Tag Archives: happy

11 years later.

 

Princess is 11 today. There will be a festival of sorts, cupcakes at school, dinner with friends, a Saturday night party, more cake. She deserves it; after all she is my sunshine girl.

Princess is so much more than her name. Camper extraordinaire, friend to all, t-shirt designer, Sartorialist obsessed, champion shower singer; her room is a blaze of pink and softness, her wardrobe a cornucopia of colour, hair bands and scents. She will curl up and read beside me for hours or stand in the kitchen chopping onions and stirring warmed chocolate, preparing a feast of some sort.

She cried for the first year and a half of her life. While the rest of the world settled into the comfort of knowing the new millennium would not strip us of water, power or the internet, in short the world would not stop, ( do you remember that crazy worry? the stockpiling of water and tins of chick peas? What was that?) Princess was crying, screaming even most days, cross with something that none of us could figure out. As soon as she could speak and express her discomfort when things were not specific enough for her, she stopped crying and started smiling and talking. She has not stopped since.

The first three weeks here in Kampala, back in August 2009 when we leapt over two continents to move here she was not happy. In fact she was terrified, devastated and turned inside out with misery. She wanted to leave and she wanted to go NOW. It was the first time since those early years that we had seen her so miserable and we worried that she might not overcome the discomfort of being here; the cockroaches in the “palace” the abject poverty, the dirt, the chaos. Princess likes everything “just so” and Kampala at first was anything but.

Now she often thanks us for her life, exclaiming that she is so happy, she loves the adventure of her life, the opportunity to see and feel and do so much more than her friends in the first world. I love her grateful manner and her positivity that shines through each day.

I am thinking of 11 years ago. Sharp blue skies, bone chilling wind, a late January Montreal day. As I held my little blanket wrapped parcel of love and looked out of the window of the Queen Vic, across the sheer white fields of McGill I could never have fathomed how life would change so much. Here I am 11 years later, marking the passage of time with a curly girl in my arms and I am amazed.

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To paradise and back.

The drive back from the airport was strange, surreal. The loud markets with meat hanging from hooks, the bars blaring the match of the day, the smog, dust and horns bursting from cars trapped in a jam and the crowds thronging our car hoping to sell air time and newspapers contrasted so sharply with the silent beach paradise where I had woken that morning. I felt strangely calm in this confusion. I had woken by the ocean where the bluest sky kissed the lapis sea, where the sand was baking hot. Now I was back in the land of bodas and sidewalk roasted meat. I was coming back to earth, slowly but surely but I was carrying the sea inside of me. We all were.

It was hard to believe that for 9 days I had been on the edge of the world.

Luxury is never over rated. I have just spent 9 days on a beach at the tip of Lamu island in the Indian Island and the entire time I was caressed in the lap of luxury.

Lamu is a small island off the coast of Kenya, with one car and plentiful donkeys. Most people chose to stay at the delightful Shela beach where the famous Peponi Hotel is located but we stayed further afar on a beach over 20 kms from Lamu town. Few people ever visit this corner of Lamu where the beach is deserted and we only needed to share our sunset walk with ghost crabs. If the beach was too hot we lay on swinging beds and read in the shade while the children leapt in and out of the pool. Our evening meal was caught by fishermen and brought to our kitchen, our chef made us a cake each day and served it with afternoon tea and the only dilemma I toyed with was whether to have two slices or three.

One sunset we climbed the dunes behind the house where cushions were laid on a mat and we sipped drinks over looking a 180 degree view of the Indian Ocean. After the children arrived, having climbed the sandy hills on donkeys,  Samburo warriors arrived to dance for us as the sun slowly slipped away. Our last night we ate under the stars while lobster caught that day was grilled on a fire by our fabulous chef. Once dinner was over we lay on cushions beside the fire and star gazed until, sleepy from the heat of the day we walked barefoot back to the house.

I am a lucky girl and my inner princess was satisfied greatly by the 9 days I spent on Lamu. Best of all I was with my London family and my children frolicked with cousins all day long. My sister, who is more princess than I, lay beside me for hours each day, laughing and gasping over our perfectly good fortune.

I feel restored by these days spent by the sea. I have washed away the dust of Kampala, for a time and have nurtured my family, my soul and my mind.

It was magical. I long to return.


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Same house, different Kampala.

Handsome husband has been living in a very different Uganda than I. His entire experience has been marked by plenty of interactions with local working people, and he has a sense of what the real Uganda is all about.  His skills with the art of chat have helped.

