Tag Archives: memories

Losing Things

That little theft we had this week got me thinking. Back to all the things that were pinched in Uganda and further back to an earlier and more devastating theft. And that led to thoughts about things, having them, losing them.

Things. I get very attached to things and when I lose them I get terribly sad. I have had two major losses of material objects in my life and neither time was my fault. Things never get lost easily with me, unlike my handsome and absent minded husband who could fill a book with the objects, ties, cameras, pens, sunglasses, umbrellas, clothes he has let slip through his fingers through the years, I am terribly careful, perhaps obsessively so. I check taxis before I exit to ensure nothing has fallen out of my bag, and likewise I check hotel room drawers, cupboards, airplane front pockets. I did once lose a roll of film in a dark but comfortable second floor hotel room in Mumbai that overlooked a courtyard filled with drinking travelers. It must have rolled out of an overstuffed backpack. Over 18 years later I still feel cross about it.

But the two great losses were completely out of my control and the greatest things were taken from me; sentimental, valuable and in the case of the London loss of great significance to my intellectual sense of well being.

It was summer and I was back in London at the parental home for a few weeks before heading back to Montreal. My mother was in a cleansing mood and was going through the storage area beneath the outside basement stairs. There were two arched caves there and my father was probably pleased that more space would be made for his growing wine collection. Inside one of those caves were two large trunks filled with the school paperwork, letters and paraphernalia of my sister’s and my school life. Upon being asked if she wanted to go through any of it my unsentimental and highly pragmatic sister said “ No . Chuck it.” When I arrived in London her stuff was already behind the house waiting for the rubbish collection the next morning. My box was waiting in the centre of a bedroom for the excavation that would begin the next day. I still remember that morning, at breakfast, listening to the large rubbish truck picking up her stuff, thinking how cleansing and unsentimental it was to just let it all go, all that clutter that we hold onto for so many years; school books, notes and letters from friends and old boyfriends that years before we clung to, promising to never let go.

When I went down and opened my box there was the usual collection of soppy letters and teenage angst written diaries, some embarrassing letters from an ex whose face I could barely remember. There were some charming and amusing school books from my primary years and one or two school projects from when I was an eager 12 year old, obsessed with the French Revolution. I looked around for the box containing my university and high school books and couldn’t see them. Thinking they might still be in the musty cave I went to check but having no luck I asked my mother if, perhaps she had put them elsewhere. No, she had no idea.

After some head scratching and searching that over the next half and hour became increasingly frantic, it was determined that the missing box, the most important box of all, the one containing my University Thesis and all my English A level work had been disposed of with all my sister’s stuff that very morning. At this moment it was probably being tipped with a simple lack of grace into a rubbish dump somewhere in East London.

I lost it. Tears, recriminations, more tears. Urgent phone calls were made to the rubbish company, tearful apologies were made but it was done. Remember that this was in the pre dawn days before computers, hard drives, USB sticks and the internet. The thesis that I had worked so hard on, for so many months, was gone forever, now a soggy stained mess rapidly turning to mulch.

I still mourn the absence of that box and often think how much I’d like my daughters to read that thesis one day.

The next great loss happened on September 13th 2004. It was 12.15 pm and I had just popped home to get my debit card before doing to do some grocery shopping. Uncharacteristically and in the mood of walking light, I left my handbag and wallet on the dining room table and simply tucked my ATM card into the back pocket of my jeans. I then left the house and walked to the nearby store. It was one of those wonderful late summer days in Montreal, where the light dappled though the trees and shadows played happily on the sidewalks. I walked to a coffee shop with my groceries, stopping to chat with a friend and making the most of my freedom while the eldest daughter was at school and my little one picked up at school and taken to a play date. It was rare that I was alone at this time since my curly headed youngest ended pre school at midday.

When I got home at about 1pm I couldn’t open the front door. The chain was hooked on the inside. My skin pricked and my stomach belly flopped. There was someone inside. I rushed to the back gate, entered though the garden and saw with a gasp that the glass door to the kitchen was smashed. The rock that has been used to break it had been tossed into the garden and was resting in the grass. I quickly went next door to the neighbour’s and called the police, thinking how lucky I was that I had no children with me. Within five minutes there there were, guns poised at the ready, on the alert in case the intruder was still inside. I wasn’t allowed in until it was declared all clear and then they walked me through the house.

