Tag Archives: People

The Beautiful Diversity of Being. Perspectives and (Analog) Nostalgia.

It’s all about perspective. If you lay on your back on the parched ground, you will see bright blue skies through the opening formed by your body in the tall elephant grass. It is yellowed and crispy. It does not move. You see, there is not a breath of wind. Air is vibrating in the heat adding shifting patterns to the sky.  And you think of dance. Relaxing, slow dance of the universe.

Traditional dancers in Zimbabwe early 1990s

If you sit up your perspective changes. You see a thick wall of dry grass. Covered in dust it is still standing, proudly reaching for the skies. More out of habit than anything else. Elephant herds have not yet passed by here, and the sun has not yet completely broken its back. But it knows from experience that not a drop of water will come down for a long time.

An elephant family crossing the Luangwa river, Zambia,  late 1980s

If you stand up in the midst of the dry grass your perspective will change yet again. You will see the river flowing by. Its speed has slowed down since the rainy season and its banks are higher now. But it still transports the lifesaving elixir to all in need, people and wildlife alike. 

Luangwa River, Zambia,  late 1980s

Beyond the river you can see an acacia tree silhouetted against the sky. And a lone giraffe seeking shelter from the burning sun. Still months to go before the heavens will open, making the rivers overflow their banks and bringing the savannah to life again. It will get worse before it gets better.

Giraffe in Kenya early 1990s

These are but a few perspectives on Africa. As seen from a small patch of tall elephant grass.

Before experiencing Africa in the late 1980s to mid 1990s I had no idea how much this continent would adjust my perspectives on life. And of those sharing my journey.

Fresh from the plane. Our first day in Africa (Lusaka, Zambia) late 1980s

I embarked on this journey to widen my horizons, and to add to my perspectives on life. I hoped to gain a better understanding of the human experience through immersing in cultures and traditions so different from mine. I wanted to experience the wild. And hopefully to do some good along the way, however insignificant.

Attending a traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia in 1990
Performing Lingala songs in Kampala, Uganda mid 1990s

Those were my hopes and expectations, but I had no idea of how much the rest of my life would be influenced by Africa. That I would feel the passions and pains of its people in my bones. Develop a lifelong love of the wild creatures roaming its savannahs. And come to embrace, at least partially, the differences and similarities of lives lived under the same sun in various corners of our precious earth.

A young dancer in Livingstone, Zambia, late 1980s

What I learned gave me a firm respect for life, and overlapping perspectives to observe it from.


Life is about following your path. Sometimes it may mean leaving behind the safe and familiar to experience the pulse of something new and different. To leap into the unknown in order to contribute, to learn, to discover and respect other perspectives than those one was born with. To see the beautiful diversity of being. aulikki-and-dylan-birthday-2016

Last week I grew a year older. An excellent opportunity to reflect on what has been. Thinking back to this meaningful passage in my life, I feel nostalgia. And tremendous gratitude for having had the privilege to peek into life on this old continent over several years in several countries. Despite some hazards and heartaches, my eight years in Africa rise to the surface among the good things that have enriched  my life experience. I appreciate the hardships and the blessings. Africa captured my heart.

On my birthday I found nostalgia right there in my lap, together with Dylan. And went to try on my Ethiopian national dress. It still fits.


Go Find Her

When you glance at her

hastily in the grocery line

or anywhere for that matter

it may seem to you

that she doesn’t want

to look anyone in the eye

and is even less inclined

to invite anyone into her world.

Proud loner she is

arrogant in her high hair

you may judge her

solely based on the cover

never asking

whether that’s really her

and never questioning

your own urge to judge.

 In all sincerity

truth to be told here

she is a free spirit

full of inner warmth

a true child of nature

caring and humble

a prism of light

in the heart of the universe.

You just need

to suspend your judgment

and go find her.

Just Asking the Wind

Wind, where are you

coming from and

what is your destination?

I wonder.

Who are you meeting

on your travels and

what are your observations?

I ponder.

Do you find kinship

love and compassion or

do you see wars and fear?

Or maybe a puzzle of it all?

I’d like to ask.

Do you see our souls

or only the cover we use

to hide our actual selves?

And what do you make of it all?

I’d like to know.

But before you respond,

I’d like to suggest that

you wipe out the hatred

so we’d have it no longer,

you sweep away the fear

so we can grow stronger,

you kindle the fire of love

as to give us a wonder

of a more peaceful world.

If I may suggest.

Up and Coming or Upside Down?

