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Scenes from a Bahrain Sunday

I have clambered out from beneath a mountain of report writing, exam marking and planning. And now “hello fresh air!” I have a whole week off to breathe.

The winds have been wild; sandstorms blew sand from furthest Arabia into every corner, crevice, nook and cranny. We are sweeping sand and dust away and with it the cold wintery air. I heard from a wise man that the winds signal change and that a new season is around the corner.

I got a bit down, doldrum like. Bahrain was feeling small, dusty, dry and too quiet. I was dreaming of my perfect Sunday; a walk in a frosty park over leaves that used to crunch and past skeleton trees mourning their leaves; of a warm coffee shop with muffled chatter and a book shop with tables piled high, the smell of invited hope and paper. I was dreaming of a friend and a hot pot of tea. A week of time stretches before me and it winks at me with space and possibility. I am strange, alone in my house rather than at my desk, with peace and quiet rather than a classroom that twitters with teens. It tastes bitter sweet to have this time; like a dipped toe in a another’s life. I wish to spend it with friends who pop round for coffees and catch up but they are an ocean away.

So as always, to shake off the cobwebs I went out to find the pretty. Yes the grass is always greener, isn’t it? I know that the walk in the London park would be too cold, the friends would be busy, the books too expensive, the gallery closed. Princess told me, with all her wisdom, that we need to be happy with what we have. Thanks to The Prophet’s Birthday we all had a bonus Sunday off so we headed off to see something different.

Here then are my weekend moments.








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Filed under Bahrain, Finding the Pretty, When the rose tint fades


I had the opportunity to go to Berlin for some professional development last week. While I did, indeed develop professionally, and benefitted from the stimulating environment of sharp, bright and experienced teachers; there were many conversations around red bottled tables; I also developed within from a hop over to Europe and The Great Shiny West.

Within moments of arriving I feel the pulse of Europe. It’s in the orange and grey, the efficiency, the shined shoes, good cappucino and bright alarming adverts. I know I am somewhere with a penchant for good design and a trained work force, with years of efficient practice and expectation behind them.  Everything works and I find myself charmed by German efficiency.

I notice the little things: that the toilet in Frankfurt airport is Villroy &Bosch, that the arrivals and departure signage harks back to the flippy train signs of yore. I notice that all the men have smart belts and shoes, haircuts are purposeful and glasses chosen with some care. The font on all the signs sings the subtle but sure message that I am somewhere different.  Moments ago the silky but guttural sounds of Arabic rang through my ears, now it is the guttural but lilting German that takes some time to digest. And then I notice what else is odd, at least to me, transplanted person from desert lands. Everyone is white. Pale, caucasian, sun starved  And people are wearing clothes, that I can see. There is no Thobe to hide beneath, nor the comfort and anonymity of an Abaya.  Here the display is open for show.
I inhale the changes and look with my interminable stranger’s eyes.

I walk the leafy neighbourhood near my hotel and am drawn to shop windows, the creative and unusual display. It is the difference, the shock of the new that hits me and I walk with eyes upturned toward the changes. Berliners and Europeans walk past their ‘ordinary’, not feeling the charm and delight of an autumn leaf crunched underfoot, nor the curled stoned adornment that rests proudly atop a door frame.  I breathe in history with every step, feeling a city charged with everything that has come before. There is a collective awareness of history at every corner and it lends a special pulse to this city.

I returned to Bahrain with a loud and sandy thump. I do indeed live on a desert isle and this week I feel a million miles from the centre of the world.


More Berlin photos to follow….

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Routine, balm for the tired soul.

And here we have it, routine has arrived. I get up at 5,30 am, yes I do, and yes it hurts, I drive 15-20 minutes in the blazing sunshine to work, where I do my teacher thing.

Princess and Trooper go to their school and work and toil as kids are wont to do, and secretly love, despite all quarrels to the contrary.

Handsome drives all the way across the country to the airport where he does his thing.

And at some point we all meet home again, back to our house of cool marble and books, where we congregate in the kitchen, open the fridge and wonder what is for dinner.

