TIME MANAGEMENT

This post was featured two weeks ago as a Guest Post on the Penandprosperblogpost.com, run by Jennifer Brown Banks , a professional veteran freelance writer and a professional Blogger in USA.

Photo by Sanah-Suvarna-Unsplash.com

I have kept a bedside alarm clock for as long as I can remember.

Good time management remains a big challenge to all of us and yet it is an integral part of productivity at the workplace and at home. It is crucial if we are to accomplish more with less effort.

Most of us have come across the scripture in the Book of Ecclesiastes chapter three verses one to eight entitled : There is a Time For Everything .

To me it is a constant reminder that life is short but I have to do the best I can while I am still alive.

Each one of us has only 24 hours in a day and the most productive and successful people among us are those who have mastered the craft of using these 24 hours efficiently and effectively.

Time management is about valuing your time and allocating enough time to work to achieve your day’s goals while leaving yourself some time to play and be with your family.

The old adage : All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy still holds.

I always add that : All play and no work makes Jack as poor as a church mouse.

Our bodies have an internal clock known as the Circadian Rhythm- the Sleep –Wake cycle controlled by the master clock in our brains. This master clock is directly influenced by the environment cues of daylight and night time.

During the day, the light stimulates the master clock to send signals to the body systems to stay alert, awake and active. This enables the body to perform at its best during the day.

At night, the darkness stimulates the master clock to initiate the production of Melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, and keeps transmitting signals that help us to stay asleep throughout the night.

Our bodies need this  period  of 6-8 hours of sleep to repair and restore themselves and to boost our immune systems to fight off inflammation and infections and cancer cells. Adequate , regular sleep prepares our bodies  for the increased daytime activities.

 Inadequate sleep of less than 6 hours during the night, causes sleeping problems, high  stress levels and a poor- functioning  Immune system. Sleep deprivation can lead to some mental disorders like depression and anxiety while a weak immune system can cause recurrent infections , slow healing wounds and high stress levels.

Each one of us has a unique purpose and meaning for her/his life – one’s deep story.

The formal education we undertake enables us to identify and to act out our deep stories later in life as writers, teachers, doctors…… We live our own deep story day-to-day ; struggling to fulfill our potential in every area of our lives- personal, spiritual as well as professional.

This can only be done in the 16 hours we are awake each day. Time like death, is considered the greatest equalizer in life. Every day, we draw up to-do-lists, goal lists and Bucket lists which we hardly honour. This comes out of the feeling that time is never enough.

This quote from an essay: On the Shortness of Life written by Seneca, a Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher clearly identifies where the problem lies:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste most of it. Life is long enough if you know how to use it.”

 To mitigate against this feeling of being short of time and to get more done in less time, we all have to master the art of Time Management.

This explains why Time Management is considered as one of the four pillars of productivity.

The other three pillars are :

.Task management– collecting and organizing all the stuff you have to do.

.Prioritising- what you do first.

. Focus- a way to reduce distractions and accomplish your goals.

For over eight years I have been a faithful student and follower of Michael Hyatt, an American author, podcaster, blogger and virtual coach. He focuses on leadership, productivity and goal setting in life.

This is what he has to say about how to plan and use your time effectively and efficiently:

  1. Rest –Start with enough rest at night- 7-8 hours.
  2. Prioritise- Decide what is most important in your life and do it first. Invest 80% of your time on the 20% most important things to you. Do it day by day, week by week for 52 weeks. Then the “urgent” does not crowd out the most important and it reduces procrastination. It stops you from spending your valuable time on pointless pursuits.
  3. Batch your work– line up related tasks and do them at once. Like replying and sending emails at the same time.
  4. Tame your Technology– technology improves our ability to get things done but set limits to its use when doing important things. Put your phone away or switch it off when doing important tasks. Do not allow yourself to become a slave to technology.
  5. Drop Drudgery– outsource what you do not enjoy doing. It leaves you free to what you love.

ON A FINAL NOTE

I grew up with a father who valued time and “Punctuality” became his middle name. My siblings and I are good at managing time. It creates order in one’s life.

Sadly I came back to a country that has lost the sense of time. The tangled traffic jams in the city compound the problem as well as the frequent heavy rains. I waste a lot of time while moving from point A to point B and back. It also drains some of the energy that I should have used to do more important tasks.

But my father would remind all of us to start the journey early enough to be on time and my devoted teachers would instruct us to carry an umbrella and a rain coat at work and at home.

I myself would share this Japanese quote with you : If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is.

QUESTIONS:

How are you managing time during these unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic restricted times?

In which areas do you struggle?

THE BRAIN FUNCTION: USE IT OR LOSE IT

The human brain and some of its network of connections.

Courtesy of circleofdocs.com

I have had to repost this article of 20/03 2019 because it is closely related to my last post : Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks. I believe that it will help you understand that post better but most importantly, it will help you understand why learning has to be a lifelong priority.

Brain function is one of those things that deteriorate as one grows old.  Watching my octogenarian mother struggle to play with the Rubik cube box , requiring skill and determination, made me think more about the age-related deterioration of brain function. One renown expert , Dr. Michael Merzenich  Ph.D. of Scientific Learning Corporation in Oakland , California has made numerous studies  in brain function. He tells us that this age-related functional decline can be reversed or be slowed down by engaging into mentally demanding activities. The mentally demanding activities include reading, solving hard crossword puzzles and playing brain games. They stimulate and challenge the brain unlike the simple mundane ones like walking to the neighbour’s or performing any task routinely.

  He also informs us that by the age of 40, most of us are largely using the abilities we acquired early in life. We could be said to be operating in automated pilot mode. We are doing things without being consciously engaged in what we are doing. As a result, gradually the brain function begins to slowly deteriorate. We become slow in action and slow in making decisions. He reassures  us that we can reverse this functional decline by appropriate stimulation of the brain with new challenges.

He therefore recommends  that each one of us should engage in new learning all our lives by picking new hobbies or learning new skills altogether. After the age of fifty, it is essential that we maintain and improve brain function simply by keeping it mentally active. An active brain is a healthy brain. We do not have to wait to grow old to start playing the recommended mentally demanding activities; the earlier we start the better.

Proverbs 19 verse 27 warns us that :  If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.

I for one have started seeing the changes in bits and pieces: how fast I remember names, how often I misplace my pair of spectacles and  how fast I make decisions. In my attempt to restore and maintain more less normal brain activity, I have found the following activities extremely useful:

  1. Reading- I have been a voracious reader since the age of six. I read for fun then read for knowledge.

As a medical doctor I read a lot to acquire new knowledge, to remember what I already know but in my leisure time I read for fun. The Internet has increased access to reading materials to many of us. I can boldly say that this is the best time to be an avid reader.

I also make time to read and study my Bible first thing in the morning.

 Reading helps me to concentrate, and to engages my brain fully as I follow the characters through the story. It also improves my fluency in the language.

2.Writing- I would have cheated the literary world if I just read others’ books or blogs all this long.

I had to contribute to something which has given me so much joy and knowledge. I have published two fiction novels, several short stories and I am working on several of them at the moment. I have been running a personal blog since October 2016. I wanted to share my wealth of experiences and impact other people’s lives for the better.

 Since I have always had a curious, questioning and inquisitive mind, I always research what I write about thoroughly. This opens me up for more reading and acquisition of knowledge. I have made lifelong learning a priority. Posting articles regularly on my personal blog teaches me the discipline of remaining consistent and reliable.

As I write, I am fully engaged and my mind is taken off everyday worries. I am alone with myself so it helps me to decompress and unwind too.

