Tag Archives: school

A state of mind address

Yes I have been quiet.

Do you know that I have been writing 3limes an average of two times a week for close to four years? (This is post # 425.)  And in that time I have written about the rain, the desert, Carnival, liming, zebras, lions in trees, car crashes, teaching teens, raising my girls as reluctant expats, the longing feeling for home, the getting used to the new, the craving for shiny shops and culture, the scary driving, the Canadian Lakes, the roads of London. I have taken many photos, sometimes inserted a book review or poem we are studying in class. I have told stories and hopefully amused and given some picture of what this crazy expat life is all about.

But there is a lot I have not said. I have not shared the tears, the heartbreak, and the true aftermath of all the goodbyes. I have not always told you everything about the schools where I teach, I couldn’t. Early on I made the decision that this blog would not reveal the personal, and I would not show photos of my family or tell you too much about them, outside of the anecdotal. I have held back, time and time again. There is an information overload out there; blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Stumble On, newspapers, Arts&Letters Daily, photography…the list goes on, the words tumble and crowd and fill me up ‘till I can’t hear the quiet anymore. And I have not been quite sure where I fit into the noise.

This is not a place for cute pics of my kids or the meal I made last night. This is not the place to fill you in with details of my weight loss, marriage, sex life or tearful rages. This is not the place to write about the days when I am too sad to write. So it is a place for stories, observations, a place to mark my days and remember what it was like. To try and find the pretty and keep moving. And recently I haven’t been very good at doing that, because I haven’t, honestly been doing a lot of seeing and doing.

I work. I work hard, hello IB? I deal with lazy students, incompetence, entitlement and bad manners. But I also teach open minded, wise, brilliant students, mainly girls, mind you, that open my eyes more than I open theirs. Teaching in this school has taught me more about the Arab and Muslim world than I could ever imagine and it has spun my ideas in circles many times. But I cannot write about these students, or this school. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.

I go home and I take care of my lovely girls who work hard and discover and learn and sometimes get sad and homesick but mainly are good and fine and happy. I cook for them, I wash their clothes, and I shop, help with homework and drive them all over the place. I do the Mom thing, the best way I know how. And sometimes I fear it isn’t good enough. Don’t we all?

I take care of my husband and love him up the best way I can. We love and laugh and read and watch movies and sometimes we look at each other and wonder how the hell we ended up here, in this life, living in this country. Sometimes I am in a time warp, driving in Bahrain and suddenly, in a flash I am simultaneously driving down a red dirt road in Kampala with the sun glinting off the rain splattered giant leaves. And there is that woman with the bananas on her head, and there are those children laughing and carrying water as the sun begins to dip. Or I am driving the girls to school in Montreal and the snow has turned to slush and we are listening to our favourite morning show. Or I am thinking about my day in this school in Bahrain and suddenly in a flash my worlds are colliding and I am back in a class room in Port of Spain, bare feet on blue carpet, hum of the air-conditioner, sun pressing against the window panes. And then quick flash, I am back in Montreal in a classroom of 32 girls, chalk on black skirt, wooden desks smoothed by the hands and pens of time. I am talking to a new friend here and then bang! I am in the garden of my dear A, back in her lushness in Kampala and we are sipping Espresso and watching our kids jump on the trampoline. Or bang! I am sitting on the wooden floor boards of my Montreal house with my best girl friends and the kids are tiny, barely toddlers.

Too many worlds have happened too fast. I am shell shocked.

Shall I tell you all this? Shall I tell you about my new exercise regime? My careful monitoring of everything I eat so that it is I who controls my body and what goes in it? My fantastic Latin Dance Class? My battles with teenagers, the constant negotiation and mapping of life with a teenage daughter, the sad, too sad week in school last week when I watched my dear students deal with a grief they are too young to comprehend?  Shall I write about the friends I miss and wish I could see again? Shall I tell you about my worries about the Summer, when I will go “home” to Montreal, to a place that is no longer home, where I have no home and hop from friend to friend in the hope that please can I not offend or disappoint anyone this year? Can I please NOT piss anyone off?