It is the same everywhere, for everyone. Whether you live in Uganda, Canada, Trinidad, England or Bahrain, we all wake up, work and end up looking in the fridge at the end of the day.

But it is the little differences that make it interesting. And I suppose that is how I survive in this hopscotch sort of life.

Here then are the little things that make a difference.

Like the time Handsome went out for dinner and has a Peach Ice Tea instead of his usual beer. If you know him, even a little bit, you realize how odd this really is. Like any warm blooded Canadian man, he likes his ice cold beer after a day at work. And here there are very few ways of getting it. The “ice cold” shop does not sell beer, but does sell Coke and Milk. One way is to eat at an expensive restaurant that has a license, or one of the few bars ( a bit grotty) or at a hotel. Another is to drive through the ‘drive-through’ beer shop at the Gulf Hotel. And I just found out about an online service where you can choose your liquor and they deliver. All very clandestine, but legal.

Sometimes it is easy to think we live in India. After all there are as many Indians here as native Bahrainis, and they tend to do the jobs that no one else wants to do. And also all the tailoring. One evening during Ramadan when we could not enter a restaurant until 6.30 pm we decided to take a very warm walk around the neighbourhood. Walking is not something that is done very often here, it being a suburban sort of driving place. But we did have a little walk around the block, sweat pouring down our backs, and we found all the tailor shops. Run by Indians I could stop and actually believe for a second or two that I was in India. Until I saw that the shops were full of the long white robes ( Kandura)  that the Bahraini men favour. Since there are so many Indians here there is also a plethora of Indian movies, music, clothes and restaurants.

You can actually speed right past a police man here. They don’t care one smidgen about fast cars. People drive so fast here, it is scary. And there are 20,000 minor road accidents a year on this small island. No surprise there. As sn extreme contrast very occasionally you might meet this on the road. Not going so fast, obviously.

Wednesday and Thursday night the malls are packed to bursting with Saudis who have driven across the bridge to come over for some Bahrain fun. This little Island swells in size on Thursdays and Fridays and then shrinks back to normal on a Saturday. Suddenly there are Saudi cars all over the place. And watch out for the ladies. They don’t get any driving practice back home.

School is full of polite, high spirited and respectful students and the stark difference between them and the students I have taught in the past is that the boys and girls are hardly ever seen together. Not in class, not in the hallways and not in the cafeteria. There is a silent division between the sexes that goes as far as standing in different lines to buy their lunch. This is not a rule, but is something cultural and hardly conscious. I may yet be proven wrong here and find out about some secret romances.

I was very fortunate to have a lot of house hold help in Uganda. It was the done thing, not something I spoke about very often but I was very spoilt with my two live in helpers. Here we have opted to not have live in help despite the fact that most do and in fact our house comes outfitted with a maid’s room. So we have gone from a lot of help to much less and I have to admit, it suits me just fine. I am back in the kitchen, cooking, doing laundry, being normal once again. However, strangely most houses here do not come with dishwashers ( cue the maid’s room) and so we are doing a lot of washing up which quite frankly I could live without. I am having scary flashbacks to student life. I find it ironic that life here is so comfortable, our house is so lovely, we even have a garden complete with automatic water sprinklers. And yet I am washing up.

One of the surprising differences that colours my days.


Filed under Bahrain, Family Stuff

September 11th 2001

It’s been on my mind all day.

I was driving Trooper to school, a little four year old, eager and happy for her new school, bouncing in the back of the car.

And I was listening to the news.

At 9.02. And since I was in Montreal, and on the same time as NYC, I listened as it happened.

And the journalists were trying to figure it out at the same time as we were listening. No one knew, no one understood.

And then I took Princess to the first day of her play group, and all the other mothers, on their cell phones, worried, pale faced.

Were we at war?

Why? Who? What?