3.Crossword Puzzles- I usually solve the crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers that I read and those in the magazines I buy regularly. I have been doing this for a long time. While researching about crosswords I noted with great interest that the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World newspaper in December 1913!

As I try to solve the puzzle, I am fully engaged and focused on what I am doing. The hardest puzzles are the most engaging and challenging. Completing such a crossword puzzle gives me a sense of satisfaction. The feeling causes the brain to release one of the ‘feel good factors’ known as  Dopamine , in several areas in the brain. It is the Dopamine which makes us happy and motivated as we go through life. Small jobs and achievements throughout the week naturally keep up my Dopamine levels. Low levels of Dopamine are associated with feelings of apathy, depression and low energy.

Lately, I have picked up the number game called SUDOKU, a puzzle based on the 9 by 9 grid. It was first introduced in USA in 1970s. It exercises my brain immensely and has improved my memory and my number skills. In the last few days, I have graduated and taken on the MUDOKU, a number puzzle based on the 16 by 16 grid. It is more engaging.

Dr. Merzenich‘s team of top scientists has developed some brain games to improve the brain function.  You can look them up at BrainHQ. Playing them regularly sharpens the brain and as a result you think faster, focus better and remember more. Who would not want to remember more? I am at the beginner’s level but just like any learned skill, the more you practice, the better you become.

Next time I have a full house, I will dust off Chess, the board game. It is an engaging game that demands total concentration and intense focus. It tests your memory too.

Mark Twain said: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.’’

And Thomas Fuller said:   “We all forget, more than we remember.”

QUESTION:

How fast are you at making decisions or remembering things?

 How often do you find yourself looking for your mobile phone, pair of spectacles or keys that you happen to be carrying in your handbag?

Has this post fired you to pick up any mentally challenging games like Chess?

Please take the COVID-19 Respiratory disease seriously so stay safe and healthy.

TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS

The SUDOKU number puzzle that became popular in US in the 1970s.

There is an age-old adage that says : You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Simply put it means that like animals, it is quite difficult for old people to learn something new. They tend not to be open to new ideas.

For anyone to learn something new, you have to trust yourself and your teacher then open up your mind and heart to learn new things.

Interestingly, the theme for my blog is: Learning is a lifelong process. I chose it because I have always been fascinated about learning new things; I have been motivated by curiosity. As I grow older, I have traded in control or trying to change the world for wanting to understand it. The environment we live in controls our behavior so the more we understand it, the better we enhance the quality of our lives. One good example I can give is that for the two decades I lived out of Uganda , where Malaria fever is endemic, I lost my acquired resistance to the mosquito- transmitted disease . If I went down with Malaria at this moment in time, it would be as severe as in an under five Ugandan child! I could easily die from it. To prevent this from happening to me, I persistently sleep under a mosquito net. Consequently, I have not suffered from Malaria for the three years I have been back in Uganda.

We are living in the Information Age or Digital Age where we have instant access to knowledge and information.

This demands that all of us, young and old have to continue learning to remain useful to ourselves and others and to stay relevant and actively engaged with the world around us.

As Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) an American writer and one of the world’s outstanding futurist, rightly said:  The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

 Every day, I have to learn a myriad of new things, unlearn what is outdated and no longer holds true and relearn what still holds true in this age.

As we are now living longer than any other time in the history of mankind, keeping ourselves literate presents a huge challenge to those in their Second Adulthood : 45- 85 or beyond, more so to those in the last phase of this Second Adulthood (65-85 or beyond). My mother is close to her 90th birthday. I have been observing her closely and watching painfully as she gradually lost control over her life.

 For as long as I can remember, she has been a strong, independent woman with a lot of enthusiasm for life. She was a midwife for almost forty years, retired into mixed farming in the late 90s. I had never known her to fall sick until two years ago when the degenerative arthritis, little by little confined her at home. The inability to go where she wanted to go when she wanted proved to be more painful than the arthritis itself. It was made worse by the loss of her youngest child from cancer of the breast.

There are times when she has been lost in abyss of depression. With the family’s love and support , she has gradually chosen to progress other than decline. We are all trying to help her to achieve a state of successful ageing. Thankfully, she now concentrates on what she can do rather than on what she has lost. She is committed to rebuilding the enthusiasm for her life.

She has always  been the type of person who enjoys touching , holding and sharing affection with us the children and grand children but the social distancing demanded by the safety guidelines of controlling COVID-19 pandemic, has robbed her of this. Being a Digital grandmother, she keeps her mobile phone within easy reach to call any of us at leisure. She ensures that her phone is fully charged and has enough air time bundles to stay socially connected with her loved ones.

I enjoy filling in the Crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers to keep my brain challenged. Two weeks ago, an idea occurred to me: though my mother reads the daily newspapers, books  about the Ugandan martyrs and listens to the Catholic –supported Radio Maria regularly, she had some idle hours and her brain needed to be challenged afresh. That is when I started teaching her how to fill in the SUDOKU Number puzzle in the daily newspaper.  Initially she found it difficult to understand the pattern of the rows and columns and the rules. But I left her to learn at her pace and rhythm not to frustrate her. I gave her an exercise book to record the missing numbers in each column and taught her how to play with those numbers. For two days, we filled in a number of them together as I showed her how to do it step-by-step.

To her excitement, she mastered the pattern by the fifth day and by the sixth day she pushed the exercise book aside and started filling in the missing numbers directly in the blank squares!

Like any good teacher, I cheered her on and celebrated the little successes.

The most touching moment was when she immersed herself in it for about forty minutes, corrected the errors and handed it to me with her trademark smile. “I hope I got a hundred percent.’’

She has become better at it and now scores a hundred percent most of the time. She enjoys doing it and owns the game. No doubt the daily small wins have made her feel good and inspired her to get more done.

  When I informed the grand children about our new fun times, they requested me to take several photographs of her working passionately at her ‘‘game’’ and share them with them.

 Since then, they have been calling her to cheer her on. Many of them will be soon sending her a selection of SUDOKU books and jigsaw puzzles from where they are scattered worldwide.

A brilliant student challenges you as a teacher; you do not want her to get so used to what she is doing  that  it becomes a routine. Like the high jump track and field event, you have to keep raising the bar to stretch the contestant’s ability to the maximum.

So I introduced something completely new: I bought the first jigsaw puzzle for her from the children’s book section of a bookshop.

 It was of a mother elephant with her calf.  I went back to the basics as I had done with my own children: starting off with puzzles made up of fewer big pieces and progressively introducing puzzles with smaller pieces as they became better at it.

Through trials and errors, she is rising to the new challenge and loving it. I do not mind whether she takes the whole day as long as she completes it.

To my amazement, I have observed that :

She has grown more confident and daring.

She is more alert and has made a conscious effort to continue learning new things.

She talks more and engages more with the people around her and her old dog. She spends more time walking around in the compound. It is as if she has been given a new lease on life.

It is increasingly becoming easier for her to remember old things than before.

She concentrates and focuses more at her “game” and the jigsaw puzzles. She gets so deeply absorbed in what she is doing that she loses track of time.

She is more relaxed and happier- her Blood Pressure and heart rate readings are more stable than before.

Her enthusiasm for life has increased and she confidently says that she cannot afford to bury herself alive.

My octogenarian mother enjoying her new Number Puzzle- SUDOKU.

 Despite the loss of her two children and a twenty year old grandson, previously she had somehow found something to live for: her children, grand children and great grand children. Now that she is keeping her brain challenged every day, life is no longer dull and draining.

The scientist in me went to work to read more about how to keep one’s brain young and healthy and the health benefits of Jigsaw puzzles.

