FINDING JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE

The first rains after a dry spell lift my spirits. Little things like this one, add up.

There are big life events like births, weddings, graduations, career progression and there are little things like a smile, a walk in nature, the first rain drops after a drought, finding the perfect avocado fruit, patting a pet, watching the children play and these always add up to give us lasting happiness in our lives.

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odourless but all together perfume the air.’’ – George Bernanos

The death of my 102 years old cousin, Norah Nakintu Nsubuga , on the 22nd May 2022, drove me to look at her life and life in general in a different perspective. She was already married by the time I was born and by the time she died, she seemed to have it all. She and her late husband never owned a car; they had a simple home, she was a simple homemaker whose greatest gifts were compassion and generosity. She excelled in caring for her husband, children and friends. She gave without maiming herself or others.

They lost one child in a road traffic accident before their eyes as she quickly crossed the road to meet my father. They had an epileptic son whom they nursed and is alive today, yet epilepsy was not talked about until the 80s. Norah outlived her husband by 20 years.

But she was a contented woman; always appreciating life and appreciating the love around her. She always wore a warm smile no matter what she was going through. She lived joyously in the moment without worrying much about tomorrow.

“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.’’-  Alice Morse Earle

The psychologists tell us that this deep sense of contentment is a result of the release of the “feel good hormones’’: Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin from the brain. The hormones promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure. They relax our bodies and we end up feeling less stressed.

The Clinical psychologists advise us to find such lasting happiness in our lives by practising the following every day to boost our happy hormones.

  • Be mindful of the small moments, cherish these little moments that often go unnoticed.
  • Practice gratitude every day.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Treat yourself as a friend.
  • Strengthen your social connections of family friends, colleagues. Engage and collaborate with them regularly.
  • Make self-care as part of your routine.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Laugh more often every day.

Joy is simply defined as feeling happy, relaxed and feeling contented with things as they are. You are more engaged in the world around you, you share your feelings with others. You create your own happiness in the chaos or calmness around you.

Norah never went beyond primary school, which was the normal for women of her time and yet she inherently followed the list above. For her, there was never an ordinary moment; each moment was special so she collected a treasure trove of beautiful moments over the 102 years she lived!

 She was calm, had a gentle voice but could be persuasive at times. In all the years I have known her I have never heard her raise her voice!

Our late aunt saw the potential in Norah and encouraged her to join the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA). She learned to grow vegetables, make crafts from local materials like barkcloth, seeds, sewing, baking bread and cakes in a simple locally designed tin oven over hot coals. Eating such a cake, you could not tell how it had been baked.  She was chosen to become a

 life member of YWCA. Years back, under the YWCA Heifer Project, she was given a cow and up to today there is a cow and its calf in the pen. YWCA helped to unlock her potential in working with nature and her own hands.

She had green fingers, always had seeds or saplings for local vegetables and fruit trees to share with family and friends.  She grew trees for fruits like mangoes, guavas, avocado, jackfruit, soursop, java plum and grape fruit.

No wonder, with her generous heart, no one left her home empty –handed whatever the season.

By sheer coincidence, Norah lived along the way to our ancestral home. From my childhood, one had to make a decision to stop at Norah’s place either on your going or your coming back. What made it gratifying was Norah’s welcoming smile and walking through her vegetable and banana gardens to pick the right bunch of bananas or sugar cane for you. In her gentle but persuasive voice, she would harvest fresh maize and roast it over hot coals for you. She was content just to sit and watch you enjoy the fresh sweet maize kernels.

She would then fill your car boot with anything fresh that she could lay her hands on. One time she gave my mother a small cardboard box only to find a puppy inside! Even after losing her husband of 55 years, her love for the little things in life made life worth living.

Even after celebrating her centenary birthday, she continued spending time in her gardens and none of us could stop her ; because that is what she loved and enjoyed doing.

“ The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate’’ – Oprah Winfrey.

During the times of the unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, she had a way of enquiring about most of us, ensuring that we were safe.

 As a woman of her time, she had twelve children. At her 100 years birthday celebration, she had built her own ‘tribe’ of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!

Norah could be generous to a fault. She weathered many storms but she kept on looking for treasures in her life as she gained more clarity. I greatly admired her attitude of gratitude.

Unknowingly, she lived a big life not only in years but from what was really true about her. By her 50th birthday she really knew who she was- fully human and took responsibility of her life. She became very respectful of herself and then respected people for who they were. She looked inside herself searching to know what was genuinely in her and hers.

She was able to see her inner beauty, intellect, and goodness and used them effectively for herself and others.

“ Let your unique awesomeness and positive energy inspire confidence in others.’’- Unknown

 Out of her love for God, she was instrumental in building the village Anglican church right across the road. In the last ten years of her life she focused more on preparing herself for eternity.

When all the children followed their hearts, she learned to relax and love and be loved.

By the time she died, she had healed herself and others and was committed to truth and had great capacity for joy and spontaneity. She had everything she needed to claim her full humanity. She also understood fully her significance in our lives.

  Her life has been intimately interwoven with our journeys of life. As for her legacy: she taught us to claim our own lives and transform our lives daily.

Indeed, she is worth the company of angels. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

QUESTIONS:

Are you aware that you are creating your own legacy every day by what you say and do?

Do you really have as much as you think you have?

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL 11

My eldest cousin, Norah, celebrated 102 years last year. As robust as the local Mvule tree

The Second Phase Of The Second Adulthood

 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. Our families and communities have to help us to develop the functional ability that allows physical, mental and social wellbeing in old age. This will enable us to do what we love and enjoy.

