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Lost and busy in the sandy isle, but walking on sunshine.

I am not sure I have ever been so busy. I barely have time to breath and there is another onslaught of things to mark, to do, to cook, to fold, to find. I don’t remember this happening before.

I am squeezing in a few solid procrastination minutes here away from marking to write this down, dear readers. Since I am so sure that you are interested and wondering how life is going on my sandy isle now that the glow of Berlin is worn and I have just finished week 6 of term 1.

The ground is moving faster than I. It is a giant conveyor belt that is simply zipping along too fast and I fear I might trip. I wake, I run, I return, I sleep.

Princess is being terribly clever and sparkly and brave. She has made it the finals of her school’s IDOL. It is not American Idol, nor is it the X Factor, but in our house it is even bigger and more important than either of those silly competitions. She will be spinning, dancing and singing up a storm  on a stage before 100 people. And she will be Walking on Sunshine.

Meanwhile Trooper has her nose pointed downwards towards her phone where her real life lies. She will soon have carpel tunnel of the thumb. We are monitoring the situation and sitting somewhere on a fence between “ she is 14 and it’s her right to be anti social” and “ she needs to be a human if she wants to live in my house.”Parenting Teens 101.

And finally in other news I am tired of not knowing where I am going. I fear I may need to purchase a GPS as navigating a car around my sandy isle is proving difficult. The thought of veering off the well worn highways worries me. I may get lost, or never get back, or….  It is somewhat akin to the fear of falling off a map. So I am slowing exploring; when I need my shoes re heeled and I haven’t a clue where to go I ask a fellow teacher to draw me a map and off I try.

There is one other tiny but rather exciting tidbit. We are now the proud owners of a dishwasher.
The last time a non human device washed our dishes, it was June 2009. Getting the dishwasher, finding one that fit, having it delivered, installed and ready to go was no easy task.  Finding a garden shop off a certain highway on a certain sandy isle was only slightly less difficult.

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Filed under Family Stuff

The in-between world of 3limes

Excuse me while I pat myself on my back. I have been writing 3limes, posting on average 2-3 times a week for two and a half years. This morning Princess asked me this question:” What if you don’t have a good week or nothing fun happens, what do you blog about?”

Good question. The rigour of finding something to say, that might not bore my readers to tears is a discipline I need. No matter what is going on, I need to find something to write, say, and comment on, photograph. I am generally an open book who finds it hard to hide behind words. There are things I cannot write, people I cannot mention, and a school of which I cannot write. There are marital dramas, painful episodes, loss, love, picking up and wondering how you got there, wonder at it all, fear, discomfort, anger. All these things can be hinted at but rarely spoken. And yet I persevere, keep writing, leaking little clues.

The other day I met a woman who knew within days of moving here that she would stay here for life. She instantly loved it and felt at home. I envied her, wishing that I too had that certainty about where I live. As a child I moved every four years, I never broke the spell until Montreal and for that reason despite my gypsy rearing, Montreal has always been home. And yet it is no longer. I fight the desire to return.

I live in an in-between world. I am a teacher but don’t live the life of an expat  teacher, having a family, a husband and being generally 10 years older than most, not having the freedoms they have. I am an expat but do not have the husband with the job that provides the expat perks, I am English but so very not English, more Canadian really, but then again, really not Canadian either. I am writer, but not published, a photographer who is too busy to organize the exhibition that is brewing in my mind. I am a mother of two girls who wishes for a third, a son preferably, yet I will not have any more children. I am a sister, a daughter and aunt but live 5000 miles from any family.

I live in Africa on borrowed land. This is not my place.  Whenever I complain to Handsome Husband that my soul is uneasy, I do not feel myself here, he asks the million dollar question: “so where?”

And all I can ask for is the sea, where I find the peace my wandering soul asks for.


Filed under personal

A gentle landing.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back to my little shoe box house after being submerged in the luxury of Lamu. It is a pretty little shoe box and it is home, but still, I expected the fall back to reality to be swift, hard and bumpy.  Today I awoke and was stunned by the light carving through my curtains, a light soft, yet with an early morning equatorial glare that made me part the curtains and look outside. The hill in front of our house looked beautiful. Sometimes it looks dirty and muggy, today it looked sharp as if it were viewed through cut glass. The sky, so enormous and nearly blue beckoned a new day.