 Decades of research facilitated by the Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the brain (MRI), have shown that as we grow older, our brains shrink in volume. Ageing causes changes in the size, the blood vessels and cognitive processes of the brain. The less you keep your brain active by not doing challenging  tasks like learning  something completely new, the faster it shrinks. The same studies have shown that the brain size decreases by 5% per decade after the age of 40 and much faster after the age of 70. This negatively affects your attention and memory and increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

To slow down the brain function decline you have to practice the following:

  1. Regular physical exercise like taking long walks, running and swimming if you able. The brain changes begin midlife. Exercise is good for your heart, brain and body. Exercise increases the heart rate enabling the heart to pump more blood to the brain.  The increased blood flow to the brain improves cognitive function- a healthy mind in a healthy body.
  2. Reduce the stress- the stress response releases hormones like Cortisol and Adrenalin which affect memory and learning. You can reduce the stress by reading books, regular exercise, gardening, writing, painting, meditation, laughing and listening to good music or playing a musical instrument.
  3. Get plenty of sleep- at least  6-8 hours of regular sleep in the 24 hours of the day.
  4. Eat a healthy balanced diet consisting mainly of fish, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, olive oil and Antioxidant nutrients.
  5. Keep the brain active and regularly challenged. This is what is referred to as giving your senses and brain a daily workout.
  6. Remain socially connected- the bonding releases a hormone called OXYTOCIN from the base of the brain. Oxytocin increases bonding and trust in human relationships.

The SUDOKU number puzzles and jigsaw puzzles entertain and keep the mind active and sharp. As you fill in the numbers or pick the right small pieces and put them in the right place, you are engaging both sides of your brain and most of your senses. It stimulates the brain to grow and develop new connections thus slowing down functional decline. Completing the challenging task stimulates the brain to release DOPAMINE, one of the “feel good” chemicals from the brain. You end up feeling good, motivated and alert.

I clearly understand why my mother now feels energized and more engaged with everything around her.

This interaction with my mother has reminded me that learning is a lifelong process and that it also a two- way process.  As I teach her how to fill the Sudoku number crosswords and how to build jigsaw puzzles, I am also having good lessons in patience, humility and successful ageing. We are having fun together and bonding more as mother and daughter.

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes longer. How I wish I had introduced my mother to these brain –stimulating exercises earlier on.

Unexpectedly, two days ago I stumbled on a sealed packet of playing cards. I shall not hesitate to use them to spice up our fun times.

QUESTION: The brain changes due to ageing start midlife and the earlier you start practicing daily workout for your senses and brain the better for you.

Apart from what you do at your work place, what brain- stimulating activities do you practice every day?

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST 11

My mother at 80, surrounded by some of her grandchildren and myself.

 This is a continuation of my last post. Worldwide, people are living longer and more are living into their nineties and beyond than at any other time before.

In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 100 years last October and my mother is close to her 90th birthday. Since she retired as a senior midwife in 1994, she had taken up mixed farming. In the last two years, the chronic degenerative arthritis has increasingly slowed her down.

 My father and his sister had agile minds and were relatively mobile. I usually find their centurion niece planting sweet potato vines or digging in her banana garden and no one can stop her for this is what she enjoys doing. Her joy is her strength. The common traits among them is that they chose to focus on what was going right in their lives and engaged fully with what was going on around them. They could be generous to a fault too.

Warren Edward Buffett, the most successful investor in the world, the billionaire who has been giving away the majority of his wealth to charity annually since 2006, celebrated 90 years on 30th August 2020. He shows no signs of slowing down.

Now that we are living longer, it demands that we enlarge the boundaries of vital living.

This has already caught on in the advertisement field and in the slogans we see these days like:

Life begins at 60

and  90 is the new 60. They are aimed at pushing us to think about life beyond midlife, 45-65 and plan for our Second Adulthood if we are to get the most out of it.

Numerous studies and surveys about longevity have been done and continue up to today. Results from such studies  have divided Adulthood into two stages: 1St Adulthood and Second Adulthood. The second Adulthood itself has two phases.

. The 1 st Adulthood- this is the time from 30 to 45 years of age.

Generally the body is at its best. We feel young, energetic and consider the world to be at our feet. We have learned to be strong enough to take on life’s challenges and responsibilities so as to make a difference in the world. It is our time to compete, assert ourselves and collect achievements. We immerse ourselves in proving our ability and capacity to ourselves and others.

The sex roles as predetermined by our culture, demand that the women get married and become mothers while the men marry and become fathers. This is a very demanding time for the women in particular who have to juggle a career and a young family. They are so busy bringing up children, meeting financial responsibilities of a family and trying to make ends meet while at the same time building a career.

Dennis P. Kimbro said : “ Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

. The 2nd Adulthood.

45-65- sometimes called the middle years and the first phase of the 2nd Adulthood.

45 represents the old age of youth while 50 ushers in the youth of the 2nd childhood.

This is usually the stage of greatest well-being in the lives of most healthy people. The competing, struggling and achieving is pushed aside to make space for finding your authentic sense of self- your core values, what you hold sacred and what puts spirit into your life.

You redefine personal success, take inventory of personal strengths and skills and use them to reinvent yourself. You want to remain relevant, useful to yourself and others and you want to be more and do more. Once you get this awakening , you begin to find ways of expressing your authentic self. You begin by letting go of the belief system that has informed you as you built your first identity. Other changes have to be made too in your career, lifestyle, habits and religious commitment. This is usually called the mid-life crisis. The main purpose is to make the next two or three decades your own.

By the age of 65, we have given our gifts to the world. We have served, we have accepted leadership in our families, communities and work places. We have launched our children , have a lot of time to ourselves which we can invest into expressing our authentic self.

In Uganda , the retirement age in the formal sector is 55 years of age and if one is to live to be ninety, then you have another thirty five years to go.  You cannot therefore just go on leading your life as you always have. It has gone stale or feels confining or empty. Yes, the environment we live in controls us but the yearning for something beyond family, your job or your friends forces you to trust yourself and open up and grow.

 You leave the familiar to experience the unfamiliar. Most times it is a risk worth taking. My childhood best friend, a lawyer by profession and among the first graduates of Makerere University Business School, is now a well established dairy farmer and another friend previously a teacher is an Events Organiser. I am also getting daily awakenings through my creative writing. Doing what we love and enjoying it keeps us young at heart and we just keep growing.

65-85 or beyond- this is the 2nd phase of the 2nd Adulthood. Also known as late Adulthood or the age of Integrity. All that you have lived through and learned adds up to gift you with grace and generosity that ushers you into the age of Integrity.

You recognise your accumulated skills and inner strength and feel that you should use them to teach, mentor or sponsor the young generation. If you made good use of the mid-life transformation, it will be extremely easy for you to create a new life for yourself. Failing to do this or just leaving yourself to rest on the laurels will turn you into the walking dead- a cause of accelerated aging. You need to stay alive, active, productive and creative to be healthy.

Some studies have shown that repeated creative daily routines like emotional writing, pottery, gardening and painting boost the body’s immune response. Getting absorbed into something creative increases the number of cells that fight off infections and cancer cells in our bodies and stimulates the release of Dopamine – one of the feel- good chemicals from the brain. The excitement of getting a result at the end of the task releases the Dopamine.

You can start all over again by simply embracing your mortality and rediscovering the enthusiasm, creativity and adventurous spirit  of your youth. Therein lies your power because the possibilities and rewards are usually beyond what you have experienced before.

As you go along this new path, you drop what no longer serves you and you pick what serves your new growth. Mistakes will be made but who cares, just keep moving forward into the unknown.

After all they say: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”

With the numerous technology innovations available to us, Mars is now the limit.

Just open yourself to new and more meaningful ways to be alive and do not forget to reach out and connect with others.