It was a slick job, neat. Apart from one muddy foot print on the carpet of my sweet princess’ room, a foot print that made my eyes smart with tears, there was no trace of the robbery. He had known exactly where to go, the underwear drawer was tipped, the jewelry was all gone; the computer and camera had been un plugged and lifted from their spots on the desk in the office. There were a few glass shards in the kitchen, a small indentation on the wooden floor where the rock had hit and that was it. It must have been a two man job. One to call, by mobile phone, when I was seen leaving, another to enter the house and quickly remove all that I held sentimental.

We replaced the window before the children even came home and until a friend carelessly let out a remark about the robbery some months later they never knew. I insisted on it, not wanting them to feel scared or unsafe in their home. I remember my husband coming home from work, quickly and I remember sitting on the carpet in the front hallway and sobbing, really sobbing with anger and grief over all that was lost.

I still think, often, of items that were in that jewelry box, and I think with anger how someone came into my house and took things that were mine; valuable and sentimental things. A charm bracelet that once belonged to my grandmother heavy with charms given to her over many years by my grandfather, each charm from a different place on their travels. A watch, very valuable that I had received for my 21st birthday, the necklace that my real father had worn, was wearing when he died. The presents from Tiffany that my daughters were given on the occasion of their births, the first ring from my husband that he bought for me in Boston when we were so so young. And more, much more. A diamond pendant I got for my 30th birthday, a tiny ring I got when I was 12 that I was saving for my own daughter’s 12th birthday. The list goes on. It was devastating. The camera I was using professionally so that I had to rent another one for a wedding I was doing the next weekend. The computer filled with work. I felt invaded.

Yes, I know they were merely objects and no one was hurt. For a time I became extremely disinterested in jewelry or anything sentimental that I feared losing.  I had been burnt by investing too much emotion in pieces of metal.

But we do, don’t we? Isn’t it normal to invest time, thought and love into something precious? I wish I didn’t and I am fully back on the jewelry wagon, but objects are important to me, maybe because I move so much I have held onto to these trinkets as concrete pieces of memory.

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Summer memories: Canada

It had been two years since we had been home yet it didn’t feel like it. Within moments I felt the warmth of home and spent the following weeks wanting never to leave.

Fresh farmer’s markets, silky cold lakes, dangled feet off the dock, sushi and lipstick shopping with girlfriends, talking late into the night, white wine and dinners in the country, tubing on the lake, too fast, too quick, and Trooper and Princess reunited with their best friends since before they can remember. Dock kisses and roots, stronger than words or tears, rooftop dinners and kitchen coffees. Godchildren, godparents, picnics and BBQs, winding roads and graffiti splattered walls. Construction everywhere and the shock of too many red lights after the anarchy of Africa. The shock of the new and the comfort of the old.  Ancient Quebec city, sunshine pouring around us, above us, within us, family, blood and love.

Until next year Canada.

 

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, Photography

The rains have come

The rains have come. The smell is green and deep and musty and the parched yellow grass has already perked up and turned green. In fact the whole garden looks shiny, dark, lush and alive. The change in seasons is welcome as it had become too hot and sticky here. Now it has cooled down to a refreshing degree, I nearly wanted a sweater this morning. There are so few opportunities to feel cool in Kampala.

But every time the rains come there is a small nudge of fear, of worry that something might go wrong. Last year saw the terrible landslide tragedy at Bududa in Eastern Uganda near Mt Elgon. The destruction was a direct consequence of deforestation since there were insufficient trees left to prevent the land from slipping away. The trees are cut down to make charcoal which is then used  for heat and cooking. What alternative do they have? With no electricity and a lack of funds to purchase solar powered panels, charcoal is their means of energy. But the earth suffers and the scars left by the landslides are the proof.

And a less tragic, yet sad all the same, consequence of the rains is the destruction they cause to the mud huts. Mud likes to melt in the rain and when your house is sliding to the ground the only thing for it is to rebuild, and rebuild again.

So while I am breathing in the mulchy goodness and loving the cooler nights a thought must be spared for those whose lives are inconvenienced by the rains.

The earth is angry elsewhere too, as we well know. We are all thinking about Japan. At first we felt relief that this was a First World country with an infra structure prepared for disaster, to a point. Yet the first world comes with First World problems and leaking radiation would be that.

