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Not another new year blog

I have not blogged in over a year, mostly because words are not enough to express all the things that have been going on. 2018 has been an incredible ride, a roller coaster of upheavals, of soaring successes and deep despair over losses. 2018 has been life, just being life. 

I moved, finally, to my favorite continent, to one of the most beautiful country, Ethiopia. I fell in love when I worked here 3 years ago and I jumped at the chance to live and work here again. So I moved and settled in and I am looking forward to spending another beautiful year in this place I now call ‘home’. I have been lucky enough to be able to travel to nearly every corner of this country so far and I cannot wait to tick off the last of the national parks off on my list 🙂 This country seems to have more UNESCO world heritage sites then some continents. The 3000 year old history, the culture, the diversity, the landscape, the animals, the large number of endemic bird population, makes this unique place a total paradise for me.

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In 2018, I got to travel more, to experience diverse societies. I got to read more, sometimes as many as 3 or 4 books per month. I was fortunate to go on a ‘farmer’s home stay’ where we get to live with a farmer and work their lands with them to gain clarity on the hurdles they face. I have been working in Agribusiness and Markets and while it’s easy to get lost in the policies, we never forget that at the end of the day, its the small-holding farmers that must benefit and share in the wealth of opportunities being created with access to markets in both home and abroad.

I turned 40 in October of 2018. I have been looking forward to turning forty for years now and I was super psyched to be forty. Yes!!!! Finally!!! So yeah, I have lots of grey hairs which I don’t bother with dying. Some days I wake up feeling 80 years old, some days I wake up feeling 18. But baby… I am there! I am fucking fabulously 40 and owning it 🙂 Yes, even owning the fact that I too have fears, insecurities and feelings of not being good enough. End of the day, I love where I am in life now, I love who I am becoming and I love the tribe/clan of people I am lucky to call my friends and share my life with. I am grateful for the ability to foster close friendships no matter which country or society I am in. To see another person as they are, to be yourself as you are, to speak your truth, to be accepted and loved for it, is probably the most beautiful gift that anyone can give or accept.

Last year two of my friends went into remission. One is finally free from her abusive marriage. One welcomed a second child, two more added third ones to their broods. Two of my friends mourned the tragic losses of their children and we wept with them. One had a teen hospitalized from bulimia and we worried what brought it on. Rebellious teenagers, aging parents and demanding careers leave no time to breathe, to just be. On top of that the world went crazy with political instability, divisive political rhetoric deliberately inciting violence, emboldening racists sexists pigs, and women’s right is under assault in every front. Yet here we are. Still here. Life just marched right on and always will.

So the trick for me is to keep speaking my truth and stay true to my values, in my work, in my relationships, in my daily life. Sometimes its easier to not look back since it can make me cynical, angry and bitter. Better to look forward, to new things to come. Not sure who said this, but we do have two hands – one to help ourselves with, and the second to help others with. And while the world goes mad, we can still spread kindness and compassion to those we come in contact with in our daily lives. We can each do our own part in improving another person’s life, in changing their whole world.  We can keep speaking up for others whose voices are being silenced. We can each do our own bit in combating climate change by being more conscious of our own carbon foot print.

So for me on to 2019,  more books, more travel, more kindness. More consciously existing in the moment, may the philosophy of Ubuntu and Ikigai dominate. Let the games begin 😉

How did your 2018 go? and what are you looking forward to in 2019?

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‘Ubuntu’ and how it applies to our narrative on poverty

Desmond Tutu talks about the concept of Ubuntu, in the context of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process that they embarked on after apartheid. He says it means, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours; we belong to a bundle of life.” A bundle of life. The Truth and Reconciliation process started by elevating the voices of the unheard.

In a world torn apart by wars, in the face of our humanity decimated by our greed to control precious resources, we have lost our ‘Ubuntu’. We lost it when the body of a 3-year-old Syrian boy had to wash ashore for us to wake up and notice the plight of the refugees fleeing wars. We lost it when Charlie Hebdo created yet another cartoon mocking this death in the name of freedom of speech. We lost it when our headlines continue to be titillating news of latest celebrity scandals instead of the very real scandal of how we are collectively failing humanity.

The refugees, the poverty, the wars, the fight over control of resources, the new wave of colonialism that is sweeping through, it is cleverly disguised. Cleverly labeled as economic migrants looking for the easy life, a war to install democracy by bombing out entire cities, their citizens nameless, un-reckoned casualties, the news swept away, tucked somewhere in page 12 in a small column in international news. The number of these casualties unrecognized, unknown to the general population. The new colonialism that talks about integration, globalization, ensuring access to resources, for who? to what end?

We talk about the Millennium Development Goals and what a huge success it has been. So now we are talking about Sustainable Development Goals and how certain things need to be prioritized in order to ensure quality of life for everybody – “To leave no one behind”. Our narrative on poverty however has hardly changed. A large portion of our actions are still top-down, driven by political agenda, prioritized towards winning votes for parties, influence within the country or in international sphere. We cater to political leaders, to speeches to be made in parliament, to achieve goals that will look good when put up in a billboard. We cater to specific themes because that’s where the money is – that’s where the funding is.

In all the South-South talk and the North-South cooperation, how many specific areas for development were targeted because that’s where the real on the ground needs are?

I don’t know… maybe because I haven’t looked enough.

I want to know though. I want to know it the way I know the SDG’s. I want to see real life solutions coming out of grass-root movements, that impact on the people whose very lives we claim to want to change for the better. The people we don’t want ‘to leave behind’. Maybe the way we see things has to change, maybe that’s still a long way to go, maybe we’ll get there in one generation or ten. Maybe the change has to start now, with us, in this moment. Maybe we have to filter what news we consume and how we allow it to shape our narratives. Maybe we have to start questioning everything – including our deep-seated assumptions – even on issues that we believe to be ‘written in stone’.

If we are to live up to our promise of working for the people, with the people, for the greater good of humanity, then we have to rediscover our ‘Ubuntu’ and live up to it. And in this thought provoking talk by Mia Birdsong, she invites us to do just that.

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