And I met one of my most special friends in the world. And she had no idea why I was acting so strange. And she thought I was unfriendly. But I was scared.  And I couldn’t believe anyone would do such a thing. And it shook me to my core, along with everyone else. We walked in a daze. But I always remember meeting her and starting out wonderful friendship on that date, in the midst of the world falling down.

And today, 10 years later, I sat in a classroom with a group of Arab students and listened to their stories of that day, and all their days since. And we talked, deeply and with profound hope about what had happened and what should never happen again.

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Last days

Tearful, celebratory, funny and warmhearted, these last few days. And through it all I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, relief and bittersweet feelings about moving. Leaving is hard and in the past few days I have, again, said more goodbyes than most would in a life time.

When Handsome left some 3 1/5 months ago I looked at the mountain of tasks before me and thought it would never be possible. And now I have climbed that mountain and am free wheeling down the other side, I am aware that I am stronger than I thought I was.

I have done it all.

Marked the exams, written the reports, packed up the house, wiped the tears, clapped my hands, cheered for my girls, hugged my students, tried not to cry, failed and cried, sold the car, paid the bills, dined with good friends, said goodbye to the Nile, went to Jinja, filed the paperwork, danced, said some very hard goodbyes.

And I watched as the entire Year Ten stood on their chairs and clapped in my farewell assembly.

I was royally roasted and made fun of at the leaving teacher’s function. Created by this clever lady, all my quirky anti camping, cockroach freak out, pedicure loving, car crashing princess tendencies were caricatured and made hilarious in the skit prepared and acted out by a few talented staff members. Of course the show was stolen by my impersonator, the lovely leggy, hard as steel, Aussie MALE PE teacher who donned a short dress, heels and feather boa, all in the name of Theatre. He took it, went with it and made us all laugh, rather than cry.

The next morning, despite a night of dancing and tequila I was up and in the car driving to Jinja. A last little jaunt out of town where the girls could swim with best friends, play mini golf, wash off the worries of moving and feel free and glee.

And now two more days….then Bahrain.


Filed under Being brave, Miss Teacher, Photography

Occupational Hazard

We pass this sign everyday on the way to school and it drives Princess and Trooper crazy. It’s the apostrophes; they cannot comprehend how Alfredo can have a dine out or even be dining out with all those apostrophes in the wrong place.

That would be the problem of having an English Teacher as a mother.


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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.


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.


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

Rupert Everett, Argentinians, Germans and Glitter-all in one post.

July 4th and while a nation celebrates by cooking raw meat over a flame and blowing up stuff we are making thank you cards for teachers by candle night and everyone is rather cross about the sad looking craft box, a poor relative of the glitter factory that used to occupy a cupboard in my Montreal basement.

The end of a school year is a mixture of relief, excitement, satisfaction and a touch of sadness. There are a few goodbyes and a lot of reflection. The kids look a whole lot older than they did 9 months ago and the teachers a lot more weary. As school books get returned to the library and classrooms get dusted, reports get handed out and awards nights are hosted. It has to be the most tiring week in a teacher’s life. They all wear the same “Is it OVER ALREADY?!?!” expression beneath their fixed on smiles. The last week of school is a perfect opportunity to show some films, considering exams are over and seriously no one is going to allow teaching to go on. I did some swooning while showing Shakespeare in Love to my year 9 students. Even the tougher of the lads melted a touch when Will and Violet had to say goodbye for the last time. The Year 8s were treated to a viewing of Midsummer’s Night Dream; a movie featuring Calista Flockhart as an indignant Helena and Michele Pfeiffer as a super sparkly Titania. Imaginative casting. I was happy as I got a double bill of Rupert Everett. Is that man a veritable Adonis or what exactly? I managed to get the year7s hopelessly hooked on Glee. A job well done, I thought. The Pilot is an excellent example of how to listen to your inner voice and resist the urge to bully a wheel chair bound boy by sticking him in a porta-loo. A lesson well taught.

I had more than my share of proud mother moments in the past week. Both Trooper and Princess got awards and stella reports, proving to us all, once again what a good school year they have both had.