A sleepy Princess and Trooper tied their laces in silence, cross to be pulled from their beds and dragged back to school.

On the way to school I saw two parents who were handing their three young children to a Boda driver. He would be delivering them to school, one in front and the smallest ones behind. Little backpacks were squeezed between them and they barely teetered as they raised tiny hands to wave goodbye.

The school smelled sweet today. A fragrance was caught in the warm wind and each time I had to walk to the photocopy room I caught a whiff of something heavy and floral, very tropical and sweet.

The first day back is always a bit painful. At the time that I would just be opening one eyelid on a holiday morning, I have already taught two classes of bored and yawning teens. Yet they didn’t knock my mood. Tonight I write this by candle light, of course there is no power and my wine is getting warm, but still I feel light inside.

It hasn’t been a rough landing. Lamu, the sea, the warm still wind is still there, when I walk, talk, wake. I have no idea how long this wave will last before I get tossed onto that bridge of muddy frustration but I hope it lasts awhile. I needed to breathe the sea air, to laugh with my sister, to surround my self with beauty. Like a tender drug these things tend to ware off; when it does I will be on the next plane out. Since arriving here 8 months ago I have seen that the key to my survival here is frequent trips away. Those taken by the sea are simply sweeter.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Kampala

Where are all the hours?

There are not enough hours in the day. I have two Oprah’s to read ( YES! All the way from the Great Shiny West.) I have a New Yorker to read, a rare pleasure that allows to me to read new fiction and read movie and theatre reviews of plays and movies I will never see ( frustration is bitter sweet), I have a number of new novels on my shelf waiting to be read, I have photos to take, new blogs to read, marking to do ( oh endless marking, why do I give homework? Because I must.) I have daughters to talk to, meals to cook, a top to sew ( yes, I know, I do not sew but how hard can it be to shorten some straps and it is a worthy challenge), I have emails and facebook messages to respond to and friends to Skype.

I have writing to do, lessons to plan and holidays to plan. I must cream my poor peeling chest where rather too much sun hit last weekend. ( Stupid, yes I know. Yes, I should know better. Sorry. Slap.) I need to sit and contemplate the new look I am going to give 3limes. I think she needs a little makeover, don’t you?

But right now I have a crisp green apple, cut into slices and smothered with Boursin to enjoy. There is cold white wine with sunshine dancing in the glass. Delicacies can be found here if you open your eyes, visit many grocery stores and hope.

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Filed under personal

Safari Day 6: Chimps and time to go home

We woke up before sunrise in anticipation of our chimpanzee tracking expedition in Kibale Forest. A candle lit breakfast awaited us in the dining room of the lodge and we ate facing the crater lake, watching the sun rise as we sipped our coffee.

Kibale forest is home to the greatest number of chimps in Eastern Africa. There are also 13 other primate species, 4 of which are nocturnal. The ride from the lodge to the Forest took about an hour and passed through tea plantations, and crater lakes that sat still in the morning light as thick as skin on warm milk.


A $200 walk through a forest is an enormous amount of money but for the chance to see chimps in the wild it is money well spent. With two guides and a couple of Dutch travellers we set off at 8 am, trousers tucked into socks, rain jackets on and plenty of water in our possession. I walked through thick sludgy mud, camera in hand, across twisted roots, careful not to trip and land in an undignified and muddy heap on the path. Tracking it certainly was as we stopped at intervals to listen for the call of chimps or to observe knuckle prints, still fresh in the mud. Chimps sleep in nests, a different one each night and they feed predominantly on figs so we walked head up looking skywards for any dark shadows or moving shapes in the trees.

(this is a baboon.)

(these are the tracks of Chimp Knuckles. We knew we were on the right track!)

(Twisted and creeping tree root.)

(Chimp nest.)

(these are the figs that are sucked and then thrown on the ground by the feeding chimps.)


