Tag Archives: weekend

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

My Kampala Weekend

Kampala Sunday Family.  Photo taken during my Mother’s Day walk.

Oh what a lovely weekend. It all started with a rare highly successful Friday. It is an extraordinary feat when everything goes to plan here, something to be celebrated and talked about amongst friends. I  left school midday to attempt the herculean task of ticking a few items off my “things to do list” including some banking, an issue with a tragically faulty iphone and computer , a birthday gift, a photo to be printed, some minor grocery shopping and the pinning up of Car For Sale posters in all the appropriate places. All got accomplished in good time and moreover extra things not even on the list got ticked off too.  A rare glowing moment here in Kampala.

Friday evening was spent in the company of dear friends, outside on a deck, moonlight straining between oversized fat leaves, and the sweet smell of Lady of the Night flowers wafting over us like gentle silk on our shoulders.  We ate, we debated loudly, and we laughed. We struggled with issues that come by us all too often living in Africa.  We debated the concept of happiness and how possible it is to be happy and yet stuck in the mire of poverty. How do we read those smiling faces running up the hill to fetch water each night? Can a person be truly happy if they cannot plan for tomorrow? If they live an existence that is hand to mouth and rooted in the today and only the today? Can one be happy if they have no access to health care and the threat of death and infanticide is  always around every corner? Is the West responsible and what can be done? Heady issues but ones that live with every day and it is a good dinner party when we actually debate what we cannot solve.

Saturday and my luck turned. I was back at the computer shop fixing my still broken computer and money was bleeding from my wallet. I was forced to drive right down town, into the nether regions of congested Kampala and to a place that I have never ventured by myself in the car. It was stretching the boundaries of my bravery so I did what is only possible in the great country of Uganda. I hailed down a Boda driver and paid him to drive to the scary place so that I could follow him. I did exactly the same thing on the way out of the maze of downtown streets and good thing too or I might have found myself half way to Entebbe Airport.  I also pulled another great Ugandan trick and rather than risking another drive back downtown to retrieve said computer, I had it delivered to me by the technician on a Boda Boda. It is so easy to be a princess here.

Saturday night and a prospective car buyer was followed by a delicious Thai meal.

And Sunday: Mother’s Day found me enjoying a manicure, a brunch with my daughters and an afternoon of friendship, champagne and sushi pool side.

And then it all went fish faced Sunday night when my computer broke again.


Filed under Being brave, Kampala

Wrapping friends up into a soft soft ball.

Reading the FT yesterday morning, as I am wont to do on my Saturdays, I read this article by Susie Boyt, a columnist I follow closely and enjoy immensely. There are people we read in the press that we falsely believe we know by virtue of reading their online persona each week. But I feel certain if Susie and I met for tea at Fortnum’s’ we’d have plenty to talk about. The staff would be tapping their heels and waiting by the doors to close and we’d still be chatting about the length of dresses, fluffy cakes, life changing books and the essence of what makes a good friend.

Today she writes about friendship and her words rang a true bell. I am one of those people for whom friends are on the A list, the cake rather than the icing. Friends for me sit in the very centre of my life rather than dancing around the periphery. One of the tragedies of an expat existence is that you are always far from friends, dear ones, with whom you would like a daily existence, a regular phone chat, a weekly coffee rather than a day or two every year or two.

The hardship of being so far from friends in one thing but the other sadness wells from the fact of having to say goodbye to new and wonderful friendships so frequently. With each move, I say “No.” I will not join my heart to another, I will not fall in love with a new friend, I will not get too close. And then, because we are human, we do. And then comes another goodbye. But with each move there are less goodbyes, once bitten twice shy. I am wary of too much love, these days.

This summer I will be going home to Canada after a break of two years. I will be, once again, with my sisterhood, but I am carving up time into portions to spend with them. Is this the way to live friendship?  Have a choice? They have all got their lives, they are busy and here I fly in, swoop down into their lives from my life far away and demand time with them, while I can only afford a day or two.

Like oil and water the true friends float up to the surface and make each moment one to cherish. But I keep collecting these wonderful friends and if I were to make a friendship map of the world they would be scattered like chicken pox scars on a child’s back.