No. I cannot tell you everything that is in my mind, this is not that kind of blog. And I cannot tell you what I do every day because it is, quite frankly, boring. And who wants to hear what I am making for dinner? Or what I taught today? Who wants to see the photo of Princess in her cute new skirt or hear about how much sand we swept up from the front steps yesterday?  There are plenty of blogs like that, this is not that blog.

So where does that leave little 3limes? Faltering on her balance beam, not entirely sure which way to fall.

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Filed under Being brave, pen and paper, personal

Things I learnt this week

It is entirely likely that I am learning more than my students. Just this week I have picked up some unknown tidbits that serve me well when we sit down en famille to dinner each now. I am greeted with raised eyebrows, nods, hmmms and even a few “wows”.

Observant Muslim men cannot wear gold. None. So there goes the big fat gold rolex stereotype you may have had a hunch about. No one could really tell me why this it, there were a few murmurs about blood, an anecdote or two about the prophet, but no exact reason was given. Women on the other hand can wear as much gold as they want. As such, it is considered highly feminine if an Arab man wears gold and you will never see a man here wearing a gold wedding ring.

Observant Muslim men can also not wear silk! I must confess that in this subject my students also did not have any concrete reasons, however I was assured that some forego this rule in order to slip on a nice Hermes tie.

Perfume is highly important here, not simply as a way to smell good, or if we are to believe the highly raunchy ads displayed in western magazines, to attract a mate; but as a means of personal definition. There is skill involved in the combining of perfumes to create one definite and individual smell that will be admired by other women. It is an art and one that takes much practice. When I asked my girl students if my daughter should be wearing perfume. they were aghast that at the age of 14 Trooper had yet to be shown the art and delights of personal perfumery. According to one delightful 17 year old student, her mother had been spraying her since she was in the 2nd grade!

In other news I would like to mention that today is Friday and it is my weekend. So when you crawl from your bed to your sofa and pop in a DVD on Sunday morning as I am already teaching my second class, remember that my Friday was your Sunday. No, I am not yet used to this.

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Filed under Miss Teacher, observations

Countdown days and goodbye eyes

I hit Kampala with the ground running and it has been full steam ahead as term 3 is underway. Princess has created a countdown calendar, sadly not with colourful markers and giant paper but rather on the computer; in any case there is a calendar that she dutifully crosses off each day. It is entitled “Days Until We See Daddy” and we have 51 days to go.
There is huge relief all round that we went to Bahrain, saw it, explored it, ( it is tiny and doesn’t take too long to see nearly ALL if it), visited the school, saw our future house, imagined how often we could eat at Johnny Rockets without getting fat, things like that. There is some comfort in knowing what things look like and where we are going.
Of course this also means that I am very aware of what I am leaving. I have returned looking at Kampala with “goodbye eyes” and see the green so much sharper, the colour so much brighter. Our drive home from the airport seemed to be in Technicolor. Princess said “look at that lady with all the eggs on her head!” That is not a line we will ever hear in Bahrain.
So I resolve to love my last days here and soak up all the best of Kampala and brush off the frustrations. I now have one foot in the desert and one in the jungle; I am split in two. So in these last days I will eat as much sweet pineapple as possible, laugh with my friends, walk the dusty streets, see the eggs atop the heads, rise above the pot holes and boda jams. They will all too soon be a memory. I am imprinting these last images onto my mind for safekeeping.

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Easter eggs and Dodo brains

We are nearly there: The flight takes off tomorrow afternoon and before long we will be one family again, in the same place, sharing the same hug. I love the closure of end of term: asking where everybody is going, hearing the exciting travel plans. One friend is going to run the Two Oceans Run in Cape Town; another is going Gorilla Trekking, another to a wedding on the beach, another welcoming family and showing off Uganda. And we are going to see where our new life will be and put some footprints in Bahraini sand.

I promise to take my camera and bring back some photos to share.

Just for the fun of the things and because it is the end of term and there is that wonderful feeling of my desk looking a bit tidier than usual I thought we should have a little visit with the search engines.  How are you all ending up here chez 3limes?

peeing chimps

Those people who are planning on spending some time chimp trekking in Kibale might just experience the joy of being peed on by a chimp. For the very lucky folk, the chimps come down off the trees and sit quietly in a circle picking lice out of each other’s hair. But for us we had the special joy of craning our necks way high to stare at dark shadows in the tree tops and enjoying the spectacularly frequent splashes of pee. They pee, a lot and all the time. The amount is akin to having a large bucket dropped from a great height over and over again.

tree that spread her roots by the river is?

