Category Archives: 30 Day Letter Challenge

30 days of letter writing to different people in my life! Originally a Tumblr bloggers idea. Taking up the challenge for November Fingers crossed on keeping it fun and sticking to it till the end!

Day Thirty: Your Reflection In The Mirror

Jama,

June 2012 at Balafong’s Rhythmic Vibrations

You are the first person I see when I wake up and the last, when I go to bed. Sometimes I look at you and exclaim at the magnificence of God’s handiwork. Other times, I peer into the glass and just go with the ‘everyday no be Sunday‘ flow.  Whatever the outcome though, I always smile at you… getting a smile back, and moving on to the activities of the day. You’ve been with me all my life and today, I just want to share a few things.

You are an amazing person! Like most humans, you’ve probably been through more than your years can endure. You can be extremely emotional, but your strength awes me every day. Where you could have broken down and let the world drag you through the mud, you stood firm and never let your experiences be the main determinant of your actions. Instead of constantly wallowing in self-pity as a result of your pain, your disappointments, your failures and your shortcomings, you opted for learning and using them to avoid future repetition.Isn’t experience the best teacher, after all? When all the tears have found their way down your cheek, you put up a smile and walk out into the world.

You were brought into this world for a purpose. You probably haven’t discovered it all, but I can tell you that you are well on your way. You’ve always had big dreams and have worked hard all your life to turn them into reality. Giving up has always taken the lower step from the last option… a step you hardly ever choose. Relatively, you’ve been around for a short while and we both hope you’ll be here for much longer. However, you probably have done enough to last your stay on Earth, though nothing is never really enough. You keep striving and pay great attention to other people’s expectations of you. Your nature doesn’t allow you to disappoint and so, you usually find yourself exceeding you limits just to deliver. It may be a good thing; just like it may be very bad. I’ve watched you try to focus on your own expectations and letting the rest of the world take that,but many times you’ve faltered and gone back to aiming to please everyone.

You still have a long way to go and I truly hope you’ll take note of what I’m telling you. You are only human and are bound to make mistakes and meet failure in your activities. Always remember that perfection is for God, even when I believe that humans can take the journey towards that destination. The ultimate result might not be perfect, but it wouldn’t be a long way away either. You are responsible  for only one person’s expectations: YOURS! Family, friends, loved ones and strangers may look forward to certain things from you, but only deliver when you really can. Exceeding your limits to please everyone might have its consequences, and you most probably will face them alone. In the same way, do not expect too much from others. That way, you will be saved from the many disappointments that might lead to loss of trust and confidence. Your biggest expectations should be those from yourself, for then you’ll know exactly what you’ll get.

You have very big dreams and like me, you are more of an optimist than anything else. You grew up touching lives, while changing yours in the process. You find joy and satisfaction in serving people and changing the things you have control over. You inspire other people to be like you and even greater. Deep down, you feel you can change the world. It is great to be optimistic, but it’s even greater to balance it with being realistic. Yes, you can change the world one step at a time. You may touch only a small part of the Earth’s existence, but you should find contentment in that. Look at your goals again and make sure they are both realistic and achievable. You are not the most organised person in the world, but for once, set them out and plan carefully. You will then be clear about what to expect and how much you can achieve in a certain period. Then, my dear, you can overdose on the optimism, for success would be just a mapped-out plan away!

You are a great listener and have watched me go through countless monologues. You probably are the only one who has seen me in all my states. From the bad speeches to the great ones; the crazy moments of trying out the ‘model life’; the many dance practice sessions; the blond moments of endless preening and smiling and even the crying, you’ve seen it all. I’m confident to do all this in your presence because even when it’s very bad, you never laugh, chastise or judge me. You kick your sanity out and join me! You’ve seen and heard it all and I’m never worried, because I know you’re one of the few I can trust with my life… and it’s great to know I’ll have you till I breathe my last. I shall always come back to you, for I find solace and relief in you when the world offers none.

