Happy New Year 2020!

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With Aicha

It feels like there is some wonderful magic behind these numbers. It will take a very long time before anyone will experience this kind of number combination and at year 3030 no one of us is here on the Earth anymore. Let us pray that we haven’t destroyed the planet Earth long before that. It is not enough with prayers, though, because God is helping the one who is helping himself. We can’t wait passively for things to change for the better; we must be a part of that change. On New Year’s Eve it is tradition to give a special promise, something we feel that we need to change in our lives. Why not make a list of promises and see what has been able to hold until next celebration? As I am so fascinated by the number combination for the year coming, I will make 20 promises. Oops, I hope I won’t promise too much! Hmm….let’s see what I need to change for next year. I know some immediate stuff, but I have to ponder on the rest.

1: Exercise. My body needs to catch up with my brain which is the best exercises part of me at the moment.

2: Patience. This has become better, but there are still improvements that have to be done. The problem with a fast mind is that I am far ahead others at times, and I can become impatient when they don’t understand what is so obvious for me.

3: Health. I need to learn to be good to myself, to take care of myself as I care for others. That is a typical female issue, we are taught to neglect our own needs. We need to find a balance in that matter because no one is happy if one half of the population is unhappy.

4: Friend. I need to become a better friend. My problem is that I forget to contact my friends. It’s not because I don’t care about them, but my mind is always occupied with something new – something that lays ahead. I don’t have many friends, not in the way most women do. I don’t like gossiping, I don’t drink alcohol – which is a large part of the partying culture here. I don’t like partying anymore, am too tired in the evenings. I work fulltime and commute 80 minutes every day, so when I am finally free I prefer to stay at home relaxing.

5: Write more. I want to have more time to write. I spend a lot of time doing this already, but I want to find more time to finish a book I began to write some years ago.

6: Pray. We might have a different approach to that part as we live different lives, our cultures are not the same and it is also different to be a convert. My relationship with God is not complicated at all. He is all around us, all the time. I once said that when I wake up in the morning I log in, and when I go to bed at night I log out. Those of you who are using computers know what I am talking about. God is in my mind all the time, it’s like having a best friend and we speak with each other all the time. What I need to do is to stop for a while and focus on the prayer. If you go back to point 4 you can see that I need to improve the relations with my friends. I tend to forget to spend time with God too. Sorry, God!

7: Politics. It took some years to start all over again in that area, but nothing can stop me now. I was very involved in the politics here in Sweden, many years ago, but it is not easy for a woman. I was raising my three children, working as a teacher, took care of the home and somewhere in between I squeezed in some politics too. Life is not that different for women here than to the Gambia considering the work load we have. Our living standards might be higher but it comes with a cost. A lot is required from us and that is causing a stress. All my children are now adults and I have more time for myself. I am so used to being committed to some cause so it wasn’t easy to getting used to not being needed in the same way as before. Slowly my interest in the politics woke up and that is filling my mind 24/7. The year of our Lord 2020 will be a year when I will commit myself to the politics even more. Exiting things are happening so I will roll up my sleeves and get to work.

8: Environment. We have a system of sorting waste here in Sweden already. Plastic products, paper, metallic like empty tins. We don’t throw broken electric gadgets in the waste; instead we have special places for that. Oil, petrol, diesel and paint are not allowed to be poured out on the ground. That will sooner or later come down to the groundwater and poison us all. What I need to do is to use my bike more and my car less. Am a bit lazy. Just a little bit…… ehrm…..

9: Fun. I really need to have more fun! Life seems to be so filled with work and duties so the fun has almost no place at all. This is something I love about the Gambia, as so many other foreigners, that you are really able to enjoy life so much more. Your life is so tough and the level of poverty is high, but still you are able to find joy in your life. The Smiling Coast – that is really true, even if we all are aware of the backsides of it. There are backsides in all societies but you have a marvelous ability to put the sorrows aside.
10: Care. I want to focus more on matters that are for the common good, and not look at my selfish needs. There are a lot of things that can be done that doesn’t come with a cost.

The only investment I need to do is to spend some time with people who are lonely. When I look back at my life I can see that something has changed radically. I visited more people when I was younger, I had friends of all ages and we enjoyed each other’s company. The problem though with having friends who are very much older than I is that they don’t live forever. Well, who does, you might ask yourself but I think you understand what I mean. For example; when I was around my 20s I had a friend who was very much older than I. His name was Karl and he used to come every Sunday to the small rural church where I was working. Karl was around 75 when I began to work as a musician in this church. He died 5 years later and it was a great loss for me. The age difference between us meant nothing, we had so much fun together and lots to talk about. After Karl had passed away it was not the same to come back to the church. He used to stand and look out of a window, waiting for me, and he always waved at me when he saw me coming. I still look at that window the few times I come back to that church. It feels like he is still there, waiting for me.

11: Sing. Did you know that it is impossible to be angry or sad while you are singing?
Singing is affecting the human brain in a way that is soothing for the soul. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is making you feel good and relaxed.
Music is a very strong force; it can relieve both pain and anxiety. Dopamine is sending ”feel-good” signals from the brain to other parts of the body. When you sing you also get like an inner massage of your body, and who doesn’t love getting massaged? In the old times scientists believed that a damage on the brain was permanent, but modern science has founded that the brain can actually heal. With the correct stimulation it can repair and build itself up again. Amazing, don’t you think?

12: Play. I love to play the piano, but I don’t exercise often enough. The fingers get a bit stiff, it’s the same as when you don’t exercise the body often enough. My fingers know what to do, but they are slow. There is another instrument I love to play and that is djembe. Djembe is the reason I went to Senegal the first time. I spent two weeks in Casamance learning how to drum and dance. It’s fun to see white ladies trying to dance as you do in the Gambia. I laugh at myself when I remember how I tried to coordinate my movements. I looked more like a tree in a storm than a woman dancing.
13: Read. Right now I’m on Christmas leave for two weeks and I have promised myself to read more. I have a pile of books that has been whispering to me for some months now. ”Slow down and read us. We miss you!”

14: Listen. Teachers love to talk! We talk a lot, and we talk a little more because we forgot to mention something or came to think of something more. God created us with two ears but only one mouth. I need to ponder that more than I do now.

15: Procrastinate. That is a very strange word that is making my teeth hurt like when you have got some sand among your lettuce leaves. The word means that you (I) wait until the last second to finish a task. Stressful! Need to change that!

16: Ponder. When I think of this word I can see a picture in my mind. It is of a man with a long beard. He is sitting in the shade of a tree, has a long beard and he is leaning his head in his palm. The man is not bothered by anything that happens around him. He is sitting there in deep thoughts, watching the grass grow. Does it sound tempting? I’m sure that if I would sit down in the shade of a tree there would be an ant heap next to it and the ants would find their way inside my clothes. Who is able to ponder then? Not I! I ponder best when I am occupied with household chores. My hands are busy with something I am so familiar with that I don’t have to think about it. My mind is free to wander around, for example by finding new topics for my articles.
17: HAPPY
18: NEW
19: YEAR
20: EVERYONE!
Next time we meet is 2020, In Shaa Allah.
Let us pray that it will be a good year.