The Christmas Card

December 1995, Greece. As I looked out my kitchen window at the green groves of olive trees, I had an aching homesickness for a different picture of winter. I wanted to be in the Vermont Life calendar photo on my wall, breathing in the cold air outside a tiny wooden post office, its roof covered in fresh, deep snow and a red ribboned wreath on the wall frozen with icicles. Above the door was a small sign:

POST OFFICE. PLYMOUTH. Vt. 05056.

On an impulse I decided to write a Christmas card to the people who worked there. It lifted my spirits to do so, might lift theirs too and … continue

Fascinating Age

I do not believe in fate. But instinct told me not to return to a safe life in the UK after just 4 years in Greece, a month after my husband’s unexpected death.
I’d no job, no income, just a tiny widow’s pension; I’d a rented, picturesque old flat with few conveniences, but the best view in the world, the Acropolis; advice and support of family, friends and neighbours, the Greek social welfare system in action. “As long as I have a bowl of soup, so do you” said my brother in law.
There was no sudden revelation or turning point back in late 80s as I carefully put on … continue

Here is my SCREAM

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Even though my illness was discovered just in time, no words can describe the emotional, psychological, monetary, social, and physical challenges that the news brought me. I faced a very agonizing process overcoming it, and a difficult post-surgery recovery. I became a very dark person and from this experience, I became somewhat of a hermit.
I used writing to journal about my fears, doubts, angers, and stresses to alleviate my pain. One day I was reading through my notes, and I realized the power of my own writing. I had finally discovered my inner voice. I thought that if journaling … continue

Laurel

“Maybe after Christmas,” I replied, worried he couldn’t afford this long distance call from London.
“No, come now. I need you. You’ll see, we will look back on this as one of the best periods of our lives.”
I had great misgivings. There’d been a passionate affair in Athens but no future– better just cherish the memory of the handsome charming fellow who had challenged my thinking, made me laugh, made me feel precious. I should be realistic, stay in Chicago after traipsing abound Europe with a friend, and return to high school teaching, even if it meant barren spinsterhood. And breaking codes of behavior, living with him in prim … continue

To share is to be human

When I was 19, I drove across USA with my best friend Julie for just $30. We took what’s known as an auto drive-away, a form of car sharing – where you transport someone else’s car and just pay for the gas. We drove through the Grand Canyon singing, we saw coyotes and Joshua trees – the shared experience was unforgettable. What made this trip so special for me was that it was a journey of trust and sharing. We trusted that the car would make it, we trusted the guy who would join us on the road and we trusted each other. For me, trust and sharing come together. … continue

About maps and space

I am passionate about maps. This passion started when I was a kid. I spend hours and hours examining the maps I found in geography books, science-fiction novels of Jules Vernes, and bandes dessinees like Tintin. I had a particular interest in old world maps, like the one capturing the epic journey of Magellan. He enabled the first ever circumnavigation of the globe around 1521, and left us with the most complete record of our planet biodiversity in his logbook. Maps like these were my very first tools to explore the world, to reveal me the beauty, diversity but also fragility of our home planet, long before I could travel … continue

Sister to Sister

I was born and lived my early years in a rural set up before moving to the city. I was lucky enough to study and work. Most of my classmates dropped out of school, got married and never had a real chance to reach their potential. Some of them, like my cousin who was more like a twin sister to me, were succumbing due to reproductive health and rights gaps that women from low-income families have. 
People talk a lot about The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) these days, which shall provide a better life to everyone. But they don’t mean the same thing for everyone. When we talk about the … continue

How True Is Your Reality?

I was the dud in the family of two parents and four siblings. I was exempted from sport at school. I never learnt to dance. I had fits. My body went stiff after a buzzing in my ear and cramp in my leg. Then I lost consciousness. When I came round I vomited and had to stay in bed. My cousin Gary had electric shock treatment for epilepsy.
I went to school six kilometres away by taxi unable to cycle while my brother rode his bike there. One classmate cornered me and said ‘I know why you go to school by taxi! You have fits!’ I thought I would die … continue

My eyes are the colour of the sea

My eyes are the colour of the sea. Since I was a girl, I’ve believed that the ocean is inside me.
That my irises are made of glass, windows to the aqua and grey. Water lapping or smashing against the clear barrier that separates the inside from the outside.
I was ten years old when I regularly felt irrational worry. Like waves crashing over my head, obstructing my lungs. At night, I’d dream of gigantic walls of water coming toward me, smashing my face, filling my ears, sucking me up and spitting me out. Disorientated, I’d reach out in front and feel the sand in my hands and be hit … continue

I want to beat cancer

My name is Vedrana, my passion is my drive.
Early morning hospital visit. I kissed my grandma and her glassy eyes look right through me. The intimate moment is interrupted by her heavy and machine-assisted breathing. Third bad night. Doctors don’t know what’s going on. I feel alone and helpless. I’m 21 today, and my grandma has died an hour after my visit. She died of cancer. Cancer that was not diagnosed or detected before she collapsed a month ago….
It’s Friday afternoon, I am stopping by Chokladfabriken to get cointreau-chocolate balls, my sugary refuge. I’m on my way to the hospice. It is the last day of January, and … continue

Trust and Solidarity

When I arrived in Barcelona in 1999, in search for opportunities I could not find in my native Senegal, I was lonely and poor. But also resourceful and creative. I started thinking about how I could remedy the situation. And I remembered a model my mother and aunts used to be involved in Senegal. It was an informal savings model called a “tontine”. A tontine is set up by a group of people who pool money that is then handed out, in turns, to its members. For example, a group of 8 people will, at the first meeting, all put in Euro 100. One member is then nominated to receive continue

The desire to love and being loved

The music on the play list was one of my favorites. The irony of my life has been the inability to give words to emotions. And these songs gave my thoughts a voice. And also took me to the most beautiful world, miles away from the striking realities of mundane life and the household chores.
The battle between my logical mind and emotions never seemed to end. Being married for more than a decade, the marriage was crowded from day one. My husband always thought relations need a remote control to work. And the remote control was safely handed over to his mother and sisters. All this made the relationship … continue