Celebrating Josephine …

I had a message from Uganda today that Josephine died last night.

 

Neighbour helps Josephine wash her hands before we have afternoon tea.

Neighbour helps Josephine wash her hands before we have afternoon tea.

Josephine Apoo was a woman whom I met last time I was in Uganda in the remote community of Olimai.   No one knew exactly how old she was but she was well over 100, perhaps as old as 110 – remarkable in a country where the average  life expectancy is about 60.  “She was here  when people ran around wearing no clothes at all,” I was told.   The stuff of which  early African stories are made.

 

Her neighbours were always looking out for her.  She would join them for tea or a bit of food, walking with a stick from her house. We shared tea and some mango one bright October afternoon in 2013.

The last time I saw her she was heading home into a  brisk wind. A storm was threatening.  She was pretty sturdy against the wind.  The image of her heading into the wind, over 100 years old, still being strong and independent is one that I will never forget.

My friend in Uganda asked that I join them in celebrating her life.  Worth celebrating, indeed.  My condolences to her many loved ones in Olimai. I feel privileged to have met her.

 

Josephine - October 2013.   Died March 18, 2014 at well over 100 years old. Olimai, Uganda.

Josephine – October 2013. Died March 18, 2014 at well over 100 years old. Olimai, Uganda.

Time marches on…and so will I.

Today I celebrate my 65th birthday. Initially I put “turn” 65 but realized that this not only sounds like a child talking (“I’m five, turning six in August.”) but also the “turning” word signfies a change. Leaves “turn” brown and fall off the trees in the autumn. The weather “turns” colder. To every thing, there is a season.

I am really no different than I was yesterday. I haven’t “turned” at all.

This is the summer that I “turned” six. With my little brother, Bob.

For some reason there are certain birthdays that carry significance more than others. I remember “turning” 16 and being able to get my beginners driver’s license. It was a big deal. I felt like I had grown up. Little did I know. But it was a birthday to be anticipated with some excitement as it carried with it promises of increased rewards. Growth. Expansion. Benefits.

In a similar way, I recall being 21 and going to a bar and being able to legally order an alcoholic drink, actually hoping that someone would check my I.D.

I had no trouble with 40, 50 or even 60. I felt that these markers were middle-age and also had some benefits. Maturity, some financial security, established friendships and professional life and a certain degree of autonomy that only comes as you age.

There are some benefits, to being 65, I guess, but they seem to be overshadowed by the hovering grim reaper. I will save $1 when I go to the Screening Room for a movie. I will legally qualify for seniors discounts at several places. When I go to a Denny’s I can officially order the seniors meal – smaller, less salt, less fat, less everything. I hope they don’t offer me crayons. I rarely go to Denny’s so this won’t help me much.

I got to apply for the Old Age Security benefits – yes, Old Age. They will all be all clawed back so it makes me wonder if this is some sort of pretend advantage to ageing. I told someone this week that it was a bit like a dream. I am not “old”. When you apply for the Old Age Security the envelope you send the application in has “Old Age” printed on the front in big letters. A “rub-it-in” I thought. Or maybe they are trying to get people not to apply.

I got a couple of birthday cards this week – and some had the traditional “too many candles to blow out” message. That is just fine with me. I do have a sense of humour and can take some gentle ribbing about my advancing age. But I also got a card from the university saying that because I had reached 65 my dental insurance coverage would be cancelled at the end of this month. Happy Birthday. Gum your way into senility. Or maybe the plan was set up expecting most people over 65 to have long since lost their teeth. Whatever. It was a bit of a punishment for reaching this age.

Having said all this, I also recognize that I am very fortunate. I have good health, am able to play squash with people 20 years younger than I am, still can remember lines and do Shakespeare (or as in the Coarse Acting play I was just in, pseudo-Shakespeare). I have the flexibility to continue to work, but at my own pace, travel to visit friends when I want and enjoy visits (including a birthday dinner tonight) with my family which extends from my 92 year old Dad (what must that be like?) to my youngest of 5 grandchildren checking in at 1.

I will get over this psychological hump – probably by tomorrow – and settle in to my new age, recognizing that it is only a number and that I am no different than I was last week. A little older, a very little bit wiser and able to unabashedly get senior rates at Shopper’s Drug Mart on Thursdays!

Spring 2012 – Tofino B.C.

Hot off the press

Kennedy Onyango from Mbita Kenya, has sent along this photo of the celebrations happening now at the Kanyala Little Stars school on Rusinga Island. CanAssist and her supporters are most pleased to be a virtual part of this special Day for the school.

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Canada Day in Africa?

We may have been busy celebrating Canada Day in Canada but would you imagine that it is a special day in some African communities as well?

I received some great pictures from the Hope School in Kenya this week.  This school is the one I blogged about last week – the Canada Day Challenge.  I spoke with the Director of the school on the weekend and advised him of the generous donation from the Sasamat foundation towards classrooms at the school and he was ecstatic. 

“We will all celebrate Canada Day and the generosity of your Canadian friends at the school on Monday when I announce this gift to the staff and students.”

Children at the Hope School in Mbita Kenya, celebrating Canada Day 2012.

On Monday the children gathered to celebrate their Canadian sponsorship and express appreciation. With home-made signs they gathered for juice and acknowledgement of the help their Canadian friends have offered. 

But there are Canadian flags flying elsewhere in East Africa as well, thanks to CanAssist.  

A group of CanAssist supporters recently returned from a visit to Uganda and sent me photos of their trip. Included was one of the Canadian flag that flies proudly over the school compound.  When I visited the school last year, the principal laughed and said “That Canadian flag is made of nylon and it flies well in the breeze. Our Ugandan flags are heavier material and it takes much more wind to get them going.  So Canada is always brightly represented even when our flags are limp.”

The St Gorety Secondary School receives a Canadian Flag, and support for two new classrooms at the school.

When I visited the St Gorety High School in Nyatike District of Kenya last year, I took with me a flag for the school – one that was sent by Virginia Puddicombe, a teacher at KCVI in Kingston.  Virginia also sent along photographs and letters from Canadian students to their counterparts in Kenya and the Africans have sent greetings back.  A kind of pen-pal relationship has begun. We hope that, in this digital age, some face-to-face interaction can happen through Skype and the Internet.

While we proudly celebrate Canada here, there are people around the world who also pause to be grateful for the generosity and support that Canada and Canadians offer to them.  

Oh, Canada!

P.S.  We have raised about half the $2500 necessary to get the Sasamat promise of another $5000 for the Hope School. If you have not yet takent the opportunity to help us reach this goal in July, more information about how to contribute is available on the CanAssist Hope School web page.

The children at Hope School celebrate Canada Day in appreciation of the generosity of their friends in Canada who have supported the school.