My octogenarian mother tells me that one of her biggest challenge at her age is losing loved ones and peers but she has tried to fight this by accepting her own mortality. At the same time she says that such deaths put her under the pressure of longevity and push her to do what she has to do for each day faster. She has also developed a sense of radical thankfulness that drives her to celebrate life every day.

Those who live beyond 90 have the following characteristics in common:

  1. Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
  2. Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
  3. They have a keen interest in current events.
  4. They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
  5. They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
  6. They are religious- many have found their right place in a universe put together by a Creator.They all know too well that time is running out but they choose to focus on the present; savouring each moment. Time has gifted them with clarity about what they can control and what they cannot.  They live fully for one day at a time. This reduces the stress in their lives

But all these are things we should try to pick up as early as our 40th birthday.

All in all, we are in it for the long haul and if we are to harvest the rewards, we have to start planning for it in our youth.

Jim Rohn said: “You must take personal  responsibility; you cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, the wind, but you can change yourself.”

QUESTION:

How have you planned to get the most out of the next phase of your life?

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST

24/08/1972- The Beauty Of Youth

On the 24th August , I celebrated my birthday following the COVID-19 prescribed health and safety guidelines. I had a hearty meal and spent some quality time with a few members of my family among them my grandchild aged almost one and half years. It turned out to be my perfect gift for the day.  I closed my eyes briefly to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God, the giver of all the perfect gifts in our lives. The emotional nourishment that I received will fill my tank for months! I had that satisfying feeling that I was loved, treasured, appreciated and respected. I relaxed and basked in their applause.

In my country, Uganda ,  the statistics from the  Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicate that the life expectancy  of a woman was 55.35 in 2008 and rose to 65.17 in 2018 while that of the man was 54.98 and 60.66 respectively.

According to Statista.com , in Botswana it was 58.97 for women in 2008 and 54.42 in men. Then in 2018 it had increased to 72.5 in women and 66.2 in men.

From the www.ons.gov.uk the life expectancy in UK was 82.9 in women and 79.3 in men in 2018.

In all counties of the world, women live longer than men by 4.5 years. Among the explanations given by researchers for this gap is that the female hormone : Oestrogen  lowers the Bad cholesterol – LDL while increasing the good cholesterol – HDL thus reducing the risks of chronic heart disease in women until ten years after menopause when they catch up with men .

By Uganda standards I qualify to be a senior citizen though I cannot collect the Allowance for the Elderly until  after celebrating my 80th birthday! Surprisingly the minimum age of retirement  for formal employment in Uganda is 55 . The judges of the high court do not retire until they clock 70 years of age.

Each birthday that I celebrate, I thank God for the gift of time and the power to go on, my parents as my mentors, my family and lifetime friends. I thank him for all that I have lived through and learned, the gifts and achievements and the wisdom I have acquired with the experiences. I thank God also for the tough times which challenged me and turned me into a resilient woman and for my small contribution towards making the world a better place.

Thankfully, I was an athlete during my school days, I have never smoked, I exercise daily for a minimum of thirty minutes, I enjoy my glass of red wine and healthy diet of plenty of fruits and vegetables, cereals, low-fat dairy products and more fish and chicken.

In the last fifteen years, I have suffered losses of loved ones; mourned for a season and moved on. I would call myself an optimistic person who sees the glass half -full. I strive to find a gem in each experience. I now know myself drastically well: I thrive best when connected to family and friends . I have a troop of loyal friends. Disorder and chaos derail my thinking, creativity and productivity.

 I never forget my responsibility to give back to the community I live in just as my parents taught me. I call myself a staunch Christian woman. I continue to live with a positive attitude and to live in gratitude while looking for beauty in every one and in everything. I accepted my flaws and strengths many years back and love who I have become. I am sure I now represent the deeper core attributes of survival and resilience so when I create works, they come from the depth of my soul and express whom I am at that moment in time.

For over a week, I have given myself time to reflect on my life and to read more about aging with grace and dignity.

By the time I celebrated my 45th birthday, I was a wife, a mother of three energetic and curious children , a full time medical doctor and a volunteer  at the Francistown SOS Village  in Botswana.  I had proved to myself and others that I had the capacity and ability to wear several hats and to deliver as demanded of me. Then one day it dawned on me that I had lived half of my life.  It forced me to step back and take stock of my life honestly.

 I asked myself a number of questions but 4 in particular needed urgent answers.

. Was my life all about being a good wife, a good mother and an exemplary doctor?

. Was there anything important missing in my life?

. Would I still be contented and satisfied when my children left for university and I had become an empty nest?

. Should not I start thinking of finding another way of being a winner in future?

Over the following months, my spiritual well-being suddenly became more important to me and  I was able to answer those questions honestly. I needed to allow myself to be myself and let myself have what I truly wanted. Yes, I could create myself a new identity and have new big dreams. I had nurtured others for all those years, I needed to make a conscious effort  to nurture myself and once again do something that could challenge me and joyfully keep me awake at night because I wanted it badly. I just had to look from within myself.

 I had been an avid reader of books since the age of six and at that moment in time, I felt that I had read enough books to write my own. The demands of motherhood and the medical career had repressed my creative side.The reflection pushed me into making the decision to create space for myself to write.

Three years later, I was involved in a nearly –fatal accident, I broke three bones in the neck.  After some weeks of neck traction and two open operations on the neck , I was up and about. I survived by God’s grace and because Botswana had an excellent  health care system , I had the love and support of my family and friends and I was strong and fit. The road traffic accident made me confront my mortality and directly pushed me to find out who I really was – my core values, what I held sacred and what put spirit into my life.

 After acquiring the virtue of authenticity, I started on my spiritual and creative journey. I invested more in my creative writing by attending training workshops, webinars, joined Online writing cartels and opened myself to new experiences of entering creative writing competitions. I was determined to become a remarkable writer through continued writing practice and reading.

 Since October 2016 , I have been running a personal blog: https://www.apagefrommunakusbook834350529.blog, to hone my writing skills while at the same time sharing my skills, knowledge, talents , gifts and wealth of experience to influences  the readers positively. It has given me a complete new sense of self-worth and importance.

Someone somewhere once said: “ The hunt is never over until both your heart and belly are full.”

I cannot describe the satisfying feeling I get when I read my short stories in the  Africa Book Club Anthology, Kalahari Literary Review Magazine, Yours 2 Read Platform and Two Drops of Ink, a platform for collaborative writing. My two fiction novels: The Last Lifeline  and  When The Lights came On  are available on  Amazon.com.

I consistently post a new article on my blog every ten days, beating this deadline keeps me joyfully awake at night. I approach this challenge with same youthful enthusiasm that sailed me through the medical school.  It leaves me with no doubt that I am on the right path of finding more purpose and meaning in the last part of my life.

 Maya Angelou rightly said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

 I know it very well that to give birth to something new, you have to let go of something in you. It allows you to open yourself up to new possibilities and new growth.

 My biggest challenge has been: giving away a part of the medical career for my creativity. I am well aware that if I just keep on adding, things may get complicated for me.  I am yet to throw myself into it to lead a fulfilling and effective life of a writer.

 It is a long process but I have not done badly as a part- time writer.  I trust myself and believe that a combination of my love, passion for the written word and my inherent enthusiasm, courage and discipline, will get me on top of my new career. Thanks to the Internet and the ever increasing technology innovations, for making writing a lot easier. I research all my topics, write them out and share them globally without leaving my desk!

After reinventing myself as a writer, I feel more relaxed, fun-loving, joyful and adventurous. I feel that I have made the time after 50 my own.

24/08/2020- Mature Beauty

While researching material for this post, I read a lot about what the psychologists say about aging gracefully and with dignity.  Worldwide, we are all living longer than the majority of people in the last century.

