Sunday, 12 April 2015

Plastic bag challenge

I know. It's a thing. Started by Greenpeace. A great initiative. Easy peasy. Read all about it here

Just do not use plastic  bags for a month.

All right. Done. I separate my garbage (and have done for years).
There is the green container for all vegetable peelings, trimmings from the garden, coffee filters, apple cores, tea get the drift.
We have the plastic hero bags for - well duuuuh - plastic.
Glass goes to the glass containers.
Paper is picked up by a local football club.

I am good at this. 

Eeeeeeeeeeemmmm. NO.
Turns out. I know nothing. Because if I did, I would not still be buying my fruit and veg in plastic bags. And - more often then not - the veg in question sealed in its own plastic wrapper.

Now, to be fair. I get a lot of use out of those little clear plastic bags. I re-use them as garbage bags. And hang them around my whole house. Tsssssssss!

Bread comes in a plastic bag.

Again to be fair. My dad uses the bread bags to pick up after the dogs on their walk. So re-use here too.

My favourite yoghurt comes in a plastic pot. I need two a week.
My cottage cheese. In plastic containers. Also two a week.
The loose veg has to be weighed. In a plastic bag.
The loose fruit has to be weighed. In a plastic bag.
My granola comes in a paper box. Inside the box is a plastic bag. For freshness.....
Milk - I use the little cartons, so easy to portion..... - tightly wrapped in plastic.
All the stuff I use in the shower and just after. Plastic bottles, pots and packaging.
Tissues come in a plastic packet.
Toilet paper comes in plastic.
Washing detergent. In plastic.
Fabric softener. Plastic.


That is not even the worst of it. No. I have a cat. The cat has a litter box. I clean that litter box everyday. And use a plastic bag to dispose her you know what! I even buy plastic sandwich bags just for that purpose.

I have to confess. I am a complete and utter criminal plastic user. I use loads and loads of the stuff. Every day. I am not at all environmentally friendly. Not even close.

So this is a real challenge. Follow along for the ride. And if you have any tips going. Please let me know.

I need all the help I can get!


Sunday, 22 March 2015

An ending

It seems these days, I only blog with bad news. I received a phone call yesterday. On the first day of spring of all days. I told you about Buba here. Everything I feared has come true.

On March 21st, Buba has died.

He deserved so much better and so much more. His gentle soul will be missed.

His uncle called Marie (the manager). He did not know what had happened. "Buba just died" is what he said. It is so sad. This is the really hard bit. After trying to save him, alerting the proper authorities, obeying the laws of the country, asking for help. All in vain. All lost.

I can only hope now that he is in a better place. Where he cannot be hurt any more. Where he will be safe and loved for eternity. 

Sunday, 30 November 2014


Buba is the sweetest, most loving child you will ever meet. Marie says that he is a true innocent in this world. He does not know how to hurt someone. There is only good in him.

Buba lives with his grandmother, his uncle and his wife and their children. Far away in Bessumbala. We are taking him home, so we can talk to his family.

Things are not going well at this house. Buba is not getting enough to eat. We have had to take him to hospital for malnutrition after the last holiday. It is obvious. Nobody is taking care of him. He is being neglected. Severely.

We stop to talk to visit Isatou first. They know Buba here too. They know how gentle he is. They also know how badly he is being treated. Isatou’s mother, in all her pain and misery, stops us before we leave. She brings a plate of food for Buba, to eat in the car. So he at least has a full belly before going home. This gesture almost reduced me to tears.

Buba eats. He sighs with the pure pleasure of the food. He holds Marie’s hand from time to time. Points at the plate, shows her the spoon. Does she see this plate full of food. Yes, she says. All for you. Enjoy.

When we get closer to his house, he becomes more and more agitated. He clicks his teeth continuously. He tries to get up and leave the car. Marie lets him sit down again and strokes his head. It is heartbreaking. If we could take him back to Second Home, we would do so in an instant. Unfortunately, that would be against the law. And impossible for us as well. We simply don’t have the means to offer full residential care.

When we pick up Buba’s uncle, Buba cringes and moves closer to Marie. We drive the short distance to their house. Greet the grandmother. Sit down and begin the slow process of getting to the point. He has a difficult life. His business is failing. There are lots of people to feed. We should give him money. Fix his motor bike.