The World Cup has been a welcome distraction in the midst of the flurry of end of year excitement. Yesterday I sat with 200 Germans ( who knew there were so many Germans in Kampala?) and watched Germany swiftly and neatly destroy any hope of an Argentinean Victory in South Africa. We then moved onto the Latino bar where we observed the Spanish continue the Latin exodus as they dispatched the Paraguayan team back to their corner of South America.  The distance of a few potholed roads and we crossed from one Germanic side of Northern Europe to a hot headed Spain. It is one of the finer facts about living this expat life.

Next week is jam packed with leaving parties, school functions, packing and goodbyes.

So here is the recipe to complete this week before we set off for the Great Shiny West.

  1. Five days to watch to last 6 episodes of Glee. My most recent obsession.
  2. Four suitcases to pack.
  3. Three school functions
  4. Two more football matches to watch.
  5. One cast to remove

And then we leave and there will be no more cows to watch out for on the roads and no more power cuts to swear about just as we are about to start cooking dinner. There will be less chaos and less flavour. Things might even seem a little bland after the crazy streets of Kampala.

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Kids are Cruel.

The tween and teen years are a time of terrible pressure and also petty silliness. Take these examples of things that make my students said. What is missing here is maturity and perspective, perhaps all that comes from having bigger problems to fry. But in the mean time their little hearts get sore and their heads in a tizzy all from, what seems to us, simple silliness. But to them these things are very real despite being very short lived.

“Jill told Jack to come and tell me my boobs are too big!”

“Frank and Jack were throwing my bag all over the place and I couldn’t catch it.”

“Al flagged me at lunch today.” (This means that he pulled her skirt down to reveal her underwear to the whole cafeteria.)

“Jess looked at me with a mean face and all I did was have lunch with someone different today.”

“John threw a pen at me!”

“Everyone is laughing and saying I love Josh but I was only worried about his face after the ball hit it!”

“Sarah gave me a present and then she took it back! That is why I hit her!”

“Miss, John told me I am ugly.”

The girls tend to make each other cry but the boys are simply crazy. They tease each other so much that their skin grows hard and little bothers them. However they have been taught to pretend nothing hurts them when often it does.  Kids are cruel.


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It is a straight road from Graduation to Zebras.

We are facing a mini whirlwind of events in the world of 3limes.

This morning the graduating class at our school marched through the entire campus and past every student, from the wee 2 year olds to the weary and so-over-it 17 year olds, to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. They were showered with tossed roses and applauded for their achievements. Even the most hardened cynic could not fail to be moved. I am especially pleased since it was I who brought this procession idea, having enjoyed it so much at my last school in Trinidad. It is a worthy tradition that gives the little younger ones pause for thought and dose of honour and the graduates respect and lashings of pride.

Tonight I will attend the Graduation ceremony where I will sit and remember the festivities of last year. The last Graduation I attended took place on my very last night in Trinidad and I sat through it in a daze of tears and pre-emptive nostalgia.  I sensed I was sitting in a movie that  I had already seen; it was an out of body experience and the heightened emotional state caused both by the sheer quantity of goodbyes and the tearful but fabulous party afterwards formed a psychedelic imprint on my memory. This Grad will not be in any way emotional, I don’t even teach any of the students but instead will be a precursor and perhaps even excuse for the 70’s party I am attending afterwards. Then tomorrow morning I will peel myself off my bed and prepare for Trooper’s surprise party. She still has no idea and I hope it stays that way. I must confess I am failing as a domestic goddess as her cake will be purchased for the first time in her life. But how can I bake without revealing the surprise? Tricky.

Next week I will attempt to prepare my classes for exams but I think their unusual attire might prove a mite distracting both for them and me. It is Spirit week and for three days teenagers will come to school dressed as movie stars, wearing crazy wigs or boxers around their necks and finally even in their pyjamas. Do I need to dye my hair orange too? Will my pyjamas be revealed for all and sundry? Luckily the amusements will only last three days and shortly after I will be skidaddling off on a Mini Break.

This time next week I plan to be horse riding with Zebras.

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