The sounds in the forest, as we walked in silence, were a cacophony of bird and monkey calls and as the heat took over from the coolness of the early morning the air became filled with the fresh but sticky scent of figs, warm mud and life pulsating all around us, Butterflies darted about, stopping on moist leaves, red berries and the odd splash of colour in the form of a flower. Suddenly our guides told us to look up and there almost 50 metres above us were 10 chimps, some grooming on a branch, but most happily eating figs and throwing down the remnants below as we dodged the fat fruits like soggy pelants. We hoped and prayed that at least one would come down, at least a bit closer to us, but since they were happily feeding and were still cool up high in the trees there was no reason to come down and put on a show for a few tourists eager to see them up close. Unlike monkeys, chimps cannot jump and despite being able to swing happily between branches they come down to walk, or run from one tree to another. The closest we got to them was when we had to move aside quickly to avoid the splash from their pee. And pee they did! They suck fig juice most of the day so there is a lot of liquid to dispose of and any unsuspecting person below would find his or her shoulder or even head wet from chimp pee. After waiting some time in vain for them to come down we left for another corner of the forest where there were reports, via the guide’s walky-talky of other chimps in trees. We found two large males contentedly sitting as high as they could sucking figs and enjoying the view.


After 3 and a half hours of walking, tracking and craning our necks we knew that this was as good as it was going to get. I think that the lions of Ishasha used up all of our luck for this week. The glimpse I got of the chimps was enough to make us want to return for another try, another time.


It was back to the lodge for a last languorous lunch before the 4 hour drive back to the dusty world of Kampala.

As if we hadn’t had enough road drama for one trip we had one more bad experience on the way home. Driving with our driver through the dark about 2 hours from Kampala we hit and killed a dog. Almost immediately myself, Trooper and Princess burst into tears and by the time we sse stopped at a police block, minutes later, the back seat of the car was a scene of misery.


I didn’t think it would be possible to bond our family even further but this trip has tightened the bonds between us like moving up a notch on a belt. It has been a trip of memories, extraordinary sightings, disaster and joy. The adventure will continue as we plan to spend the eve of December 31st in a tent on the Delta of Murchison falls, a place where animals roam wild and we will sleep amongst them with nothing between us but a thin sheet of nylon.


Oh Africa.

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Filed under Travel, Uganda

A bit like a hippo.

This is NOT a pity party so don’t come with any Kleenex or sympathy. It’s just that now and again I like to set aside my very sunny disposition and famous positivism and wallow.

Like a Hippo wallows in the murky muddy water, except for me the water is Kampala and the murky-ness is the things I live without.

Yes it is a GIGANTIC adventure and yes, it is AFRICA and I will get to see a lion but may I please, just for a moment mourn the loss of my washing machine? You see, I am a little bit Trooper and a little bit Princess myself. I like to think that most of the time I am more Trooper than Princess but every so often I look around my self and I feel those Princessy tendencies rising to the surface, like a Hippo in her murky bath.

Many moons ago, in what seems like another life but was actually only 3 months ago, I had a dishwasher, microwave, washing machine, Cuisinart Magimix, Osterizer, and a gorgeous espresso machine. I also had my beloved girl, friends, a TV, the best housekeeper/cook a person could wish for and Cassandra. I had all my furniture and possessions, including paintings, photographs and mementos that reminded me from whence I came; I had wireless internet, a job I loved and a beautiful home. I had a car with a CD player and air-conditioning, a glistening mall and a beach just 30 minutes away.

We arrived here with 7 suitcases and shipped some boxes filled with essentials so basically our life has become somewhat sparse. In time we will have curtains and furniture, we will rebuild the home we left behind but some things will never be the same.

Each night we hand wash our dinner saucepans and plates with cold water (only the showers are fitted with water heaters) all our clothes are hand washed (ok, but not by me), our kitchen is minimal. Living the simple life does make you think. We take for granted so many of our mod-cons, so much of what keeps us ticking each day. It is only when they are taken away that we realize how lucky we were.

But I miss nothing as much as I miss my friends.

Ok. Wallow over.


Filed under personal

Home is where…


Funny thing about having a blog is the assumption that someone will read what I am writing when maybe they won’t.  To write into an empty vacuum, or diary is strangely less satisfying. There needs to be a chance, however slim that these words will be read in order to give them a voice.


