Take Back PNG

As we immerse ourselves in local politics, let us not forget that we a part of a bigger world political system. We may want to believe we hold the reins to our political system, but we are in a school of small fish caught between the “clash of the titans” – the EU, USA, China, Japan. Is that reason enough for us to sit back and resign to our fate and go where the tsunami of world politics take us??

Absolutely not. Our smallness in the big pool also means we can go under the radar. Our lack of dependence in the big global machinery means,we are immune to some of the effects of global politics.

We may be small in the eyes of the world, but 8 million is big enough to sustain a local market. We should concentrate on our local markets.

As PM JM said in his address to the nation – let us build on our strengths. Let the islands specialize in island things, let the highlands specialize in highlands commodities and let the coastals do what they are good at.

If Kina fails us one of these days, we can always revert to the 50,000 year system that had always worked for us – the barter system. Specialization allowed barter to take place and that kept our traditional economies buoyant. Family, kinship, tribal alliances – those are our strength. We survived 50,000 years, we can go another 50,000 if only we believe in our selves and our systems to take care of us.

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We need to grow our population

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Bona or  food sharing by the Zia Tribe, Morobe. Papua New Guinea.

Survival is a numbers game. More people means more heads, more ideas, and a diverse and resilient gene pool. More numbers mean more work force, bigger markets, bigger army, bigger fire power. Louder protests. We increase our human potential when we increase our numbers.

Population growth is good for us. If you disagree then you have been brainwashed. Wake up. Think for yourself. Or else when you die, you will do so  without realizing your potential.

All the life-force you will ever need to live a meaningful life – you are born with all that intact.  You inherit your unique potential from two very resilient people – your mother and your father.  Combining this genetic mishmash with the unconscious piling of knowledge from the past that we call instinct. On top of that, the memory bank  inherited from past lives that is passed down through blood. All these are your latent potential.

But wait!  And because you are alive, everyday you can choose to add new tools to your expanding repertoire of arsenal by availing yourself to new experiences.

It has been proven: Your potential can take you from your backwoods, splitting firewood   to splitting genes in a cryonics laboratory. All you need is a razor sharp will.  Your will is your mental power to control and direct your thoughts and actions despite circumstances. If you will it, it will. If you will it not, it will not.

How is all this related to growing a population?

In statistics – the bigger the sample size, the more refined the result. Your potential can only be buoyed and lifted to the next level by sheer force of number. How? Because many people share your value system and history. The same reason why Miss PNG keeps winning the Miss Internet in the Pacific beauty pageant.

Many people means a bigger thinking and reasoning population.  In the face of competition, the life-forces  keep reinventing self to become  more and more  potent. 

In a bigger gene pool, the genetic variation is large. In a bigger genetic pool, we have increased buffer against erosion. In a bigger genetic pool, there is a bigger potential for everything . Why reduce our gene pool? For whose benefit?

The most quoted reason why we should not grow our population is that we do not have enough resources.

What resources? Land is not the problem, we have enough for 8.5 million people… compared to Bali and Sumatra and Lombok – all squashed on a pinhead.
Food? Everybody eats from a garden…. it is in our genes to work the land. Only lazy people do not work the land. Money? There will never be enough money ever, but we can learn to live within our means.

The problem is when we become dependent , our will power is dampened and our power for self-governance is eroded.  The ‘true  north’ of our Melanesian compass is despised as primitive and discarded  for the Eurocentric one. So we become like children, wanting to be like ‘them’, but not knowing how to do, must be led by the hand.

The irony: living a fulfilled life by trusting your instinct based on a value system and time-tested principals is not a new phenomena. In the days of old, our forefathers had principals in war as in peacetime. So which one is authentic for you – you decide.

The human potential aka the life-force shimmering under the surface ready is ready to be ignited into action. We need to take our potential back. A bigger population can withstand the erosion of our cultural pride.

What should we do?

First, we need a more smarter and radical leadership.  A leadership that is selfish about PNG. A leadership that is dependent yet independent. A leadership that has pride for country. A leadership that can see the potential that is locked in us. A leadership that understands that, all of us – all people of the world – red, yellow, white or black – we are sojourners:  here today and gone tomorrow.  We need a radical leadership that understands that all cultures and value systems are equal wherever God placed us.  We are built for our environment – like fish, we need water and we do not have to judge ourselves harshly for not becoming a tree climbing fish.