Immunisation against the common childhood diseases like measles , access to effective health care services and  good nutrition, our increased understanding of our environment , the availability of antibiotics and essential drugs like insulin, advances in science  and technology and medicine, have combined to increase our life expectancy. However, at the same time new challenges keep cropping up like emerging new diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS and now COVID-19, food insecurity, environmental degradation and climate change.

The psychologists have continued to study the behavior and responses of human function in different populations and have come out with guidelines to help us live meaningful; creative and productive lives after clocking 50.

 By sheer coincidence, right here on my desk is a copy of  the UK Sunday Mirror Magazine with a radiant and confident woman of 60 advertising spectacles for Specsavers with the slogan : Life begins at 60. So does a 25% discount at Specsavers.

In the 90s the slogan was : Life begins at 40. This goes to show that we are staying alive for so long.

As many people are now living into their nineties, Adulthood  is considered to run in two phases:

1st  Adulthood and 2nd Adulthood.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST.

Meanwhile strive to stay safe and keep healthy. Your health is your responsibility.

EVERY DAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND GROW

A baby learning to walk.

Life itself is about lessons learned through what we go through, what we see and hear and what we read in books. We also learn by observing others and Nature around us.

During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic difficult and uncertain times, we are being forced to learn things quickly mainly to stay safe and healthy. We were all caught off guard and unprepared  for how to handle the pandemic so the more science we learn about the disease and the more we learn from other countries which have fared better in the pandemic, the more we shall understand and be able to protect ourselves and others.

According to the Johns Hopkins University  COVID-19 Online Dashboard on 13th August 2020,

 20,939,967 cases had been reported globally and 759,928 deaths.

 In the Africa region, South Africa had the largest number of reported cases : 572,865 and 11,270 deaths.

My second home, Botswana, had 1,214 reported cases and  03 deaths.

As of today 13th August 2020, the Ministry of health of Uganda has reported 1,353 confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease, 11 deaths and  1,141 Recovered patients.

On a personal level, the lockdown left me socially isolated, financially insecure and emotionally drained. I have come to accept my vulnerability and mortality and have been pushed to surrender control of my life to a higher power: God my creator. The Bible has always taught me that God teaches us letter by letter, line by line and lesson by lesson. Isaiah 28:10.  A combination of isolation and mind solitude plus what is going around me and the news from other countries worldwide, has forced me to   think and reflect on my life and to have a new perception of the next phase of my life.

 From March to June 2020, Italy was the epicenter of the COVID-19 disease, the shocking and troubling pictures of  elderly patients fighting for their lives in the Intensive care units are still engrained in my memory.  627 elderly people majority of them men, died in 24 hours on the 21st March, 87 percent of these were patients over 70 years of age and 99 percent had associated chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. They died alone in ICU or in nursing homes.

Other countries like USA and United Kingdom soon caught up with Italy and even went beyond.

Currently USA, Brazil, Mexico and India are grappling with the biggest number of new cases and deaths.

 I truly appreciate that life is a gift that has to be celebrated every day. Each day I wake up fit; up and about, becomes a time of possibilities and potential. My responsibility is to make the most of it.

The value of life becomes more meaningful after 50 years of age when you realize that you have already lived more than half of your life or at any age when you survive a threatening illness or accident. The reality of your age, your own place in life and your own mortality crystallize out.

This is what I am living with every day and two good things have come out of it. I have made a conscious effort to love with no regrets and to stop procrastinating.

LOVING WITH NO REGRETS

Those who died alone in ICU without anyone holding their hands had relatives but by the very nature of the disease which was even less understood by that time, they could not be by their relatives’ side. It left many of those relatives with a lot of unfinished business.

Such a situation would leave any of us wondering:

When did I last visit my relative?

When did I last talk to her/him?

When did I last tell her/him that I loved her/him and that I appreciated her for the way she touched and enriched my life?

Did I ever tell her/him that I loved her/him?

The answer to these questions is what hurts the living most in our fast –paced world. Our world is dominated by work; we tend to put off many things like calling a parent or a friend. Birthdays and Christmas still come once a year!

The regret of unfinished business is particularly oppressive, even haunting in its oppressive grief.”– Donna Lynn Hope.

I lost a relative who had worked as a nurse in USA for over twenty five years. In the latter years she had developed Diabetes but was well controlled and leading  more less a normal life. She died in June at the frontline of the COVID -19 pandemic. While in Botswana, we were in regular contact but when I relocated back home, I got wrapped up in my own survival and assimilation. The next thing I heard was that she was fighting for her life in the Intensive Care Unit. Her death left me drained emotionally; I cried out of grief but more for what I never said to her or what I would never be able to say.

I needed to immunize myself of similar regrets in future so I am training myself to learn to tell the important people in my life what they mean to me as often as it is possible. As love is more of action than words, I am focused on doing small acts of kindness whenever an opportunity presents itself.

After all genuine love enriches both the giver and the receiver and makes everything possible. Happy people make others happy too.

That is why I have decided to love with no regrets even if it means loving the difficult ones at a distance.

No regrets, just love.” – Anonymous

 STOPPING THE PROCRASTINATION GAME.

Procrastination can be simply defined as putting off things.

It is considered and rightly so as the “thief of dreams”. We are all guilty of it in one way or another.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was deliberately disciplining myself to stop procrastinating but instead do the most important things in my life as a matter of urgency. On a scale of 1 to 10, I could score a 7 ; I was working hard on it every day.

The psychologists tell us that each one of us needs both self-control and motivation to get things done in a timely manner.  Self-control allows you to push yourself to do things while motivation offers  the reward to your efforts. Most times the reward comes in the form of satisfaction of getting one thing on your  “to do list” done.  It brings  you closer to  a sense of completeness in life.

Studies on human behavior show the following as the commonest cause of procrastination:

1.Rewards that are too far in future

2. Not having a clear picture of your future self

3.Feeling unwanted.

4. Anxiety

5. Perfectionism

6. Fear of Failure

7. A perceived lack of control

8 .Lack of enjoyment

9. Lack of motivation

The commonest among these is the fear of failure, not being motivated enough and just being lazy to perform what is yours to be done.

In the recent past, I was putting off things because I had too many demands on my time. I was unnecessarily postponing decisions and actions and getting little done. I took inventory of my life just as I had done in my early thirties and recognised that that I was not “super woman’’.  I had to prioritise things by defining the 20 percent most important things in my life and give them 80 percent of my time. Once again , I was in control of my life and laughed more often.

On returning home, I found that most essential systems were hardly functional; simple things like acquiring or renewing an essential document, took long to be completed. Many people have forgotten the importance of punctuality; they seem to have an extra four hours in a day! The heavy traffic jams in the city drain my energies and emotions. All these affect my motivation and increase the likelihood of procrastination.

I am fighting to ensure that the demotivating factors do not outweigh my self-control and motivation and tip me over into a cycle of procrastination.

“Procrastination is one of the common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretay

As a senior citizen, I am aware of the reality of my age and yet curious about the possibilities of life from midlife to the end.   I have to do what is mine to do and fulfill my highest purpose in life. I work on it every day. Death is with us all the time but I can still see a future beyond COVID-19 pandemic and this gives me hope.

The COVID-19 Lockdown made me realize that there were a number of things that I could have started and completed before the uncertainty and unpredictability of the COVID-19 catastrophe set in.  I am now left with only four months to the end of 2020! As things stand, COVID -19 is not going away anytime soon but it is my duty and responsibility to protect myself and others .  I remain hopeful that the scientists will be able to find some effective drugs to treat the disease and a safe , effective and affordable vaccine.

