This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Look Back on 2010

Ever since I can remember, I have marked my life by major world events. This is primarily because of following news coverage of various stories. Certain images would stay in my mind. Many things happened in 2010, but for me, the Chilean miners was THE story of 2010. But, I will start with some of the other news items (big and small) that stood out for me.

Barack Obama clocked one year in office -- still alive (thankfully), but not doing very well. Now it is two years in office. I am one of those that wept on election night. I never ever believed that America could elect a black man to the presidency in my lifetime. Still, even when he won, I was never comfortable with the hype around the man. We built him up to be larger than life, more than a man. An impossible target to reach. Nevertheless, I do believe he could have done so much better to communicate -- the way we saw him do before he won. I believe that posterity will look at him more objectively and treat him more kindly than we are doing now. Whatever the result of his presidency, he will remain a symbol of hope and what is possible for anyone to achieve.

In January, an earthquake struck Haiti, thousands of lives were lost. In September an earthquake of similar magnitude struck New Zealand and no one died. The difference? Preparedness and planning. The location and structural engineering of buildings in New Zealand ensured that minimal damage was caused to buildings and lives were preserved. When will we learn?

Additionally, I was saddened when local churches fell over themselves to jump on the media bandwagon to send relief donations to Haiti, when across the border in northern Malawi, thousands were equally homeless and destitute following their own earthquake which struck just before Christmas. I am not saying it was not a nice gesture of solidarity, but I think the money would have been better spent nearer to home where church members could even have been encouraged to jump in their cars and go to physically help our comrades next door. It's only about a thousand kilometres from Lusaka after all.

A long walk to freedom
11th February 1990 was the day Nelson Mandela took that first long walk to freedom. It was one of the most moving days of my childhood. We lived in a small town called Bridgend, in South Wales at the time. We all gathered at the Adjepong's. By we, I mean Aunty Hannah invited every black person in the town, even the ones she did not personally know. She just went up to them and asked if they wanted to attend the party. And they came. Why? Because we all knew what that day meant to us as Africans and people of African descent. 11th February 2010 was the 20th anniversary, but I still remember that day in 1990 as though it were yesterday. 

Go get 'em Tiger
Tiger Woods had to apologise in front of the whole world on camera. What a circus! Once again, this was a reminder of how with one or two foolish actions or decisions, we can throw away our legacy, and for what? I hope he gets back to winning golf tournaments soon, so that people can talk about something else. 

Something called an iPad went on sale. Yaba! I attended a kitchen party where the Matron had her programme, annoucements jokes etc on her iPad. I was seriously impressed.

Gay Wedding in Malawi
I dislike NGO/donor propaganda where people try to make something out of nothing for their own agendas. What NGOs will do for money is pathetic, and I never cease to be amazed at the tricks donors will fall for. I never believed the gay wedding in Malawi story for a moment. Gay people do exist, in Zambia and Malawi, but although I may be wrong, in my view the story had 'fake', 'gimmick' and 'stunt' written all over it. I remember several years ago when some people in Zambia decided to start a lesbian, gay, trans-gender etc association. Almost two million dollars of mainly Scandinavian tax payers money disappeared in a few months. For a non-infrastructure project, that is a colossal amount of money. Of course, as many suspected and expected, many of the activists later confessed that they did it for the money.

The World Cup
Africa had been waiting for this for a very long time. In 2006, I wasn't going to make it to Germany, but, with a friend/colleague, I pledged that there was no way South Africa 2010 was going to pass me by. The FIFA World Cup is one of those Bucket List kind of things I gotta do in my lifetime. As things turned out, I decided not to go. Fortunately, a friend who was based in Canada at the time, encouraged me to attend. I knew that I would not forgive myself for allowing this once in a lifetime opportunity to pass me by. Watching it on TV and actually being there was an amazing experience. I loved how it was alright in the end. All the doom-sayers were proved wrong. South Africa pulled off a great World Cup. Crime was not an issue and although Africa didn't make it to the finals, we saw some great young talent (especially from Ghana) that bodes well for the future. 

The BP Oil Spill
I remember when the oil spill first started and everyone thought it would be over soon. I remember commentators saying President Obama is determined this won't become another Katrina. I remember watching while he appeared to be doing nothing till it was a major disaster. I remember thinking 2011 editions of PR text books will lead with the BP Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster as a case study of what NOT to do. 

Mosque Issues
In the land of the free, Americans got very upset because someone wants to build a mosque in New York, somewhere near to ground zero. In the same way that Christians should be free to worship God in China, Russia or wherever, freedom of worship should apply to all faiths. However, I know enough Christians who through their very real words and actions give our faith a bad name, to know that the same happens to other faiths as well. Because of the location, and genuine sensitivities of 911, it is a pity that what to me appeared to be a positive community development project has been overlooked and turned into an anti-Muslim debate and campaign.

My favourite comedian (Jon Stewart) had this to say, "Unless we're going to find out that the aliens from Area 51 killed Kennedy, stop with the drama". So many issues were raised with this whole Wikileaks saga. My own view is that much of the stuff released was unnecessary gossip. I believe there should be secrets in this world. We do not need to know everything about everyone. There is a difference between what the public has a right to know and what the public is interested in knowing. I wish more coverage had been given to those cables which revealed major corporate cover-ups in areas such as the Niger Delta.

Aung San Suu Kyi is released from seven years of house arrest. I wonder if she considers her struggles worth it. She has had to sacrifice so much personally, but the the gains are for future generations. She may never see the fruit of her life's labour. This is such a sad sad story.

A Royal Wedding
Prince William announced his engagement to Kate (now to be called Catherine) Middleton. We take so many things for granted in our lives. I wonder what it is like to be born and know that you have absolutely no choice who or what you want to be in life. Everything is mapped out for you before you are even born. I would not trade places with Prince William for all the riches and glory in the world. He was born to rule a kingdom, I was born to choose my own destiny. 

UK Viva
Students in the UK took to the streets to viva over the tripling of tuition fees. This basically now means they will pay what African students have been paying all along to study in the UK. 

The Chilean Miners
On Wednseday 13th October, 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days were freed. This story captured mine and the world's imagination. I followed it on the BBC website and on tv. I hardly slept once the miners started coming out. I went to work late and I got home early. I watched amazed as instead of taking 72 hours to bring them all out safely, it took less than 24. I wept as each miner came out and embraced his family, knelt and thanked God for his rescue. I loved watching the great publicity for President Sebastien Pinera who did everything right (and his mining minister) who are to be commended for the great job they did. Many other leaders can learn from the Chilean government's actions. I loved this story because it happened in a developing country which had just survived a terrible earthquake earlier in the year. Yes, there was help from many countries and corporate organisations (the very chic Oakley sunglasses the miners wore when emerging to the surface and for the days afterwards), but the fact is that they did it themselves. This story was the stuff my favourite movies are made of. An epic tale of bravery, sacrifice, overcoming all odds in the face of certain death. The triumph of the human spirit. It gave me hope and reminded me that miracles do happen. In this terrible world that we live in with poverty, disease, corruption, greed and all manner of nastiness, we need stories like these every once in a while to give us that warm fuzzy feeling. Not long afterward, we were 
sobered by news of the death of 29 New Zealand miners. But, while I feel for the Kiwi families, this did not take away the memory of my 2010 Beacon of Hope. Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le, Los Mineros De Chile!

I am indebted to the excellent 2010 Year in Review coverage of The Guardian UK for help in remembering the dates and sequence of some of these stories.

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