We need a leadership that uses their head and heart to make good long-term decisions for the country and not for their pockets for short-term gain.  Afterall, where in the world will you you say at the end of the day: I have come home; I am home – but here – where your umbilical cord is buried.

In a bigger population, competition will cull mediocrity and the cream of leadership will rise to the top.

Then we need education. Education that gives us pride  in the basics, the laws and principals that opens our eyes to our innate life-force. When we have acknowledged our innate power, then we will start living to our full potential. We will believe in ourselves and not be swayed by latest trends that go against our values.

A good education system provides a negative feedback loop to population growth. A good education  gives people options to do many things including the information to control their fertility.  In 2019, the guesstimate is that we have close to 10 million people – a badly educated 10 million people will become 20 million in the next 20 years. A radical education initiative can half  that predicted number.

In a smaller population, this idea will be scoffed and left to die. In a bigger population, with a bigger thinking capacity, this idea will be buoyed by debates and  criticism until it makes sense, to be embraced and acted upon. And when this idea become common knowledge, generations will just acquire it at birth. People will live it. There will be no need to justify it.

We need to take our country back. It is up to us to decide to grow our population or not and shouldn’t be determined by outsiders.

 

Trust yourself

When you are given an hammer, all you will see is nails, similarly, the more we talk negative, the more challenges we will see. We need a change of mindset, look for opportunities in the challenges and we will see more opportunities…and importantly, celebrate achievements, no matter how small, as great achievements in history are collection of all the little victories.

We are as good as anyone in the world – have faith in your ability to lead. If we don’t trust ourselves who else will? We have to stop playing victim and start taking control of our life. 

Everyone in the world is out to satisfy a need or a greed, even charity these days comes with a price tag. Therefore there is no guarantee for change if you put your hope on others – only we can help ourselves.

That is why one man with a clear vision to lead us is enough, but it will be an accelerated change if more man capture the vision. And the sign of a great leader is his/her ability to create visionaries.

 

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Midnight musing on purpose of life.

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Little dancer from Milne Bay Province

Have you ever felt lost in a place full of information, ever felt invisible in a place full of humans or being chained by invisible threads to a conscience?

Do you feel the danger of falling off the track of time when you stop to catch a breath. You stop and blink and time has moved on. Does it make you scared that time will pass you  so you struggle to keep up even if that  means crawling on all four.

Have you ever pondered the injustice of cortisol accumulating from all those harassment until the ulcer or cancer gobbles your life from the inside out.

Do you wonder to whose mad drumming we are marching to? Is it to Mother Nature? For to her, we are just animals – programmed to live long enough to perpetuate our genes. Survival of the fittest they say, it is my genes or no genes.

Or are we marching to a celestial beat that already has our lives programmed – like a pawn played in a chess match which you and I have not even agreed to play in the first place. Or is life and the standard thereof a result of energy fields swirling  around humans as they walk – the tendrils attracting or repelling.

How will we know if we have achieved our purpose for being the lucky sperm that won the lottery to life out of the other 30 million?

What is contentment? Is it in having enough to not live in need? Is it in the making and enjoying of family? Is it in collecting trophies that will rust in time and accolades that are so whimsical, they can be retracted tomorrow ? Or is contentment about remaining relevant in space and time?

There must be more to life than just putting a 8 hr day at the office, go home eat, sleep, wake-up and repeat the whole rat-race again for the rest of my days.  And when I try to assert my will to live consciously by my own plan, I get a push back. If life is like a flowing river, then my effort is like a roe trying to swim upstream.  Will I make it in time?

From this point of view, growing old is a curse. Experience opens up opportunities, but the body will grow old  – it will become feeble and unsteady and stiff. When the body approaches its use-by date,  it is better for the mind to follow suit. If not, then the mind will becomes a prisoner in the decaying carcass – a prisoner to the human ability to project memories of days gone, the ability to reminisce and have  regrets. With endless time and and a big canvas, the elderly sit vacant in their decaying shell as their memories torture their  daytime and keep them awake in the nighttime.

Young blood, strong bones, clear eyes and flexible joints  – source of envy – strut their stuff on their catwalk. In the era of technology and space travel and unlimited knowledge- will the young people of the future have a better life than ours??