Most of us are interested in the topic of careers, from one angle or another. Most of us either have, will have or have had what we loosely call a career. Some of us pursue one particular career track, others “change careers” and end up working in several different fields, and some others yet have strings of jobs or occupations we engage in at different times of our lives.

What is a career anyway? In the past, the definition of a career used to be very clear. A career was a succession of jobs associated with more and more responsibility, and pay, in one particular field or specialization – and quite often in one company/organization. Today it is much more difficult to define a career. Very few people can count on long-term engagement in one company/organization, and far from all of us can count on a life-long career in our chosen field. The economic structure has changed, the job market has changed, and with them the concept of career has changed. Career is no longer seen as only moving upward, but now also includes moving sideways, thus broadening our competencies and experience. And sometimes it means completely changing the field where we work. Today, many young people have a difficulty to “start” or even envision a career because the opportunities just aren’t there waiting for them when they graduate.

I have never really had a personal career plan or pursued a career. But looking at it now, with the benefit of a longer term view, it certainly looks like a career . The truth, however,  is that it just happened to me, the work always found me. And most of the time,  I was humble about my so-called achievements.  When I was called to do something, I accepted it if I thought I could do it. And I am still reacting the same way. I credit much of that attitude to some of my early learning experiences and humbling “career highlights”.

The “highlight” I’m particularly thinking about happened many years ago, when I was a “green horn” in my first management job. I was very proud to have been asked to be one of five panelists at a huge two-day conference for very reputable doctors. Actually they were not “just” medical doctors, they were heads of specialty departments with responsibility both for patient care and management of the hospitals they worked in. I was to talk about strategic planning. And if I’m completely honest, it got to my head,  at least a little bit.

I took my place at the high podium, in the last chair to the right, just because I was the last speaker. Everything went fine, everyone delivered their prepared speeches before we were to have the Q & A session.  I also delivered my prepared speech very successfully. Then I sat down. Only that the chair had moved just an inch to the right – and it tipped over to the floor almost a foot below the podium when I sat on it. And down I went! My feet were suddenly pointing up, I was literally upside down on the floor. And this was a doctors’ conference. In a few seconds, I had a dozen doctors bending over me. The orthopedic specialists were elbowing themselves to me, was anything broken, how was my hip doing? They wanted to examine me right there in front of the conference audience of hundreds of other doctors! But I said I was fine. Firmly and several times. I really wasn’t. It was hurting everywhere,  but I felt nothing was broken. I would not take an ambulance ride out of the doctors’ conference. Just wouldn’t.

It was much easier to remain humble after that incidente. And later on I developed my skills on counseling and coaching others on their careers.  In a future post, I’ll come back on some of the advice I’ve been giving to my clients. But it’s been a good ride so far, I have to say. Being upside down when you are up and coming, is probably good for you.

Meeting Angus

We all know him (or her). Let’s call him Angus. We’ll see him in our rearview mirror, changing lanes and zigzagging his way from far back there on the road to our back bumper in a minute or two. He is stuck behind us and starts swaying from right to left in the lane to signal we’re going far too sloooow. We check and see we’re going almost 10 miles over the speed limit. No faster than that, we decide. Now Angus is gesticulating we don’t know how to use the gas pedal. His arm is out of the window and his finger goes round and round – hurry up will ya!

Next he moves into the turning lane – right turn only, with an arrow. Phew, he’ll be gone. The light turns red. We stop, and he stops too. Oh, at least he’s yielding to the traffic before turning right.  We wait. The light turns green and we start crossing the intersection. And wroooom, he cuts in right in front of us from the turning lane. We stand on the brakes not to hit him. That was close!  No, that was Angus. He’s in a hurry. Always.

Or we may meet Angus in the office. He’s booked back-to-back, has a demanding job. He’s always running. In meetings he talks fast, cuts us off and completes our sentences. Talk faster, moron, come to the point. One day we may see him running to the photocopiers on his way out of the office. His assistant has forgotten to copy something he will need for his next string of meetings.

But the big copier is busy, collating 25 copies of a 100 page report. And the small one is out-of-order. A white paper taped to it tells the story. And he loses it! Yells and screams #&%@ to his assistant and the whole office. This is everybody’s fault. Why is nothing working in this place?! His jaw is clenched and sweat drips from his upper lip. Angus is an overachiever, due for promotion next month. What would the company do without him? But he hasn’t learned to manage his stress, and he doesn’t have any patience to talk of. He definitely doesn’t like problems. Ever.