I think you are the same poetic lovely who searched for twisted tree roots. I think we should meet, hug trees, lay down by the roots and have a picnic. I picture a large willow tree that leans precariously yet determinedly towards a running brook. The water is dappled with broken sun light, the poet Rupert Brooke has flung himself upon a field nearby and is tousling his lover’s mane in his bare, strong hands.

dodo brain

That would be me. I am the one who owns the dodo brain, so welcome, come in and take a look. The evidence is clear. I very nearly forgot my niece’s birthday today thinking the 21st is a date more apt for a birthday than the 20th, though after 11 years I should have known. I slipped up and forgot it was my class assembly and only found out an hour before we were due to go on stage. I owed them a lot of chocolate after that performance. I lost my passport while all the time it was sitting on a book beside my bed, I went out for dinner last night with my bag and wallet, phone and lipstick and not one cent of money. I pride myself on holding it all together and keeping my memory intact. But recently the hard drive has been full up there and things have been leaking out. See now, I can hardly remember all the other mistakes I have made and I am sure there are plenty. So if you were looking for the brain belonging to the long deceased Dodo bird then you might want to go to google images. Here it is all dodo brains and worry.

Ta ta for now, holiday people. Enjoy those Easter eggs. We have Neuhaus eggs in our fridge which is a treat from the Great Shiny West and one that exceeds excitement.  In the land where chocolate tastes of sour milk even a Cadbury cream egg would have made us jump but Neuhaus? A box of delightfully wrapped coloured mini eggs?

Too much fun.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Great Big Shiny West, Uganda

My International Weekend where I met a Waterboy in Kampala

It started Friday with International Day at school, one of my favourite days. The entire school marched, Olympic Ceremony Style, country by country. We had our first bearers of the South Sudan Flag, a small but significant Albania Team and even a tiny tot from Nepal. It is a reminder of one of the best things about being involved with an international school, we have over 50 different nationalities here and they all play, work, learn, laugh and eat side by side every day. When do you ever get a chance to see the Israeli and Lebanese flags waving proudly side by side. In these fractious times, such a march gives hope.

Then Friday night I became just a little bit Irish as I headed down to a popular watering hole to listen to some Irish tunes. A live band flown all the way in from Ireland played for our delights and inspired some high leg kicks on the dance floor. The entire event took place under the pink glow of the super-moon, not the only moon I was thinking of, however. It turns out the fiddler in the band is a member of both the Waterboys and World Party. Since I am a huge fan I became star struck and did indeed see the whole of the moon. We should have been at the always lively Journee Francophonie, thereby adding a little French to my weekend, but other events transpired and the French day never happened for us.

However Sunday saw coffee with the Spanish and lunch with the Americans.

And all the while I was missing a piece of me in Bahrain.

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Filed under Miss Teacher, Photography

Whose world I am living in anyway?

Handsome Husband has left. He left his three sad girls in a Kampala house on a rainy day and flew off into the skies over to a country that is up in arms, cross, angry and full of hatred, fear and the expectation of change. I have no opinion on the troubles in Bahrain, I am not equipped to judge. I do know one thing though, a visit to Uganda would throw some perspective into the mix. They might realize that their lives aren’t that bad, that protesting and halting an economy might damage the good they don’t know they have. Just a thought.

So since I am here and he is there I am going to focus on what I am here to do. Teach. After all I am only staying here, husbandless for the next three months, honing my survivior skills, selling a car, lovely handmade and personally designed furniture ( I thought I was staying longer so I invested….) so that my self and my two girls may finish up the school year.

So time for a Miss Teacher post.

Look what delightful reading matter I am teaching, all at the same time. It is a wonder I don’t get very confused or at least have some very odd dreams.

