Tag Archives: holiday

New Year, New Year

A very busy start to 2012 here in the home of 3limes. First an amazing trip to Oman, then a quiet and unusual Christmas Day spent on the Beach in Bahrain and finally a touch of home and family with a visit from my sister and her whole brood who came over for 5 days over New Year’s.

And now as the flurry of excitement and holiday is over and it is back to work I am left with stories and photos to sort, Christmas ornaments to carefully pack away and an empty fridge to replenish.

I will come back soon, I promise. But in the meantime here are three little memories from the past few weeks, and what lovely weeks they were.

 

 

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Christmas in Bahrain

Well I thought it would be nonexistent, it being a Muslim country and all. But no, no no. There are Christmas trees galore, and tinsel and mince pies, little Santas and singing elfs, shelves stocked with glace cherries and marzipan and enough wrapping paper , garlands and pretty bows to fill a kingdom.

Everyone loves Christmas, even those who do not celebrate it. The season is infectious and each expat school has a Christmas fete, hotels have tree lightings and carol sing-a-longs and every mall is decorated to the nines. Of course this little island is filled with expat families who do celebrate, but they are not the majority.

We took a family vote and it was decided that Christmas day would be better spent at home than away. We have organized a holiday to Oman but will return for Christmas day. My vote was to stay away, in case you wanted to know. I find Christmas a quiet and lonely day without family and friends around but I have been assured that joy will be abounding.

We have had a few Christmases in the expat world. A Ugandan Christmas is quite odd. Obviously in a country as poor as Uganda, tinsel and trees are not high up on the ladder of importance. In fact the buying of presents is far below the buying of shoes. But there still exists the religious and more serious aspect of Christmas that is somber yet pure for its lack of materialism. Occasionally you might see a lonesome scrap of tree or tinsel strung above a shop, but for the most part, outside of expat stores, the shiny and glittery part of Christmas is lacking. The spiritual part is what remains. I was touched when Steve, who worked for us, brought his wife and daughter to visit and they presented us with a box containing cartons of juice. It was a gesture that resonated with all of us and remains today.

A Trini Christmas is like no other. They have their own food, music and customs and they take both the religious and glitzy side very seriously. No one in the world parties like a Trini and what better excuse to “lime” than Christmas? The decorations in the malls were literally stupendous, creative and festooned with colour. Initially I was surprised. What did a tropical island know about Santa and elves? But I was quickly pointed in the right directions and shown what a proper Christmas is all about.

And now Bahrain, where it rings false. There is no spiritual element. No, food drive or toy drive like in Canada. No sense that everybody is doing it. It is a fine excuse for a very rich country to wrap itself up in embellishments. But in our little world it is as it always will be. Chocolate peppermint bark, a few old traditions, a few new, a walk on the beach, Wham’s Last Christmas, hot chocolate in snow man mugs.

But first…. a new discovery. We are going to visit Oman and I will return with stories and photos. In the meantime 3limes will take a short hiatus to recharge, relax and refresh.

Happy holidays to all my readers!

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The end of the year and the start of a long road trip

Two weekends ago I danced on a bar stool and didn’t fall off. It was fun, and rare and since it was  the closing night of what was a fabulous panto, had such a sense of celebration and relief about it. It was a dancing tonic; so much so that now it is my New Year’s Resolution to go out and dance a whole lot more. It is necessary to get out more, feel alive and grab a bar stool to dance upon now and again. I certainly don’t do that enough. So with thoughts of New Year’s resolutions it is time to wrap up 3limes for 2010 and take a short break. Of course it is always tempting to look back on the year in a sort of Top 100 moments flashback series but I won’t. The few highlights that spring to mind start with the extraordinary New year’s eve of last year, spent camping on the Delta in Murchison Falls. Then more trips spring to mind; Lamu, London, Amsterdam. I have been a lucky girl travel wise this year. On the home front the pictures that make me remember and smile tend to involve the girls. Princess on stage in the Sound of Music, both girls as mice in this years Pantomime, Trooper on the soccer field giving it all she has, Princess as Veruca Salt, singing her little heart out despite the fever she was fighting. They are good, happy, thriving,

 

We are heading out on a Road Trip Through Kenya in a few days; in my mind it will be the Road Trip to End All Road Trips. 17 people, 4 cars, 2400km, 5 stops. I will return with a survival tale and photos. I promise.

 

Until then it is time for 3limes to take a little holiday, freshen up and come back more inspired and ready to see things in a new light.

 

Happy Holidays to all.

 

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Christmas Spirit where are you?

I am trying to conjure up some Christmas Spirit and I have found that it is hard to do without chilly snowy weather and shops. Going to the mall, hearing the same looped Christmas music over and over again, standing in endless lines under bright lights choosing between red, silver or gold tinsel and seeing your pale reflection in the shiny orbs hung on huge mall trees might grate on the nerves but it does continually remind you that Christmas is here. In Trinidad, despite the warm weather we never forgot it was Christmas as the whole country gets into the swing of Parang music, Pastelles and shiny ornaments. The Trinis love their Christmas and have built a whole set of traditions and ritual around it. Here it is harder to find spirit. Yes, a few stores have thrown together some tinsel and cheap bright lights, a few plastic trees here and there and some loud piped music but it feels like it is done for the expats and not for themselves. Where I come from Christmas is predominantly materialistic but here materialism does not exist so the Christmassy feeling that generally creeps up on you mid December or in some frustrating years, not at all, is harder to come by here.