I have had friends leave me, like a scorned lover and it hurts as much as ending a love affair would. There are 5 times in my life that I have been dropped like hot coal into the fire, and each time it is because I have inadvertently hurt someone too sensitive to have perspective. I argue with myself that these were never true friends, that I was mistaken, had it wrong, all along. If they would end our friendship over a silly slight, what were they to me? Still it hurts, because I never knew.

We collect people as we go through our chapters, and the more moves we make the more we collect, carefully, wrap in the softest of memories and carry in our pockets. Sometimes I long for my white picket fence and my friend round the corner, always there, living with me my days and me with hers.


Filed under Sisterhood

Escaping Camp Hormone

It has been a troubling week in Camp Hormone, the gossip mongers have been hurtful, the facebook chat rooms full. There are weeks when I have my overdose of teens, living with one at home and a multitude at work. They are strange and worrisome creatures and there is no handbook, just trial and error, a lot of patience and masses of consistency and consequence.

But I cannot discuss Camp Hormone here; my gag order is in full effect so instead I will tell you about my other life. Do I have another one? Yes, I found it on Saturday night dancing to Salsa in uncomfortable high heels with no Tequila. (I was driving and being sensible. Always sensible.)  I find myself going out so much more now that I am high heeled up and single (well single and married, if that makes any sense at all.) I went out five nights in a row which is a record, really. I am not sure I have not that this decade, though it is only 3 months old.

This past week I have attended an Irish themed dinner party, complete with very interesting Irish folk and a superb Baileys and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice-cream milkshake, a Murder Mystery Dinner where I was given the role of Brash and Aggressive American ( no risk of type casting there then) and featured a divine Pear Martini, a decadent Indian meal, a girls’ night out under the stars, a birthday dinner with my girls and a heavenly molten chocolate dessert, a tea party with pink champagne instead of tea and a hilarious one year old who cleaned the chocolate cake off everyone’s plate and the afore mentioned salsa dancing.  The dancing was fun and long overdue and I was having a great time dancing with the bodacious Latino ladies until a pile of my students walked in and balked.

Nothing like a 17 year old at 1:00 am on a Saturday night to make you feel old.

Camp Hormone. Can’t escape the inmates.

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Filed under Teenagers

Ugandan Cake

Handsome Husband had a special weekend devoted to his birthday. He deserved it and we were just so happy to pack up and head to Jinja for the weekend. I have been in Uganda for 16 months now and have only been to Jinja twice. This, I do not understand and having spent a deeply relaxing 26 hours staring at the Nile I resolve to go more often. It is only an hour and a half from Kampala, an easy drive by Ugandan standards and the rewards are sweet once we arrive.

Throw a few good friends together, mix in a lovely place to stay, a campfire, happy children in tents, plenty of drinks, hammocks and books and add a fabulous view and a good weekend is guaranteed.

The only down side to the weekend was the birthday cake, worth mentioning since it has to go down in history as the Worst Birthday Cake in the World. I had emailed in advance and asked for a cake to be organized.  After all who can have a birthday without cake? I didn’t think I could conjure up a cake since I was supervising a Guy Fawkes Night at school on the Friday evening and then had Pantomime business to attend to before leaving Saturday morning. Anyway I thought I could trust a restaurant kitchen to bake a cake. Who was I to know?

I went into the kitchen to light the candles and promptly saw that this cake, being turquoise and wrapped in a shiny red bow had come from a store in downtown Jinja.  Okay, I thought, it is from a Cake Shop. Can’t be that bad, can it? Camera, ready I went to wait for the waitress to carry out the cake. 5 minutes later, I was still waiting as the staff thought it would be best to bring out all the plates and forks before hand, with little care for the candles which by now were mere stumps. Finally, out it comes, in all its turquoise spendour.

When the knife wouldn’t go through, that was the first indication that we had a problem. Then finally after some strenuous sawing action the cake snapped, sending shards of royal icing flying across the table. The cake inside looked like brown stone, drier than saw dust, harder than a brick. I gingerly put a small crumb in my mouth and nearly gagged. It tasted like nothing I had ever experienced before; more like pulverised and re glued mouldy brick than anything else.  How long had that cake been sitting on the shelf of “Jinja’s Best Cake Shop?”

A wise teen to my right cleared up the confusion. “All Uganda cakes are like that.”

So now I know.