I am what I am; you are what you are; and when our souls meet, we both are truly one person. One entity with the same visions, dreams, temperaments, character traits, beliefs, doubts and a lot more.

You are beautiful in your own way and your smile warms hearts. You are loved and have learned to love in return. You are surrounded by few but great people in your life and you truly are blessed to have them. You are talented and it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a pat in the back sometimes. You are not perfect, but you have always loved yourself. You give respect to all and take it back when it isn’t deserved. Sometimes you are willing to take up more than you can handle, but it is all in your nature to always offer help to those who need it.

I wouldn’t usually talk about your physical being, but isn’t that what I really see when I look into the mirror? You grew up having to deal with taunting and nicknames as a result of your size. Sometimes, it got to you in a bad way. Growing up, you’ve accepted that as the person you are and flaunt it proudly. You’ve used it to your advantage and have had people change their tones from ‘oh no’ to ‘wow’! My slim, tall, dark Wolof girl with the great smile and the naturally sculpted physique,you have every reason to love the woman you have become. You may still go on wishing for bigger hips (lol), for a girl is allowed an obsession or two. However, you are awesome the way you are and I wouldn’t have you any other way.

I shall see you again tonight and we shall smile at each other. Our bond is deep and will last as long as our lives. Remember all I’ve said and take this journey with me. We are destined for great things and God is on our side!

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Day Twenty-Nine: The Person That You Want Tell Everything To, But Too Afraid To

You said I could trust you with everything, including my life
I was skeptical, and asked that you act the role and make me
For I’ve always been one to believe that trust should be earned
Not offered on a platter of sweet words that may turn sour
You played the role and turned out deserving of my confidence
I warmed up to you and opened up with little reservation
You neither judged, nor patronised, making sure to set me straight
And make me understand the fallibility of my human nature
While teaching me to take responsibility for my mistakes.

You’ve always been in the background, never wanting to be seen
I learnt to run to you when things weren’t working as planned
For I was sure of a solution or, at the least, a few encouraging words
I would come and go as I pleased; only when I needed you too
Sometimes you seemed distant and I knew to stay away
Most times, I felt I was being a burden and hid from you
But you always brought me back to your light, taking me back in
And reminding me that with you, there are no limits.

Now, I look at my image in the mirror and feel I’ve grown
I listen to my speech and gauge my actions and notice the change
I haven’t come to you for a long while now
Choosing to fight my battles alone and taking my own advice
Most times, I miss you and wish I could have your reassurance
Other times, I find solace in thoughts of my growth making you proud
Isn’t it the wish of every mentor that their mentee surpasses them
I’m far from that stage, and still see a long road ahead
Coming back to you would be much easier than reaching that pedestal.

A lot has happened; a lot more is going to happen
A part of me is sure I can handle it, falling back on your past guidance
But some things are best sorted out when shared with a trusted one
That sharing which I had gotten accustomed to and now miss
When I reach out to you now, it is more to talk about you than me
You try hard to remind me that there still are no limits
But I find myself holding back, even when I want to pour it all out
Today, for no fault of yours, I am afraid of being judged
I am scared of trashing your expectations and beliefs
I have a lot to say… to pour out unto you lap and into your ears
But I hold back… for I am afraid of your reaction.

Day Twenty-Eight :Someone That Changed Your Life

For Lend A Hand Society (LAHS),

Fun at work. Launching of the LAHS ‘Hope Is You’ project

I was 10 years old when we officially met, dragged into your offices by my friend Joyce, after many weeks of urging me to come with her. I’d visited frequently, most times on my way home from school, appreciating the chance to quench my thirst from your taps. I would see young people all around, some with the same mission as me; others for completely different purposes. I knew what you were there for, but nothing prepared me for what I got when I eventually got to be a part of you. Today, I remember that sunny Friday and thank God for my decision to put down the novel I was engrossed in and walk down the dusty paths to you.

‘Introduce yourself’, they said.