In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 102 years last October and my mother celebrated her 90th birthday last December. 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 91 years on 30th August 2021. 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. The kid in each one of us never dies!

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. Real connectedness is vital to healthy living. Studies have shown that the elderly who have close social connections and relationships live long and also cope better with health conditions and experience less depression.

My nonagenarian 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:

  • Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
  • Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
  • They have a keen interest in current events.
  • They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
  • They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
  • 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, the now; 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.

They say that life is more of a marathon than a sprint.

“ Living life is like running a marathon. It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to keep going till the end.’’- Fauja Singh

“ Life is a marathon not a sprint. Train for endurance not speed.’’ Unknown

Like any marathon, to complete it, one has to start off by planning for the end in mind. You start small and build your mileage over time. You teach your body to adjust gradually to the long distance. It is a process so you have to keep practicing, resting and recovering.

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?

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL 1

My 90 years old mother with her grandson and great granddaughter

According to the worldpopulationmatters.org, the world population stood at 7.942 billion as of 1 May 2022. Of these, 1.4 billion(11.8%) are aged 60 and above and their number has been increasing gradually since 1990.

The countries with the older adults are:

Japan 28.5 % of the population

Italy    23.0 %

Germany 21.5%

USA 16.2 %

China 11.9 %

India 6.1 % of the population.

On the contrary, Niger in West Africa, is the youngest country in the world with  50% of its population below 15 years.  My country Uganda  had 46.02%( 2019) of its population  below 15 years. Its population growth rate was 3.6%.

In 2019, the 60 and above made up 1.99% of the Uganda population of 46.4 million people.

World Health Organisation (WHO) defines the elderly as those who are 60 years and older. The average person today lives to 72.6 years.

The United Nations declared the decade of 2021-2030 as the Decade of Healthy Ageing with aim of improving the lives of older people, their families and the communities in which they live. WHO is working with governments  and communities to create a world where all people can live long , healthy lives.

In Uganda, the Life Expectancy at birth has increased from 45.8 years (1990) to  the present 63 years. Algeria has the longest Life Expectancy; 78 years (2019) in the Africa region followed by Morocco and Tunisia.

Worldwide, Hong Kong and Japan have the highest Life Expectancy of 85 years and the  Central African Republic has the lowest ; 54.3 years.

Globally, people are living longer than their grandparents and WHO wants to ensure that the elderly enjoy their rights fully- the right to be treated with dignity, respect and to be protected irrespective of their race, religion, nationality, gender ,disability, mental status, or source of income.

We are living longer because of :

  • Improved medical services- prevention of disease and management of diseases
  • Better sanitation
  • Better housing
  • Widespread use of vaccines to prevent the immunisable diseases like measles, polio, tetanus and others.
  • Education- it increases the awareness for available public health services and helps people to make better informed choices about their lives like not using tobacco or eating healthy diet and daily exercising.

From the late 80s to 2006, the life expectancy declined in most African countries due to HIV/AIDS.

 As of 12 the May 2022, The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre had registered a total of 6,260 434 million deaths from the Corona virus-19 infection and the majority of these were aged 60 years and above. By 5 May  2022, the WHO had revised the total number(1 January 2020-31 December 2021) to 15 million deaths to include the indirect ones associated with COVID-19  pandemic like a diabetic , hypertensive or a teenager in obstructed labour who failed to access essential health care during the lockdown and died. During the pandemic, the health care services were overwhelmed by the number of Covid-19 infection cases to handle other non-Covid-19 cases properly. Almost 74 percent of these direct and indirect Covid-19 linked deaths occured in the 65 and above groups of the population.

As we are living longer, we have to prepare for this long haul from our childhood so as to ensure that we live long , healthy and enjoyable lives.

Warren Edward Buffett, one of 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 cultures, 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.

To be continued as the : The Second phase of the Second Adulthood, in my next post.

QUESTION:

What have you observed in your own family? Are your parents living longer than your grandparents?

NEAT STACKS OF CLUTTER

Children’s toys are among the commonest neat stacks of clutter in people’s homes

As we go through life, we gather things, some scattered and others unnoticed. They tell the story of our lives. Taking inventory of what I have gathered so far, they reflect my values, my identity and dreams at the different stages of my life- a baby, a child, teenager, adult, student, wife, mother, and now a grandmother. There was a time in my 40s when everything I possessed had a place, and there was a place for everything  but I set up homes in different countries and places and the children grew up , I have now settled for keeping neat stacks of clutter. Surprisingly, I know where most things are in those neat stacks of clutter.

The Oxford dictionary defines clutter as  a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not necessary or are not being used; a lack of order synonym mess

Every home has some clutter either visible or tucked away in a garage, basement or attic. Clutter is the result of overbuying things or untidiness. It can cause us stress, anxiety and confusion. It makes us less productive and less effective. Hoarding things can also lead to clutter.

The psychologists give us three reasons why we all tend to keep too much:

  1. Fear- this is the main reason for our having too much. Our world has become a consumer society: we buy new goods especially goods we do not need since society attaches  high value on owning many things. A large part of people’s sense of identity and meaning is achieved through the purchase and use of consumer goods and services. Out of the fear of loss of security, loss of status, loss of comfort and loss of love, we tend to accumulate things.
  2. Sentimental attachment- cherished memories are linked to some of the thing we keep and our previous identities like college student, motherhood or fatherhood may be tied to the stuff. In this instance we are led more by emotions than reason.
  3. Belief that things have hidden monetary value. Such people think that they could sell off the items at a high price in future.

