Tag Archives: shopping

Hello Bahrain

I am in Bahrain, land of turquoise seas, long smooth highways, giant posters of the King,, men in white dresses, women black as crows, shiny shops, large malls, soft beaches, high glitz, desert sands and fast cars. I am constantly amazed by my surreal life; I visit here for 10 days, a place that could not be more opposite than Kampala and then I must return to my former life for 55 days. I am here to chose a house, a school, to look, see and learn and yet I must still go back to the pot holed roads of Kampala and the African skies before I can really call Bahrain home. So I am living an in between existence this week and it feels most odd.

I wonder how I will feel when Africa is no longer mine, and I see no green nor hear no birds. Will I settle in quickly to this island that feels both modern and ancient all at once? I look out of the window as we speed along highways and bridges and imagine how it will be see wealth rather than poverty as my daily view.

Yesterday we went to a large shiny mall. It was the ultimate Great Shiny West experience and standing before 35 choices of red lipstick I froze. This was too much choice. I didn’t know what to do. The palace of cold marble, glossy metal and smooth escalators was overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong; I will be happy to live mere minutes from anything I could possibly need; it will just take some getting used to. I am sure one frustration will be passed onto another.

Everybody smiles and says they love living here. Men drink coffee or juice alone, women glide in their back robes with inches of sparkle peeping out, the make up is thick, the girth is often wide, the children splash and laugh and shout, the life of the carefree.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West

You Rule

Good morning and welcome to the Birthday Post. Every year I write on my birthday. I started this blog when I was 39 and went through all the agonies, fear and ultimate satisfaction of turning 40 on these pages. Today I am 42 and that looks a lot older when you see it up there on the screen than it really feels.

Despite Handsome Husband being so far away I am still being made to feel special on this birthday by the lovely Trooper and Princess who laid a trail of mini happy birthday cards leading from my bed room to a balloon adorned dining room this morning. There I was presented with a gorgeous present that I had picked out myself and presented to them for wrapping; it is a butter soft brown leather clutch bag with African beading design, and handmade cards. I was also shown the Chocolate Cheese cake that we are going to eat later. It was made by them while I was out last night and they are thrilled to bits with their inventiveness and prowess about the kitchen.

So I am a lucky girl, and birthdays are meant to be celebrated no matter the number. I am the Fairy Godmother of Birthdays, according to my friends, they cannot go by unnoticed.

In other news we celebrated Athletics this week at school and it was a most excellent display of school spirit and athletic ability. Lots of running, leaping, throwing and jumping. I managed to get out of the Teacher’s Race, not having enjoyed the mirth that followed my slow sprint around the track last year. I found some PE dept volunteers who were more than happy to give us a fair chance of winning. This photo sums up the day. I like both the message and the medium.

Yes: You Rule and it is so much better said with a Sharpie on a bare leg.

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Filed under I have two girls, Miss Teacher

Being brave, driving, finding snails and the pretty.

I am not writing enough. Perhaps I am in less of a reflective mood and more of a get on with it and cope mood. We are trudging along here with out our Handsome. He is happy over there in our future home; he has survived one sand storm and multiple temptations in the shopping department. He has a car now and is installed in a small and sweet apartment on the beach. And us? Well we have been keeping ourselves sane with homework, Thai food, the occasional Margarita and plenty of cutting out of paper fish. ( Poisson d’avril, ladies and gentleman, will soon be upon us.)

I am being terribly brave and driving all over the place. As one or two of you may know I am very frightened of driving in Kampala, and Handsome Husband did very nearly ALL the driving when he was here. Now it is me behind the wheel and it is amazing what happens when you take away the element of choice. We just have to cope. The bumps, the pot holes, the crazy boda boda drivers, the maniacs who think you can just cut someone off, the pedestrians who assume we will stop or slow down, the nonsensical  magic roundabouts, the lack of traffic lights, I am fighting fierce and doing it all.

Do I have anything else to tell you?

We had a giant snail walking up our wall. Here it is:

And sometime next week I will be another year older. I have purchased myself a lovely birthday present, quite a feat to find something I am so excited about in Kampala and it has been hidden away in Trooper’s room to be pulled out on my birthday. I can’t tell you what it is, because we are pretending it is a surprise.

But it is pretty and we all need pretty things now and again.

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Happiness and Joy

Our housekeeper has had her baby and has called her Happiness Joy. I wish her all the same.      (I do love the African names…I have met a Hope, a Pretty, a Grace, a Precious, a Happy,  Jolly and an Innocent; the list goes on). Within a few weeks she will be back at work, baby on her back. African woman are a different and much stronger breed and thinking of the way we sit at home, have meals brought to us and gently rub cream on our sore breasts makes me smile. Not only will she be back to mopping floors within weeks of baby coming but she actually went into labour while walking to work.

