Thanksgiving at the Premji household is an annual tradition in which we remember family and friends who are no longer with us, and for whose lives we give thanks. We hold a service at our Jamatkhana (house of prayer) and invite family and friends to a turkey dinner after. This year was no exception, as we had a large gathering of adults and children, who enjoyed each other’s company and the food, while the kids painted pumpkins in advance of Halloween.
We were especially pleased to have Sabrina with us this Thanksgiving, as she has been in Africa the last two years. Two years ago, she wrote an amazing blog that resonated with us. So, we thought that we would reprint it here, as the message remains true today:
A Day of Thanks.
Nashukuru. Definitely my most favourite word in Swahili. I love the way it rolls off your tongue – nashukuru. I love the way it instantly grounds you and puts life into perspective. It’s one of those words that cannot be said, but rather must be felt with every part of your being. Nashukuru means ‘I give thanks’ and is used to express gratitude for all that life has bestowed upon us. Since it’s Thanksgiving back home, it only seems fitting to give thanks, as per Premji-family tradition. Here is my own nashukuru list:
I am thankful for Elizabeth, a 4 year old, HIV positive girl I met at an orphanage just outside town. Elizabeth is living in a country where the stigma of HIV rings loudly. Without parents to provide school fees, it is unlikely she will have the chance to get a solid education. Uneducated, stigmatized and destitute – the harsh reality that likely awaits this beautiful, wide-eyed child. And yet as she played with my hair and told me of her dream to become a teacher when she grows up, she showed me the beauty and innocence of being a child. A time where anything is possible. I’m thankful for Elizabeth for reminding me why I do what I do. Nashukuru.
I am thankful for Chamtu, our office assistant, who scurries over to my desk every morning and says “Rafiki karibu chai”. Welcome to tea time. Chamtu has spent the last thirty years perfecting the art of chai making – he is indeed a master of the trade. In that moment, sipping away at arguably the world’s best cup of chai, I forget about skyrocketing TB cases, limited medical resources and the rising infant mortality rate. All the world’s problems seem to disappear with Chamtu’s chai. Nashukuru.
I am thankful for Tembo – my favourite place in the whole wide world.
I was recently involved in a focus group discussion conducted to understand the socio-economic and cultural barriers preventing pregnant women in rural villages from delivering in a health care facility. One young woman, not much older than me, poignantly described her experience delivering at home: “Wakati mwengine nyumba ya uzazi inashinda kutoka baada ya kuzaa, ikitokea hivyo tunafunga uzi uliounganishwa na jiwe katika kitovu ili itoke kwa haraka”. Translation: “Sometimes the placenta is retained in the womb so I tie the placenta using a string attached to a stone so that it can come out very fast”. I shake at the thought of this – removing your own placenta with a rock just after giving birth. I am grateful for having grown up in a country where access to quality health care is a basic right. Nashukuru.
I am thankful for George, a 103 year old tortoise who has taught me that time is really a very relative concept.
I am thankful for Mr. Agendo, who has converted his house and donated nearly all his income to the building of a primary school. His desire to give the children in his village a better life surmounts the financial constraints and emotional exhaustion of taking power into his own hands.
I am thankful for mosquito repellent (although I definitely got into a fight with a mosquito last week and lost terribly):
I am thankful for life sending such incredible people my way and within a matter of weeks, transforming them from friendquaintances into family: Jennifer, our house lady, whose face lights up when I return home from work in the evening; Anjale, our gatekeeper, who declares in his most well-rehearsed English, “I had a good day”, every time I see him (this often happens multiple times a day and it makes me smile every time!); Fatma and Supria, the askaris at my work, who prayed for me when I was sick in hospital with a salmonella parasite (who we affectionately named Pete the Parasite); Francis, the aerobics instructor, who has taught me how to shake my booty in ways I didn’t think were possible; and a crew of friends that would bend over backwards for each other.
Thanksgiving Day may be a foreign concept here, but I’m beginning to think that every day ought to be a day of thanks. In my world, every day is Nashukuru Day.
The above blog has been excerpted from Sabrina’s newly-published book: “Backwards & Forwards: My Journey Through Africa”, published by Lulu Books. To purchase a copy, please click here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/sabrina-natasha-premji/backwards-forwards/paperback/product-20395393.html
Nashukuru for being our daughter, Sabrina. You bring joy to our lives every day with your humanity, your gratitude, your perspectives, your adventure, your service and your humility. Nashukuru for being a gift to us. Nashukuru for bringing your stories to life.
Nashukuru for our son, Shayne Aman. You are smart, kind, loyal, playful, and you bring the fun factor into our lives (sorry that both your favourite teams — the Atlanta Braves and the Tennessee Titans — lost this weekend).
Nashukuru for our friends and family. Thank you for your encouragement, support, good wishes and, most importantly, your prayers — without which we wouldn’t have made it this far.
But mostly, Nashukuru to the brave men and women in the medical field who work tirelessly to find the next drug or treatment to heal the lives of the thousands of us who are affected by cancer and other diseases.
— Munira & Nagib.