Tag Archives: montreal

Halloween I miss you

Halloween was the very best sort of fun back in the day. Handsome would come home from work, roll up his sleeves and dig out all the soft, pulpy pumpkin flesh. We would lay out newspapers on the kitchen floor and scoop out the insides of two or three very large pumpkins. Then a small Trooper and an even smaller Princess would carefully draw the face with black Sharpie and Handsome would pull out the sharpest knife and start to carve. By the time we were finished it was dark and the perfect time to drop little candles into the belly of the gourds. Costumes would be donned, and then coats to cover them up since it was Montreal and already far too cold. Then hats and makeup, boots pulled up, enormous trick or treating pillow cases slung over shoulders and off we’d go. Handsome and I both wanted to trick or treat. There is nowhere better than our old Montreal neighborhood for house hopping, even people from the burbs would drive over, spill out of minivans and use our roads to collect good loot. So we’d take turns. One of us would stay behind and hand out candy, one of us would take Princess’ hand and guide her up the stairs to each house, prompt her to say ‘trick or treat’ and ‘thank you’ in the smallest voice and then onto the next house. Then home to switch and the other would do another road. We always shared Halloween with the same friends, ate the same blood red spaghetti sauce, drank the same red wine.

A Trini Halloween was fun, as everything in Trinidad was. It was all rum and candy and loud music and it quickly turned into a street party, a lime. Not coats needed there, the teenagers loved to wear the skimpy costumes, to laugh the loudest, come the last. All my students would turn up and show off their imaginative outfits, and share candy with us.

In Uganda we carved a Watermelon, having no pumpkins on hand and Princess had a party. There was no Trick or Treating but we couldn’t drop the tradition. There was still dress up and candy and costume. Then last night, our first Bahrain Halloween and…nothing. We live in the wrong neighborhood for Halloween. I heard there were some parties, some costumes and even some trick or treating over there where the majority of expats live. But it all feels a bit half hearted. So I miss it. And I miss home and our traditions.

So I feel a bit sad today. Halloween I miss you, cobwebs, chilly night, tiny children in oversized witch hats, over eager parents, pumpkin carving, too much candy, non-stop door bell ringing, scary noises, ghoulish over priced decorations, ridiculous merchandise, hand made costumes, competitive parents, many little spider men, princess tiaras; the lot.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Great Big Shiny West

Great Shiny West I miss you.

I was hoping for the delivery of a package today from London and sadly it has not come. Over here in Uganda we count the days between our care packages and so it is with some disappointment that I sense it is  time for a good old fashioned Great Shiny West whine. I have not been back to the Great Shiny West for 7 months now and although I have cajoled numerous people to bring me M&S bras and Boots eye make-up remover this is no replacement for the real thing. So here is my bi-annual winge; get ready for it.

  1. A leg wax that does not take 1 hour. Today I sat and nearly bit off all my finger nails while a highly incompetent woman spread hot wax, millimeter by millimeter on my legs, then slowly, as slowly as could be, she pressed tiny bits of muslin onto my legs which she then rubbed, oh, say 100 times before slowly ripping it off. The whole process was akin to the type of punishment inflicted for treason. I did not deserve it and I nearly wept for those in and out 10 min legs waxes they have in the Great Shiny West.
  2. M&S. Yes. My personal shrine. I’d like some pretty underthings, maybe a sports sock or two, and a perusal of the shoe department. I could be in and out in an hour.
  3. Boots. My other shrine. Honestly there is nothing much I need, I just feel like touching pretty shampoos and looking. I have a problem, admittedly, and the longer I am out of a Boots the worse it gets. Last time I was in London my sister lost me in Boots and when she finally found me drooling in the Conditioner aisle she had to drag me out with promises of Sushi.
  4. Sushi. Enough said.
  5. A goat cheese salad accompanied by a chilled crisp white wine, served to me in a shiny White on White restaurant with starched white table cloths and handsome Scandinavian waiters. We all have our fantasies.
  6. A whole week without a power cut. And throw some good TV in there that I can watch with no fear of the power cutting during one of the best bits.
  7. A newspaper. Please. And a Starbucks to drink while reading it. I have come to believe that it is not about the coffee, Starbucks is not the best, it is a scam, it is all about the cup and the funny white cap with the space to sip out of. They have us wrapped in their outrageous ploy to drink $4.99 mediocre lattes because it is the adult equivalent of a baby bottle of milk. That is my theory anyway.
  8. Magazines. The greatest waste of money but such fun. Mine’s a New Yorker and an Oprah please.
  9. An old fashioned smelly cheese shop. I want cheese, with more cheese and then a little more on top.
  10. Super fast internet service. They call it Broadband here but that is more silky marketing than any sort of truth. What we have here is something slightly faster than dial up. Remember dial up, you lucky Great Shiny West surfers out there?
  11. Sidewalks/pavements/ what ever you want to call them. Just a scrap of concrete beside a road that I can walk on. Please.
  12. A bus. I would like a bus to take me from A to B. I will gladly pay for the privilege.
  13. A museum. Doesn’t have to be a big one. Just somewhere I can sit and gaze at art on a wall.
  14. Ok this one is very non politically correct so apologies in advance. If you are sensitive to such things as the cultural tradition to let the body odour simply be, please do not read on.  I would like waiters who do not smell. Please. Waiters who wear deodorant. So that when they lean over to place the pizza in front of you, you are not knocked backwards by the sharp smell of Man Sweat. I apologize for my cultural insensitivity but my olfactory sense is rather sensitive too.