I lived in Japan for 7 years. I normally tell people that I grew up in Japan. When I think of my childhood, it is Tokyo. It is bike rides to school, cherry blossoms crushed under bike wheels, it is the smell of Roppongi, the steam coming from tiny noodle shops, white gloved taxi drivers, orderly, safe, honourable, kind. It is earthquake drills at school where we had to crouch under our desks, it is always wondering if “the Big One would come” it is the Iced Coffee in a thin tin can from a vending machine, it is the smell of the stationary shops.  It is so much more. Japan is deeply rooted in my early memories and my sensual recollections. I am remembering and thinking and hoping. For Japan.

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More from the How did you find me? files.

Street pedicure


This is a common feature of Kampala streets. Men carrying small boxes filled with clippers, scissors, nail polish and a pumice stone are often hailed down by young girls. A small stool is presented, the girl sits down and the man gets to work. It doesn’t take long and is very cheap. Consequently most ladies here have their tootsies painted.  How is this relevant here? I posted a photo of a street pedicure and here it is.

Girl stuck in swamp

Oh people, what are you doing? First it is chickens killing girls and now it is girls stuck in a swamp. The poor girls; whatever did they do to deserve such wishful fantasies? In this case I can only imagine-seeing as though you have ended up at 3limes- that the swamp in question is the place where the rare and elusive shoebill bird is found.  Here the girl would be sitting in a dugout canoe, holding onto the sides for dear life and possibly stuck in the papyrus bushes.  She might have a pair of binoculars slung over neck and she would be wondering what possessed her to come into this swamp to find a bird with a nose like a clog when she could just as easily find the bird at the Entebbe zoo.

Rolling fields of green

Ahhh. Here we are thinking of England again; perhaps Wiltshire or Dorset this time. Not sure how you found me, dear reader, but let me warn you that unless you leave Kampala there will be no rolling fields of green for you. Having said that, any person who types Rolling Fields of Green into  Google is much more my sort of person than you over there typing in Girl Stuck in Swamp. Just saying.

Trinidad and Tobago


You are going to make me wistful now, watch out. Yes you must be very confused. You see I was writing a Trinidad and Tobago blog from July 2008-July 2009. It was a happy time filled with beaches, carnival, soca music, good friends, a great dog and some rum. Since August 2009 3limes has been all about Uganda, so if you were hoping for a glimpse of the Caribbean you won’t find it here, unless you look up and click on the tab that says Trinidad. The posts are still there, as are the memories. But now that you are here why not stick around and find out about this little country called Uganda? I know it was the last thing on your mind when you went looking for T&T but maybe it’s you lucky day!

kids fun house kampala

Are you talking about my house?

“ugandan women”


I am questioning your motives somewhat here. Are you looking to discover the plight of Ugandan women? If so I have discussed that here. If you are looking for something a bit more saucy may I suggest you hop over to a different sort of website.

You have just learned of the death of mr

Now I am dying to know who “mr” is.  And if I just learnt about his death why are you over here checking up on me? Are you a concerned individual? A friend? Or just something else entirely?  Just to set your mind at ease the only Mr I just learnt the death of is Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and that came as no surprise so I am just fine.

Shoebox kitchen

Oh do you have one too? Very sweet and lots of cooking can happen in there, I must say. I am now in a Villa kitchen so we can’t really be friends anymore. Plus I really thought it was me who coined that phrase. There goes my original thought.

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Filed under Kampala, Photography, Trinidad & Tobago

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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One year ago today…

A whole year has gone by and I still remember leaving Trinidad like it was yesterday despite all that has happened since.  In one day I said goodbye to my sweet dog, my house, all my friends, my students, I attended both a graduation ceremony and all our friends gathered for goodbye drinks at our hotel before we set off. It was a long and extraordinary day and I have never really written about it. The emotions were just too sharp. I did, however, write a small and final goodbye to T&T and here it is.

One Last Goodbye.

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World Cup Memories

World Cup Spirit is alive and well in Kampala and the close proximity to South Africa has got the Vuvuzelas blasting loud and clear. Since this is an expat town football t-shirts from Argentina, Ghana, South Africa, England, Uruguay and a host of other nations can be seen on the backs of many a fan. I watched one game in a Latino Club, in Kampala with people from Spain, Switzerland, France, South Africa, Kenya, England, Uganda, Honduras and Canada.

This time four years ago we were in Montreal and I watched most of the games with my German friend in an Italian cafe. But the highlight was being in Little Italy when Italy won and as you can see a much younger Trooper and Princess got right into the spirit of it all.

These are a few photos taken minutes after Italy won, four years ago. You can almost see the joy on the parrot’s face.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, Photography