He is a big talker and has a tendency to know all about those people that few ever really talk to. He knows the story of the Rwandan girl who serves coffee in our favorite coffee shop, he chats to the Boda Boda men, the taxi drivers, the bag packers at the grocery store, and the cleaning lady next door. He talks to everyone. He has always been known to step out of a taxi. any where, in any city, and know more about that taxi driver than you or I would ever even want to know. It is somewhat of a family joke. Now, his propensity to chat has found an ideal outlet as he hangs out in the markets and rides Bodas all in the name of business. He is meeting people who live day in and day out in that market where women peel matoke and fold samosas. This is a place where young babies are tied to their mother’s back or sit on a box while she sells vegetables to make a meagre pittance.  This hard market life  is their reality; seven days a week they will sit on their stoop, in the mud, the rain, the sun.  When my Mzungu white husband turns up to stand amidst this scene, I can’t imagine how they perceive him.

I on the other hand, spend my days at school mixing either with the Ugandan elite or a fine selection of expat children. The teachers might be adventurous Aussies or Brits or very educated Ugandan’s. The local teachers eat Matoke for lunch and us expat folk microwave our sun dried tomato pasta. Two worlds, but not the same disparity as a French Canadian in the Market.

My frustrations about living here do not even register with handsome husband. Power cuts? Well, they are a lesson not to take power for granted and an opportunity to step outside our comfort zone. Incompetence in the pizza delivery service? An annoyance but one that can be dealt with, all part of the bigger picture. Only recently when stuck in a traffic jam where his car remained in park for 15 minutes with out moving, did the veneer of patience begin to crack.  In fact, I think that much of what irritates me here actually inspires him. I have been begging him to write a guest post with his perspective but he says he is too busy. Maybe he will come around.

His interactions with the Ugandans have coloured his opinion and experience of living here while my narrow world of school and home have coloured mine. Despite living in the same house we are living in two very different places.

I think he has found answers to questions that he may not even know he’s been asking. He is very comfortable here and feels settled. The essence of life here that is raw, base and distilled to the fundamentals of survival, appeals to him. Life expectancy here is 53 years but to him this is not a tragedy, after all we, in the Great Shiny West, live a life far longer than our bodies are intended for. In fact, we prolong life beyond what it should be until we have demented and shuffling people drooling in old age homes. He can see beauty and maybe even charm in the simple yet poverty stricken life, but I only see tragedy. Yes, life here is sad and hard but more than anything it is real.

The different tints we wear over our eyes, also called perspective, are powerful in determining our experience in any occasion. I wish I could borrow his glasses for a day.

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Filed under Being brave, Family Stuff, Kampala

The little blog that could.

Yipeeeeeeee!

I am hopping up and down. Nearly spilt my coffee.

Next year : AFRICA!!!

Thank you so much for voting!

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A city slicker in a tent.

Where have I been? Well dear internets I, lover of high heels, imported cheese and lip gloss, was camping. I cannot remember the last time I slept in a tent but I think it was the 80s. Last week I slept in a tent for two nights, and to be perfectly honest with you I found it a trifle claustrophobic. If and when I decide to buy a tent it will be a 6 man tent and I shall be very happy in it all alone, or perhaps with just one another. I found the whole plastic, hot, sleeping bag, not being able to stand thing very stifling. However I should not dwell on the negative but instead turn my head towards the new skills I have learnt.

I am a city slicker. I have never pitched a tent (this one was actually pitched for me by the previous camper), I have never planted nor grown anything, I don’t know the difference between a spider bite and a mosquito bite, I have no clue how to build a camp fire (although I can toast a mean marshmallow), I am lost with practicalities concerned with the wilderness. I never went to camp.

These gaping holes in my knowledge are slowly being revealed here in Africa where every second person knows how to pitch a tent, and live the life of Crusoe.  I have heard that there is nothing quite like sleeping in a tent on safari when you can feel the hippos push against the ropes of the tent as they are grazing and it is becoming clear that I will have to attune myself to tent life if I am to properly enjoy the full safari experience. I have few skills that would make me very popular on a camping trip. Yet there I was, leading a team of 18 11 year olds onto a sailing and camping adventure.  And I survived! These are some of the skills that I picked up:

