Tag Archives: New Year

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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A Bonus Sunday, overpriced Christmas trees and rainy days.

A rare treat: a Sunday at home, no work, courtesy of the Islamic New Year.  Happy New Year and welcome to the year 1433.

Not only was it a bonus Sunday but that meant the first Saturday night in months and a Sunday night that felt like a proper, night before the start of the week, Sunday night. Complete with eggs on toast and a side offering of baked beans.

Of course it also meant a 3 day weekend.

And well deserved it was too, after a week that culminated in a day and a half of parent teacher interviews. I was a little worried about getting all the Mohamed’s, Ali’s and Fatima’s straight. I think I did ok, considering that I have about two in each class. One thing I did notice is that the parents were most kind, very grateful to us teachers and that the mothers have an uncanny ability to lift their hands up considering the heavy bling.

This weekend saw more rain. Damp, flat, grey weather that reminded me of a London day in July. I loved it. And I have to risk the removal of my Canadian passport when I confess that despite being 18 degrees Celsius, it actually felt quite cool. Yes, I thought exactly the same thing when people told me it would feel cool. Are said “ are you mad?” I am a Canadian. I have lived in Winnipeg ( better known as Winterpeg in some parts). There is no way I will feel cold, ever, without serious frost bite chomping on my cheeks. But I guess 4 years of heat stroke will do that to you.

Ok it felt cool, not cold and I was just appreciating the seasons, that’s all.

Speaking of seasons….I have wondered about Christmas in the desert. How is it possible? And a Muslim desert, no less. But believe it or not, it is not even December and Muslim desert or not, the malls are top to toe in wreaths, garlands, tinsel and trees. I asked some of my students what the hell was going on and they replied that it was just another theme. And an excuse to shop. And eat out. And party.

So I guess Christmas spirit in all its materialistic glory will find its way to the Sandy Isle.

And here is the first evidence. Turns out you can get real Xmas Trees here. In my naivete I thought that meant there was a place tucked away in a green house that grew them. But no. They are flown in at great expense both to the customer and the environment. Exhibit one:


The smallest tree is $87.50 and that is for 1.5 metres. And the largest is a whopping $3.10 for 4 metres.

I guess we are sticking with the straggly, anemic, dwarf tree we bought in Kampala.


Filed under Family Stuff, I miss shopping.

Ambitious projects for the remainder of the year.

Time is skipping on by, winged chariot and all and there are things I really must do before 2011 rolls round and I am hit with that awful sense of zero accomplishment. Is there a word for that? I will make one up: under-accomplishment. There.

Perhaps if I write a list, put it up here in the most public of places then it will be more likely to happen, owing to the shame and name rule.  So here it is: my short list of big things to do.

1.     I must buy a spare bed. We have guests arriving from the far away Land of Oz and there is nowhere, presently for them to sleep.

2.     Buy Christmas gifts, easier said than done if you live within money throwing distance to a glorious temple of commerce, otherwise known as a Mall. Here the options include African crafts, handmade tree decorations, Wildlife Photography books and some lovely material to wrap around one’s waist.

3.     Invite people over to dinner. Why is this so hard to do? I can teach a room full of Camp Hormone inmates, co-direct a pantomime, drive a car through scary pot holes…but invite people over to my house to eat? Not.

4.     Throw things away. I hate clutter and there is a scary pile that has appeared on my desk. Not entirely sure where it came from, but there it lies, taunting me, and I need to head into the red room and sort it all out. Soon.

5.     Find a costume for Veruca Salt. Apparently she needs some sort of fur wrap. Likely one that. More head scratching needed.

6.     Gather all the wires, for all the electrical paraphernalia we have, including USB cables, chargers, TV wires, other black or grey wires that have no name and sort-them-out. I am being taken over by wires.

7.     Go out on another photo walk-about-trip.  The last time I did this it was very successful, although somewhat tiring considering the number of times I had to ask people if I could take their photograph and explain who I was and why I wanted their picture and promise that I wouldn’t use it in any untoward way. I think it is time for another walk about. Each time I feel more fully engaged with the place that I live rather than seeing it through fleeting and rushed moments while either walking to school or driving around.

8.  Bake a cake. When I lived in Montreal I was a true baker, often pulling treasures out of the oven 2 to 3 times a week. It has been a while since the warm scent of fresh cake wafted through my home and it is time.

9.   Read something other than a prescribed IB text. I have two books by my bed I am aching to get into. I need to make the time to start them as I have a small window of opportunity before the next IB text rolls around.