Gradually  we shall figure out the best way to get on with our lives amidst the COVID-19 disease and its effect on our health and economies.

.

Over time, I shall relearn to trust myself to start creating again while pushing procrastination to the back burner. I still have much to look forward to; I have new dreams for my life.

 Who knows, I may be able to catch up on the lost months of 2020. As for now, staying safe and healthy is my top priority. It should be yours too.

QUESTION:

Did the time you spent in strict lockdown force you to relearn of the urgent need to do important things in a timely manner?

THE GIFT OF KNOWING THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING

The Normal in this technology-driven 21 st century. Photo from dynamicbusiness.com.au

The theme of my blog is: Learning for a lifetime. I chose it mainly to encourage people to remain hungry for knowledge, new ideas and new useful and relevant information which they can use to improve the quality of their lives and those around them.

It demands that we learn the habit of emptying ourselves of what is no longer relevant and useful to be filled with what is most important at that moment in time.

During this time of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic which is threatening almost all areas of our lives, we are being exposed to an avalanche of information. I must admit that as a scientist and an avid reader, I have never been bombarded with so much information about a single subject in a short space of time! The COVID-19 respiratory disease has been with us since late December 2019!

Patricia Wentworth (1878-1961) a British fiction writer, once said : “ Too much information can be as disconcerting as too little.”

Gunther Grass(1927-2015) a German  author, said:   “ The great volume of information dissolves the information. We are unable to take it all in.”

Due to the availability of the Internet which allows us to collect data, analyse and share it instantly and freely , a lot of facts and science about the COVID -19 disease are being  generated daily from credible and helpful agencies like the World Health Organisation ( WHO) and  the Ministries of health in our countries. At the same time, individuals are churning up information and sharing it on Social Media. A lot of this is not scientifically proven information and may cause panic and hysteria in the population. Thankfully, some Online social networking websites like Facebook have risen to the challenge of availing the facts and keeping them up-to-date for its users, to stop rumours and misinformation. Wherever we are, each one of us has the great responsibility as well to learn and understand more about COVD-19 Disease with the aim of protecting oneself and others and to stop spreading rumours. The more we understand, the better the response. When you know, you act better.

Against this backdrop of a COVID-19 disease information overload, I have chosen to repost one article that I wrote on 17th September 2018. It is entitled: The Gift of Knowing That You Do Not Know Everything.

Arguably no one is perfect and no one can know everything.
Knowledge changes fast and this demands that we keep abreast by being willing to learn every day.
We first learn things from those around us and then join the formal education in schools, colleges and universities. We also learn about the world around us through what we go through.
Knowledge is not meant to be contained but it should be used to act better: make better informed decisions in life, applied to improve our own lives and other people’s lives. In such situations, then knowledge is real power. Since new knowledge keeps coming up or old knowledge becomes outmoded, to enhance our understanding of the world around us and improve the quality of our lives; learning should be a lifelong job. When you know you act better and your confidence and self-esteem is boosted. I seek knowledge every day for both personal and professional development.

I find it extremely exciting to be alive and active during this science and technology –driven 21st century where things change often and very fast too. It demands that I remain an apprentice in how to live a full life, for life if I am to remain relevant and useful. I would be my worst enemy if I took myself to know so much that I do not need to learn anything new.


Socrates, the classical Greek philosopher and one of the founders of western philosophy said: “True Knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.’’

He also said: “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.”

Jim Rohn an Entrepreneur also says that : “ You cannot learn until you know that you do not know and seek for the knowledge.’’

When you know that you do not know, you seek to know. You humble yourself and open up your mind and heart to learn new things. When you learn things and understand then you grow.
There are learning tasks for each stage of our lives.

I have come a long way from the naïve and inexperienced young woman to the sage – searching for the reality behind appearances, decoding clues and solving the underlying riddle of existence. It would not surprise me if soon I started speaking in riddles and parables!

Ken Keyes says: “Everyone and everything around you is your teacher.’’

In my quest for knowledge I have learned from the simple child, the youth, my peers and the elderly around me. I have also been able to learn from the plants, birds and animals around me. I am able to do this only when I open myself up and I am willing to learn. It is the only way to keep abreast of change.
It all starts by accepting that as a human being, I can never know everything. This is the actual gift which frees my mind to learn more. Depending on the situation, I can learn new things, relearn old but relevant things or unlearn outmoded and irrelevant things. The only thing that can limit me is myself.

I can never thank my parents enough for helping me to develop a passion for learning and encouraging me to do things by myself. They opened up a world of wonder for me and I am doing the same for my children and those around me.
Someone somewhere said that anyone who stops learning whatever the age, is as good as dead. I won’t allow this to happen to me; I have declared myself a student for life and would love to recruit you too.

The simplest way to start on this journey is to turn yourself into an aggressive reader of books. Books feed your mind and turn you into a sharp thinker and help you to live a balanced life; having learned and grown from other people’s disappointments, failures and triumphs.

QUESTITION:

How are you coping with the COVID-19 Disease information overload?

Are you drowning in it?  If not, how are you  able to sustain your attention?

A WORLD CHANGED FOREVER

Attending a virtual Office Meeting from home

Currently, we are living in a highly connected world  where information is shared freely and instantly, courtesy of the Internet services.  In the same world, the COVID -19 pandemic is consuming our time and attention so by now, most of us know that the first cases of pneumonia of “unknown cause” in Wuhun , China, were first reported to the World Health Organisation on the 31st December 2019. Six months later, WHO is informing us that  there have been  10 million cases and 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 pandemic  and warns us that the worst is yet to come.

Nobody saw this coming and nobody knows when it will end despite the available huge advances in medicine , science and technology compared to the times of the most deadly  pandemic of the  Spanish flue of  January 1918 to December 1920.

We are used to enjoying  some freedoms- tagged with certain responsibilities and living our lives within these freedoms. We also try to do our best  to bring order and predictability in our environment. But then  COVID -19 Corona virus has turned almost everything on its head and the majority of us if not all hate this uncertainty of things. At the most being uncertain about the next six hours or so! 

First and foremost, the COVID -19  pandemic is a health crisis and now it has also become an economic crisis worldwide.  The official World Trade Organization website : wto.org predicts double-digit decline in trade volumes in all the regions of the world this year. This is because the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted economic activity and life worldwide. All governments have been hugely focused on  managing the pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus in the communities and to save people’s lives. To some degree they were also struggling to reduce the effect of the pandemic on their economies. Four  months into the pandemic, it is still wreaking havoc and nobody has any idea when it will end or be brought under control to enable us to go on living relatively normal lives.

During the Lockdown, non-essential services were shut down, the movement of people by road, rail, air and sea were reduced to the minimum or halted. The demand for oil and gas hugely declined during this period forcing the price of oil to drop to its lowest level in thirty years! The transport disruption has had a huge impact on the movement of people and the flow of goods in the supply chain. Members of the supply chain were unable to provide products/services consistently and on time.

In my local area within the city ,the streets were almost empty, hotels and restaurants were closed and all schools and tertiary institutions and the international airport and the border immigration checkpoints  were all closed. We were forced to look for alternatives where possible.

