfresco dinner party, especially one that features good food, French Cheese and an international mix of people including Canadians, French, American, Brits and a recently adopted Ugandan baby.

Then  one of those evenings where everyone who was anyone was in attendance. It was the opening of an art show and old timers mixed with journalists, expats and wealthy art buying Ugandans. The evening left me a bit cold, lost even, wondering where in the grand scheme of things, I fit in.  Frequently a feeling of not quite fitting in settles on my skin. Not sure how to wash it off.

A ladies night featuring 20 or so women, some expats, some long term residents and some who were born and raised here. It was a lovely evening in a beautiful home with a generous and amusing host. Again, we ate under the stars at little tables dotted around the garden with the warmth of a cluster of candles. I am again, inspired to move to a house with a garden so we too can entertain under the stars.

Rather than squeezing 9 people into the shoe box so we can eat pizza on our laps. Yes this was another feature of the sociable week.

A night in with no Trooper or Princess is always a highlight. This one was dedicated to laughter as handsome husband and I began the Gavin and Stacy marathon, a witty and irreverent English sitcom that makes me laugh; out loud and often. Having no TV here, we rely on DVD box sets and we have now worked our way through the entire series of Entourage, Californication, Torchwood and now Gavin and Stacy.

Finally a rather bizarre evening was spent at the Casino. Yes, there is a casino here, more than one in fact. Isn’t a casino in the poorest continent rather an anachronism? This one deserves its own post so more on that later.

Tonight is opening night for Maria, singing nuns and tea with jam and bread. Tomorrow night I will be going out to see it. Very excited.


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Monday night spent in the presence of new lovers

Monday night spent in the presence of new lovers

electricity sits between them like a pulse;

they want to touch, their eyes keep glancing

but we are there, watching, asking with our smiles

it is all so sudden and new

like a forgotten touch you only remember now;

for the very first time

they learn to dance their bodies around

each other

the room fills up with their love

and the lust that is written over their

hands, thighs, crossed arms

and secret smiles

we play a peek a boo game

talking around their newness

but all they want is for us to leave

so they can begin again

the new dance

and drum out the beat

of their new love


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facebook is weird

Facebook is weird. I know what an old school friend, someone I haven’t seen for 20 years had for breakfast and I have seen the wedding photos of an old work colleague that I imagined I would never see again. I have been sent a friend suggestion that makes me laugh. She was the girl who bullied me at school a life time ago. Do I want to be her friend? Just to know what she is doing somewhere out there in middle America? More importantly do I want her to know what I am doing?

On the flip side I have reconnected with an old school teacher, the most inspiring teacher I ever had, someone who impacts my teaching style every day. I have found a long lost friend that I searched ages for and now we will meet up this summer and exchange memories. I can read the evening plans of two of my old students, I even know what film they are planning on seeing tonight, but does it all really mean anything?  I now have these superficial connections to people that are not really in my life, albeit by a sliver through a computer screen. The people I really want to see, and hug and hold are not living in my white laptop, they are living in my mind, my past and hopefully my future.

Facebook has now overtaken google as the most viewed online search engine. To use a Trini term it is the ultimate “Maco” tool, meaning we can spy on one another and be misled that we know what we are all doing. It presents a warped truth, but one that satisfies some of our curious inclinations. Through Facebook I can see what my daughter’s status is and then berate her for spreading her private life throughout the cyber world. These are things I probably shouldn’t know and yet I keep logging in, coming back for more, looking, as I scroll through the names, for connections, knowledge of what people out there are doing today. It makes the world so small when in many other ways it just feels too big.

Those of us who live so far away, across oceans and continents, shops, markets and deserts, need to feel the world is small.

I just purchased my airline tickets to London this summer and judging by the price of those tickets the world is quite enormous. Instead of looking into my screen to hunt for shiny things and old friends I will have it laid out on a concrete pavement for my delectation and choice. For three weeks I will spend my days in London town, soaking up the culture, the dust, not from red pounded roads, but from smog and the frayed, chipped ancient paint from antique buildings. I will revel, spin and worship at the alter of the Great Shiny West.

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All packed into one little Saturday.

This past weekend was something special. I finally left my little shoe box, my litter strewn classroom, the tiny corners of my life and ventured out; right out into the country for a luncheon. Such an old fashioned yet relevant world. It was too grand for a simple lunch and yet informal enough to be relaxed and welcoming. It was too generous and beautifully laid out to be a simple Saturday lunch, no this was a luncheon replete with tables laid beneath massive trees in view of satisfied ponies resting after the attentions of so many children. Our hosts brought together many characters from different circles. The newly arrived expats, the old timers, the teachers, the people who know not to whom or what they belong. Above all it was the children who brought together this group of adults, and it was the parents of these children, friends of the mini hosts who sat and watched the youngsters living the idyllic life of an African afternoon.