At 8 am she was walking along Dead Dog Highway when all of a sudden she felt a twinge and by 9.20 am she was sitting up in hospital with a baby on her breast! Sadly in all the good news there was one small loss. At the moment that she went into labour she was carrying Handsome Husband’s favourite shoes that she had kindly taken to the cobbler. These shoes are now four years old and he refuses to part with them, always having the cobbler attend to their needs. Last night we received a text that said: “I was paining so much I lost your shoes. Please forgive me.”

Handsome Husband  is not so filled with Happiness Joy right now. There are no shoe shops of any significance in Kampala and apparently blue and brown don’t match. (?) I am more than impressed that she recalled losing the shoes and that she is not just wrapped up in leaky breasts and new born tears.

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Meet Irma

Photo not in the slightest bit relevant but it was taken in London by Princess, and I think it is gorgeous.

What kind of crazy person drinks strong expresso at 6.30pm?  Of course I only remembered drinking the coffee with a sort of “ohhhhh…” feeling when I still couldn’t sleep at 1am. So here I am downstairs typing in the dark in the middle of the night. I am safely back in Kampala and after a month away very content to be a family again. Handsome Husband stayed behind to work while we were all off playing in the Great Shiny West and it was a happy reunion at the airport, which is a strange sort of symmetry was also the exact 1 year anniversary of our first arrival in Uganda.  What a difference a year makes, and what a difference a month away makes too. I have been thinking about how different places make one feel like different people. I generally feel quite good about myself here, I even have days when I feel a tinge of glamour. In London, however I tended to feel like a country bumpkin, especially in the first weeks. After a while I started to recover my composure, or perhaps that was the shopping.

In any case this is something wrote early on in my month long sojurn. Welcome to Irma. ( with apologies to any seriously Glam Irma’s out there. It was the first name that seemed to fit the way I felt. Doesn’t everybody name their alter egos?)

After about a week in London I start to feel like Irma. She is the name I have given to a fictional character in my head. A slightly frumpy school librarian whose daughters are at camp for the summer so she has decided to come to London to visit her glamorous and sophisticated friends. Wearing too much linen, Birkinstocks and with the ubiquitous Coach bag slung over her chest she screams of a comfortable existence in the American backwater. Irma, lives in my mind, and an Irma day comes from spending too much time with my very thin and fashionable Mother and Sister.  When I wake up feeling like Irma my Handsome Husband always reassures me that I am no Irma and that I must take myself off, head high, to buy some shoes. He knows the therapy I need.

So Irma, did indeed head off for a day of retail therapy in Selfridges with said thin and glamourous mother and sister. By the end of the day Irma was beginning to shed and my inner city self, hidden for too long, began to emerge. Honestly there isn nothing like a Chanel red lipstick and a pair of heels to shake Irma away. Now what am I to do with heels and red lips in Kampala, I have no idea. There in a nutshell do we find, once again the in-between world of 3limes.

Irma hasn’t surfaced for awhile. She seems not to visit Kampala that often.

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Filed under Might be funny, personal

Photo # 12 A heavenly moment in a shop

There is a very special shop in London known to many a tourist called Fortnum & Mason. They happen to have the best champagne truffles in the world. When we approached the Truffle Counter we noticed some divine chocolates laid out for tasting. It was a moment akin to heaven.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, I love food, I miss shopping.

Oh so lovely

Marking? Tick. Reports? Tick.  I am on a slippery water slide heading for the finish line; before I know it Year One will be behind us all.  Last Saturday saw an extravaganza at school aptly named Fun Day. It saw Princess dancing on stage despite her one armed status, it saw Handsome Husband taking his turn as parent of the day at the Parent’s Sports Relay; hopping along with one leg tied to a virtual stranger, his muscles put to the test in the “pull a swimmer” challenge in the pool. I did my turn as cheerleader and happy observer. There was no point in both of us breaking a sweat! Sunday saw us at two parties, one for a delightful four year old, one where we watched England disgrace themselves on a football pitch. I think the four year old bouncing on a rubber castle was more coordinated then most of those over paid grown men kicking a ball.

In the mean time I have started to salivate over the pretty things awaiting me in London. If you know me at all by now you know that I am a frustrated shopper and lover of shoes. A good friend warned me that after being in Africa for close to a year without a break it is advisable to resist all shopping for three days. Yes, hide the wallet for three whole days. So I have turned to the nets for some early anticipatory temptation. Rather like looking at the dessert menu upon arriving at a restaurant  without a care for price, nor calorie.

Look at the lovely things I have found.  I am guilty of coveting. Of course there is an air of being sensible, after all these items do need to return to Kampala and be worn, most likely in a classroom or an event where they will suit. Silly heels are out of the question, obviously.