It is said that ‘later’ is the best friend of clutter.

The psychologists also warn us that if we keep accumulating things, we shall be overwhelmed by our possessions and be tied down. We all tend to gather things from past careers, relationships and unfinished business like a hobby we abandoned along the way. Over time, possessions become extensions of the self- symbolising our past, hopes, dreams and the better version of ourselves in the future. This explains why we all find it hard to get rid of the things we have accumulated.

 One Finnish proverb says: Happiness is a place between too little and too much.

However, most people who have lost everything through wars, fires, floods, earthquakes and have had to start all over again, have a different perspective of life and have developed the good habit of buying and keeping only what they need and what they can control. For such people ‘less is more’.

“ If it doesn’t add to your life, it doesn’t belong in your life.’’– Unknown

With a huge and thriving advertising industry that creates the need for products and services, we have no choice but to learn the organisation skills of elimination, categorising and organisation. This means organising your home regularly to create space and order. Everyone has individual reasons for clutter; clutter in our homes is a reflection of our emotions so when we declutter, we free our emotions too. This explains why some people who are completely overwhelmed by their possessions may need a psychologist to help them declutter and move on with their lives.

“ You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk’’ – Louise Smith

The psychologists have some simple guidelines for decluttering your home/space

  • Do not buy what you do not need- If you do not have an immediate idea of what to use an item for or who to give it to as a gift then do not buy it.
  • Get rid of what you do not need, regularly, keep only things that add value to your life.

The two years we have spent at home during the Covid -19 pandemic Lockdown, have taught all of us what things are most important in our lives and what we need to live comfortable and enjoyable lives. This has made the process of getting rid of unnecessary items easier for us.

  • Set boundaries- it is your space and you are supposed to keep it orderly and organised so store only your own things. Many people take long to collect what has been stored for them by others.

How to get rid of things you no longer need or enjoy :

  • Give away- things that last like toys and books, can get a second and a third home. Give them to those who will enjoy using them.
  • Hard to give away items – items meaningful to you can be given to family members or friends.
  • Donate items to charities- to support causes you believe in. You give away out of gratitude so you enjoy it.
  • Sell some items- regularly hold a garage sale.  You clear out your home clutter while making some extra money.
  • Throw away-items that are no longer useful, broken or too old and any that do not add value to you or anyone else.  They include old newspapers and magazines, old furniture, expired stuff and things that rake up bad memories.

From my own experience, I have observed that habitual decluttering is generally easier for those people living in countries with the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn. The weather patterns of each season demand for a different set of clothing, shoes and the styles and fashions tend to change every year.

My second country, Botswana, in the Southern Africa region has two main seasons: Summer and Winter. For the decades that I lived in Botswana, I had to declutter my wardrobe at the end of the year and donate the items along with what my children had overgrown to charities like the Botswana  SOS  Children’s  Village. I always left this place feeling good about myself.

The Bible in Acts 20 verse 35 tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Since I returned back home in Uganda, I hardly throw anything away after decluttering. This is because a large part of our population is struggling to buy the basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. Once I sort out what I do not need anymore- from the simplest plastic container to an old phone or laptop, I just recycle it among my relatives and they find them useful and treasure them.

May be I should spare some time and sort out my ‘neat stacks of clutter’ and find a new home for the things that last.

Decluttering is never a one-time event since we keep buying things and decluttering is considered to be part of self-care. You declutter to reclaim your space. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

Remember that you never have to throw away that which you never buy.

QUESTION:

Has this post helped you to see things differently and motivated you declutter your space regularly?

The Power of the Collective

Many hands make light work

Each one of us is born as an individual and dies as an individual. In between these two phases, one has to live effectively and leave the world a better place than he/she found it. None of us can produce her/his best work alone; you need others to teach you, mentor you, and sponsor you and friends to encourage you. Many old age adages, proverbs and quotations attest to this. Among them are:

Two heads are better than one.

Iron sharpens iron.

None of us is as smart as all of us. By Kenwood Blanchard

John Donne’s poem:    “ No man is an island,

                                     Entire of itself,

                                     Every man is a piece of the continent,

                                     A part of the main………………

One local proverb loosely translated says: You need a functional set of teeth to chew the meat.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan: Yes we can.

Even the members of a cabinet in a democratic country bear collective responsibility for decisions made in the Cabinet.

In this Digital era, where the internet has become an integral part of our lives, one needs to check out and belong to at least two groups of like-minded people working towards a common goal. You may call it a Tribe or a Community but your combined efforts motivate and energise  your Community to participate fully and create change in Society.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”

My late father always advised me to belong to something bigger than myself if I were to realize my full potential. It was not until many years later that I understood what he had meant: It all had to do with synergy-The creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Now it is absolutely clear to me after reading Ash Hoehn’s  They told me there is no ‘I’ in the Team .

 He says that when he became the team the team became him. The team absorbs ‘I’………

When the ‘I’ is absorbed then he becomes part of something much more powerful.

 This also reminded me that in any chain link fencing, I can be as strong as the strongest and as weak as the weakest.

In a Kindergarten, children are taught to hold hands and stick together in preparation for how they will later live their lives.

In the wild, a pack of the African Wild dogs also known as the Cape dogs, are the best examples of team work or joint efforts.  A pack of twenty of them or more lives together, hunts together, eats together. They are very good communicators and among the most efficient hunters. Little wonder then that they always flourish wherever they are.