I stared at the floor, wondering what to say. I was nervous. I was shy. I willed the ground to open up and swallow me so I would be saved from the evident embarrassment. I wished they would skip my turn, but the people around me were ready to wait all evening. Eventually, I did it, in a string of incoherent phrases and words. That day, I realised that within your walls, the shy girl in me had to give way to a bold, confident and outspoken young woman. It was difficult and I vowed never to return, but I did… every weekend after that, for many years.

The journey began and still continues. At age ten, when my mates played and built miniature mud houses on the long-awaited weekends, I came over to you. Through you, I met some of the most dynamic and hardworking young people our country has been blessed with. We worked as a team and as the months went past, I got out of my cocoon, accepting my strong wings and taking flight in the beautiful, yet challenging world of advocacy and civil activism. The change wasn’t automatic, for it took series of training,  workshops and guidance from a host of mentors. The result has been amazing; for me, for my colleagues, for the people we’ve served and for the world.

Today, I join the rest of the world to celebrate World Aids Day. After years of calling for a fight against the epidemic, we have finally resolved to clinch to HOPE, as we strive to meet the Zero objective: zero new infection, zero discrimination and zero deaths. I took a moment to dwell on the journey I took with you, raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and reaching out to people who would, otherwise, not gain access to the needed information. My colleagues and I went through endless training, mastering the subject and being the willing faces of the fight against it. For years, our anniversary themes were HIV-related, prompting some people to believe ours was an organisation created solely for this. We mounted stages, made TV appearances, hosted and were invited to many radio shows, and wrote countless articles on HIV/AIDS. I daresay our work did not go in vain, for today, we have seen a decrease in the new infection rates especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, which stood as the most-hit region. These advocacy programs and sensitisation campaigns did not just ensure the dissemination of relevant information and support to People Living With HIV/AIDS; it built me and turned me into the outspoken and brave woman I am today.Time flew past and with each year, my passion grew stronger. It was a great feeling to discover my potential outside the classroom and use it to make positive changes in my community.

I meet people and when the subject of education comes up in our discussions, my field of study is usually met with a lot of criticism. I believe I can never exhaust this topic as it is not the first time I’m blogging about it, even if partly. ‘Why did you go into journalism and not another productive and safe field?’. That’s a question I’ve had to answer a million times. Growing up, I’ve fantasized about being everything: teacher, doctor, engineer, nurse, minister, historian, writer, and the list goes on without end. With you,I was exposed to the media. Every Saturday, I would join a few other colleagues at Radio One FM for the LAHS show. There, I presented the news, read out stories, performed poems, shared jokes, did interviews etc. At the time, it was on the grounds of our work and the fun and excitement that came with being at the radio. I lived for the moments when a classmate, friend, family member, neighbour or stranger would send compliments on the brilliance of our shows. Eventually, we would move to TV, organising and participating in the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting. Fast forward to my Junior Secondary School days and I was writing articles for your two magazines: Extinguish It( HIV/AIDS-related) and Rhythm of The Young (the LAHS official magazine). Today, I attend a journalism school and am building a career in all these three areas. I loved what I did then and the constant practice at the time gave me the confidence I needed to make this journey. Thanks to you, I followed my heart and am now going professional through the exposure I got from you.

My dear LAHS, you did not just give me skills and knowledge. You gave me a new vision of life, guiding me with your triangular mandate of attitude building, culture appreciation and sponsorship. Your five principles still live in me and I believe your mission and vision have been attained, looking at the young men and women that have passed through you. You also gave me a family and the memories made with them all are uncountable. With them, there was never a dull moment, as we learnt to let loose and work hard while playing hard. To many, that was what set us apart from others in our field of work. We are all in different parts of the world today, but can still count on one another for support and help in whatever we do. You made us believe in one another and taught us to respect and appreciate what we were, despite our differences and deficiencies. I also remember those who were with us and are no more. Their legacies live on and we will forever remember them as the true soldiers of change in our country. Few lessons are more valuable than that, and I count myself lucky to have been a part of you.