A Lovely number from Jigsaw here. And another one below:

This one is a pretty little number from Mango.
Yes those will do very nicely. ( From LK Bennet.)

Lovely pair of Pied a Terre Sandals below.
And then this.. Swoon… It is called Friday dress and it is by Anglomania.  Price upon waking up.

I am now going to return swiftly to reality with a attack of the dishes and a sponge bath for the aforementioned one armed Princess.

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Blue Sambuca and Brown Croupiers.

After an evening spent watching Trooper performing in her school play we dispatched her to a sleepover and headed out for some drinks at the most popular Irish watering hole in the city. It is not a place I like, but it is one of the only places to go as there is a dearth of bars in this town. At about 11.30 pm when I was having visions of my bed, it was suggested that a trip to the Casino was in store.  Now, I don’t like casinos and I don’t like gambling. I find the whole concept of putting money on the table, only to lose it minutes or even mere seconds later, quite frightening. I like to hold tight to my money and save it all up for holidays in Lamu or shoe shops.  Still, I was out numbered and not wanting to be a sour puss, I am never sour and certainly no puss; I followed along.

Entering the casino felt as I imagined a morgue to feel. Albeit one decorated in the style of an Egyptian pyramid. So maybe an ancient Egyptian morgue. It was ice cold both in temperature and mood; the room was brightly lit with a bar against one wall serving free drinks ( as they should since they were taking all our money anyway); large tables with bored looking people took up the remainder of the room. A team of all female croupiers dressed in brown costumes looked bored but competent as they cut cards and dealt. There was one other smaller room where a high stakes Poker game was underway. I hid in the larger room.

This was only the third casino of my life. The first was a large, brightly lit and bustling place, Vegas style, in the heart of Lisbon. We went there as a drunken group during a wedding weekend. I have few memories of the event as I was far too tipsy to count my money let alone intentionally lose it.

The second was a sad and dismal second floor casino in Winnipeg in the middle of winter, mid week. There was nothing glamorous about it. I remember the people all looked grey, bored and rather grubby as if they had been there too long and were starting to blend in with the dreary furniture. We lost $60 and it broke my heart. I swore I would never go again, especially as those days I had to teach three sets of ballet lessons to 5 year olds to earn that princely sum.

Yet here I was entering the casino for the third time. Handsome husband likes the black jack and knows how so I just sat and watched aghast as time and time again that nasty lady in the brown pants suit got closer to 21 than us. How could she repeatedly win? Why was she so lucky?  In the end I walked away and tucked back a few free shots of Sambuca. It was blue and tasted of terrible cough mixture.

There was a man who kept throwing chips at the roulette table and the brown clad woman just kept taking them away. Despite the fact that it was far from crowded I was shocked that so many Ugandans had that much wealth to throw away. We were the only white people there, I had expected a larger expat contingent.

The saddest thing about the whole event was not losing money ( we ended up $100 ahead thanks to HH’s luck), it was was the depressing mood of the place. Everyone just looked so bored. It wasn’t even fun, it was all rather desperate and lonely.

I am not going back. My thrills lie elsewhere, not sure where yet, but elsewhere.

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Filed under I miss shopping., Kampala

Into the dark depths of Owino market

Well I finally did it. I went to Owino, the largest market in Uganda. It is a weaving, postulating maze of stalls selling all manner of objects from paper clips, to shoes, wedding dresses to suits, chickens to belts and dried fish to hats. It is where the majority of clothes from Western charity shops end up together with some seconds and the left overs that never sold in Winners. Some people love it and treat going there as an extreme sport, equipping themselves for a trip into murky hell, coming out for air only  when bags are stuffed with “finds” that will be washed and worn or taken to the tailor to be reworked. There are others that stay away as if from the plague saying they “hate that place” and “I’ll never go back in there.” Either way it draws a reaction when you say that a trip is planned. Everyone comes out with some advice. It seems the best tips are these:

  • Go early on a Sunday morning when it less crowded as many people are at church.
  • Wear closed shoes as it is muddy and dirty.
  • Carry your phone and money in jeans pockets, no handbags allowed.
  • Take an empty backpack and a water bottle.
  • No jewelry allowed.
  • Get ready to be accosted, shouted out and even mauled.

When four white chicks enter the maze they stick out like sore thumbs and the excitement level in the stalls raises just a friction as they realize a big sale might be imminent. Luckily I went with a pro who knew where to park and where to enter and most importantly where to go. If I had gone alone I would most certainly have got lost and might still be there now, trying to claw myself out under mountains of old shoes.