I have been around for a while and the best example of team work that comes to my mind is the organization of the Cooperative movement in my home country, Uganda. By the late 60’s this movement was at its peak and most farmers belonged to a cooperative society in their district. They grew cash crops like coffee and bought it, sold it together and bargained together with the government of the day for the best price possible. These farmers grew very rich; sent their children to the best schools in the country and some of them to universities abroad, built modern homes and bought lorries to transport the coffee and personal family cars.  Farmers have never been that rich. It was all the result of the power of collective action. Later, during the 1979 Liberation War, the Wakombozi of the Tanzanian Defence Forces mistook many of those big houses for government offices where soldiers of the then Uganda Army (enemy of the people) could be hiding. Many such houses were bombed for this reason.

Who can forget the thousands of women textile workers of the Russian Empire who organized marches

that led to the downfall of the Russian Empire in 1917?

And in today’s well connected world, the youths of France organized through Social Media developed an increased political interest. They engaged in the general election of May 2017 and ended up changing the political landscape. Later in June, the youths of Britain actively participated in the general election causing a huge upset in the results.

In December 2018, the military government of Sudan cut subsidies on basic goods like bread and fuel. The Middle-class professionals – doctors, health workers and lawyers, got together under their umbrella organisation, The Sudanese Professional Association(SPA) and organized demonstrations that culminated in the overthrow of President Omar al- Bashir on the 11th April 2019.Since then, they are struggling to work  towards forming a civilian –led transition government.

 It won’t be surprising to us if similar events occurred in other countries.

Today we have many challenges like extreme climatic changes, deforestation, youth unemployment and Substance Abuse. The best way we can develop locally appropriate solutions which we can own is by working together like the Cape wild dogs.

The Kenyans have one proverb that says: Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

Working together, we can help to build and improve our communities.

QUESTION:

Are you a member of any like-minded group of people striving to give back to your community and aiming at leaving the community better than they found it?

The Unimaginable

20/03/22

                                                     THE UNIMAGINABLE

Can you imagine yourself coming from a two-year COVID-19 Lockdown and immediately be forced into a war with your neighbour?

It is like the proverbial “from the cooking pot into the fire’’. That is how the people of Ukraine feel today.

From the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Centre 

By the 25th February 2022, Ukraine’s Covid-19 statistics were as follows:

Confirmed cases   : 5,040,518

Deaths                       : 112,459

Today , 24 th March 2022 is exactly a month since Russia invaded Ukraine ; attacking it by land and sea.

UZHHOROD, UKRAINE – FEBRUARY 27, 2022 – Refugees crowd at the Uzhhorod-Vysne Nemecke checkpoint on the Ukraine-Slovakia border, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine.

Atleast 6.5million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, 816 civilians killed and 1,684 have been wounded. Many reports of casualties remain unconfirmed. The number of Ukrainian soldiers killed in the multiple front attacks is not known.

For anyone in Africa, Ukraine sounds so far away and many may not know where it is located but thanks to the internet the destruction and the disruption of life is beamed live into our living rooms. The pictures of the most vulnerable: women , children and the elderly escaping the war tear your heart.

I have lived through the civil strife of late  the 70s and early 80s in my country,  Uganda, to make some observations on wars.

  1. War is very costly in terms of human lives, it maims people, causes the destruction of infrastructure
  2. The consequences of any war linger for decades.
  3. The most affected are the children , women , elderly; war is characterised by extreme violence, aggression , destruction and mortality and morbidity.
  4.  Wars and life threatening conflicts cause mental health problems in the communities.
  5. Some wars are started because a group wants to put things right and yet end up causing a lot of carnage.

As Ernest Hemingway rightly said in 1946 after World War II: “ Never think that war, no matter how necessary, how justified is not a crime.’’

Last week we watched live in horror the destruction of whole streets in Ukraine, much of it in  residential areas!

We can never know the number of people who died.

Lord Rothermere ,  then a British journalist said in 1917 after WWI : “We’re telling lies, we know we’re telling lies; we don’t publish the truth that we’re losing more officers than the Germans, and that it’s impossible to get through the Western Front.

“ Truth is the first casualty in war.’’ Hiram Johnson, Republican senator in California during WWI claimed.

The actual war at the frontline is always supported with Psychological warfare. The propaganda machine which fights to influence the hearts and minds of the people. It influences the values, beliefs , emotions so as to reduce the opponents’ morale.

With the most advanced weapons like the nuclear arsenal available to Russia, we are all worried that this war could turn into World War III.

Who can forget the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 by USA. It ended Japan’s role in World War II but killed   an estimated total of 130,000- 215,000 people . Not forgetting the lingering effects of radiation on the people and environment.                                                                              

WWII ended in September 1945 after the defeat of the Germans by the Allies. It is now 77 years and there has not been another World war because of the New World Order that was created after the war; to prevent other world wars. These checkmates included  the United Nations (1945) and a series of treaties drawn up on how to treat prisoners of war(Geneva Convention) and limiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare.

From the Wikipedia Historical archives

WORLD WAR I

Date June 1914- 1918

Cause: It was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria during the struggle to end the Austro- Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovonia. It set off a chain of events that pitted Germany, Austro –Hungarian , Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Canada, Japan and USA. The allied powers won at a huge cost.

Official deaths: An estimated 16 million deaths of soldiers and civilians. The war also facilitated the spread of the Spanish flu of 1918 that resulted in the death of over 50 million people.

Outcome; The League of Nations was formed( January 10, 1920 )  and it was thought that there would be no more World Wars.