We explain that we are there to help Buba. We talk about the fact that we need him to take Buba to the bus stop on Monday and collect him there on Friday. The bus stop is 50 yards away from the uncle’s shop. And maybe a mile away from his home. This proves tricky. The uncle rides his bicycle to work and as we can see, there is no way he can take Buba on the bicycle. Now, if we arranged for his motorcycle to be fixed………

This is the way the conversation ebbs and flows on and on. We should buy him a taxi, so he can have a new business and then we can pay him to take Buba to the bus stop. Or better yet. All the way to Senegambia. His grandmother is old, she cannot take care of Buba anymore. His wife has to visit people and cannot take care of Buba. To keep Buba safe, so he doesn’t wander off, he is forced to lock Buba in a room. It is after all in the child’s best interest. If we pay him, he is willing to feed Buba in the weekends. When we propose he gives Buba up completely, he is highly offended. Buba is his. We cannot take him.

It is highly frustrating and very painful. Especially after having seen Isatou and her family earlier.

We put the uncle on notice. We tell him he is being watched. That we will make sure that this situation is resolved. And we offer him solutions. All so Buba will be safe and happy. We are even willing to be nice to the uncle, hard as it is.

He is going to think about the options given to him. He will get back to us. We will wait for his decision. And we will watch him.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


We went to see Isatou. In her home in Tanji. We knew this would be a difficult visit. Isatou is getting worse. So much so, that she can no longer come to Second Home. She is now unable to eat by herself. Her mother puts the food in her mouth and then moves her jaw up and down to get Isatou to swallow the food. Her limbs are stiff and have formed weird angles. She lies on the bed. Her mother waves a piece of cloth around to keep the flies from landing on this precious child. She moves her eyes to say yes or no. And she smiles. Still, she smiles the most beautiful smile you will ever see.

We enter the house. Greet the mother, the grandmother and the great grandmother. Four generations of women in this small room. There is so much tension and pain in this room. In the middle of it all lies Isatou. She had her mother put on her most beautiful clothes, put on makeup and jewelry. Braid her hair. Visitors were coming. She smiles at us as we enter. We touch her, stroke her head, talk to her. Tell her how happy we are to see her.

We hand over the diapers that have been gifted to us, for Isatou. Tell Isatou’s mother Monday that these diapers where sent by Anke and Marte. She nods. It is clear that she has things to discuss. She has her bristles up.  

She starts speaking to Marie, in Mandinka. I can’t understand a word of it, but it is easy to realize what she is saying. She points at us. Those people. We should give her more, we should make sure that she can buy food and soap and send someone to help her take care of Isatou in the night.

All I can see is her desperation. Her pain. It is as if her whole body is crying out.
Please. My child. Help her. Heal her. Please, please, please. Anyone. Do something.

We let her talk. We listen. And then we explain that we are doing what we can. We cannot do more. We cannot heal her. Nothing can be done.

She knows this of course, she knows. And she cries. So we hold her. And try to put all our compassion and all our love in that hug, because that is all we can do for this mother, this grandmother and this great grandmother. And for that beautiful girl that was supposed to be the future.  

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The chicken with a choice

One of the first things I saw, while visiting the Second Home lodge,  was this scrawny little chicken roaming the place. Very confidently. It seemed at home there. Not afraid of the children, not afraid of the staff. Just very, very comfortable. Our manager Marie had this little chicks eye, wherever she went.

After laughing over this chicken catching flies (like a dog chasing its tail) and ants (nearly breaking its beak on the pavement) and sleeping on a self appointed bed (the handle bars of a wheelchair) for a couple of days, I asked Marie about this special chicken.

She happily shared the story. While picking up the brothers Ibrahim and Bakary at their home for the first time, their father gave Marie a chicken, as a thank you for the help Marie was offering him. Now this in itself is a very unusual thing and a reason for celebration. He was the first one of the parents to give us anything. Ever. He still gives Marie things for the home or the other children. Every single time the boys are picked up.

He told Marie the chicken was full of eggs. And surely enough. The chicken laid a large clutch of eggs at Second Home. They all hatched!

The little chicks and their mother where transported to a neighbours’ henhouse, to keep them safe. The children collect the eggs there each morning. Most of the chickens found the henhouse delightful and are very happy there.

Except one little chicken.

The morning after Marie brought the new chicks to the neighbors’  place, there it was. Outside of the door. Waiting for Marie. So, she fed the chicken some left over rice and took it back to the neighbours’ henhouse. The next day the chicken was waiting for her at the door again. She smiled and took the chicken back again.

This went on for four days. At which point, Marie gave in.

The little chicken is now very happily living at the lodge. Every morning Marie and the chicken have a conversation as the chicken has breakfast. The chicken is watching over Marie and Marie is watching over the chicken. It is part of the family now.

