It is that time of year again when it’s time to take stock, reflect on the year that we are leaving behind and the New Year about to unfold. It has been a tumultuous year in the world and for myself a year of transition and change and learning with a move to Gambia. It has been a significant year in the world and, for me as well, building a new foundation for my life ahead. What compels me most is the children and the world and life they will inherit; that is no more evident than here in The Gambia where children abound.
As 2017 draws to a close one has to wonder – what next – with upheaval, brutality and global threats the order of each day. Democratic governance is under duress, economic stability is a thing of the past and erratic and incompetent leaders are in power in many countries, including some that were thought to be the bedrocks of democracy. Institutional order appears in trouble and in decline, as most institutions seem unable to have any influence at all; most appear to have lost their way in a world of such fundamental change.
The freefall that was the focus of my last year’s message is gradually slowing, but many countries have already crashed, bringing even more instability. Others like the United States and Britain have become so entangled in webs of deceit and intrigue that may leave them vastly diminished in the new world order.
While keeping abreast of world issues is a little more challenging from my new perch in The Gambia, and my world has narrowed somewhat, my own view that change is never easy, rapid or in a straight line has been reinforced. Rather it is slow, cumbersome and unwieldy, as human change has always been evolutionary and timeless.
The Gambia experienced its own transition, just before my arrival last year when they ousted their dictatorial leader to embrace a government promising democracy, rule of law and fairness and well being to everyone.
The transition has taken place relatively smoothly, but like all dictatorial leaders this one had to be pried away from his desk and his booty and escorted from the country. Thus far it has been a gentle transition, but the landing is far from complete and there is still much to be done.
My own journey of transition from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada to The Gambia happened without incident and I landed on my feet. Albeit, since then, I have been running between my adopted families, participation in the country’s National Development Plan and building a house, which wasn’t necessarily in my plans.
Then plans need to be flexible, not stagnant, and that is perhaps why the world is in so much turmoil. Rigidity has overcome countries and institutions that were built on foundations of openness, creativity and flexibility.
I have always worked on the premise that when in a new place it is important to establish some anchors for security and stability. Even though Gambia was not new to me, there was a need to renew my contacts with friends and acquaintances, find a stable place to live and widen my base of support.
I realized after being here a few months that my funds were limited, my work with people was expanding, as it does when in such an environment of poverty and that I needed a fixed place of operation if I were to make a contribution and lay the foundation for the future. The house rental market here is fluid and flexible; finding a place with any sense of longevity is most difficult.
While property for sale is in abundance, finding a place in an appropriate area that is practical and within my budget proved a challenge. But, as has happened throughout my life, a property that suited all three concerns appeared through a friend. The lot – compound, as is it is called here because it is walled not fenced had a partially built house that was derelict and had been abandoned (or as my son said – Dad it looks bombed) and the property was messy.
But, then most things human’s value that glitter are often found among the sludge, which first has to be cleared. Transformation of this property challenged my patience, limits and ingenuity. Construction, like most things, is quite different in The Gambia and as I have relearned so many times in other places, assumptions are useless.
But with a lot of hard work by many, and a lot of learning on both sides, the house is nearing completion. The construction was mostly hand-built with a minimum of equipment; it is not a masterpiece, but a creation with hidden flaws and much to appreciate.
So for those who have been wondering where I have gone, what I am doing and why my correspondence and sharing has mostly stopped, you may now understand. During the time that I have been writing and sharing I have had several hiatuses over the years, none for this long. My complete focus was on people here, securing my base and continuing my support work.
I have kept abreast of the challenges and changes that my family, many friends and acquaintances have faced over the past year through social media and have responded when able, as Internet is sometimes a challenge and the cost of telephoning is mostly prohibitive. Those of us in my age group have our own challenges and know that aging is not easy, and for many not pleasant.
I have thought much this year about home, not for the first time, as I have written a number of essays over the years about home and what it means from my perspective. For some it provides security, for others it is showplace, but for most, it is the security and roots of life to be cherished and maintained for the next generations to share.
For others, those displaced because of lack of work, economic decline or war, it is a place of longing, a missing part of oneself and a dream to be fulfilled. At this period in our collective history there are more people in this category, even in developed countries, than ever.
There are many who consider home the place where they came from, not necessarily the place they belong. These people are the vagabonds, adventurers, roaming humanitarians and people looking to fill a deep yearning that is bottomless and without end.
As we approach the unfolding of a new year we can only hope that many who have become complacent, are tired or just fed up will awaken from their slumber and join those trying to reclaim the world for humanity from the few with endless financial wealth who now are in power and control. Throughout history balance has always been restored by the collective power of people, despite the advantages of those in control.
May the New Year bring back common sense and compassion to a world which has diminished the value of both in pursuit of the promise of financial wealth. Hopefully, genuine stability will be the gift that is shared throughout the world in the New Year ahead.
Written by William (Bill) Pardy
December 29th, 2017