Yes. A lunch party between two trees as old as the ancients, on a farm where roses bloom and horses scamper about the paddock. Between courses the little ones zipped around dangerously on quad bikes while the relaxed parents turned an amused blind eye towards those parents who bit their lips in quiet terror. Mud splattered boots were replaced with flip flops and the smiles of sun kissed teens shone in the afternoon sun. Little girls, with cheeks as chubby as their 3 years would allow were scolded for riding quad bikes alone and the tantrum that followed her removal of the dangerous and offensive bike was laughed as wholly reasonable by us all. Some parents snuck in a cigarette while their daughters jumped over fences with ponies who looked a mite weary. Finally a few dads decided that it was their turn to ride the quads, but try as they might, the kids were having none of it. A reluctant 2 minute ride was allowed before they were back on, their rightful place ensured.

Too soon, as the light began to change, and shadows moved between the trees it was time to go. One little boy clutching his sprite bottle, so clearly did not want to leave this paradise, he had to be promised another visit “very soon’ to console him. Women were handed roses as they climbed into cars for the ride back to Kampala. Who could believe that this perfect corner was a mere 40 minutes away?

Finally, when everyone departed and children were told that one more turn on the quad bike would not happen for the 15th time, the light began to sink. Trooper and Princess were invited to stay the night and without a moment’s hesitation, and with eyes glowing, they nodded “yes, please.” The assurance that they would ride again the next morning was just the cherry on their cake. This was life, this was what it was all about! Quad biking! Horses! Friends! Land to run and laugh and be muddy and free!

Handsome husband and I said our farewells and left our children behind, with a twinge of jealously. We were heading out to listen to some Congolese music. From one world to another.

The women were resplendent in costume. Their head scarfs barely moved as they swayed in time to the beat. Hands up, hips out and the dancing shook the ground. Sadly this same ground was littered with plates containing the half eaten dinners of a hundred dancers. For some reason it was not deemed necessary to provide bins. No, not in this culture where there would certainly be someone with the broom at the ready next morning. Yet in the meantime, what was once a garden of green grass was now a rubbish dump of squished french fries and twice gnawed chicken bones. Plastic knives snapped under foot while I walked around, avoiding the booming speakers and searching for my friends. Perhaps the tranquility of the rose farm had ruined, for me this evening spectacle of feet stomping, hip swaying revelers. I thought of Princess and Trooper, tucked into bed, sleepy with their overdose of fresh air, dreaming of another day of horses and fun and I was jealous. All they want is to be grown up and they are so much better being young.

Still, it was good music, for a time, and there was true French pride on this day celebrating the African french speakers. It’s just that the ancient trees were calling and I couldn’t get their song out of my mind.

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Characters, mingling, belonging, part two.

Most people here work in the NGO or Aid field or in Embassies and will stay between 3 and 4 years but there are about 10 core families that live here permanently. The ones who come for a bit have a great time. They mix with other expats, they travel enthusiastically and energetically in every school break and they have an air of luck and happiness about them. They live way better than they would had they stayed at home and  most really appreciate rather than feel entitled to this advantage. Sunday at the club is a big hang out for this group and I would say this is mostly where we fit; despite the fact that we were not brought over with the comforts of a large expat package that includes a generous rent and shipping allowance. Another big difference is that this group’s future post is determined by their job, they know that they should sit back and live it up because who knows where they’ll be put next?  This group does not care about Uganda in the same way as those that have vested interests and business here. They are detached and happy.

But the real characters here are the people who grew up here, the core group of old timers that originates with the white men whose parents came over post war ( or before?) and whose children, despite being sent off for a decent education in an English boarding school, often come back. Mainly the men return, the daughters generally stay in England, especially now that the parents have gone back. This is the generation of White Africans living here.

My handsome husband ofter comments on how similar it is to Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet or other books where the White Man settles in a foreign land. A character is formed, through staying many years in Africa, often eccentric, mildly racist, a big drinker, a bigger talker and one that would never be able to return to his former home. He has many dogs but they all sleep outside, at parties he only talks to men unless he is drunk enough to start flirting. He owns a business but his family probably had land so there is some old money floating about. He loves to talk about money, business and land. His friends are the same as him and they spend every Friday after work at the same bar, with the same people drinking the same beer.