    I think we are done here. I have drooled over the food while writing this and I have, in my mind at least visited a few shiny shops, read a paper and rode a bus, so I feel a bit better.

Onward.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West

With apologies to Montreal

Oh God. I complained about the snow and the cold and the ice and the shovelling for 15 years. Now I am too hot, my classroom is a sauna and I need to run to the IT lab, the only room in all of Kampala with air conditioning to do my marking. Yesterday Handsome Husband lost me in a large over priced appliance store: I was standing in front of a portable air conditioning unit. Generally we are lucky here, it never gets that hot, thanks to the altitude, but now it is the dry season and the heat just climbs and clings and settles on my head and around my body stifling me. I am longing for a cold day so that I may beg to be warm and wrap myself in a long soft and warm shawl, scarf thing like this:

Thanks Sartorialist.

Sorry Montreal friends. Really I am. I know that it was -21 at 6am the other day and I know that you are all fed up right about now. I would be too. This would be the one week of the year I would refuse to go out, it would be my hibernation week and I would be calling friends to bring me Starbucks and Sushi STAT. So I know I should keep my mouth firmly buttoned up as I have no right to complain. But I just wanted to say…the grass is not always greener on the other side. Sometimes it is dry and yellow and hot.

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Filed under Kampala, observations

A little quiz to help you on your way

How do you know that you are living in Kampala? And not London or Montreal? Or even Trinidad?

Let’s do a quiz.

You are walking along the road and you trip. Not realizing what caused you to fall, it is early and there was no Baileys in the morning coffee, you look down and see one of the following.

a)     A discarded rum bottle, empty and left to roll inconveniently into the path of pedestrian traffic

b)    A baby goat, sleeping and unaware that his mother has climbed the grassy bank to chomp on some grass

c)     A greasy half eaten slouvaki roll

d)    A huge chunk of ice that has been spat out from under the wheel of a passing car.

You are awoken early in the morning by a strange sound. You have no idea what it is until you lift you head up from under the pillow and remember where you live.

a)     A pack of cats fighting over a pile of flying fish that leapt with no rhyme or reason out of the water and landed in an unfortunate pile in the garden behind the house.

b)    The clanging of metal pots and pans joined with the serenading of a boisterous and horny rooster from the garden next door. Simultaneously there is the distance echo of some China men singing early morning Lionel Richie Karaoke.

c)     The squeaking and lurching of 20 buses that have all arrived at the bus stop at exactly the same time, angering the cold, shivering, commuters who have been waiting for that one bus for the past 42 minutes.

d)    A huge chunk of ice slipping of the roof and crashing onto the roof of your car.