“This is a war to end all wars .’’- Woodrow Wilson 1917. USA President.

WORLD WAR II.

Date: 1st September 1939 – 2nd September 1945.

Cause: It was sparked off by Adolf Hitler of  Germany invading Poland to regain lost territory. Great Britain and France declared war against Germany then other countries joined in to stop Germany from invading other European countries. The Soviet Union joined later after Adolf Hitler had breached the Non Aggression pact the two countries had signed in August 1939.

It evolved into  a world wide war and became the deadliest military conflict in history. Germany and France lost 80% of the male population of the 15-49 age group!

“We shall fight on the beach,

We shall fight on the landing ground.

We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight on the hills ; we shall never surrender.’’- Winston Churchill, 1940. Prime minister of Great Britain.

“ Defend Paris to  the last, destroy all bridges over the Seine and devastate the city.’’-Adolf Hitler August 1944.

It ended with the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945: Victory Day. 

Deaths: An estimated 50-56 million people both military and civilians and an additional estimated 19-28million deaths from war-related disease and famine.

Outcome:

WWII transformed the USA from a middle global power to the leader of the “ free world’’.  Born out of the need to protect the new found power and freedom.

Delegates from  50 countries created the United Nations Charter on 26 June 1945 with the aim of preventing  an outbreak of another world war.

Surprisingly, by March 1947, a geopolitical tension had developed between the USA and the Soviet Union. It fanned many other proxy wars in Vietnam,  Korea and Angola . The tension lasted until December 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.

 The dissolution created 14 countries out of the Soviet Union. The Russian President Vladimir Putin often refers to these countries which were once part of the Soviet Union as being Russia’s “ sphere of Influence’’. They include Ukraine. Russia continues to influence the politics of these countries.

Other significant wars include:

The war in Kosovo( 1998-June 1999)

The war is Bosnia(April 1992- December 1995)

The controversial War in Iraq ( March 2003- December 2011)

We seem not to learn from history and keep repeating it because we forget quickly.

AFRICA

Africa has also had its fair share of civil wars. Organised groups within the same country or state fight against each other. There has been an increase in these civil wars.

the root causes include: 

  • large population and low income levels
  • Low rates of economic growth
  • Recent political instability
  • Poor governance- inconsistent democratic institutions
  • Small military establishments that are too weak to defend their territory
  • Western powers looking to secure their interests by fomenting conflict.

THE WAR IN MOZAMBIQUE( 1977-1992)

Caused by weak public service delivery , poverty, unemployment, corruption and meddling by world powers and their proxies.

THE WAR IN SUDAN( 1983-Jan 2005)

This is Africa’s longest civil war. It lasted twenty-two years! It started when the military regime tried to impose Sharia law on all Sudan. The South is dominated by Animists and Christians while the North is dominated by Arabs and Moslems. The war was between the central Sudan’s government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. South Sudan became independent in 2011.

THE BIAFRA WAR ( July 1967- January 1970)

This was a Nigerian civil war between the central govt and the South eastern provinces of Nigeria – which had seceded and declared independence from Nigeria as self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. Led by Ojukwu Odumegwu, Biafra surrendered after 30 months of fighting and rejoined Nigeria.

This is a war that Nigerians want to forget. It caused so much destruction, aggression and extreme violence.  An estimated 100,000 military deaths while 500,000- 2 million Biafra civilians died of starvation!

THE BUSH WAR OF THE LUWERO TRIANGLE IN UGANDA( Feb 1981 – 25 January 1986)

I lived through this war and this is one period of my life that I want to forget.

The NRA led by Yoweri Museveni fought to overthrow the authoritarian  Uganda government led by Milton Obote.

An estimated 500,000 people including combatants and civilians died  during this five-year Bush war. Many people were displaced and many of us suffered a lot of fear and anxiety.

THE RWANDAN CIVIL WAR ( October 1, 1990- July 18, 1994)

The rebel, Tutsi- dominated  Rwanda Patriotic Front  fought against the predominantly Hutu government. The RPF won and formed a new government. The propaganda machinery was at its best: as the Hutus were incited to kill the Tutsis- “Cut down the tall trees’’ while the Tutsi were incited to kill the Hutus: “Crush the cockroaches’’.

The United Nations took long to intervene resulting in an estimated 500,000- 1million deaths of civilians. It is now known as the Rwanda Genocide.

Currently there are many conflicts and wars going on in the world like Libya, South Sudan, Ethiopia.

The most recent and  most heart wrenching is the war in the Ukraine that started on the 24 th February 2022, pitting Russia , a super power, against Ukraine, its neighbour. Putin considers Ukraine as “  one of Russia’s  spheres  of influence’’ since it was originally part of the Soviet Union.

In my simple mind, I feel that many of these wars can be prevented by genuine dialogue and negotiations– finding   a path to peace. War is very costly , we can achieve peace  through nonviolence. We should all strive for peace not war.

 As H.G Wells said in his novel , The War of the Worlds, February 6,2017:

“ If we don’t end war, war will end us.’’

QUESTION:

Do you believe that there is no peace without peace of mind? Are you aware that wars and conflicts create a lot of mental health problems in our communities ?

Well Survived

On the 11th March 2022, it will be exactly two years since World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 respiratory Disease a pandemic. No one saw it coming and no one could tell when it would end. But then, nothing lasts forever.