Madame Bovary

Midsummer’s Night Dream

Much Ado About Nothing

Romeo and Juliet

Medea

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Quite the mixed bag, I say. And when I am not swimming in the seas of Alabama, Rouen, Athens or Verona I have my head stuck in the sand and the sand is all full of Mad Men. I am actually living many worlds, my days are spent with the above, I particularly like having conversations in my head with Emma, ( come on pull yourself together! ) or Hero ( don’t take him back! He called you a “stale!”) or Medea ( you go girl! He ripped you off! He ripped out your heart!) or Romeo ( Don’t do it! Don’t kill Tybalt it won’t end well!) or young Maya ( sit up straight and be quiet. It will all be fine in the end.)

My nights are spent with Don Draper.

I live in many a world.

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Something I didn’t do

A group of 16 students and teachers completed a feat during the half term break that impresses me no end. They attempted the seemingly insurmountable task of climbing Kilimanjaro.  This is no easy walk in the park and involved a great deal of training before hand including long 8 hour walks in forests and up mountains and across dusty pot holed Kampala Streets. They shopped for thermals, packed and re packed back packs, tried out anti altitude sickness pills, experimented with boots and band aids and psyched themselves up with t-shirts and group pow-wows. And all the while I sat by, on the side lines watching in awe. For about 5 minutes I contemplated going. And then I remembered that I am not fit, hate exercise, can’t fathom the idea of 5 days without a shower, vomited on my first night in Copper Mountain Colorado ( altitude 9700 feet, Kili is 19,430 feet), and that I am, despite my hopeful ideas to the contrary, quite a princess.  So it was not to be and part of me is furious with myself for being such a wimp and even more in awe than ever at those who even attempted such a journey.

11 out of the 16 made it to the final summit but all are heroes in my eyes for putting one foot in front of another, one at a time, for 6 days. I applaud them and am fascinated by the resilience and bravery they showed. That and the ability to endure great smelly discomfort for nearly a week. And here I am, complaining about 2 nights in a tent. Pathetic.

Please read my friend Alison’s account of the trip. It really captures how it felt and is a great piece of writing.

Well done climbers!

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To be a boy

Valentine’s Day in Camp Hormone and we are letting the kids dress in pink and red. More importantly we are trying to encourage no ‘dissing’ for at least one day.

“One day.” I asked. “ Just give me one day of no dissing, in the name of love can we try one day?”

“ I am not sure that will be possible, Miss.”

“ Why?!” I am dumbfounded. Am I asking the impossible?

Apparently To Diss is simply part of the fabric of being a teenage boy. It is strangely their means of communication. Putting each other down is what they do. I asked if they realize how much it can hurt and they replied that they all know it is in jest. But I know that not to be true. There are the brave ones who brush it off yet go home, hurt and live in silent anger at the cruel words they hear all day. Others defend themselves by dissing back. And worst of all what do they say? What is the most popular insult? It is to laugh at they way someone looks, their acne, their size, their weight, their hair.

It distresses me no end. If only it could stop, for one day. The ones that refused my challenge were not even the greatest dissers in the class. They were the ones who needed to have words at their disposal,  as their weapons to fight back. No one likes it but still they persist.

It is so hard to be a teenage boy. The bravado they need to wear atop of their uniforms all day must grow weak at times. They can never be vulnerable, must always be on guard, ready to be judged, watched and insulted. Some really don’t care. Their self confidence bubbles over, yet these are the rare few.

Many times people think of the stresses of being a girl, the pressures and fears, the struggles; being a boy is just as hard. And often they don’t have friends to talk to in the same way as girls do, they often can’t share what it really feels like to be a boy.

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A week in the life of 3limes

My week in review:

Let’s start at the end. Saturday morning is always the same. There is something comforting about a routine that doesn’t change whether it be Montreal, Trinidad or Uganda. I wake up, drink coffee and read the on line edition of the FT.  This is my key hole into the week’s events as they unfolded in the arts or through the eyes of my favourite columnists. No matter where I am I can still read about Susie Boyt’s week, Tyler Brule’s travels, Simon Schama’s opinions and the reviews of all the films and books that will never come here. It keeps me up to date, keeps in me in the loop, keeps me inspired and sometimes keeps me frustrated. Keeping up with the Great Shiny West through the internets.