10.  Lie in my hammock. Just once.


Filed under personal

Camping with the Hippos

New Year’s eve was spent on the Murchison Delta. I had no idea what this meant or what it would be like until I actually did it, it has taken on quite the legendary status amongst campers here. The Delta is basically a game park, about 70km down river from the powerful Murchison falls. At this point the river is calmer and many animals gather to drink or cool down. Unlike a traditional camp site, there is no designated area to camp, no showers, toilets or any facilities at all. You just select a spot whilst driving through the savannah, quite close to the river and pitch a tent. It is certainly quite extreme and for someone who is not a seasoned camper it can be a little nerve wrecking. The truth is, I was not excited and when the two nights were reduced to one I was relieved.

Not only was it a full moon, it was also a blue moon and there was a bonus 20 min partial eclipse of the moon. Once the campsite was up, the fire was roaring and dinner was cooking over the flames we began to relax. Due to some delays at the ferry crossing to enter the Delta we only arrived at our chosen spot at 6.40pm. As we were zipping through the savannah, past gorgeous birds and giraffes we were up against nature’s clock. The tents had to be up before sunset or this camping trip was not going to happen. And every lodge within a 2 hour drive was booked solid. Like the intrepid and experienced camper I am not, I was hurling luggage and chairs out of the back of the car, setting up tables and putting out the wine like a Dervish in a whirlwind. Everyone was battling with tents or finding firewood, worrying about where to pee and sorting out who would sleep in whose tent. There were 3 adults and 6 children so we were totally outnumbered. I was amazed at the ability of all these mini campers to stoke fires, unroll bedding and deal with tents. I hadn’t a clue, and still don’t.  I poured wine, took photos and chopped veggies for Kebabs.

Of course, for the sake of safety we had Joel the guard and his trusty gun beside us at all times. He is a game ranger and was hired by us to sit and guard our little camp all night. Guard us against what? You may very well ask.

Joel was quite informative while we munched on chargrilled vegetables, cheese and very baked potatoes.

“ This is the favorite hunting place for the lions!” He eagerly informed us. “ And many times the buffalo too, and many hippo walk here at night and graze while you sleep.”

“Really!?!?!” I replied, chewing my flame cooked red pepper. “Did you ever see lions while you were guarding?” I asked, nervously.

“Oh yes, many many times. Even there behind where you sit just now I saw three lions just the other night.”

“Oh,” gulped Princess, did you shoot one?”

“No. No need to kill lions”, he replied with some authority, “ we just wait and if they come too close we make one, maybe two shots in the air, pow pow!”

“Ahhhh,” we all breathed out. “So no danger then, really.”

“No danger Madam!” He laughed. “You cannot worry.”

Strangely we didn’t really worry all that much. The wine helped, the flickering flames, the little paraffin lamps, the full moon, New Year’s eve; it was all so extraordinarily romantic and so terribly cool to be out there all alone with not another person in sight in the middle of Africa.

At 10.30pm, with another hour and a half before the champagne and count down we decided to go on a nighttime game drive. We hid the food, just in case, ensured that the fire was well stoked to keep any curious animals away and all hopped into the large white Range Rover Defender that belongs to our friend, Indy.  He had done this many times before, having spent close to 20 years in Africa, and we felt safe in his capable driving hands as long as Joel came along as the last time Indy had been on a night game drive he had got quite lost.

There are no photos to accompany the description of this night drive but the images taken from that experience will never leave my mind. At the sight of a hippo, rustling through some bushes Indy whipped that tank of steel to the right and before I could say Indiana Jones we were chasing that poor hippo like there was no tomorrow. The kids were screaming, Princess was trembling, Trooper was laughing and I had visions of cars tipping over and accidents, but onward we stormed at some speed and that hippo waddled at some speed away from this never before seen roaring  animal on tires. Our head lights were pinned onto his vast bottom and short yet terrifically fast legs. I know that hippos, as enormous as they are, are only really dangerous if you get between them and the water, their safely zone. I was very worried that just to be funny and maybe even too thrilling for his own good Indy would try to chase the hippo and overtake it.  (I learnt the next day, this was a controlled risk he was taking, he wasn’t really that stupid.)  As we finally veered away from the hippo, we turned our headlights and caught the startled eyes of a very large buffalo. When we started to chase him Indy’s daughter yelled “ NO DADDY STOP NOW!”

When we got back to camp we breathed a giant sigh of relief and prepared to crack open the champagne. Under the full moon, with 1 watch, 2 phones and 3 ipods at the ready we started the countdown to 2010. With a pop and a squeal the new year was here.

Climbing into my tent sometime later I listened for the silence and instead heard the hippos. Hippos sound like a very large and uncomfortable pig trying to burp with something stuck in his throat. It was the perfect sound and one that sent me to sleep until the rain came beating upon the tent some hours later.