As I entered, with some trepidation, not being entirely clear what I would find, the smell hit me first. It was a heady cocktail of dried fish, peanut butter, old clothes, cooking and body odour. There were many nut stalls grinding  ground nuts into thick pastes ranging in colour from anemic red to mustard brown. As we entered one small covered path we saw hundreds of shoes, some piled high, some laid out, and behind each mini stall sat a man scrubbing the shoes, trying to make them look new again. In another corner were piles of bras, bathing suits and in another a small hill of children’s clothes. Few of these items were new; I kept expecting to see some item I had dropped off at Goodwill or Oxfam some years ago. These clothes arrive in huge grey plastic sack and are unceremoniously tipped onto either a tarpaulin or a table. Some are torn but some are in decent condition. I saw French Connection dresses and Marks and Spencer’s suits but the highlight of the morning was the “dress man”. Thanks to him I have now found out where bridesmaid’s dresses go to die. One after another we pulled out a frightening mixture of tuille, frill and pastel. A few times we even found a few classic ‘mother of the bride’ dresses; items worn once, well intentionally and then stuffed into the back of a closet never to be seen again, ‘till now. We looked at these dresses with a mixture of shock and laughter. It was an education in bad taste and I will forever wonder how, if she is your best friend, you could ever have forced her to wear that.

In the end we each came out with one or two pieces, some for a laugh and one or two things we might actually wear. I, however, believe I won the treasure hunt having found these fabulous red shoes! What a find!

As we were leaving we got trapped by a large truck trying to enter the market. I can’t imagine what he had in his mind, since there is no where that a truck could feasibly go. As he tried to get out of his predicament people were scrabbling to get their clothes, shoes and carrots out of the way of his large wheels and we couldn’t get around the front nor the back of the truck. We just had to wait while people stared at us and laughed at our frustration. After all, what was the big rush? When Trooper was touched on her arm by a man I yelled at him to get off. “But she is so pretty, so soft!” he replied, once again rubbing his hands over her arm. I was hot, sticky, tired and in dire need of a shower. Two and a half hours had been enough.

Will I go back? Maybe, it is a treasure trove of dressing up clothes and a fantastic place to scour for drama costumes, but it won’t be too soon. I have had enough Owino for the time being.

Plus did I mention I have a sort of second hand clothes phobia? I do, something to do with the person’s spirit staying in the clothes. I know, crazy. But that is another story.

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Filed under I miss shopping., Kampala

Rainy day fantasies

My first African Christmas has come and gone and I have now taken to my bed. It is the only seemingly cosy place in this box I call my home. Kampala has been drenched with rain for 3 days now and my mood seems intent to match the weather. I can’t help wondering what we would be doing in Montreal or Trinidad. So since I am struck with boredom on a rainy day in a dusty (now muddy) city I have decided with the utmost of self indulgence to ask myself some pertinent questions.

What would I do in Montreal today?

Well there are a number of choices, among them a zippy toboggan ride down Murray Hill, an ice skate on Beaver Lake, a wander through the tempting shops down town, perhaps lunch or coffee at a cafe on St. Denis or even an Imax film. Of course there is also the option of a visit to a museum of gallery. Even in the snow Montreal has a wealth of offerings, and combined with the richness of friends who live there ( although they are all away this week) it is easy to see why Montreal continues to be my favorite city in the world.

What would I do in Trinidad today?

Well, a lot less, to be sure, but assuming the sun is shining a trip to Maracas beach is a good bet. There would also be some walking and even staying home in our sun drenched happy house would be quite blissful.

What would I do in London today?

Assuming my wallet could bare it what wouldn’t I do in London today? Aside from the fact that there is always my sister to play with, there is a multitude of shops in which to covet things and museums in which to gain some inspiration and joy. There is also always Waitrose where I could walk up and down the aisles while drooling and clutching my wallet like a deprived tourist let out of Africa on a day pass.

What do I wish I could do today?

Shop. I am in need of some serious retail therapy and even a frustrating walk through a big shiny shop full of lovely things I can’t afford would be sweet indulgence. Of course, to assuage the pain of unrequited love I would need to buy at least one fabulous thing that I shouldn’t. At this point I would predict that it would be shoes.

I also wish I could go for a long walk around a city park. It doesn’t need to be the country at all, and I would prefer not to don wellies and outfit myself as if heading out for the great hunt. No, a city park that would end up at some shops with a warming cappucino would suit just fine. In fact, a brisk walk in a chilly climate would be good as long as the warm and soft scarf could be unwound with relief at the end of it all.

I also fancy a matinee movie in one of those cinemas where you stand, hand on chin, and take a good few minutes to choose what you want to see. One of those cineplexes showing more than 21 films would be grand.

So there you have it. A trip down fantasy lane! Fun while it lasted.


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