Once we arrived back in Kampala we set matters right and sought out the best Death by Chocolate Cake we could find. No one can miss cake on their birthday. Even in Uganda.


Filed under Family Stuff, Uganda

Some fine art slotted into my party weekend.

Last night I attended an Art Exhibition. It was part of a long litany events that this weekend has planned for me, starting with a surreal but decadent parents only school event that involved dressing up circa James Bond Casino Royal and gambling with chips that didn’t actually involve any real money. So we could have all the thrill of losing money and none of the pain. This event was followed by an impromptu Karaoke circle that saw 40-somethings singing “Every Breath You Take” at the top of our lungs. Those holding the mikes got to feel like real rock stars. The rest of us just bellowed from  slouched positions on the sofa or our swaying dance in the corner of the room. What was remarkable was that for the length of at least one song, maybe two we were all in exactly the same place and moment in time, singing the same song, feeling the same thing. Like going to church must feel, it was strangely unifying and a whole lot of fun.

Saturday I stumbled over to a meeting feeling sort of rough, blamed more on the lack of sleep than the quantity of imbibed drinks, and then had one of those long blissful afternoon naps. By the time I got to the Art Show I was foggy but awake, at least. The Art show was supposed to pre-ceed a costume party ( Halloween is paid a token nod in this part of the world) but being over the age of 25 I can only handle 2, not 3 parties in a weekend and it seemed easier to go out for a quiet dinner than run home, change into a sexy cowgirl, and then hit the party. Talking to strangers takes a lot of effort and dinner with friends was just so pleasant.

Back to the Art Show. It featured the work of 13 Ugandan artists and some pieces were very good and very tempting. There were three artists that I particularly liked, pushing aside the predictable African Women images and African Animals paintings. It is comforting to know that artists are creating, feeling, celebrating and expressing themselves over here. And even better to know that thanks to the organizers of this event, they are selling art and making a living. Being an artist in a country where art is seen as an indulgent bit of fluff on the side cannot be easy.

I love this painting of Masai Warriors and goats. It is by the quite wonderful David Kigozi. I had the fortune to meet and compliment him last night but sadly due to the diminutive quatity of funds in my bank account compared to the  high cost of this painting I left the show without it.

And also without this. I love the Rooster.


I am going to start saving for a David Kigozi.


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Filed under Kampala

All packed into one little Saturday.

This past weekend was something special. I finally left my little shoe box, my litter strewn classroom, the tiny corners of my life and ventured out; right out into the country for a luncheon. Such an old fashioned yet relevant world. It was too grand for a simple lunch and yet informal enough to be relaxed and welcoming. It was too generous and beautifully laid out to be a simple Saturday lunch, no this was a luncheon replete with tables laid beneath massive trees in view of satisfied ponies resting after the attentions of so many children. Our hosts brought together many characters from different circles. The newly arrived expats, the old timers, the teachers, the people who know not to whom or what they belong. Above all it was the children who brought together this group of adults, and it was the parents of these children, friends of the mini hosts who sat and watched the youngsters living the idyllic life of an African afternoon.

Yes. A lunch party between two trees as old as the ancients, on a farm where roses bloom and horses scamper about the paddock. Between courses the little ones zipped around dangerously on quad bikes while the relaxed parents turned an amused blind eye towards those parents who bit their lips in quiet terror. Mud splattered boots were replaced with flip flops and the smiles of sun kissed teens shone in the afternoon sun. Little girls, with cheeks as chubby as their 3 years would allow were scolded for riding quad bikes alone and the tantrum that followed her removal of the dangerous and offensive bike was laughed as wholly reasonable by us all. Some parents snuck in a cigarette while their daughters jumped over fences with ponies who looked a mite weary. Finally a few dads decided that it was their turn to ride the quads, but try as they might, the kids were having none of it. A reluctant 2 minute ride was allowed before they were back on, their rightful place ensured.

Too soon, as the light began to change, and shadows moved between the trees it was time to go. One little boy clutching his sprite bottle, so clearly did not want to leave this paradise, he had to be promised another visit “very soon’ to console him. Women were handed roses as they climbed into cars for the ride back to Kampala. Who could believe that this perfect corner was a mere 40 minutes away?