As of 05 March 2022, the Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Centre gives the following statistics:

Globally

Total confirmed cases       445,221,450

Total deaths                            5,996,046

Vaccines:

Total Corona virus-19 vaccines administered      10, 579, 829, 314

From https://worldometer.info USA has suffered the most deaths: 975,150 as of 1 st March 2022.

Followed by Brazil : 649,443 and then India :514,054. From 1918 to 1919, the Spanish flu infected an estimated 500 million people globally and killed about 50 million people. USA suffered the most deaths at 675,000.

UGANDA:

Total Confirmed cases                            163,383

Total Deaths                                                   3,590

Vaccine:

 Doses administered                           16,672,943

People Fully vaccinated                              2,706,785

Percentage of population fully vaccinated  6.11%.

The vaccine uptake has been slow ; less than the global target of 40% of the population by December 2020.

BOTSWANA

Confirmed case                                                  263,950

Deaths                                                                       2,619

Vaccines:

Doses Administered                                     1,162,835

People Fully vaccinated                                1,162, 835

Percentage Fully vaccinated                                  50.  48 %

Uganda relaxed the Corona virus-19 Lockdown restrictions on 25 January 2022 to open up the economy since the new cases had greatly reduced. More people were getting fully vaccinated.

I sincerely thank the health workers in my country and worldwide for having been on the frontline of this unprecedented war. I honour all those who lost their lives in the course of duty.

It feels so good and liberating to know that as long as I practice the safety guidelines of masking up, social distancing, avoiding crowded places and being updated on vaccination boosters, I can at least get out of my house and do a few essential tasks for myself.

It reminded me of the late 70s and 80s when the civil strife was at its peak here in Uganda.

We would stock dry foods and hide in our houses for days until the new group of fighters overthrew the sitting government and declared their victory over the national radio.

We would then come out cautiously as if walking on thorns and congratulate each other on surviving the assaults, the gun fire, the running, and the ducking.  “Well –survived,’’ we would greet each other.

We have never forgotten those scary days.

If you are reading this post now I am saying to you, “ Well –survived so far.’’

With COVID -19, we have all suffered the mental torture caused by the fear and uncertainty , the many deaths that we could not mourn, the disconnection from loved ones and the fear of the unknown.

The disease affected all areas of our lives; many have died from it, others suffered from it and are yet to regain their health , many health workers died from it in the course of their duty, many especially those who previously worked in the service sector have lost their jobs. The dysfunctional service delivery systems have been laid bare and the marginalised groups in our population have been exposed.

The disease has consumed our time and attention for a whole two years! This is unprecedented. How we have all waited with bated breath for things to return closer to what we knew   as normal.

Now we are living with the consequences of this lockdown period.

Life during lockdown

Reading through the stories of some of the survivors of the Spanish flu of 1918, I found many similarities.

The majority of people endured the devastation caused by the disease and became resilient. Trusting life, they strived to regain control of their lives. 

The rest, like us responded according to their genetic makeup and surrounding environments. A few suffered symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

1.MILD- a few suffered mild symptoms like disturbed sleep, short periods of confusion and detachment.

2. Moderate- living in fear, anxiety and panic. These needed community support.

 3.Severe   – These failed to recover from the terrifying experience and developed what the psychologist call Post Traumatic Disorder. They became severely depressed and anxious and this affected their ability to function in social and work settings and negatively impact on their relationships. A number of them suffered from “ Survivor’s guilt’’- trying to figure out whether they deserved to live while others died.

This group needed psychotherapy with or without medication. It took them years to regain control of their lives.

Thankfully, the majority of us fall under the resilient that quickly come to terms to what happened and  move on. Unlike the Spanish flu survivors, those who  will develop moderate to severe symptoms have a lot of support due to the advances in medicine and increased community awareness of the condition.

I have no doubt that each one of us has learned something useful out of this two-year experience.

I have learned that the most important things in life is life itself- to be healthy, up and about followed by good relationships.

Well researched psychologists’ studies confirm that:

·        Strong healthy relationships increase our emotional wellbeing. They hold us together during stressful situations and when we face difficulties in life.

·        They create stability in our lives. They help to us to connect to others, to feel that we belong and  that we are needed and  matter.

·        They help to bring out the “real us’. Each relationship elicits a different response in us helping us to learn about ourselves and grow.

·        Bad relationships can be as destructive as any serious disease. In severe cases, they rob us of our self-worth and confidence, pushing us into depression and anxiety.

Many of us that will survive the impact of the long COVID -19 lockdown are supported by such strong healthy relationships.

As we pick up the pieces, we have to remember not to let our guard down since COVID-19 virus is still with us. It is still considered a public health emergency.  Like some earthquake aftershocks, it could cause us more damage.

So let us adhere to the required SOPs, encourage people to get fully vaccinated while we keep learning and being updated on this disease which has caused so much turmoil in our lives.

“ WELL SURVIVED’’.

QUESTION:

Are you able to talk about this unprecedented experience and are you being kind and patient to yourself and others as you pick up the thread of life?

                                                                      ANYTHING WILL DO

A decorated Christmas tree

Anyone alive today has gone through almost two years packed with uncertainty and confusion due to the COVID – 19 virus. The determining variables that control the course of the pandemic keep changing and we are all learning as we go along. Many are likely to develop “pandemic fatigue”- becoming less motivated to strictly follow the recommended safety guidelines.

Just when we thought that we had moved forward through a combination of full vaccination, masking up and physical distancing, a new variant- Omicron, of the Covid-19 virus shows up on 26th November 2021.It is indeed very bad timing for all of us more so for those who celebrate the festive season. Many of us had started planning how to make the most of a difficult situation.