You may not currently operate with the vigor and recognition of years past, but I daresay that this is only at the group level. Your babies have grown and are changing the world in their little ways. You have built true advocates and activists who are not distracted by the desire for the fame, glory and acknowledgement that we notice around us. You have produced determined young people who leave their marks wherever they go and are a source of inspiration to millions. You have created willing change makers, for we were taught to ‘never say never’. You, LAHS, have given The Gambia and the world, leaders who do not bask in the shadows of empty rhetoric, but identify problems and ACT towards solving them. These ‘Lenders of Hands’ say Pragmatism not Theorems, a motto we are proud to uphold in our daily living.

I could go on with the stories to show how meaningful you were and still are, but I would run out of space on the web. You are one of the things I’m grateful for. Today, I thank those 2 teachers and 9 students who had the foresight to create you, mainly to help their gifted colleagues who could not make it through school due to financial difficulties. LAHS grew into something bigger than just an entity for sponsorship. It built great people, young and old, who are role models around the world.

That first Friday changed my life completely. I stand up to talk and people listen. I write and people read. I act and people are inspired and motivated. I walk around and people, younger and older, look up to me as their inspiration. It is possible because of the glory of God and because you made me realise who I am, what I’m worth and what I can do. This is for the organisation as well as the people who were/are a part of it. I am one proud member of Lend A Hand Society!

Day Twenty-Seven: The Friendliest Person You Knew For Only One Day

Salut,

I can’t remember your name. We met over a year ago at the Mohamed V airport in Casablanca, set for the same flight to Dakar, Senegal. I was alone and you were with a group of friends. Even in the crowded airport, you all were noticeable with your cool gear and striking build. I,however, sat in a corner in the boarding lounge, getting drowned in nervousness with each minute. I have a phobia of flying and I never really look forward to the suspension in the air for the long hours. I sat there, dreading the three hours and reciting all the prayers that came to mind.

About an hour after our scheduled departure time, we finally got in line for boarding. The queues were long and you were just beside me. While waiting, we got into a conversation and I remember the surprise on your face when you saw my green passport. That one time, I was grateful to have it on me, just so I wouldn’t have people remaining skeptical about my nationality. To you and your friends, I was the typical young Senegalese woman: tall, dark, slim.

We spoke for a while, sharing stories of our experiences in Morocco, agreeing and disagreeing on various issues. We discussed student life and were both excited to be going back to our families, if only for a short while. Our turns came and we parted ways to sort out our boarding details. I went ahead, walking at a funny angle, pulled down by my many bags. In my vocabulary, ‘travelling light’ was omitted. Thus, each time I travel, I’m faced with the hassle of carrying excess baggage. That year, I was lucky to have been allowed to convert some of my main luggage into hand-luggage, adding that to my hand bag and laptop case. You may stop shaking your head now. My mother has seen worse.

Just when I thought I couldn’t move a step further, you came by and took the heaviest of my bags. As is normal in our part of the world, I hesitated first, muttering something about not wanting to disturb you. Deep down, I couldn’t be more grateful for the blessing. I was glad chivalry wasn’t truly dead, as I was forced to conclude after many had passed me without so much as a look in my direction. We resumed our debate on the authenticity of my nationality. In the end, you claimed victory when I admitted that I had Senegalese origins. We got to Dakar and I wished you were close enough to help with my bags again. More importantly, I wanted to thank you for helping and perhaps get your contact details. I got round to doing the former before hopping into the waiting car, even as you advised that I stay in Dakar for a day or two to avoid the fatigue. Yours truly, however, was determined to cross the borders that same day, and so we parted ways.Your kind gesture did not go unnoticed and each time I’ve found myself struggling with luggage, my mind wanders to that moment. I probably should have learnt to travel lighter, but I always find more stuff to carry than the airlines allow.

I met you for only a few hours and can’t tell if we’ll ever meet again. I may have forgotten your name, but I can never forget your kindness and the burden you lifted off me… literally. I thank you!