When we first decided to move here I was strongly against it. A huge magnet was pulling me away from this place and keeping me safe in Montreal. I was at home for the first time in my life. Having never lived anywhere for more than 4 years, Montreal was the first place that had broken the spell. I couldn’t imagine the pain it would cause to peel myself away.  Now I am no longer hungering to go back. I miss it terribly and sometimes have days that I am so homesick it hurts, but I don’t want to go back. Not yet. This wander lust has crept inside of me and it feels terribly familiar. I grew up like the kids that I teach, tectonic plates of their lives constantly shifting, not knowing where is home. I am defined by moving and yet I long for a home.  Right now I am day dreaming about my dream house. It is a place I will return to each summer to put my head down and call home. It is where I will grow roots and my children will play outside on their land. It is a little patch on the planet that is all mine. It cannot be in city, it must be in the country and it must be by water.  


I want to be in Quebec, by a lake, close to people I love. 

Problem is this is an emotional choice. It doesn’t take into account the weather, the freezing lake, the other warmer choices that would be fabulous destination choices for all our loved ones. It also doesn’t take into account crippling taxes, expensive lives, job opportunities and beurocracy. How does one choose where is home?


When I was growing up I had no idea where home was.  I always longed for something that I didn’t know but could sense rather than feel.



When I lived in Winnipeg I felt very strange for a long time. I couldn’t explain it and just sensed that something with my soul was off kilter. It wasn’t something related to Happiness. One day it came to me in a flash that I felt land locked. I was just too far from the sea. I never felt this in Montreal because living there you are constantly aware of the water surrounding you. We were always crossing bridges over the st. Lawrence that I knew led directly to Europe.  Now here I live on a small island and I don’t really sense the sea. I know it is there but I sensed the lack of ocean far more than I feel it.

So I need to be near the ocean, or at least a stone’s throw from it. 


Next I worried about how spoilt I was being regarding cold weather. Can I really not put . up with it anymore?  Am  I not just being ever so slightly precious?  Living in a warm climate enables you to live outside. It is the quantity of time out side  that measures the difference with no outside dining or liming spot. In a Montreal summer we would never eat indoors.  With the right house I could do that forever!  9 months a year is spent indoors in Montreal. I do not want to live that again. I find being in a warm outdoor climate much healthier. Much happier. Much freer. 


So it must be warm, or at least very mild. Tropical is good too.

I want to be close to culture. If doesn’t have to be Western Civilization but it must have something to keep me interested and alert. How ever gorgeous a desert beach might be, I would get bored. I would especially like to go to art galleries and a museum now and again but I don’t need to live next door. A short train drive or even flight would be fine. There must be a good bookstore. I do not want to have to rely on Amazon every time I need a book.  Understanding the language helps a lot in this regard but I don’t want to exclude any beautiful Italian and Spanish places. But French or English is best, if we are talking long term. Also, some body there must be creating art and it can’t just be some 60’s throwback Hippie who never left. Not that those people can’t paint. Some can.


So a decent amount of culture within close range.


My children must be safe and well educated. This is a must and none of the above makes it if this one doesn’t. I do not want to be on edge all the time, looking over my shoulder and feeling just a little nervous and on guard. I feel that here and perhaps knowing that is knowing I could never stay here a life time. Every so often you arrive in a place and feel at peace, like you know you could stay forever, if you were asked to. I think the safely issue can stop this happening. A decent hospital and a strong rule of law helps.  If the police simply do not answer the phone we are in trouble.


So obviously safe.


I must love the people. I want them to be warm and welcoming and secure. If I can compare two nations I can always make some generalizations about the people. I have noticed this from being around so many different nationalities in my life. This does not mean they are not lovely, it just means I don’t work with them. Warm blooded Latinos or Italian Americans have always been my cup of tea. But Canadians are the kindest people in the world.


Need to like the Kind, warm people.


Now it comes down the tricky one. Food. Can I really live in a  place where I hate the food? I know I can cook for myself and I do but if I know that most of the restaurants serve sauwerkraut and sausages or Russian fish and potatoes it is hard to feel inspired. I do not need an American chain and would actually prefer not to have any but the local food should taste good, This is a bonus.


So now it should be simple to choose where is Home, right? 


Filed under I have two girls, Trinidad & Tobago