It is a Friday night and you feel like going out for dinner. What do the restaurants have to offer?

a)     A healthy assortment of Chinese, American and Indian. Or, if you like, all the choices under the same roof and possibly rolled into a warm and buttery thick slab of pastry. Either way, everything would be eaten with a chaser of rum and a very loud thumping soundtrack.

b)    Indian, Thai, Indian, Indian and some Pizza. The service will be painfully slow and the waitress will visit your table 4 times in the first 30 minutes before you even order. Once because she didn’t understand the order, once to verify what kind of Gin you want, once for the ice that you had asked for the first time and once more to tell you that there is no Gin and the ice machine is broken.

c)     Anything your heart desires, for a price.

d)    A cosy warm bistro featuring the imaginative creation of one young trendy dude, considered the “latest thing.” His hair will be spiky, the cafe will be warm and feature alternative music and mildly out of focus black and white photographs. There will be just as many people having a cigarette outside in the snow as there are drinking good wine at the bar waiting for a table, ‘cause they don’t take reservations.

Time to go grocery shopping. What do you find?

a)     Hot spices, plenty plenty hot sauce, Amos Chocolate chip cookies, Ribena and Mangos. And rum.

b)    Nearly everything but you will have to go to 4 different stores. One for the eggs with the yellow, not white yolks, one for skimmed milk, one for whole milk, one for cheese, one for chick peas, one for fruit. Oh it goes on and on and on.

c)     Anything your heart desires, for a price.

d)    Everything, in supermarkets with super wide aisles. The music will be muzac but the cheese and bread is good. You will bump into many people you know.

It is Sunday and you have plans for a great day out. What do you do?

a)      Beach. Body surfing in the waves, bake and shark for lunch, Carib beer and friends to lime with. You will go home sticky with salt and sand, sun burnt and happy.

b)      A day spent by the pool with some scrabble on the side.

c)       Well you have the option of the latest offering at a world renown museum, a walk in the park, a bike ride on a Boris Bike, lunch with friends, a stroll by the river or a lazy day at home with a pile of newspapers and some good food. It will be bloody cold.

d)      Skiing, tobogganing, ice skating, movie, brunch, walk the dog on the mountain or home with newspapers and good food. It will be seriously bloody cold.

 

How did you do?

Mostly a)s and you are in Trinidad.

Mostly b)s and you are in Kampala.

Mostly c)s and you are in London

Mostly d)s and you are in Montreal.

 

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, La belle ville, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

back to the search engines

More fun and games from the search engines. You will be amazed how people find me, or fall accidentally onto this page.

school boys squeezing in big boobs ladies

Oh dear. Really? You know nothing like this ever happens in Camp Hormone so I think you have stumbled onto the wrong page. You must be disappointed. But while you are here I must ask: why are the boys squeezing the big boobs inwards? Or maybe there is an apostrophe and a word missing? Could it be that you wanted to find school boys squeezing in big boobs ladies’ handbags?  An image I find sort of amusing in a Mr. Bean sort of way. Either way I suggest you turn left and find another place to play.

Drama on safari

Yes I have had drama on safari. You might be looking for this. It was a scary incident involving an overturned car, sad and scared children, a lot of money and a safari. If on the other had you were not so interested in my personal drama maybe you were hoping for a new TV Movie of a Week featuring the lives and loves of a group of expat school teachers on safari. Actually, I might need to write that one. Drama on Safari happens a lot here, whether it be broken hearts, flat tires, stampeding elephants or vomiting teenagers.

Bossy girls

Oh you came to the right place. I have two of these at home, bossy all the time. Most of their fights involve who is bossing whom. There are also bossy girls at Camp Hormone, bossy girls at the market, bossy girls on the football pitch. I can be quite bossy myself at time, most teachers are. There is also this funny blog I like called Bossy. Could you be looking for her?

Dog entrails

I have seen more dog entrails since moving to Uganda than I ever thought I would. I have also seen more than enough entrails of any kind to last me a life time. Vegetarian or not, entrails are unpleasant. Even the word is unpleasant. So why are you looking for them? Seriously! Are you ill? Get help.

Montreal-fripperies

Now you have made me think of my beloved and much missed Montreal.  Fripperies are second hand clothes shops and Montreal has a ton of them. They dot the Plateau area and much of the cool style of Montrealers comes from the lavish amount of shopping that takes place there. Real gems can be found, from 1960’s era faded blue jeans to lime green 80’s faux fur coats. I have never enjoyed the fripperies myself, having a very odd relationship to second hand clothes. Regrettably I am superstitious and feel the spirit of the original owner to still be living in the lining of the musty fabric. It’s a shame really ’cause there is plenty of potential for arty and original style.  Fripperies are like Fairmont Bagel, The Mirror and Schwartz’s. Very Montreal.