In my house, a grandson from Canada had confirmed his intention to join us for Christmas and the celebration of our mother’s 90th birthday around the same time, so had a sister in Sweden and another in UK and my son from Cape Town. We last saw them at Christmas time in 2019! 

Recently, we have lived with so much death around us in our communities and worldwide. The unshared pain and loss have drained our empathy, leaving us in emotional turmoil. Celebrating Christmas with a few loved ones would have been some form of compensation to us. The restricted travel movements that followed the emergency of the new variant, have robbed us of this privilege. Our confidence has been shaken once more.

As of now all I have been telling myself is that I am still alive and one event in the year is not my whole life. “Anything will do for Christmas and New Year.”

No doubt, the two years of restricted travel movements and physical disconnectedness have given us time to ourselves. Time to take inventory of the things we have gathered over our lifetimes; people, networks of relationships and material things and how they have contributed to the stories of our lives. Such reflections help us to look beyond this pandemic and look out for rainbows of hope for a better future. Nothing lasts forever. Life’s small joys add up to a fulfilled life.

“You do not develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”- Epicurus

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher.

I am now reminding myself to sing in the rain,

smile through tears

dance in the darkness

and to trust myself in the silence.

All that I am saying is that I am giving myself full permission to examine and rediscover with pleasure the people, the network of relationships and the material things that I have gathered around me over the years.

Not forgetting the many loved ones whom I have lost to COVID-19 and natural causes.

As John Lennon said, “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”

Here are some photographs from my collection to colour your life during this tough festive season.

Some rugged mountains of the Western Cape, South Africa

Tangled up with Nature
The canna lilies- a permanent feature of my childhood

At first I thought they were snakes- Some wild creepers

QUESTION

Time will not stop. How are you planning to make the most of this relentless situation?

Thank you for following my Blog. I appreciate you greatly.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New year.

Sing with gusto for being alive, up and about.

May the good Lord guide us into a way of living with COVID-19 in our midst.

USUALLY IT GETS WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER

Many times, things tend to get worse before they get better.

River Tana in Kenya burst its banks.

Courtesy of Nation Media Group

We were working towards a new normal in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic- getting fully vaccinated and strictly adhering to the SOPS especially social distancing. Then on the 26 th November 2021, WHO declared a new ‘variant of concern’ of the COVID-19 virus and named it OMICRON.

The virologist tell us that all viruses make mistakes as they copy themselves and these genetic mistakes are called mutations. Viruses mutate constantly especially those that contain RNA genetic material as the Corona viruses and influenza viruses. Most mistakes are so small that they do not significantly affect how the virus works. Those mutations that are significant help the virus copy itself and get into the host’s cells easily. Some fade away and others render the virus weak.

There are over one thousand COVID-19 variants but few like: delta, alpha, beta and gamma are labelled as ‘ variants of concern’. They cause increased rate of transmission, increased hospitalisation and increased deaths. They also affect the effectiveness of the available vaccines, making COVID-19 hard to defeat. COVID-19 respiratory disease is a new disease and scientists and ordinary people are learning as they go along. It may take another two to four weeks to know what we need to know about this  Omicron variant more so on how it may influence the course of the pandemic.

As of the 3rd December 2021,the Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource centre showed the following statistics:

Globally: 265,876, 379 Confirmed Cases

                     5,256 285 Deaths

Uganda: 127,655 Confirmed Cases

                     3,254 Deaths

4,835,777 vaccine doses administered

912, 993 people fully vaccinated ( 0f 47,791,313 based on Worldometer)

% of Population Fully Vaccinated 2.06%

Botswana

195,302 Confirmed Cases

      2,419 Deaths

1,430,084 Vaccine doses administered

People fully vaccinated( of 2,418,722) 508,980

% of Population fully vaccinated : 22.09%

I was among the first 300 individuals  in my country to get the first dose of the Astra Zeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine on the 10th March 2021. By mid- May , I had received my second vaccine dose and my “Fully Vaccinated” certificate.

Since then, I have been encouraging the vulnerable members in my community to get fully vaccinated while continuing to adhere to the Ministry of health Standard operative procedures.

Little wonder then that I found the news of the emergency of the highly mutated Omicron variant very disturbing.

My young sister in UK, another in Sweden and my son from Cape Town, South Africa, were planning to join me and my mother in Uganda for the festive season. I had something heart-warming to look forward to since I last saw the three of them at the Christmas of 2019!

With the travel restrictions that have swiftly been put in place, the reunion is not likely to happen this year!

The pandemic has gone on so long that it has somehow eroded my mental wellbeing. I have developed what the psychologists refer to as the illusion of control. This is a tendency to overestimate how much control you have over the outcome of an uncontrollable situation.

My moods have been swinging like a pendulum- one time I feel I have some control of the outcome and another time I feel powerless. I tend to become anxious and more stressed.

I found some encouragement by reading the psychology of surviving in complex situations.

While dealing with challenges in life, the outcome can be controlled by you or external forces

  • If you believe that you have control over what happens, then you have what the psychologists call internal locus control.
  • If you believe you have no control but external causes are to blame, then you have external locus of control.
  • No one can have 100 percent internal or external control in any situation. It is all relative and is in our mind-our thinking.
  • Locus of control influences how we respond to situations that happen in our lives. It motivates us to take action. Without it, we tend to resign to fate and become  passive bystanders.

