Tag Archives: lake

Heaven is a place called Bunyoni.

cow view


I think I have found heaven and its name is Lake Bunyoni. To be more specific, it is one of 29 islands in the lake and is called Bushara Island. How to describe an island in the middle of a lake, small enough to walk around and never be lost, yet big enough to be completely alone? There is something nostalgic about being on a lake with docks that harks back to summers in Canada; but this was most certainly Africa, from the sounds of the drums, to the Crested Cranes, the cows and goats, the electric green Chameleon and the song like quality of the local language.

It is a dusty and very bumpy 8 hour drive ( 11 hours if one of your party loses her clutch ) but it is worth every minute of the drive. The name Bunyoni means lake of little birds and I now see bird watchers and their little binoculars in a whole new light. I am not going to suddenly start pulling out notebooks and frantically writing down the name of birds, but I am amazed. Birds are twitchy, nervous, skittish creatures, always looking around for the next crumb or the bird round the corner who might come by to swipe it. I have never appreciated their sudden movements, finding them a little too startled for me. Yet, lying still on a deck chair in the sun, in front of my safari tent, it was hard to read with all the bird drama going on around me. Diving and swooping they were possessive of their branches and I noticed that they never hop in a straight line. I had to go all the way to Bushara to sit and really look at birds.

We slept in permanent tent structures and lived without electricity, hot water or flushing loos for 4 days, and it was quite magical. You could feel your pulse dropping as the birds called and the drums from the lake beat an invitation to church. We ate by candle light, walked back to our tents with torches and zipped ourselves up for the night. We travelled to other islands in a dug out canoe, carved from one of the tall Eucalyptus trees that cover the island. It was chilly, which came as a welcome change after the heat of Kampala and it was bliss to wrap up in a sweater and sit beside the fire place in the evening. The thick black night offered us a theatre of star gazing and the mornings arrived with an orchestra of bird song.

I did not see our children. We travelled there with two other families and the mix of children was perfect. Throw a few younger boys into the mix and the girls shake off their pubescent concerns and turn into rope swinging Tom Boys. They ate together, slept in facing tents, swam together, and generally ran all over the island with joyous abandon. There is little opportunity in Kampala to walk freely, let alone run wild, so this was a chance for children to live for a few days in a strange kind of kid heaven. Wrapped up in an idyllic state of perfect childhood they managed to spend days together, problem solve together and despite the lack of lashings of ginger beer bare a close resemblance to the Famous Five.

We took two trips to other islands, one to explore a former leper colony, now a secondary day and boarding school, and the other to hike to the top of a peak to gasp at the 360 degree view of the lake. We also had the chance to walk around Mukoni Village. The life of an African child is one of joy and barefoot freedom, and we were followed all the way back to our canoe by 6 children singing, skipping and laughing. They had quite special names, a case of an English word turned into an African name. Gift, Grace, Secret, Marvelous, Innocence, Adamson, and Frank ( whose parents must have found such names inappropriate for a young boy.) The children proudly sang us an English song they had learnt in school, happy to show off their English to the Mzungus. ( white people.) Dressed in torn, muddy clothes they sucked sugar cane with the widest of smiles. Joy and openness ran across their faces. They must be aware that once they grow up a life of hard work awaits.

It was hard to leave the island. I cannot think of anyone we know who would not find it a magical place. I know we will return.


Filed under Travel, Uganda

Gone fishing.

Tomorrow we are leaving Kampala once again, but this time for five days. It is midterm break here which gives me pause for thought. We are half way through term one!  We have been in Kampala over two months now and when I look back and reflect on the first weeks here I am sometimes shocked by what we have achieved.

There is no denying that this was a hard move. Selling everything, storing valuables and up and leaving for Africa with less than 30 boxes is Crazy. Most people who move here are young and do so as a temporary but adventurous addition to their youth; or they move with a company that bestows upon them a shipping allowance. I have not met anyone in our position, married with two tweenish daughters, starting lives from scratch.

We have moved out of one apartment (the infamous cockroach palace) and into a town house. We have purchased essential items ranging from kitchen knives to shower curtains and laundry baskets, we have bought a car and painted our house, settled into new jobs and school, made friends, laughed, cried, photographed, regretted, pondered and questioned our sanity; we have, without exaggeration, started all over again in AFRICA.  It is an immense undertaking and there have been moments when I have wondered if we are not possibly quite mad.

Yet here we are, half term starting today, and we are happily heading to the border of Rwanda, to a lake called Bunyoni. We will be staying on a little island in the lake by the name of Bushara. It is a 7 hour drive, up and down pot holed roads, through villages and a landscape I cannot yet imagine. We are going to a remote corner of Uganda that is cold in the evenings and bears a lake of crystal clarity.

I promise to return with photos, stories and impressions.


Filed under Family Stuff, Travel, Uganda

Dock Notes. #2

Three girls go to a sailing race today.


There is a father here who refuses his daughters the joy of sailing with friends, for their objective is to win the race and the companionship of others will simply weigh down the boat and detour from his aim. His daughters cannot speak to boys, swim for fun or enjoy a silly game of tennis. Everything they do is to please their father’s manic obsession with success. It has led me to wonder about the purpose of entering into any activity at all. I appreciate the desire to compete and succeed and I understand the value in passing on ambition to our children. But still.


Imagine that a person loves to write, to paint, perhaps to sing or photograph. Imagine that these pursuits give the person much pleasure. Now consider that the individual is not talented in any of these activities, maybe not able to win competitions, get published or even perform. Does that eventually diminish the pleasure? Perhaps if we set our sights too far beyond the realm of creation and push them into the success and appreciation by others the pleasure of a fine day painting will be lost. Does something have to be read, purchased or applauded for it to be real?  Does my daughter have to win the sailing regatta in order to enjoy it?