No, the lions never came. We were all safe and I am hoping to do it all over again when I get the chance. It was perfectly magical and it made the lovely lodge we moved into the next night even more special and luxurious.


Filed under Travel, Uganda

A Hangi on top of the world


I always feel that my New Year’s is September when school starts. I feel much more attuned to the academic calender. Yet despite that when New Year’s eve (‘Ole years here in Trinidad) rolls around there is all this pressure to do something. Staying home with some champagne and some good TV is not acceptable. So in the end we set aside our exciting plans at home and we went to a big Lime which was a mesh of Trini and Kiwi cultures. 


We had just enjoyed a fabulous 3 days with some dear friends from Montreal who hopped over from Barbados where they were spending Christmas. Seeing Trinidad through their eyes was a special experience. I became more aware of how this little island is a real collection of cultures and influences. So going to a Trini/Kiwi celebration for New Years seemed fitting. 


Our host lives on top of a mountain and we felt on top of the world as we climbed the tikki lamp lit staircase to the garden. We were led to the edge of the hill where the Hangi was dug. A Hangi, I have just come to learn is a traditional Maori method of cooking meat and root vegetables using super heated rocks buried in the ground. The hole had been dug at midday and the food was cooking as we watched steam rising through the soil. 





At around 9.30 pm 3 kiwis ( probably the entire Kiwi population of Trinidad) and a few game men appeared with rakes and shovels. The unveiling began.






Our Chef is a well known high end Kiwi caterer here but for this event he was putting on the ritz.




Obviously this was a great event for the glam paparazzi.







The digging and scraping and pulling took a bit of time.







Once the meal was dug out and dished up we all dug in.






We ate and danced on top of the mountain until midnight when a few friendly pyros set off an impressive firework display. We had a beautiful view both of our own pryotechnics and those dotting the skies of Port of Spain. By the end of the evening I had fallen in love with Trinidad just a little bit more. 


































Thanks to the one hour time difference we got home in time to watch the ball drop in Times Square. I went to bed dreaming of a Trini Kiwi serving up silver truffles on top of the world.

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Filed under Sisterhood, Trinidad & Tobago

2008. Some final observations.

Grisham cannot leave CSI. Not after Warrick.  It is like Dr. Green leaving ER. Another show bites the dust. 

Time off work is a blessing but only if you know it is a temporary and fiscally appropriate break.  Time off spent looking for work is not time off. It is painful and watching a loved one go through it is hard.

I have a fun new game. I watch TV ads to see signs of recession. My new favorite sign that things have gone awry are the McNugget ads. Served on an elegant banana leaf, McNuggets are the new pre dinner canape!


I recently watched the pilot of House and noticed that Cameron has black hair. By season 5 she is a blond. What does this mean?

My favorite new drink is a Ciroc and Portugal Martini. They will forever remind me of December in Trinidad. (A Portugal is like an orange but better, Freshly squeezed it is divine).

I have come to the conclusion that the definition of Cool is self confidence. Not giving a damn about anyone else or their opinions. Being Cool is being an individual and being proud of it.

I have learnt that living with less it very freeing. Sort of like a severe bikini wax. We just don’t need all that extra stuff.

You can learn a lot from a dog. They get that “finding a $20 note in your pocket” feeling every time they sniff on the beach. The world is a big candy shop to them. It is to us too. You just need to open your eyes. 

Never underestimate the power of kindness. It is like Christmas all year round.

I have learnt an extraordinary amount about the oil industry since moving here. I cannot believe that it can take 6 years from the moment a helicopter spots the zone and gas is finally extracted. Only 1 in 5 areas are actually successful extraction zones and millions of dollars are spent just looking for oil and gas. It is, in my opinion just as remarkable as going to the Moon. Drilling 7 miles beneath the crust of the earth is mind boggling. 

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the best book I read this year. The film inspired by the book is my best film of the year. Art is always the best defense.

Obama changed America’s self esteem. The US finally has hope and it is infectious. I am trying hard not be be smug and hate Republicans. It’s hard.

Children and students really only want one thing. To be listened to. Pay attention and self esteem will grow. It is what I want more than anything for my daughters.

I think we all love House because we live in hope that he is really not that mean. We want to believe that the right woman will change him and make him smile. But. Maybe he really is that mean. 

I have always feared getting older but I actually like my self more than I did a few years ago. Not so keen on the external aging factors. Vanity is alive and well.

I have started to love Trinidad. It is a complicated mixture of decadence and violence and I will never really understand it. I like being perplexed by this beautiful island.

My wish for 2009 is prosperity. Artistic, spiritual and financial. I have no idea where we’ll be in 7 months but I have decided to be optimistic. Attitude is everything.

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