This chicken got to choose

Saturday, 30 August 2014

What would I say?

Late yesterday evening. Well, it was actually really early today. Anyway, I read this blog. Written by one of my very favourite bloggers out there. I read her blog every week.

In this one, however, she asked a question that had me pondering all night. Sign of some really good writing, right there. What would you want on your tombstone? One last chance to change the world in a sentence.

Good question!

So, I thought about it. Reading her blog and her reasons for stating her epitaph (you have to read her blog for yourself to find out, I don't want to spoil it for you) over and over again.

My initial reaction? I don't want to be buried. So, no grave and no stone. No. I want to be turned to ashes and then given to the wind. So I can tap people on the shoulder as a little flake of ash. Maybe share a bit of their lives. Driven by the wind I will be going places. That is what I want.


There is something like last words. A legacy. So the question remains.

What would I say to change the world?

Would I want something funny? Something like that guy from Disney? His stone reads:
"That's all folks" . 
Something that brings a smile to faces?
But what? Something like:
"Still quilting"
Somehow, it doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like a good use of those last words.
Something to sum up my life.....Well, that would still be the Still Quilting one.
No. A lesson than, for the future. Lessons learned in a (hopefully) long and wonderful life. Imagine?

And still, the question remains.

What would I say to change the world?

Something I believe in whole heartedly. Well, it is my legacy. So it would have to be right? But what?
People are essentially good.
You can be anything you want to be.
No. that would be an opening for a discussion. Which is fine in daily life, like Twitter.... Not as an epitaph.

The more I thought about it, the more it became clear to me that I already know what I want it to read. What I want people to know. The only thing that I can do for myself and wish upon others.

So are you ready?

Here it is:

Live lovingly!

If you live lovingly, it would be impossible to hate. It would be impossible to harm others. It would be the most normal thing in the world to help each other. To welcome the refugees. To tend the sick. To help the poor.

Now wouldn't that be an amazing legacy?

Lots of love,

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

And then what?

As of this Sunday it is now six months after the first stroke. Yes. That is right. I had a second one exactly three weeks later. Again on a Sunday. This time I went to hospital with an ambulance wailing loudly and flashing its lights. The procedure in the hospital was basically the same.

The first one shook me up badly. The second one scared the @#$% out of me.
The fear was so overwhelming that I could not move for weeks.

I was convinced that I would have another one, and then another one. Sundays were particularly scary. I was shaking uncontrollably over my entire body. So my family doctor gave me some tablets to calm down. Turns out, the shaking was a side effect of the medication I was given to lower my cholesterol. Funny that. I stopped taking them (on orders of a cardiologist) and a few days later I felt a lot better!

After the three weeks point had been met, I started to get a bit less scared. There where still a lot of tests to be done and doctors to see. So that was my start to the new year. Tests and hospital visits. They confirmed that I did have two strokes. Both had caused brain damage. As to the reason I had the strokes:

Nothing was found. 

I will say that again.

Nothing was found.

You would think that that is good news. And it is, obviously. But think about it. It happened out of the blue. Without any reason. So what would stop it happening again?

This is what it did to me. It made me fearful.

There were other things of course. My mouth was damaged, so I was biting my lip, cheek and tongue constantly. That got infected (since I didn't feel it, and did not pay attention to it). And the slurring of course. That too. And some difficulty swallowing. All that was corrected with speech therapy. Which is a lot more fun then you would think!

My arm was weaker. No feeling (but able to move, very important that) in my hand. That means I had to be careful with hot water and knives..... It is getting better.

My behaviour had completely changed. I became mean. Really mean. And I was combative. Fighting with everyone. That was one of the nice effects of the brain damage. Luckily, that has now gone. Completely. Well. I do have some sharper edges. But that is not a bad thing, most of the time.

I am still not smoking.

So. What did I do all that time? 
I quilted. What else would I be doing? I sat, and I quilted. It was good therapy for my hand too. Bonus!

So you can see the size. And the things I made people do for me! My poor dad and my neighbour......


In the hospital the second time, I started to put together the top for my mystery quilt. It doubled as a great big handkerchief. Soaking up all the tears nicely. Turns out, quilting helps with anxiety as well. I managed to put together the entire (2,50 x 2,50 meters) top in just six days. Yay for panic. I hand quilted it in six weeks. And now I sleep under it.

My cat likes helping me with hemming the binding.....

It is hard to get a good picture of such a large quilt!

I had loads of projects in between. A quilt for my other nephew, the new mystery, gifts (to make up for my behaviour). I will share all in the next weeks. I promise.

Till then.
Lots of love,