P.S This is the 100th post on the blog! It’s been a beautiful journey and one that I haven’t regretted. Through Linguere, I’ve made friends and acquaintances who remind me all the time about what I do and how I do it. I’ve had readers who’ve stayed faithful from the first day. New posts also brought new readers and you all are the reason I got to this stage. Thanks for reading, commenting, liking, sharing and appreciating the work I do on here. I started it for fun and now, it’s grown even bigger than me. Here’s to many more years of blogging… hopefully on bigger platforms, about all things important to us all. Until then, I say get set for the next 100! I appreciate you all.

Day Twenty-Six: The Last Person You Made A Pinky Promise To

Ayo,

In all honesty, I can remember neither the last time I made a pinky promise nor the last person I made a ‘non-pinky’ promise to. I remember making promises… some kept and some still outstanding. I sat for a few minutes, trying to recollect the details but they all seem hazy. My mind wandered to the promise I’ve made to you and I set off thinking about the possibility of keeping it.

When asked what made me grow into a strong woman, I always tell them I was raised by strong women and could only turn out as one. You’ve been in my life since the day I was born and I’ve always prayed that you stay in it till I leave this Earth. When I do, you chide me, for it is your belief that the grandmother should precede the granddaughter to the next world. Of all the people I know, you are one of the few that talks about death with great comfort, almost making one look forward to it. As we grew up, you would always drop hints about what you want your sending-away to be like: the choice of songs, mourning colours for the family etc. When one of your peers takes the journey, you would spend that day wondering when your turn will come. As grand-kids are wont to do, we would keep reminding you that it was your trick to stay longer on this Earth. All we wanted to say was that we wanted you here with us for much longer and still do.

When I broke the news of my scholarship to you, it was with mixed feelings. I knew you were proud, as you’ve always made it known. The days leading to my departure were sad and I tried as much as possible to stay close to you. I was scared and your words didn’t really help much. While I tried entertaining you with descriptions of my new home, you chose to remind me of the inevitable. This had already become commonplace with anyone travelling, but I didn’t see it coming for me…or maybe I did, but still didn’t want to hear it. Your words ringed on to the final day when I picked my bags and waved goodbye. You looked at me and said: ‘Go in peace. I’m sure by the time you get back, I’ll be gone, reunited with your grandfather’. The waterworks came and could not be stopped each time I called and spoke to you. There I made a promise to you: that I will be back before you’re gone.

Three years have gone by; three summers too. Of these, I’ve come back to you twice and each time it was with a smile of a promise kept. The first time, you could barely recognise me and could only tell from my voice that I had indeed come home. I renewed the promise when I left that year again and by God’s grace, was able to meet that too. I look back at these events and wonder what confidence pushed me to make promises that serious, when the issues at hand were certainly beyond my control. You talked about leaving before my return. I equally thought about my own leaving before my return to you all. Each time I made those promises, I never really paid attention to the fact that ‘man proposes and God disposes’. I was blinded by my love for you and even further by the fear of losing you. I was led on by faith in the reality of seeing you again…and it happened.

Another year is going by and I know that with each day, you’re growing even older. However, age has never been a deterrent for you and you’ve got me anticipating a ‘youthful’ old age for me and the rest of your  bloodline. I look forward to another chance to fulfill the promise; to see you again and to gain from your infinite wisdom. I miss your incessant calls and even the most recent complaints about my size, my outfits etc. Ayo, I pray that God keeps you here longer so you can see my babies and love them the way you loved us all; share your funny yet inspirational stories with them and be their living proof that faith conquers all.

I am what I am because I was taught well and I hope to live a life that reflects that of the hardworking woman who crossed oceans to make a life for herself, sacrificing everything and sharing whatever little she had with the people around her and bringing forth people I am proud to call my own. Thank you for being that woman. I’ll see you soon, if God so wills.