Or we may meet Angus on the big city street around lunch time. Running with his briefcase under one arm, and the other waiving for a taxi. Taxi! Prepared to fight for the first taxi that appears around the corner. Seeing him approaching, we have already given up the hope to meet our lunch date on time.

But suddenly he’s down! Holding his chest. Now we need to call 911. It looks like poor Angus is having a heart attack. We’re still there next to him when the ambulance arrives.  We say we don’t really know him, just been meeting him here and there. The paramedics work fast, he’s lifted into the ambulance. And he’s gone.

Or is he?

Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor?

Do I really have to love my neighbor? Or does shalt provide for exceptions? I beseech Thee. Just wondering.

What if a whole section of his fence falls down on my property? And he dost not repair it for months? And I canst not mow my lawn, but I durst not to tell him.

Or if his dog cometh to poop on my property through the gaping hole in the fence? Every single day. And he dost not bother to clean it up. Do I still need to love my neighbor? Or can I just love his faultless dog?

And what if he has barbecue parties every single weekend with music blaring outside until early morning? And his guests throw paper plates, foil pieces and chicken bones into my garden through the hole in the fence? The bones canst kill my little dog.

And what if his friends art parking their cars blocking my driveway? Do I still need to love my neighbor? No exceptions?

Or what if his house help cometh to pick flowers from my garden through the hole in the fence? And if he never returns my mail delivered to his mail box in error? Not even the tax return check? Still no exceptions?

If not, can Thou please tell him he shalt love me too? And explain what that means, in very clear terms. And instruct him how to repair the fence, and make it a bit higher.  Also, please teach him how to pick up dog poop and provide him with some bags. And while Thou are at it, please give him some flowers in his garden. And replace the mailman. Prithee.

Then, I promise Thee, I shalt love my neighbor.

(Inspired by actual events that happened to a friend)

Oh Dear!

When I hear this expression, I immediately think of the Queen, the Queen of England that is. Not that she ever said that to me personally, but in my minds ear I hear her saying that. In the special British royal way, and a little disapprovingly.

It’s funny how the language environments you live and work in, will affect you. At one time my accent was, or so all but my British friends told me, quite  close to a true British accent. At least for some words that my British colleagues used frequently – no need to repeat them here. But when I went to London, people asked me if I was from Germany or Holland. So much for acquiring a respectable accent.

Later on, my accent was influenced by both East African and South African English and by various Asian accents, and even by some Australian English through colleagues I worked with. So when I came to the US many years ago, people really couldn’t tell where my accent came from.  I had an accent, but it clearly wasn’t American. That was quite a fun discussion starter. And resulted in wild guesses all over the place.

But there were other funny things happening as well. For example, I remember when I dined out for the very first time in N.Y. At the end of the meal the waitress approached our table and I asked for a bill. She looked at me for a moment. Maybe she was thinking that I asked for a dollar bill from her?  Then she just said so you wanna have the check? Every one wants a check, right? Maybe there was a promotion for dining at the place, the food wasn’t that spectacular. So I nodded. She returned with a little tray, but there was no check, just my bill. So gradually I learned to ask for a check expecting to pay my bill, and not expecting to be paid.

By time I learned many other words that were different in American English. I now stand patiently in the line at the food store, but when I call any of my service providers, I know I’ll be placed in the que. Your place in the que is 16 and I know what that means. When I go to rent a car, I don’t as for a saloon, but for a sedan. Unless I am in Texas where they might have both the sedan and the saloon at the historic district car rental.  When going shopping I put my groceries in the trunk instead of the boot. And I drive home on a highway rather than on a motorway, being watchful for 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers and trucks instead of juggernauts and lorries. And when taking my dog out in the morning, I’m careful to walk on the sidewalk and not on the pavement. It’s a doddle when you know the difference.

So the old dog is learning to bark. The other day, for the first time ever, I even fooled a real Floridian. He asked me if I was from up north, meaning in the US. My 17 years “up north” while travelling across the globe and working with people from all corners of the world, had finally done it. So I said yesss! And then I heard, in my inner ear, the Queen of England exclaim Oh Dear. And this time she added goodness me.

Friendship Lost

I’m terribly sad, don’t want to be mad

we had it and now it’s gone.

There was joy, not just for a ploy

we had it and now it’s gone.

We used to talk, while taking a walk

we had it and now it’s gone.

Watching for mail, now is a fail

we had it and now it’s gone.

I had a friend, not only pretend

we had it and now it’s gone.

I’m sad, we’ve lost what we had.