I don’t think so. I believe the generations that are coming will go through the same motion as we are – just like how our mother and our grandmother did before us.

If humanity does not run itself to extinction,  then in thousands of years from now – regardless of whether the future generation migrate to the moon or Mars or stay in a much polluted earth – the remnants of our genes will go through the same motions – birth, work, work, work, regret, more regrets then death.

What is the purpose of life then? when I try to slow down to figure it out, the world keeps turning, I cannot think, I feel suffocated and I feel more lost than I first started this essay.

 

My Culture, my Pride.

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No-one can teach you how to be a Melanesian, the unspoken nuances we intuitively know – it is flowing in our blood, the blood of a proud people, warriors, headhunters , refined over thousands of years.

Our culture grounds us in our environment, for it was built for us and and suits us and it served our ancestors and is still serving us today. In our domain, among melanesians, we can maintain our own –  the Sepik is as good as New Ireland is as good as Enga and so on.

On a bigger stage, our culture is as good as any in the world. We can proudly take our stand with all other cultures in the tribal council. We are survivors, for we have survived as one nation made up of a thousand tribes.

But the fact of the matter is that the western culture has taken over the world. Their domination of the world is very thorough that all other cultures must be westernised to even register as a nation.

The western way of life has merits and demerits. The thrust of the western culture is to homogenise all cultures – from clothes to language to unit of transaction. Cultures are judged harshly for not fitting in. For instance, the nations of the world are ranked by the height of their stash of cash. If your stash is small, then you are a failed nation. But what is money to cultures who have no need for it? The western culture seeks to perpetuate their criteria –  a criteria shaped by their  value system.

The demise of our culture is perpetuated further when we  shun our culture as ‘kanaka’, because we have been brainwashed that ours is primitive and the glamour of the West is the standard.  In our  haste to fit in, we are found wanting because we will never become ‘westernised’ enough.

But the fact remains, our culture is our identification marker, suitable for us and it defines who we are. Our culture can only be as strong as we make it to be.

Our challenge now is to give prominence to our very own culture regardless of pressures from outside.

When people come to our land, let us show them that we are proud of our culture because it is our identity and it is worth the prominence of place we give it.

What legacy are we leaving for the grand kids?

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Mother and child fishing on the Lake Kutubu in the Foe and Fasu Tribal Land. Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

In our haste to pimp our short lives on earth, we have altered the value system and the balance that has preserved nature for millions of years. What kind of future do we envisage for the grand kids, when we race to build jungles of concrete, steel and glass? How are we helping the future when we create artificial food, color it and store them in cans? What indeed is the life we want for our descendants when our actions show that nature conservation is dirty and primitive and concrete jungles are modern and fashionable?

The human at home in his natural environment depended on nature and was sustained by  the resources in nature. From hardware needs, to medicine and food and spirituality – all from nature.

The economy of nature was based on sharing  surplus. The demarcation of roles and responsibilities and the specialization of clans and tribes nurtured the barter system. Man bartered for things he did not have with things he had in surplus. The specialisation and barter system sustained the subsistance economy.

The ability of human beings to control decay rates at whim testifies of advanced brain development. This power to stave off wrinkles, disease and death and create life in test tube has infused men with a sense of arrogance and reckless power. The ability to cement, brick, glass and plastic inventions into eternity makes him forget that life is fragile and breakable and that the human body starts dying as soon as we are born.

The base instinct of man is dictated by the selfish gene.  The selfish gene is an atheist, it has no empathy nor morals.  The selfish gene, drunk in his own powers is concerned with perpetuating itself at all cost. Self, family, clan and tribe – that is his circle of trust. The controls put in place by society and culture to ensure co’operation, exists only within his circle of trust. Anything outside is enemy.

In his greed, man has also hastened decay rate of nature.  Man is razing thousands of years of old forest in a blink of an eye and slaughtering octogenarian elephants and rhino to make earrings and bangles. Digging and drilling to pimp his short life – to dress it up – to make life as useful as a chimpanzee all decked out: alas;  only 1% genetic material separates humans from chimpanzees. We are but glorified chimps, so who are we trying to impress?