  • People wearing face masks walked or cycled to buy food and medicines.
  • The fresh food vendors had to sleep at the markets-very inconvenient and far from the normal.
  • A few people worked Online from home, held virtual meeting.
  • Virtual Gatherings/ Virtual events: using video or audio and text to link up Online. A few people celebrated weddings, mourned death and attended virtual funerals while churches and mosques organized virtual services. I had the privilege to attend a virtual church service for a relative , a nurse who died of COVID -19 in USA in June and another in the United Kingdom. Churches and mosques in Uganda have been organizing services on the television and radio. The biggest challenge with these virtual events in Uganda, is the unstable Internet connection and its slow speed. It affects the inclusion  and the engagement of the invited participants.
  • Some big companies have partnered with some popular Kampala DJs to organize  Dance Party nights for “the young and restless”  on television  and radio on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Online shopping – Jumia Uganda was found well-positioned for this service. You can buy food and beverages, groceries, clothing, footwear, mobile phones, electronics, kitchen appliances, furniture and health beauty products from Uganda’s biggest online mall.
  • The Uganda  Electoral Commission responsible for organizing the 2021 general elections  is talking of  contestants campaigning on radios and televisions instead of holding campaign rallies in response to the Ministry of Health guidelines on physical distancing.
  • Education  has continued on radios and televisions and in newspapers for the few children whose parents have radios and televisions or can afford buying newspapers for the pull-outs.
  • Hospital ambulances have continued to transport emergency cases to the hospitals. The Ministry of health set up centres for testing, treating and following up contacts of COVID-19 Corona virus infection. It has continued to train health workers and to educate the public about the infection. The regular updates on the state of the problem in our country and elsewhere has helped us to understand the disease and how to protect ourselves and others. The health workers have done a commendable job in a tough environment.

For the majority of us, we followed the Ministry of health safety and health guidelines and stayed at home to keep safe.  Seventy five days of confinement in one place was tough on all of us and we waited with bated breath for the gradual relaxation of the restrictions. I think that the people who were hurt most by this inevitable pandemic lockdown are the ordinary men and women working in the informal sector of the city. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2016 statistics indicated that up to 80 percent of the working age population (14-64) is engaged in the informal business sector. These are low income groups trading and providing services on the streets of Kampala while a few work from home. We call them street vendors, others are in welding or transport people.

They depend on this daily income to support their families.  All school children are at home with their families and on average an ordinary Ugandan woman bears six children in her life. All these street vendors have had no income for more than three months. I cannot bring myself to understand what they are going through during this COVID-19 pandemic.

I only hope that our policy makers have already started planning for the post- COVID-19 pandemic strong and socially inclusive recovery.

No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives forever- from the way we get together and relate to one another and  our work-life choices.

At this moment in time, the majority of us have accepted the COVID-19  crisis for what it is and are challenged to look for new ways of safely  co-existing with the virus.

According to Charles Darwin ‘s Origin of Species, “ It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest ; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment  in which it finds itself.”

While the health workers are busy taking care of the sick and taking measures to protect people’s lives, Medical researchers are racing  against time to develop a safe  and effective vaccine for COVID-19 Corona virus, the engineers and IT experts  are  rising to  the challenge of creating opportunities for all and safe and user-friendly options for doing ordinary things.

The engineers are using available data to design safe, reliable transport systems of the future. Some systems have to be sacrificed while others like rail transport are to be given priority. IT experts are innovating and creating technology which will advance our quality of life.

We have a local proverb when loosely translated says: There is a gem hidden in the tough challenge you are going through now, you only need to dig deeper to find it.

The uncertainty caused by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic will hang over us for a while but if the regions of the world collaborated, worked together collectively and made coordinated efforts, we can aggressively change strategies and win in this new environment.

The doctor in me is extremely happy that due to digital technology, the new information about the management of COVID-19 infection is being shared instantly worldwide and has resulted in  greater chances of survival of the infected cases.

QUESTION:

Have you identified some areas  in your life where you have to do things differently to safely exist in this new environment?

THINGS ARE CHANGING GRADUALLY

A deserted road within Kampala, Uganda, during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown .

The first confirmed cases of the COVID-19 acute infectious respiratory disease were reported in the city of Wuhun, China, by  late December 2019. From the Johns Hopkins University Corona virus website, as of 12th June 2020, the disease had spread worldwide to 188 countries, there were 7.57 million confirmed cases and 422,900 deaths. World health Organisation (WHO) officially declared the disease a global pandemic on the 11th March 2020. By the mid-April 2020, half of the world’s population was living under some form of restrictions or lockdown to control the spread of the disease and save lives.

In my country, Uganda, I have been living under strict lockdown including a curfew from 7:00pm to 6:30 am since 20th March 2020.

The Ministry of health headed by Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has been on the frontline of this pandemic. By quickly testing suspected cases, isolating confirmed cases and treating them and then tracing their contacts and running continued educational programs for the population, they have managed to control the spread of the virus and prevented our fragile health care system from being overwhelmed by the cases.

 From the www.health.go.ug  website, as of the 13 the June 2020, the disease had already spread into the community: 33 of the 134 district of Uganda have reported confirmed cases.

Of the 148,960 samples tested:

685 were confirmed cases and 199  of these  had recovered.

And thankfully, no death has been reported.

Among the tested health workers at the frontline of this battle, 27 have tested positive and are being managed. No death has been reported among them.

We can never thank these foot soldiers enough for their commitment, dedication and resilience to the noble calling.

The biggest challenge that the Ministry of health and the health workers face every day, is educating the population in the language they understand,  by giving them the right facts and information about the disease, regularly updating it to involve them in protecting themselves and others. Having the right information empowers the communities to understand what is going on, be part of the solution and to prepare themselves for any eventuality and calms their fears. This is extremely important in this age of Social Media: delays or long lapses in updating the available information facilitates the generation and spread of false information or fake news.  This causes panic and hysteria and  can cost lives.

Since the beginning of June, a number of countries in Europe have started easing the lockdown restrictions. It had to be well planned and gradual to reduce the risks of the second wave of infections.

Looking back to the most deadly pandemic of the Spanish flue of  January 1918 to December 1920, the lockdown restrictions were lifted fast. Having been desperate to emerge from the lockdown, the people gathered in large numbers at sports venues, churches and other public places and this precipitated a second wave of the pandemic in the Fall of 1918. The second wave killed more people than the first wave. In total, the Spanish flue infected  about 500 million people worldwide and killed  about 50 million of them! The fact that the First World War was going on  during  the influenza pandemic, played a big role in the spread of the disease.

 The World Health Organisation has picked lessons from the Spanish Flue pandemic and is advising all countries to ease the restrictions gradually and in a phased manner.

Uganda started easing the restrictions on the 2nd of June 2020 but the curfew is still in place, schools and universities are still closed and no public gatherings of more than thirty people are allowed.

COVID-19  disease is still a real threat because we have no specific treatment or vaccine, we still have to follow the Ministry of health guidelines for safety and  health.

The main ones include:

1.Washing your hands with soap and water or with a sanitizer as often as possible

2. Social distancing- keeping a minimum of two metres between you and the next person to avoid crowding.

3.Wearing a facial mask in all public places for anyone aged six years and above.

This will be the New Normal in all public places for some time.

The guidelines on what to do if you suspect you have the symptoms of COVID- 19 infection are freely available.

COVID- 19 disease is a new disease so there is something new to learn every day by the scientists, medical doctors and ordinary people.

The world is watching and waiting for a breakthrough for the treatment and vaccine for COVID- 19.  Over time, COVID-19 may become a seasonal disease like influenza and less deadly but before this happens, your health remains your responsibility. After all, your health is your wealth: you have to be healthy to be fully productive.

There is an African proverb which says: You don’t know what  you’ve got until it’s gone.

There are many things I was taking for granted until I was forced into a 75 days COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. One of them was the freedom to wake up in the morning and find yourself with a lot of choices about what to do for the day, what to eat, what to wear and move from point a to B freely( after factoring in the tangled traffic in the city)

I felt great relief the day after the restrictions were eased because I had choices once again. I felt a sense of excitement. It reminded me of how I had felt decades ago when  I found myself in my own room at university  after fourteen years of protection at  a missionary school and at home. I found myself with  more freedom than I had ever imagined! It was never lost on me that any freedom or right that I enjoy is tagged with a responsibility.