Funny comment on moving house

All humour here is unintentional. I am just trying to practice my stiff upper lip. Can’t you tell?

Did you hear about the teacher who

Who what? Was it me? I didn’t mean to! What exactly are you looking for? Well now that you are here I feel obliged to finish your sentence. Here we go:

Did you hear about the teacher who fell down the stairs and revealed her polka dotted undies?

Did you hear about the teacher who told a naughty and peskier than usual teen he needed a personality transplant?

Did you hear about the teacher who got the kids to stand up in front of the whole school and read out their poems?

Did you hear about the teacher who knew more than she should?

Did you hear about the teacher who told the students to sit down, be quiet and pull out their coxes?

I am not telling you which of the above is true. Your guess is as good as mine.

Montreal love city

( Fairmount Bakery, Montreal. August 2009)

It really is a love city. Except for those mornings when you wake up, look out of the window and the place previously known as your parking spot is now just a big white mound.  That mound will involve much vigorous digging with heavy snow shovels and a certainty that you will be late for everything. That mound leads you to the outrageous decision that maybe a sneaky and naughty stay at home-hookie- day  is needed. There is no way that anyone can start a day with that much digging. Montreal is only a love city when the skies are blue, the bus drivers are smiling, the people are happy, the bagels are warm, the grass is green and the pools are over flowing with blue joy.

Trinidad time

There once was a Trinidad Time. If you are looking for it here you will have to visit my memory section. Now we are most certainly living in a Uganda Time. Big differences? A Trinidad Time involves a wonderful shaggy dog, a best friend, liming, beach and an altogether different sort of Camp Hormone. It also involves Soca Music, often too loud, copious amounts of Rum and a fear of random violence. Uganda Time involves frequent trips into the Great Wild, rare animals, pool sized pot holes, scary driving, special Sundays with friends, Beauty and the Beast, a Shoebox and Villa, Camp Hormone and Camp Sweetness and the birth of Princess the Thespian.

Both good, both so different. Why not stay and visit for a while? You get a two for one here.

(Englishman’s Bay, Tobago. April 2009.)

So what did you pop into the search engines to find your self here? Glad you came.

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Filed under Family Stuff, I love dogs, I love food, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda

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

Dreaming of my tribe.

I have a very small family. Outside of our little unit there are only 18 people in the whole world to whom I am related. (And some of those are through marriage.) Of those 18 I only see 6 on a regular basis and out of that 6 there will only be one who will visit me in Uganda.  So my family is a broken, estranged one that spans three continents. It is for that reason that I tend to adopt my friends as my family. Friends you can choose, friends can become sisters and brothers with no politics and friendship is usually a beautiful thing, while family is often not. My children have borrowed cousins in places where no family exists and this includes Uganda where they have become very close to a couple of kids, children of friends, and therefore family friends. I have moved too much and each time I shed a skin and become more vulnerable to the pain of separation. I am not inclined to become close to too many people here, especially knowing how transient the community here tends to be. I am still incredibly attached to my sisterhood back home in Montreal, yet I will not be going there this summer and there is always a danger that the ropes that bind us may fray, over time and distance.

Families in Uganda are so close that they often live together; if one family member has more money and better housing than others he is obliged to invite them to live with him. People are shocked when they hear how far we are from our families, it is a custom that we have, the moving away, that just does not exist here on the same scale. Those that move to Kampala will return to the village often, that is far more important than any vacation that could be taken away from family.

My good friends are my family and I treat them as such. I am a loyal and demanding friend but I work hard to stay in touch and I give as good as I hope to get. There are people in Brisbane, Denver, Trinidad, Montreal, London, Burma, Cyprus, New York, and Paris and I dream of casting a web to draw them all in, to a place where we can remember where we came from.

I miss my friends. All the exceptional people I have shared chunks of life with, that I can’t see now. Yes, facebook helps, and I even got to see some dear friends on a CBS clip on the internet today, but it is not the same as that evening when you are sitting, legs tucked, children in basement, wine in hand, laughing like there is no better place to be.

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Filed under Sisterhood