These factors helped me realise that I still have some level of control over the situation. I should focus on the small things like going in for a booster once advised, sticking to the social distancing and taking good care of my health.

 Doing these things that fit in the big picture, make me feel good about myself and more motivated. Suddenly , I become an active participant that can have an impact on the outcome. It gives me some of my power back and I feel relaxed and less stressed.

One African proverb encourages us to do something however small, in any given situation:

If you cannot fly, run; if you cannot run, walk; if you cannot walk, crawl; but by all means, keep moving.

The psychologists advise us to do a number of things to overcome this illusion of control.

They include:

  1. Try using an outside perspective so that you do not rely on your own thinking. You have to consider credible information from other sources to get a balanced picture.
  2. Think Scientifically- this is the best way to overcome the illusion of control. In the case of COVID-19 pandemic which is yet to go into its third wave, Science and facts from WHO and Min of Health help you make better judgements.
  3. Seek other people’s opinions- knowledgeable people to gain some outside perspective and other factors that you had not thought about.
  4. Be inspired to practice healthy behaviour like regular exercise, healthy eating, regular medical check-ups and having adequate regular sleep – seven to eight hours at night.

I cannot resign that there is nothing that I can do that can make a difference. Let each one of us commit to the goal- controlling the epidemic by investing time and energy in effective, helpful action right where we are.

Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation Director- General, wraps it up neatly,

“We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.”

“No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

QUESTION:

Do you realise that the global pandemic response to the COVID-19 virus begins with you in your home?

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LEARNING, UNLEARNING AND RELEARNING EVERY DAY.

Digital technology has radically changed how we do things  in recent decades. Then out of the blue came COVID-19 respiratory infection which itself has changed  almost all aspects of our lives. For almost two years we have all been condemned to staying at home in our effort to reduce contact with people and reduce the spread of the infection. Two years is a very long time be it in politics, football and in  just simple ordinary lives.

It is now clear to most of us that somehow life and business have to continue as much as possible during the pandemic.

Thankfully, digital technology has enabled us to come up with new ways of doing business, of how we work, how we trade and how we learn. Some of these services were there pre-COVID-19 but the pandemic has pushed them to the fore front.  This demands that we all strive to raise our technical literacy to operate in this new environment.

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) an American writer, futurist and businessman once said:

“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

He was warning businesses about accepting and adapting to the dynamic digital transformation to thrive.

I would say that the warning remains equally relevant to each one of us if we are to make use of the fast changing digital technology. Each generation of technology is better than the last.

I for one have chosen to empty myself of what I know so as to be able to learn more for as long as I am able.

 Here are some examples of how technology has enabled me and many others to live some form of normal life during these times of the pandemic lockdowns and quarantines.

  • Connectivity- man is a social animal that thrives best in a group or in contact with others. The lockdown and quarantines continue to threaten this essential element. But then it becomes a “catch- 22 situation”- you have to be alive to enjoy communication with others. Access to the internet enables us to make calls almost anywhere in the world. I can make video calls, online chats, text, and arrange for Zoom meetings with family, friends and colleagues.

I have been attending virtually the 10 am church service at my local church regularly. I have attended many virtual funeral services and burials for family and friends. I have attended weddings too. At the end of it all, I am thankful that somehow I have been part of the function during these times of social distancing.

  • Online shopping- Pre-COVID, I had bought a few things online in Botswana.The conservative in me always preferred that I saw things and even touched them. In  the middle of the last lockdown last year, my phone broke down. Having been away for some decades I am yet to familiarise myself with what is available on the market be it a set of saucepans or knives. I had to buy a new phone to stay in contact with family and friends.

I had heard of Jumia– the largest online retail store in Uganda but had never used its services. I checked it out , then consulted my two sons about the type of phone to buy. Satisfied, I paid for it and had it delivered by a masked courier a day later. My communication lifeline has since then remained open and fully functional. My daughter passed on to me her “old faithful” boda boda courier to help me with grocery shopping and delivery services. He has proved to be reliable and punctual. The mobile phone remains our main way of communication

  • Remote learning- Pre-COVID, I was attending some writers’ webinars to hone my writing skills. Stuck in our homes, we have a lot of time to ourselves. The webinars have increased and can be tailored to one’s needs.

 Many of my young relatives are at university. they have been able to continue with their studies through online schooling. Unfortunately, the same approach cannot be used in primary and secondary education as the majority of students live in the rural areas and have no internet access. The COVID-19 crisis has drawn attention to this big gap between the unconnected and the urban connected.

  • Remote working- as life and business have to continue during these social distancing times, many young relatives working as bankers, lawyers, engineers work from home. Among the challenges they face is the low internet capacity and slow speed.

For those working in the health care sectors, they still have to report in person as digital health care solutions are extremely limited in a developing country like mine.

I stopped taking things for granted and learned to be more grateful for what I have. During these times of lockdown and quarantine, I greatly appreciate how digital technology if not abused, makes our lives easy and faster. Much of what the digital world offers can be accessed for free. Digital technology has kept us connected, informed, educated, entertained and allowed us to share our stories.

Life could have been worse without it. Technology continues to change,to make the changes less threatening, each generation is better than the last. I shudder to imagine the new high end technology that has already started flowing in and how our physical world would have been improved three years from now.

 The Onus is on us, to become responsible users- engaging with it safely, respectfully and ethically   while at the same time opening ourselves up to learn new things, unlearn and relearn. The digital world has a lot of promise.

QUESTION: How is the cell phone and internet access enabling you to live some form of normal life during these times of lockdown and quarantine?