I hope not.

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Filed under I have two girls

Dock Notes


Notes from a dock.


I am not one of those women who get up before the rest of the house to make French toast and warm fresh scones. I am not one of those ultra patient earth mothers who has 6 children and still has time and patience left over to run the summer play on the lake. I am not one of those mothers who devotes her entire life to feeding her family. I am not one of those women who always has snacks and juice and kleenex in her deep deep bag. However, I am in awe of those women who brandish their toilet pump in one hand and spatula in the other. I stare at mothers with infinite patience as if at a higher species from the planet “I am Mother, hear me Roar.”


Lying on a dock is an experience in self contemplation.  Between bouts of sneezing ( allergies) and regret at being a cold water wimp there is time to stare at the sky, the still smooth lake and the gentle curves of the hills, and in these moments the mind may travel. Back to the collection of mothers I encountered at the charming summer camp on the lake, all of whom had remembered towels for their children while I was still bleary eyed and grumpy from waking up before 9am. My poor cold children, towel-less and dripping were learning the hard way what it means to be Canadian. There is a posse of teens on the dock as I type and where is that super mom with the fresh baked cookies for the hungry wet swimmers?


Some women make mothering a profession while I stand back and wait for the moments when I want to draw my brood near for moral sustenance and a glimpse of good art or literature. I think it is amusing that part of me really wants to be one of those Betty Crocker Moms but I just can’t drag myself into the kitchen to make the leap. 


My sweet but snappy eldest, somewhat like a charming garden turtle, has fallen for the lake hunk. While her eyes boggle at the sight of him and her smile shyly shows her crush, I step back and let them swim and splash and feel the joy of a sunny day on a Canadian lake. For these are the days memories are made of. Better that I don’t disturb them with warm fresh cookies.


Don’t you think?











Filed under Family Stuff, I have two girls

More summer limes.


Sun desperately trying to get through these dark clouds. I haven’t been this cold in a long time. In London during the snow storm of the century I was cold, but then, it was snowing, it was to be expected. It has been forever proven that I am a warm weather girl. I get very sad when my bones ache with cold. At night I sleep clenched, trying to stay warm, longing for a hot water bottle. Last Saturday, at 4pm on July 4th as I sat huddled, practically in the fire place, I decided once and for all that I will never own a country house here in Quebec. That was quite the epiphany moment there. This is my home, the place I love and I have decided that I will never again own a home here. I simply hate to be cold.

Now please don’t imagine that I am complaining. Yes, I might grumble now and again as I borrow another sweater but I am still happy to be here.


And I do live in hope, I have a pretty Trini sundress hanging in the closet.






Does anybody know a remedy for the problem of teens and their selective blindness? Pull out a pack of cigarettes to have a quiet and sneaky cig and they are as sharp as a hungry seagull. Walk into a room and see a pair of crotch in your face underwear left centre stage and they are as blind as a mole. I point them out. Even walk them through the room like a private visitor to an exclusive gallery, but even if they see it, the mess, the strewn clothes, it is with the blurry vision of the carefree teen. These things are just not important!

But I think they are, along with table manners, talking back and general politeness. I know a lot of parents, tired from the constant fighting, just give it up and sweep the discord under the proverbial rug. Then bitterness ensues, complacency and the eventual silence at the dinner table. Parents then become so surprised to learn that it was their child who gate crashed the party in a bikini.

So I might be the nag, the mom who forces then to pick up, the recipient of many a rolled eye ball, but I believe in the old fashioned fundamentals.


So bring on the dropped knickers and I’ll lead the gallery tour.









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Filed under Family Stuff, La belle ville, Teenagers

Summer limes

A few slices of summer lime


Yesterday I sat in front of a fire with two sweaters on. Welcome to July in Quebec. It was bloody cold, especially for my spoilt disposition so attuned to the tropics.


Yet today it is beautiful here. Very still, calm and fresh. It feels Northern. The green is as fresh and pale as a Boreal forest should be. The sky crisp, the sun sharp. 

I had been sensitized to the northern climate, the trees, sounds and tastes and now I have a new found appreciation for what was once ordinary. That is the beauty of living away; I can retain the pleasure of experiencing the new.



We went to a market over the weekend in a small country town. I saw happy hippies and city weekenders shopping for their lunch, greeting each other with familiar smiles. The small kiosks were proudly selling their homemade foods. I sampled wine, cheese  and maple syrup but I could have also tried milk fed piglet or gourmet sausage. There was a pride in their food and the tasteful (and sometimes kitch) presentation. This is a land of food snobs.









Since arriving in Montreal I have eaten meals that have tasted intense and fresh. I had not experienced a sensation quite like a fresh Quebec strawberry in some time. My taste buds have been deprived of these northern flavours, the sweet but tart berry, the pungent wet cheese, the nectarine dripping in juice. And visually the food looks perfect, the carrots are small and neat and orange, the eggplant firm in its purple fatness and the lettuce looks as crisp as its crunch. 


A Canadian summer means drinks at the dock, laughter with friends, the icy dip or the comfort of a roaring fireplace. For me it also means a return to my adopted home and time spent with my sisterhood of girlfriends. There is comfort in returning home to the familiar and seeing the gasp of recognition and joy spread over my daughters’ faces.


Things are often too long. Movies, books, classes, days, plays; but a Canadian summer is always too short. Staring at a Canadian lake bordered by gentle hills is so relaxing that after a while you feel akin to floating.


I must confess that no part of my anatomy has yet dared to experience the piercing and heart thumping cold of a lake swim.


Saving that for another day. Not quite that brave yet.





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Filed under La belle ville