Finally, when everyone departed and children were told that one more turn on the quad bike would not happen for the 15th time, the light began to sink. Trooper and Princess were invited to stay the night and without a moment’s hesitation, and with eyes glowing, they nodded “yes, please.” The assurance that they would ride again the next morning was just the cherry on their cake. This was life, this was what it was all about! Quad biking! Horses! Friends! Land to run and laugh and be muddy and free!

Handsome husband and I said our farewells and left our children behind, with a twinge of jealously. We were heading out to listen to some Congolese music. From one world to another.

The women were resplendent in costume. Their head scarfs barely moved as they swayed in time to the beat. Hands up, hips out and the dancing shook the ground. Sadly this same ground was littered with plates containing the half eaten dinners of a hundred dancers. For some reason it was not deemed necessary to provide bins. No, not in this culture where there would certainly be someone with the broom at the ready next morning. Yet in the meantime, what was once a garden of green grass was now a rubbish dump of squished french fries and twice gnawed chicken bones. Plastic knives snapped under foot while I walked around, avoiding the booming speakers and searching for my friends. Perhaps the tranquility of the rose farm had ruined, for me this evening spectacle of feet stomping, hip swaying revelers. I thought of Princess and Trooper, tucked into bed, sleepy with their overdose of fresh air, dreaming of another day of horses and fun and I was jealous. All they want is to be grown up and they are so much better being young.

Still, it was good music, for a time, and there was true French pride on this day celebrating the African french speakers. It’s just that the ancient trees were calling and I couldn’t get their song out of my mind.

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Filed under Family Stuff

Leaving the dust behind

Ok so now I get it. After 6 weeks of smelly and loud, very loud Kampala we finally climbed aboard the Beast and headed to Jinja. Jinja is the second biggest town in Uganda, it is about an hour and a half from Kampala and it sits on the mouth of the Nile. A backpacking industry has gathered on the banks of the Nile, offering world class river rafting, kayaking, horse back riding, Quad biking and for the people who do not envy those young overly imbibed 20 somethings, the gentle relaxation of a glass of wine beside an astonishing view. Within 20 minutes of leaving Kampala I was confronted with the colour green. Suddenly a land of green and plenty, gentle rolling hills of tea and sugar cane dotted with small villages and the bluest widest sky loomed ahead. This was a different Uganda.

fields of green

I met my husband on the Red Sea but we fell in love on the Nile. Literally. We sailed a Feluka from Aswan to Luxor under a still giant moon. That was a gentle long Nile, not very wide, but teeming with life. We were constantly amazed at how small children swam and submerged themselves in the filthy water. The Nile was a water highway, filled with boats, large and small.

17 and a half years later we were back at the Nile, but this Nile was wide, mighty and wild. Its waters licked the red earth and strained to reach the green pastures. It groaned as it pressed against the Owen Dam, angry that is was refused entry to the wilder rapids beyond. Egrets and Cormorant birds flew from rock to rock while the Nile perch and Tilapia played deep below. It was marvelous to imagine that each drop of water would eventually spill into the Mediterranean 4132 miles away.

Our hotel was perched rather precariously on a cliff. We booked ourselves into a family Banda ( small house ) but once the infestation of cockroaches was revealed we stomped out with all the indignation that Trooper and Princess could muster. Cockroaches, I was brave about, but cockroaches inside the mosquito nets was a deal breaker. Once the flouncing and stomping ended we were directed by management to new quarters. We spent the night squeezed into a magical tent. All zipped up and tucked into bed; we could hear the roar of the Nile nearly a mile below. My outside shower faced an expanse of water that caressed two banks. It is a truly peaceful and happy place.

On the way back home, after a few hours spent swimming in the Nile, paddling on a raft and looking at some wild rapids known as Bujogali falls, it was a shock to the senses to hit the smog and congestion of Kampala streets. Just before the turn off to the spanking new high way that wraps around the Northern end of the city, a large truck sat on the Beast. The driver, realizing that he has just missed the turn, decided to reverse his truck to remedy the situation. Unfortunately for all concerned, he reversed straight into us until a chunk of truck was sitting on our bonnet. Poor Beast. As if it wasn’t ugly enough.

Nile view

I have glimpsed the Pearl of Africa and I can’t wait to go back and explore. Find me the next long weekend and show me the way.

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Filed under Uganda