World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID- 19 Respiratory Disease a global pandemic on the 11 th March 2020. It is now exactly seventeen months into the pandemic. The virus is continuing to rage havoc in all countries; each one of us has either been affected or infected by it or both.
As of the 18 th August 2021, data from the Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource centre shows:
Global confirmed cases – 208,653,614
Global Deaths – 4,383,333
Confirmed case – 97,186 (No access to mass testing)
Deaths 2, 905
1, 167,733 doses administered in Uganda
4, 129 fully vaccinated ( 2 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine) making up 0.01% of the population.
To reach Herd Immunity in any community, 60-70% of its population have to be fully vaccinated.
As the pandemic rages on, many of us have been driven into some degree of anxiety or depression because of the uncertainty and not knowing when it will end.
One thing is for sure: Life goes on. Time and tide wait for no man so says an old adage. Definitely, we have to become more innovative and creative in finding ways to continue with our lives amidst the pandemic. No more excuses for remaining inactive.
The best place to start is where we are: in our homes.
I have been reading widely about strategies for coping in a situation that you have no control over.
One American psychologist, Jessica Gold, Assistant Professor of psychology at Washington University of Medicine, gives us three main coping strategies. We should practice them daily so as to get better.
- Being in the present moment, or the here and now. Intentionally being fully engaged in what is happening at that very moment; not distracted by ruminations of the past or worries of the future.
- Open up to feelings and uncertainty. What you do not talk about can kill you. Accept what you cannot change and change what you are able to change. This is where the SERENITY prayer attributed to a German-American theologian named Reinhola Neibuhr(1892-1971) comes in handy.
God give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things that should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
- Focus on who is most important and what is most important in your life. Devote your time , efforts and energy on these.
Having these strategies in mind, I have been taking one day at a time. Having a lot of time to myself, I have focused on honing my writing skills by reading many books and writing several short stories.
I want to share with you, a few of the books that I have been reading lately.
THE CANE PRIZE FOR AFRICAN WRITING 2010 and 2012
These are collections of short-listed short stories from Africa and some other ones written by emerging African writers at workshops sponsored mainly by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.
Each book has seventeen such stories of different genres from different African countries . The stories transport you to the authors’ countries of origin; whetting your appetite for more reads. Countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania are yet to make themselves visible at the Caine Prize For African Writing.
I would recommend these great reads to you since they offer short forms of fiction that give you a lot of expectations and excitement. You visit several African countries in the writers’ eyes. Finishing one story excites you to read the next one. Quick reads which offer a fast way of completing a story. You will feel that you have accomplished something.
For the writers like me, reading such books offers you many genres which give you ideas for your writing. They introduce you to emerging writers to look out for on the continent. I have read enough of them to try writing one for 2022.
Life Beyond Measure/ LETTERS TO MY GREAT- GRAND DAUGHTER
Most of us who are 50+ know Sidney Poitier the icon film star who later became a film director but is now retired. He was the first black man to win an Academy Award in 1964. You must have seen him in any of these unforgettable films: Lilies of the Field (1963), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, To Sir, With Love, and in the 1997 movie Mandela and De Klerk where he played the icon Mandela.
Life Beyond Measure/ LETTERS TO MY GREAT- GRAND DAUGHTER is not an ordinary Memoir but it is 23 letters written to his first great- granddaughter, AYELE, born on 21 December 2005. These twenty-three letters are life’s lessons as experienced by Sydney Poitier. His goal was to help Ayele and others that were to follow her to experience Poitier’s life and connect to their lineage. He starts with his childhood on Cat Island, Nassau, Bahamas and goes on to capture memories and moments as he savours his life.
Sidney was born prematurely in Miami, Florida, where his peasant parents had gone to sell their harvest of tomatoes. When he was 15 years of age, his father noticed that Sidney had an impulsive risk trait that was likely to lead him into committing crimes so he sent him to Miami, Florida, to live with his eldest brother. He was trying to save him from himself in a place with limited opportunities and choices.
At that age, he was most fascinated by seeing his face in a wall mirror in a shop in Miami!
Circumstances forced him to move to New York and fend for himself. He became a dishwasher. Thankfully, he met a Jew dishwasher to whom he confessed that he could not read well! The friend offered to teach him how to read in between their chores. This friend unknowingly turned Sidney into an actor. Later he tried to audition with a member of the American Negro Theatre and was sent away as he had neither talent nor skills. This motivated him to become an actor. Applying logic and reason, he succeeded in becoming an actor in this hostile environment. As they say the rest is history. In 2001 he was awarded an Honorary Award as the most respected actor of his time. He is now 93 years old and remains strongly attached to his environment at home in Bahamas.
This is a unique memoir which will inspire many people to aspire for greatness while documenting their struggles and successes along the way. Each one of us is unique and each story told, has so much power to impact others. It is one of the most exciting and revealing memoirs that I have read and would recommend it to you too.
ARIEL SHARON: An autobiography of the Warrior.
Ariel Sharon (1928- 2014) was Israel’s most famous soldier who rose to become Israel’s 11 th Prime Minister (2001-2006)
Born to Russian Immigrant farmers in Israel in 1928, from the age of 15 participated in all major wars in Israel. Close to 60 years, he was at the forefront of events in Israel. He was admired and hated but not in equal measure. His military achievements and political policies were often considered controversial.
As a soldier, he served in the Israel army from its inception in 1948 until he retired in the late 90s. After retirement he went back to farming but remained as a reserve commander. He was the most daring and successful Commander in Israel; uncompromising, ruthless but commanded respect and love of his troops. He considered the security of Israel’s borders paramount to living a normal life in Israel.
As a politician he was considered a hardliner and always walked in a minefield of intrigue and backstabbing.
This most decorated warrior had a soft side too: a husband and a father.
He shares their struggle to have children but later they had two sons with his second wife, Lily.
His first wife, Margalit died in in a car accident then he married her sister in 1963.
In 1967, they lost their first son, Gur, aged 11 years in a freak accident at home. He was playing with a friend with an old short gun given to him by one of the family friends. Sharon never overcame this loss and always mourned for the potential that was buried with Gur. The loss affected the family more than anything else in their lives.
He always struggled to make time for his family.
As Prime Minister, he was considered as one of the most pragmatic. He remained in this position until he was incapacitated by a massive stroke in January 2006. He died aged eighty- five years in January 2014.
Reading this big book where Sharon candidly tells it all, was like reading the history of the Jewish nation of Israel from 1936 and the selfless men and women who shaped it.
I would greatly recommend it as a remarkable story more so to those who may aspire to become politicians in future.
Whenever I finish reading such remarkable stories, I pause to thank God for my late father and my school teachers for opening up a world of magic and wonder for me. It is inexhaustible and offers rewarding challenges.
Let us keep reading to sharpen our minds and to increase our ability to empathise with other people.
As Lailah Gifty Akita ably put it: ‘’IF YOU WISH TO RENEW YOUR MIND, READ.’’
QUESTION: What books have you been reading lately and why?