Friday was ‘dress up as a book character’ day at school, topping off our annual book week. I wanted to please/surprise my IB class so I dressed in top to toe white, removed all my jewelry and floated into class like a spirit. Who was I? Clara from the House of Spirits, our current book. They all got it, thank God, so I must be doing something right. Friday also saw Trooper win best short story in the annual competition despite the fact that her story was about a serial killer. Should I be worried or just curb her current fascination with all things Horror?

Thursday I went to another school in Kampala to see a fine production of The Merchant of Venice. Sadly only a few students accompanied us on the small field trip but I am proud of those who did since any chance to see Shakespeare performed is a chance worth taking. And it must be so hard to pull themselves away from a night of Facebook and tv. I was impressed by some of the young actors performing and it was pleasant to sit on the grass and hear Shakespeare’s words ring out in a Kampala night.

Wednesday I devoted an entire class of Argumentative writing to the revolution in Egypt. The question I posed was thus: Is Revolution a necessary means of change?” It was one of the best classes taught in some time. The students lapped it all up, finally thinking about revolution, what it is, what it means and after some debate and stimulating conversation they came to the conclusion that no great change could arise without bloodshed. That class was what teaching is all about.

Tuesday was a happy day as this little blog was nominated for a Bloggie! Best Blog in Africa! Happy smiles all round. Vote here if you haven’t!  I also hosted a small dinner party on Tuesday and cooked delicious fish cakes and a Mexican Chocolate cake. Pat on the back for Tuesday please.

Monday.  Mondays are hard. It is a full spread of teaching, no breaks at all, but this Monday introduced a bit of sunshine and fun into the proceedings. As the teacher at the helm of Student Council I proposed a spot of fun, a humourous auction to choose a lunch date who would provide a picnic. We raised a lot of money, there were a great many smiling faces and there were many students who had lunch with people they didn’t know that well. School spirit abounded and that is what I am all about. Bring on the Spirit! And lunch with yours truly went for a pretty sum so that all turned out for the best. My egg salad pita sandwiches were much appreciated. Although the Toblerone was stale. Oh, well.

I have no idea what I did last Sunday. My brain doesn’t work that far back. So we shall stop there. Overall a good week, don’t you think?

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The classroom is a safer place, perhaps.

So now I have written my four posts about the Kenayapalooza Road trip that was, and having been back for two weeks now and back at school for one it is starting to feel like it all happened some time ago. As a family we have decided that it will be some time before we embark on any long drives and have equally agreed on the necessity to get back to the beach ASAP ( by plane this time.)

I have been so fortunate to have crossed Kenya and seen what a diverse and beautiful country it is. I really adored Kenya, the people, the landscape the stunning vistas. It has a very different feel to Uganda; one I am still trying to put my finger on. Partly it holds the colonial influence of the British in a way that Uganda never has. There are the towns that still have some old world charm, all the little shops by the road side have taken the time and care to paint signs and colourfully announce their existence. There is less rubbish strewn by the side of the road, the roads are smooth and mainly pot hole free, things work efficiently, I spotted more than one post office. It is a place I’d like to go back to, a weekend in Nairobi would be especially sweet.

What never fails to amaze me is the variety of crazy things seen on the road. The trucks that bend under their ridiculous load; threatening to topple over us as we overtake. The buses that are painted in honour of a foot ball star or Jesus Christ, the sheepskin rugs and juicy carrots sold to happy passersby, the random street signs, the donkeys pulling a load seemingly impossible to manage. It is never dull, always colourful, often funny, sometimes terrifying.

 

How many chairs can you fit on a bicycle?

Do you think you could fit one more on top?

Please note that some of the sand bags had fallen off the back. A case of overly optimistic loading.

Hello Jesus!

Princess and the Pea?

Doing the Matoke Push and Pull.

 

The view is different now. I am once again looking at the bowed heads of students scratching out a story, or the raised hands of children eager to have a turn. The classroom might be a safer place but as I help these kids get ready for exams, be ready and set for what comes next I jump over each hurdle, one at a time. It is a crazy road out there; I’m hiding inside Camp Hormone for a while.

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