Environment conservation and environment annihilation are on the extreme ends of the continuum of human survival. In the course of living, we tread the fine line between overuse and sustainable use. Greed has blurred the line in favor of hoarding for one over preserving for all.

Humans need to put life and living into perspective,  to acknowledge that death is inevitable, that we are sojourners.  We came from dust, to dust we will return to become worm food that becomes soil that becomes tree food that feeds humans. What then is our legacy to our future? What kind of philosophy are we passing on.

It is indeed a paradox: the selfish gene is short-sighted – hoarding now by destroying the incubator that will grow more for tomorrow. While we hoard, there is zero guarantee that the generation of future will embrace the values and the treasures we hold dear today.

Instead of money or bottles or cans or plastic,  the best gift for the future may be  a value syatem. A value system that respects life. A value system that acknowledges human and nature interdependency.

We cannot control the future,  the best we can do is give the future a planet that is living. Give them elephants and zebra and birds of paradise. Give them forests and lakes and coral reefs.  But, plant a seed of respect for nature in their minds then give us a benefit of  a doubt that the seed will grow and one day  become a tree and bear fruit.

Conservation conversations are philosophical in nature. It is about the careful examination of the interdependence of man and nature. It requires that man identify and own his role in space and time. Indeed, conservation efforts require a sincere commitment to life and living where the only ego is the one that is happy to see life flourish.

 

Commemorating 500 years of reformation in Papua New Guinea

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Flags at the 3oth Synod at Heldsbach Finschhafen, Morobe Province.: Lutheran Church flag, the PNG flag and the Morobe Provincial flag. Photo Tanya Zeriga-ALone

This year 2017, marks the 500th year since Martin Luther, a German monk and doctor of theology was excommunicated from the Roman Church at that time for suggesting changes  based on the Bible. Through study, Martin Luther was convicted by these four gospel truths: Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone: salvation is a free gift from God  given to those who seek after it  in faith and cannot be bought or achieved through good works.

Martin Luther’s purpose was clear – to correct the erroneous teachings on sin  and salvation and to  take believers back to a faith as was intended by  the forerunners of the Christian faith.

Martin Luther’s followers are called the Lutherans. Protestantism was born from this action in history. Protestants believe that only Jesus is the head of the church.

The Lutheran Church was in existence for over 3 centuries by the time it arrived on the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the late 1800.  PNG was a dark and unknown place at the turn of the century – tribal fights, sorcery, payback killing were common. Isolated in their own little worlds, Papua New Guineans were animists, believing that spirits controlled their life.

The gospel arrived with Reverend Johannes Flierl, a Neuendettelsau Missionary from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany.  The gospel in PNG began in the Finschhafen and Madang area and spread into the rest of Papua New Guinea. As it was in the days of Luther, the gospel liberated people from the fear of the unknown and freed multitudes from the power of spirits and death.

The pioneer missionaries both local and expatriates paid a price for the freedom we enjoy today. In those early days, missionaries risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. They crossed tribal boundaries, brokered peace between tribal enemies.  These pioneers also uprooted their families and moved them far from the security of kinsman – all for the sake of the gospel.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG (ELCPNG) of the 21st century grew out from the work of the Neuendettelsau and Rhenish Missionaries from Gemany. When the World War II reached the Pacific in 1942, most of the early German missionaries were repatriated. After the war, the Lutheran Churches of Australia and America were tasked to reconstruct the church, which the parties did together as the Lutheran Missions New Guinea.

It was in 1956 that the indigenous church was formed and called the Evangelical Church of New Guinea (ELCONG). The first Bishop was Rev. Kuder from the American Lutheran Church.

It was in the 1970s, that the ELCONG changed to ELCPNG. The first indigenous bishop was elected in 1973 and since then, the church has been run by the nationals. At the 500th year of reformation, the ELCPNG has had 30 synods.  The current ELCPNG Bishop is Reverand Jack Urame.

Earlier this year, the ELCPNG celebrated 131 years off Lutheranism. The ELCPNG is the second most popular church in PNG with 1.2 million members out of the 8 million population.  The ELCPNG is made up of 17 districts. These districts are further grouped into circuits, parishes and congregations is the lowest church unit recognised by the church.

The freedom to worship we enjoy today  is because this reformer broke the chains of oppression that kept people in slavery for lack of access to the truth. The message of hope and freedom in this act of reformation is timeless – it was real then, as it is now.