I was cautious then not to rush and get things wrong. In the absence of massive quick testing and no specific treatment and no vaccine for the COVID-19 Corona virus, I do not feel safe enough to  go far. I therefore avoided the city centre  and  chose to wear the mandatory facial mask and walk about four kilometres along the nearby main road.  I badly needed to see the clear blue sky, breathe some fresh air and walk at my pace before the return of the deafening noise of taxis and cars ,the motor cycle taxis and the clogged city roads.

I felt the sweet warm mid-day sun on the back of my neck. Most shops were closed apart from the few supermarkets and pharmacies. Both the nearest primary school and big hotel were as  silent as the grave. Few people walked past me while heading to the city. The pavements were free and  few cars were travelling along the  main road. I saw some new structures for the first time!

“They say that dynamites come in small packages; it has taken the tiny COVID-19 corona virus to empty the streets and stop the noisy taxis, the loud music and the young men calling for passengers.’’ I thought to myself. No wonder the sky was also a clear blue!

QUESTION:

What was the first thing you wanted so badly to do immediately after the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions?

62 Days of COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown

The New Normal in a Public Place for now

62 DAYS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC LOCKDOWN

Time and tide no wait for no man so goes an old adage. And for sure 20th May 2020 marked 62  days in the COVID-19 pandemic Lockdown in my country , Uganda. It started on the 20th of March 2020 and on the 21 st March, the first case was confirmed in the country , a Ugandan who had returned from Dubai.

As of 19th May 2020, 264 cases had been confirmed  and only two of these were from our community; one in Kyambogo, within Kampala City and one in Buikwe, located about sixty kilometres east of Kampala. Sixty eight cases have been treated and recovered and thankfully, no deaths among the patients or the Foot soldiers taking care of them.

Since the 20th March 2020, many of us have remained at home in the interest of keeping ourselves and others   safe. Health has been the biggest focus but the economic consequence on the livelihood of the ordinary people  who depend on a daily income are biting hard.

The faces of the President surrounded by officials of the Ministry of Health led by Dr. Jane Aceng, the minister, are now familiar to all plus the faces of the officials from the Prime minister’s office led by himself. COVID -19 is a new virus and new findings keep coming out every day to help us understand the virus and to apply the best  scientific  methods to minimize its spread in our communities. We  watched in horror how countries like Italy, Spain, USA, Brazil that have better healthcare systems than ours were overwhelmed by new cases and daily deaths.

Thankfully, our numbers have remained small  to be contained by a fragile health care system. But if the numbers were to go beyond 3000, the number of beds in the country set aside to effectively handle COVID -19 cases, then our system would collapse. I thank, applaud and honour all our heath care workers  at the frontline of this war against an invisible enemy. They have done a commendable job.  This is no mean achievement, they deserve more than gratitude; because  for years they have been overworked and underpaid! Their demonstrations towards decent pay have been frustrated on many occasions.

 World-wide,Covid-19 has hammered all of us and changed the way we do things.

Regular hand washing with soap and water or with alcohol-based sanitiser, pyhisical distasincing of two metres or more , no hugging ,  and the use of facial masks have become the order of the day and will remain as part of us for a while.

The race is now on to find quick testing Applications, effective treatment and  a safe and effective vaccine because COVID-19 will not just go away and yet life has to go on. Thanks for the advances in science and technology that enable us to collect , analyse and share data and come up with ways of controlling the spread of the highly infectious new virus.

Technology will also help Biomedicine scientists to develop safe , effective vaccines  in the shortest  time than ever before.

The  regular updates  form the Ministry of Health continue to educate us about the disease and how to stay safe, the officials build their trust with us and help to dispel the  myths and an avalanche of fake information and news circulating on the Social Media. Their consistent, scientific message gives them credibility and authority about COVID-19 in Uganda.

Since, Saturday May 16th we were being made aware of the President’s update on the 18th May 2020 at 8pm.

We waited with great expectations expecting a gradual phasing out and easing of the restrictions to avoid surges or second waves that could overwhelm  our fragile health care system.

The update did not come on until after 9pm and continued close to 11pm in the night!

What I did not feel comfortable about was that my freedom to move was  being tagged to wearing a mask in public places  and the masks were to be made by  one company. How is it possible for one company to make masks for all the 40 million Ugandans from age of six years and have them ready by 2nd June 2020! Even in Europe and America masks had to be imported from countries like China. Judging by the food distribution to most needy, the mask will keep imprisoning me where I was! That is the irony of things. Thankfully, I have always kept some surgical- single use, in my house  so I may be able to move out of the house earlier than 2nd June 2020. How many ordinary people can afford such?

Apart from the two new cases confirmed from the community on the 19th May 2020, the new cases that kept cropping up were from truck drivers bringing in our essential imports like oil, medicines, machinery to manufacture some of the needed items like sanitizers and masks and taking out our exports like coffee, tea, sugar, steel  and cocoa for we are a landlocked country. Yet the 40 million people were locked down in their homes. This faulty line in the control of the infection, demands collaborative and coopearive efforts with our neighbouring countries, to handle this mobile group of people providing an essential service without spreading the COVID-19 infection in our community.

The disease caught us unprepared: no country had time to prepare for the pandemic , we are all learning as we go along, learning from those countries who experienced the pandemic before us. The wisest among any social group learn from the experiences  of others.

As an individual , I learn something new every day and I have had to read thoroughly the pathology- the science of the causes  and effects of diseases and public health  – the science and art of preventing diseases.

When I have too much time on me, I can best use it to reflect on my life , be thankful for the goodness and to reset or adjust the priorities for my future. It is never lost on me that my health: physical, mental and social well-being, is my greatest asset and needs to be protected and promoted. In that case then I would wait patiently for the 6th June 2020.

Family level- the 62 days in lockdown have emphasized to me what is most important in my life. The family as the basic unit of the nation gives us identity and anchors us but at the same time gives us wings to fly away and beckons us back as the need arises. For the majority , home is a place of joy where they are accepted for who they are. Strong families build strong nations. In this current pandemic, nothing fills our emotional tanks to overflowing as talking with loved ones or seeing their faces!

Community- families build up communities where we support each other through thick and thin and give us an opportunity to give back for their growth and development. Our communities shape and mould us into who we are.

National level- the pandemic has brought us together to fight it with what we have. It has brought to the surface our weaknesses like planning and prioritizing the most important sectors like health , education and agriculture  and shown that the majority of our population in the rural areas are yet to be empowered to demand more from their government and hold  it accountable.

Global- What unites us is more than what divides us. Countries grew closer after the second World War in 1945. The World War 11 meeting of the heads of state of  USA,UK and the Soviet Union met in November 1945  at Yalta  to reorganize a peaceful  Europe and Germany and world in general. They facilitated the newly formed United Nations body by then it had 51 members but currently it has 193 member states. Its main purpose was to maintain worldwide peace and security and foster cooperation on vital fronts  like health, that advance human development and social progress.

 When computer scientist Tim Berners –Lee invented the World Wide Web and made it available to the public in August 1991, it shrank these countries into a global village. Information and data can easily be collected, analysed  , stored and shared freely by the simple touch of a button.

That is why world-wide, people are calling for collective, collaborative and cooperative responsibility to fight this declared global health emergency.

It starts with each one of us in our homes, to do our small role that fits in the big picture perfectly. We can succeed or fail together.

One African proverb can inspire each one us to play her /his role in the control of this COVID-19 Pademic:

“ If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have not spent the night with a mosquito.”