Perhaps an inappropriate topic at this time, between lockdowns and travel bans. However, I was inspired to write about it during my most recent birthday. You might think that a birthday is not so inspiring, and certainly not if you are having one for the 65th time! But I was very happy to receive birthday wishes from around the world. Literally. From people living between Hong Kong, New Zealand and Canada, from a long list of countries in northern Europe and southern Africa and in between. Much appreciated!
On days like that, and also at this time of the year, it’s normal to think back over the year that has gone by. It’s been a difficult year for many people, in many ways similar to the year before. There is nobody on this planet who needs any explanation about that. High time to focus on what makes us happy and to illustrate with a few photographic memories:
That second image doesn’t shout “happiness”, does it? But that table was the centre of our home and our life in Eindhoven, during the years that we lived there. (And for the families who subsequently rented the house from us.) We are currently selling the house and had to dispose of a great deal of furniture. Much of it not very valuable, like these chairs from IKEA, for instance. (Perfectly serviceable, but nevertheless not even the local charity shop wanted them for free! They did take the table.) Why did I include that picture here? Well, I can remember many happy hours sitting around that table, with family and friends. Lots of dinners, card and board games, discussions and even arguments. I’m grateful for all those memories over the years. And I hope that whoever uses that table in future, will feel the same way.
My next image was taken many years earlier, around a very different table on a beach plot in Kokrobite, Ghana. Three of the reasons for our happiness are on display there, one of whom was celebrating his birthday (a few days early, I see). Always when I look back at old pictures like this, I remember our feelings on the day and realise that none of us had any idea how our lives would play out over the years to come. Fortunately, life has generally been good to us.
Our current happiness is dented by the fact that one of those youngsters is away in Hong Kong and we haven’t been able to visit him for more than two years now. Fortunately, we have been able to visit the other two a few times. We’ve even helped one of them with demolishing parts of their new house (and helped with a bit of construction, too). The world is these days very concerned about child labour, but there is also the concept of “parent and sibling labour”… where one invites family for the fun of wielding hammers and wearing dust masks. Naturally, it was great to be involved and to help a little bit.
Back here in Zambia, we are very happy, although it would have been better if we’d been closer to our kids and their partners. But that is just how our lives are, I guess.
Back in September, I did some project work that required a trip to Cameroon. To Bertoua, to be precise. Now I know that flying from Lusaka to Johannesburg and then to Addis Ababa and then to Yaounde, and then to drive a few hours to a little hotel in a provincial town, may not be everybody’s idea of a positive experience. But it was my first time in that country, I reconnected with an old friend/colleague, we enjoyed delivering a few days of training on geology, exploration and mining topics, and we met some new people. And enjoyed some good beer. All of which was great. The only downside was the need to have PCR tests for covid a few times, but we are all getting used to that already. (I must admit that I’m always very happy when the results are negative!)
You will have noticed that this post has been a bit different from my usual happy-snappy-travelogue style. I wanted to share a few glances into our lives over the past years. Years during which we met many people, built new friendships, and sadly also lost some loved ones and relationships. But on balance, they have been happy years. I risk sounding like a preacher, but I believe that happiness is not just something that comes your way, while you are lying on a beach somewhere. To a very large extent, it’s a state of mind and we create it ourselves. Not only by thinking positive thoughts, but also by what we do – by making an effort to keep others happy. And this doesn’t even have to be some intentional effort, it’s just a way of life, I think.
Finally, as we approach Christmas and the end of 2021, We would like to wish you all a very happy time, in the company of as many family and friends as possible, and a happy and healthy 2022!