Papua New Guinea’s position in the reformation history is similar to the parable of the Labourers in Matthew 20: 1-16. We are like the worker who was recruited at 4pm to work in the garden only to get paid same wage as the man who started work at 7am. We are privileged to be born at a time when the gospel is free. We have not sacrificed for the gospel, no blood was shed like in the days of Luther.

The gospel may be free, but we are faced with new challenges. In this age and time, the church is under pressure to conform to the standards of the world.  Fatigue has also set in. As one of the last workers in the field, maybe we are called to re-evangelise the church. Maybe with our youthful exuberance, we are called to keep the 500 year old flame alive into the future.  May we seek Gods will about our place in the reformation story.

As we celebrate this momentous occasion let us remember that reformation is not just an historical event rather it is process of continually walking in faith according to the word of God. Reformation in this day and time is about testing passing trends against the timeless wisdom in the bible. We as individuals as well as the body of ELCPNG must step up and take our place in the reformation story.

Amen.

 

..on educating girls

DSC_0240When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.

When you give opportunities to a girl to evolve to something higher than her current state, she inevitably raises everyone around her to that new standard.

Her man or any potential male out there wanting her attention has to raise their standard to meet hers.Same for other women in her life, be it girlfriends, aunties, mothers. And when she has her own family she raises them up to the standard she has been exposed to. She has become a role model.

Change happens just like that – one female at a time and when more women get an education, it totally lifts up our game.

If you have a daughter,niece, granddaughter – champion her education and personal development. Your investment will not be wasted.

We Need Champions

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Paradise High School Graduates 2014

We need champions and role models in our society today.

Most of us are first generation since PNG gained independence. We are the leading edge of change. We are the cutting edge in our journey from Stone Age to colonialism to independence to integration into this post-modern era. The future generation depends on our example. What examples are we setting?

It is easy to go with the flow, to stick with the familiar because the familiar is easy and requires no effort to maintain. Mediocrity requires no sacrifice.

Growing beyond the familiar takes hard work. The mental and emotional effort is as taxing as physical labour. Effort that makes you question yourself to reveal the authentic you; effort that makes you push back the doubts that you may fail and to embrace the chance that you may just make it.

Growing beyond the normal requires you to turn up when all you want to do is go back to sleep.  Growing means believing in the possibility of your dream, when other disbelieve you. It takes guts to push against the world to make space for your dream.

You fail but you keep striving because you know who you are and you believe in your dream and you know that only you can make that dream come alive. It is a lonely road, but, such is the price for the beauty of your dreams.

The world is looking for champions. Champions that keep breaking the glass ceiling of mediocrity to reach for the stars that beckon whoever wants to go for that wild ride. After all, your destiny is what you make it.

The future is watching. Their possibilities are tied to our destinies. We stood on shoulders of champions, the future need us to lift them up to see possibilities beyond our destinies.  Can we lift them any higher than ourselves?

 

 

Finding myself in history

If she were alive, she would be 102 years old this year.   The year on her graveyard marker says that she was born in 1915. I imagine a tiny babe swaddled in bark cape and laid on a bed of moss.

Other aspects of her life from 1915 remain a mystery to me.  I cannot begin to picture her growing up, the games she played, her duties, her diet, her adornment and the other details.

According to history books, the turn of the century was the dark ages for PNG.

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Zia Warriors early 1900s. Source: Lutheran Church Archives

Professor John Waiko, one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) educated elite – a Binandere man, describes warfare, cannibalism, payback killing, and sorcery in my part of the world around the time my great grandmother was born.

My people, the Zia tribe held prime land along the Waria river, Morobe South Coast. My people were fierce warriors who defended our land from other hostile tribes.  These other tribes include the Binandere, the Mawae, The Suena and the Yekora.

A few decades earlier, the German and the British and Dutch, oblivious to the existence of the thousands of tribes, had drawn lines all over the island of New Guinea and were enforcing their colonial governments and disbanding “hausmans”  aka tribal parliaments.

The “hausman” that could not fight their own battles were looking for allies. That included accepting the colonial government in a hope, the guns of the colonial masters could help them fight their battles. The self-sufficient tribes initially rejected all colonial advances. But eventually succumb to the colonial powers.