So we have poured the favourite Christmas music into the ipod and we sing in the car. The Christmas films are out and tonight we all cuddled up an watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

“ Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from the store

perhaps it is a whole lot more.”

A perfectly apt quote for Christmas in Uganda.  But I can feel the spirit sneaking up on me just a little bit. Tomorrow we begin the last week of school; reports are written , shopping lists are being compiled and menus set. Our dear friends are flying in Saturday night and we are all set for wonderful holiday together. It might not be the same as Christmas Over There…in the Great Shiny West, but it will have its own particular spirit created from a mix of music, movies, funny tree decorations, new traditions and friendship.

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Ugandan Cake

Handsome Husband had a special weekend devoted to his birthday. He deserved it and we were just so happy to pack up and head to Jinja for the weekend. I have been in Uganda for 16 months now and have only been to Jinja twice. This, I do not understand and having spent a deeply relaxing 26 hours staring at the Nile I resolve to go more often. It is only an hour and a half from Kampala, an easy drive by Ugandan standards and the rewards are sweet once we arrive.

Throw a few good friends together, mix in a lovely place to stay, a campfire, happy children in tents, plenty of drinks, hammocks and books and add a fabulous view and a good weekend is guaranteed.

The only down side to the weekend was the birthday cake, worth mentioning since it has to go down in history as the Worst Birthday Cake in the World. I had emailed in advance and asked for a cake to be organized.  After all who can have a birthday without cake? I didn’t think I could conjure up a cake since I was supervising a Guy Fawkes Night at school on the Friday evening and then had Pantomime business to attend to before leaving Saturday morning. Anyway I thought I could trust a restaurant kitchen to bake a cake. Who was I to know?

I went into the kitchen to light the candles and promptly saw that this cake, being turquoise and wrapped in a shiny red bow had come from a store in downtown Jinja.  Okay, I thought, it is from a Cake Shop. Can’t be that bad, can it? Camera, ready I went to wait for the waitress to carry out the cake. 5 minutes later, I was still waiting as the staff thought it would be best to bring out all the plates and forks before hand, with little care for the candles which by now were mere stumps. Finally, out it comes, in all its turquoise spendour.

When the knife wouldn’t go through, that was the first indication that we had a problem. Then finally after some strenuous sawing action the cake snapped, sending shards of royal icing flying across the table. The cake inside looked like brown stone, drier than saw dust, harder than a brick. I gingerly put a small crumb in my mouth and nearly gagged. It tasted like nothing I had ever experienced before; more like pulverised and re glued mouldy brick than anything else.  How long had that cake been sitting on the shelf of “Jinja’s Best Cake Shop?”

A wise teen to my right cleared up the confusion. “All Uganda cakes are like that.”

So now I know.

Once we arrived back in Kampala we set matters right and sought out the best Death by Chocolate Cake we could find. No one can miss cake on their birthday. Even in Uganda.

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Another trip into the Wild

It really is quite magnificent to get into a car and drive across Uganda to see both wild animals and extraordinary wild open spaces. To look across the wide savannah and say “ This is Africa”, to have to stop the car because a family of elephants is crossing, to spot 10 lions as the sun is just going down and they are heading out to hunt; all this is very special and makes us feel lucky. One morning looking at the view of grazing zebra, topi and waterbuck, Trooper exclaimed “ I am so lucky to live in Africa!”  Sitting on a boat crossing the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park with a baby hippo to our right and a crocodile to our left, elephants sloshing in the water in front, buffalo sitting in the mud, Princess sighed “I have the best life!”

These are the moments we cherish, when we look at our kids, who have been uprooted from their lives, friends and family to live in a far away small African country, and they are happy and grateful for the exciting moments they get to experience.

The trip was particularly special because we got to share it all with our very first visitor to Uganda, we are calling her The Queen. She pulled out her coordinated white and olive wardrobe with appropriate adventure spirit and brushed gold hoops and with her usual style and aplomb proceeded to love Uganda. Having travelled over most of Kenya the stakes were high; we had to show her a very good time to ensure that she’d return. I think in this regard we succeeded.

Highlights of the trip?

Certainly the smile of Princesses’ face as a family of Banded Mongoose visited our breakfast table.

The impossible to see lions perched on a cliff where they were happily blended into their background. Trooper spotted them and had the boat reverse so we could all peer through binoculars at the lioness and her two cubs.

The two week old baby hippo who was smaller than her mother’s head.

The sing alongs during the 7.5 hour car journey.

The baby zebra prancing through the sun dappled grass.

The lime green poisonous snake that came to visit us pool side only to be shooed away by a very helpful member of staff.

Sitting in a camouflaged “hide” with my family quietly spying on Zebras.

Being woken up at night by the sucking noise of a family of Bush-babies. We shone a torch towards the netted windows of our tree house and caught the frightened look of enormous eyes before it scampered away.

It never gets dull.


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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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