 

Day Twenty-Five: The Person You Know That Is Going Through The Worst Of Times

The Sarrs,

You alone know what you felt and still continue to feel. I shall not put myself in your shoes, for even then, I may not really know what it’s like. I have felt my own pain, but believe it pales in comparison to yours. I wished I had the words to heal your pain. I wished I were there to go through it all with you. I’m around to listen if you want to talk. I respect your decision if you don’t want to either. I can only promise one thing: I’ll always be here for you. I do not have the perfect words for you, but I found something which I hope will keep the smiles on your faces and comfort you through these times. I love you all.

Day Twenty-Four: The Person That Gave You Your Favorite Memory

Mahmoud,

Le petit frere

I have a million and one things I could describe as my favourite memory. I am one very undecided person and sometimes I find myself changing my mind more than is usually allowed. I’ve been around for more than twenty years and have met people from all walks of life. Many have given me moments to be thankful for and always remember. However, I choose your birth as my favourite for today. Those months building up to your arrival were the slowest for me, and my excitement knew no bounds. I was finally going to have that which I had often wished for: a baby brother.

You arrived that October day and I knew you were special in many ways. We called you our Millennium baby and I felt greatly connected to you. Of the whole family, I think Amie and I were the most excited for your arrival. I, because I felt older and felt I could now take care and control one more person. Amie, because she would now have someone to share the burden of being Jama’s younger sibling with. We didn’t allow the people around us any breathing space, for we wanted everyone to know we had a brother. Eight days later, we stopped calling you ‘neneh bi‘ and started using your new name: Bai Mahmoud Jack. A name taken from the venerable Bai Mahmoud Niasse of the well-known Niassen sect.

You grew up pretty fast and I remember the many weekends we spent together. You were then the highlight of our visits and at the end of each one, we would already begin planning the next. Everyone doted on you and I felt great pride each time I went out with you and had people coo over your cute self. All the while, I’d keep muttering ‘kaar kaar’ under my breath. As you grew older, our fights started. Even at your tender age, you exuded so much confidence in the little power you had, and one couldn’t help admiring that. When you cried, we all rushed to your side to comfort you, while waiting for the next bout. At some point, you could never really do any wrong in our eyes.

I remember your cunning tricks, getting everyone into trouble, while you stood back and laughed. You grew up teaching us how to dance, for that was just how connected you were to the new trends. At age five, you could dance better than Amie and me. I still remember how famous you were at the tabala gatherings your mother usually took us to. I look back at those days and laugh at your sudden change of comportment when we threatened to tell on you, just so we could share the money people had showered you with. Papa had made it his duty to remind you of the great mind you were named after and around him, you would always drown us in your ‘hey man Serign lenj ma tuday’ and ‘maneh, man kilifa laa‘ lines.

When I left, you were one of the people I missed the most. I would usually look forward to our phone calls as you’d always crack me up.  On Eid days, you would give me detailed descriptions of your outfit and the whole day’s activities. They fed my nostalgia, while making me wish I were with you all. When we talk on other days, you’d tell me how your school days are going. My heart is warmed when I hear you say ‘I am trying hard, so I can be like you’. It reassures me that my brother s going to be a great man, for he knew what he wanted from an early age. Recently, you’ve added prayers to our conversations. You insist on praying for me, further reminding me about your being a kilifa. 

I’ve missed you a lot and I know when I finally come back,you would have been old enough to make us even more proud. I’m hoping you’ll still realise you’re the youngest and not try to step over the lines. Last summer, you wanted to prove you had grown strong by grabbing my thighs and lifting me all the way up. I hope you use that energy to serve a good purpose. You’ve always been caring and have shared every little thing you had with those around you. I can’t wait to see you grow into that fine gentleman we all look forward to, embodying the qualities of a selfless and true Muslim brother. I have missed you so much and pray I see you again soon. When we do, I’m sure you’ll no longer go around town telling everyone ‘suma makk yi nyow nenj‘. Stay in school, stay focused, catch your dreams and let’s make Papa proud!