While she played with her toes and looked into the sky from the comfort of her “bilum”, I wonder if my great grandmother saw aeroplanes because the airplane was already invented before she was born. Kodak products were routinely used to take color “snap shots”. The air condition, the escalator and the roller coaster were features already in existence in the West since the early 1900.

Around the time, she was born, Albert Einstein had completed his paper on the General Theory of Relativity.  And Adolf Hitler was a young man – a soldier in the World War I.  Micheal Leahy was a teenager: Leahy and his team of explorers and prospectors would be responsible for opening up the highlands to the world in the 1930s.

The West had transitioned from the industrial revolution and was at the end of the modern era around the time my great grandmother was born.

But she know that?  Did she care?

Two things of significance happened that seem to have shaped PNG.

First, in less than 100 years, PNG has been forced to assimilate a new culture – the culture of our colonists. We were forced to adopt the new way of living without understanding how the Western culture was shaped.

Our rank in the world near the bottom of the pile is based on judgement meted us on criteria we have had less than 100 years to adopt  – criteria which took hundreds of years to develop.

Second, the power centers of our tribes aka the ”hausman” were disbanded. The dissolution of the “hausman“ resulted in a loss of power and education for our warriors. Our warriors lost the pride to defend our ways and our land and resources.  And what more, our men lost their potency because without a “hausman” they moved into women’s house too soon.

According to my elders, the death penalty was the order of the day when the “hausman” ruled. There was no individual rights, there were only clan and tribal rights. Your allegiance was to your clan and tribe. Outside of it was death.

It was rough and dirty, but order was maintained. Births, initiations, adulthood, marriages, death all had a place and were celebrated. Diseases, deaths, and uncertainty were all part of life.

Fast forward time to 2017, PNG a construct of colonialism, has survived as a united nation for 41 years. But what identity are we projecting to the other nations of the world? Are we a united nation of warrior tribes or are we a tribe of weaklings looking for allies?

All the power we need to take back our pride as warrior nations is inside us. Just take a look in the mirror. Unfortunately, all mirrors have a perspective. All the colonial mirrors need to be smashed and ground to dust, same for religion, and for aspects of the outside cultures that bring more confusion than solutions.

What then, should be our true reflection? Look beyond your mother and your grandmother (or your patriline). Seek the image of your great grandparents and back.  Consider the stock you are born from.  Consider your tribe of proud warriors who fought all their battles for survival. Consider their honour and pride and resilience.

Where we are right now in space and time is a snapshot of the long walk our people have been on since our ancestors became custodians of the land we call New Guinea.  The walk will continue even after we are dead and gone. The lives and times of our ancestors is our history, and in time we will also become history and our descendants will judge us accordingly.

They will judge us for our betrayal to our warrior way of life. Indeed, we erred when we accepted as time zero the time Whitman stepped on our land; we erred when we accepted the colonial story about us as our story; we erred when we accepted that we are lesser people because it is a challenge to fit into an alien culture. We think that here and now is play school and that real life is after we have mastered a culture. While we tarry, our story is being written.

Cultures die when we lose pride in the ways of our ancestors. Cultures die when we undermine what we are and give up our place in time.  When culture dies, we lose our land, we lose our families and we lose ourselves.

Change is the only constant in the world and we will eventually evolve, but it should be on our terms.   Given so much that has happened, do we have time to salvage our history and pride?

My oral history takes me about 300 years back into my matriline. I am taken back 300 years of resilience. When I put my life into perspective, the 102 years since my great grandmother seem like yesterday and my 40 years of living a blink of an eye.

I am the fourth generation since my great grandmother, but the first generation since PNG became a nation in 1975.    The realization that I am as old as the history of my tribe but also as young as my nation is liberating.  I have the ancient wisdom of my land in my blood, but I am also educated in the ways of the West and can participate in the technologically advanced life in this post-modern era.

The life we are living is not our own, we are to defend the legacy of our ancestors and pass that spirit on to our descendants. Are we living up to our warrior spirit? If not, then, go home and dig your roots beyond your great grandmother and put yourself in perspective. Only then, can you set your priorities going forward.

When you find your place in history, ensure that this becomes the legacy your next generation builds on.

matriach

The Matriarch 1915 – 1970

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