  • When cooking scrambled eggs for 23 people, 46 eggs are needed. It is not advisable to cook this as one large batch, but rather scramble 6 eggs at a time.
  • Never be shy to rely on a child for help. When it came time to take down the tent I hadn’t a clue how to fit that large plastic green thing into that tiny green bag. Multiple girls, far more experienced than I, came running to my rescue. It was a wonderful case of “teach the teacher.”
  • Wet wood will never light a fire. Neither will damp wood. However, with many tiny broken pieces of wood you may have a chance.
  • Carry plenty of Band-Aids.  There are all sorts of unimaginable ways of cutting one’s self on a camping trip.
  • Luckily we had a club house with kitchen so no cooking over a Bunsen burner was needed.  What I realized very quickly is that there is no reason for bad food or bad coffee on a camping trip. A French Press is indeed portable.
  • When leaving a sleeping bag to air out during the day, it is advisable to bring that sleeping bag into the tent before it gets dark. I was bemused as to why my pillow and bag were damp when it hadn’t rained and then I learnt about Dew. It is not just for mornings.
  • Upon arriving from a camping trip with 18 children it is a fabulous idea to take off the very next morning for a deserted island on Lake Victoria with a good friend and plenty of wine.

Recovery  was quite splendid.

 

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Filed under Miss Teacher

Happy.

It is a tricky thing, being a foreigner in these parts;  tricky for the mind. We all perceive each other in such different ways and what I have come to learn and realize, even in my short time here, is how happy people are despite what they do not have. When I was walking around the school on the island facing Bushara I was conflicted. One part of me wanted to rush back to Canada, raise funds and return with computers, decent desks and tons of books. Then I stopped and realized that aid is a very complicated thing. Yes, the school was poorly funded and pupils were writing exams on the seats of chairs; certainly the library was small and insignificantly stocked; but the kids were laughing, smiling, happy and taking their studies very seriously. On the whole they were very happy to talk to me and let me snap photos, only two girls refused and asked for money and those two will probably end up running a municipality in Uganda.
Running in with arms laden with supplies is not the answer. Who would ever help themselves if people are always there to run in and save the day? This school was better than most, there were plenty of notebooks and pens, something that many schools lack, yet coming from my high tech school complete with smart board and IT lab, I did wish they had access to computers. Perhaps a better answer is to enable and inspire students to find the tools to empower themselves. They can work for what they need, figure out whom to ask, learn how to raise the funds and purchase their own laptops.
Like I said, it is a tricky one. I did wonder, after meeting so many happy people, if perhaps we are the ones who have it the wrong way round. Rather than rush in and tell them what they need, it might be those that live with less who will the last ones standing when the earth implodes under the weight of tossed ipods, computers and appliances.
One area that does need some kind of assistance is in the realm of opportunity. I met one young man who anxiously wants to go to University. Unless he is either very wealthy or comes top of his class, his chances are slim.

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Filed under observations, Uganda

And now introducing Happy Princess.

Princess knows where everything in this house is. Anyone want to know if we have any batteries and how many of them? She’s your girl. Lolly pops I hid after a birthday party? She will be the one to know. She fills this house with cheerful disposition and eagerness to please.

After her traumatic arrival here we have been amazed at her sudden transition back into happy girl. She wakes up smiling and eager to go to school. She rarely complains and is only a bit cross when we do nothing “fun.” She is not keen on boredom. Happy as a cartoon she pops around school smiling and chatting. When she is home she contentedly lies on my white bed and reads. (Or hits her sister.)

Still, we were very surprised when she readily agreed to go on the outdoor education trip. It was due to take place on the shores of Lake Victoria, learning to sail. She was mildly irritated about the sailing part, having been to a really fun sail camp in Trinidad (fun, except for the sailing.)  She wanted the camping bit, the socializing, the camp fire and the chance to be surrounded by people and fun.

Not only was she happy to go, but she turned the whole thing into a whirlwind of excitement, candy shopping and chats about sleeping bags and tents. Lists were drawn up and fierce discussions about tent mates, held. Finally on the day to leave, the morning OF we drop her off at school worried that she might just melt down but off she went with a smile and a wave. I am immensely proud of her transition and eventually happiness here. I think she has really nice friends. That is what it is all about.

You could really be anywhere but if you have a tent full of friends, you’re good.

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Counting my blessings

Things that make me happy:

 

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Since we live in Trinidad we can always have beautiful flowers at home.

 

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This is what we do on a sunday afternoon.

 

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If I walk out of my house, turn left and walk 5 minutes this is what I see.

 

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This sleeps in my bed.

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This is my view at work

 

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This is work.

 

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This is friendship.

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Filed under Trinidad & Tobago