I am forming a stereo type here as the format of a blog does not allow me to get more specific, although I wish I could. Stereo types are born from a certain truth so forgive me if I sketch a picture that looks too generalized. I am fond of observing people and I form characters constantly in my mind; how I long to have the time one day to put them all in a book.

The English Woman in Africa has often married a man who was born and raised here. She comes over for some reason in her early 20’s, meets a burly man who is more African than British, a man who can cope in the bush, owns land, can handle a gun, is macho in a way that turns on her mind. She marries him and begins a life of permanent expat. She is not going to leave, she has made her home in Africa and has seen her share of people come and go over the years. Therefore she has gathered around her a tight group of women who are likewise married to a white African man, who has made their beds and must now lie in it. She is attractive in a raw sort of way, her skin is weathered but she looks healthy, she has a manner that comes from many years of ordering staff around. She is aloof to a point, desperately lonely to another. She has probably had an affair or two and throws great parties where she drinks to much and flirts outrageously with her friend’s husbands. Her life revolves around the children that she simply adores but she will send them away to boarding school. They all do. And the children will return on holidays and pick off where they left off with their African friends who know and understand them better than anyone ever will. Many of the children will return to live in Africa, it is what they know, where they are happy, where they were raised. Some will leave but will forever have Africa under their skin, moving like blood beneath the muscle.

Children who are raised in Africa have lived with a certain freedom, far from the materialistic world of the Great Shiny West. They do not fear snakes, they can handle a tent, ride horses and live the privileged life of the Other. There are advantages to growing up here and in some ways it is no surprise that many come back to live as adults.

These characters, old timers and new fresh expats mingle and turn together. At every lunch, dinner or afternoon by the pool there is a person who seems to have walked out of a book, or perhaps into one. Perhaps what these people, who choose to live here, have in common is that they don’t really belong anywhere else. Maybe, like me, they don’t know what belonging means.

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An introduction to some of the characters I mingle with.

I am meeting such a wide variety of people here, people that I know, had I stayed in my previous world, I would never have met. It breaks down so many pre conceived ideas to mingle and chat and even befriend people that I had no chance to meet before.

Let me introduce you to a few of them:

The Super Camper family have travelled all over the world with their 3 children in tow. They have seen and experienced so much of the world that I fear their children will always feel like outsiders in their home country, Britain. They are amazing and unique children, however, bright and alert, energetic and motivated, informed. The mother paints and mothers, the father plants seeds and fiddles with solar panels.

The new Super Camper family I have only recently got to know. They have lived in various countries in Africa as well as Ireland and Denmark. They are far more comfortable out of their home countries than within them. Irish, Swahili, Danish and English is spoken by all members of this family. These are the campers that remember wine and blow up mattresses. They put my holiday suitcase to shame.

Then there is a family I have come to call the Perfect Family. They have three adorable children, a chic house complete with fashionable furniture, a patch of land amidst their enormous garden when they grow their own lettuce; they speak both Spanish and French at home and are always dressed in a style more befitting the Cote d’Azure than Kampala. They are simply delightful.

There is my friend I call the Danish Beauty. She loves this country in a deeper way than most, being married to an Ugandan and working in the field of Journalism. She often finds this place tragic and I think it is because she is entwined in Africa, in a way few are.  Her husband is one of the gentlest men I have ever met. He is brilliant yet sad, in love, fatherly and resigned. When they leave it will make the first of many holes in our Ugandan social life.

There is a family of four that have the most beautiful house in Kampala. It faces the lake and is filled with ethnic furniture that they’ve gathered in all their exotic posts. Sitting outside, watching the sun set is one of the best places to be in Kampala on a Sunday afternoon and I always return to my little box mildly depressed. This family has their grip on the artistic calendar of the city, and are always to be found at concerts, exhibits, shows and galleries. There is an air of glamour about them, but one that sits well with the ability to kill a snake that might wander across their lawn. They are immensely capable of making anything beautiful and the food they serve is divine. I think I will call them the Beautiful Ones.

Of course there are also the teachers who are without any great exception young and adventurous. They are prepared to take a major dip in their salaries to come out to Africa for a bit before going home to settle down. They generally don’t stay beyond 2 or 3 year but while they are here they do it ALL.

Then there is Indiana, my good friend and occasional hero. He is a successful business man, entrepreneur and father to two of my most favorite children. He has been in Africa for 20 years and it is unlikely will ever leave. He accepts Africa and Uganda for what it is, not fighting to change it nor complain about it. He knows this place deeply and like the old timers here has a special bond with Africa, one that lays an air of resignation around him.

More to come soon….

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