Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Change? Yes, I can!

For the past months, I've been changing some crucial things in my life. I've felt the need to write about it but always end up just making a note in my diary and changing my status on facebook to involve everyone in my development. Someone said to me recently that I apparently post everything in my status on facebook (in an annoyed tone of voice).

So now I feel selfconscious - but at the same time, I really want to share some of the greatest things in my life with people, both friends and acquaintances. I always have the fear of 'tooting my own horn' a little too loud but this morning I realised that I never had any thoughts about what might actually happen IF I tooted too loud... What would happen is probably what usually happens; those who envy the quality or performance that spurs the horn-tooting - because they find it difficult to do the same in their own lives - will comment critically (or talk behind your back about it).

An example: I achieve funding around 530.000 Euros for projects concerning repatriation in my department. I rejoice. I tell my colleague who is project coordinator in the department - her first comment: "We don't have office space for all the people, you'll have to hire!"

Those who feel insecure about themselves and haven't experienced the same success will probably think you're bragging (instead of sharing the positive vibes which is usually the case) and hence, that you think you're BETTER than everyone else because of your performance. This is actually the dilemma that bothers me the most - because I know this is how people react, and I recent them for it. I recent all those incapable of taking part in someone else's success. ESPECIALLY when that someone really wants to share.

Well, here's an idea - I AM better than everyone else, better at BEING ME! What tragedy if this was not the case!

So, I've changed lately. I moved to Copenhagen with Jesper last year around this time and it's been an incredible year of achievements for me. I've landed a permanent position in the NGO, I always dreamed of working for. I've created results in that position which has given me opportunities out of the ordinary. These are achievements I've earned through hard work - just like everyone else who achieve their goals.

I've lost weight, started aikido training, am a licensed MC driver with her own bike (thank you very much) and started track training for the a company event on September 2nd. Me who always convinced myself that I couldn't do any of those things! No physical activity ("it's just the way my body works"), no challenges too difficult ("I am the way I am and it's just the way things are"), no partaking in big events where everyone does sports ("I prefer doing things on my own, that's just the way I am").

But it's not, and they were poor excuses all along.

I've fought and been medicated through a minor depression for a year now, conquering all my demons through thick and thin AND taken control of the physical side of my life. Most people say "you?! Really?!" and look surprised. But that is me - too.

So, I've changed - not so much in my performances but in the way I take them on. No more excuses - no more limitations created in my mind. And I feel great (most of the time).

Yes, I can change. So can you. So can we all. It's just a matter of perspective - and eliminating the fear of sharing your good results. So, I insist on tooting my own horn every single time there is a good reason for it.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


I went to the basement to hang some laundry that had just finished spinning in the machine. Tough job. The textiles were still lukewarm. As I reached up to hang the large white cloth on the laundry strings (?), I realised that this is the first time I've washed the bedlinen that was my grandmother's.

I suddenly realised that I'd washed away the smell of safety and known places, of a human I always knew, all my life. It felt morbid in the beginning, when I first put the linen on the bed - but soon the smell lulled me to sleep so peacefully every night that I didn't stop to think or analyse it. I just loved it.

Now the linen smells like me, the detergent I've used sine I moved away from home and a little bit of cold basement. Does that mean that the security I used to extract from the 'old' smell, I have to find that somewhere else?

Some days ago, I flicked through my contacts on my phone to call my parents. I stopped frozen at 'mormor'. It hit me like a ton of something really heartbreaking that I will never try to avoid picking up when it's her again, I will never have to lie myself busy just to hear her say 'don't let me disturb' - I will never have that warm feeling in my stomach when I hang up after she's told me of her girlfriends, her dinner with the Church Crew, her worries of not being able to sleep for 'all them thoughts'. That special feeling I get when I'm there for someone; when I ignore most of what they tell me (because it's something I know nothing of) and focus on the fact that they're here to tell me. She's gone.

My grandmother. I had so many many arguments with her. I had so many thoughts and fights with her. I had so many laughs with her and about her. But mostly - she knew me, I knew her - all my life. And now she's gone.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

An urge to speak

I am sat in front of my computer at home, ready to work - but still distracted.

Yesterday, a social worker in Holstebro (incidentally where Jesper lived last year) was killed by one of clients. Stabbed numerous times in the chest and face. After getting out of her car to go to work in the morning. The supposed perpetrator was arrested an hour later - after she named him while struggling for her life in the ambulance. Apparently, he was angry about a job training arrangement that had been put up for him.

My stomach is one big knot from thinking about this situation.

It's absolutely catastrophic that Birhte was killed for carrying out the paragraphs of the law. A law which many social workers disagree with in the first place.

It's devastating that a young man - 28-years old - will turn to such measures because the system has failed him. He is clearly not well.

It's beyond tragedy that this young man seems to have been a Somali refugee.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rest in peace, mormor

Yesterday, my grandmother died. She left this world in her sleep during the night of the 26th of December. It naturally brings many emotions and thoughts about her life and the relationship she had with the ones close to her. I know that it can be difficult to learn from other people's mistakes - but the love I had for my grandmother bids me to remember hers so as to not repeat them.

She had a wicked sense of humour, especially at the end when she let go of her 'formal appearance' and cracked jokes about the end of lives and that final destination, no one knows about.

She cared for her family although not in an obvious way. Over the years, I finally learned how to extract the love from her sharp tongue - and realised how much I've come to be like her in that way. I promised myself - and her in the end - not to push people away with my sarcasm and need to be in control of the situation anymore.

Early on, she and others have taught me that 'the world is out to get you'. She realised late in life, and passed it on to me, that it is not so. She desperately wanted a close relationship with her children and grandchildren right up to the end. She surrendered herself to the care of those offering it to her - something she has never done before. She used to feel defeated if she was in need of help or assistance, and she would never reveal her weaknesses to her children. In her last years, she confided some of them to me - and I am grateful to her for it.

Because she showed me how loved one can feel, when you share your pain and frustration with someone who loves you. When you are received by someone you were trying to keep your cools with.

She was herself the last time I saw her. She cracked jokes and told stories - albeit stories that were not true - and basked in the attention she got. She showed great affection and talked of things, we never mentioned before she got sick. Great grandchildren. Sorrows of times past. Love and regrets.

She was ready to leave when she did. Maybe we were not entirely ready to let her go, but I know I did. I am proud of her fight and the vulnerability she showed me in the end, and I vow to myself that I will remember her 87-year-old revelations in my 30th year.

I know you will rest in peace - say hi to grandpa for me. I love you both dearly.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

So what about them mountains, Dino...?

When you look out of the window of Dino's old Mercedes, fogged thouroughly by cigarette smoke and devastating memories, you are naturally immersed into self-reflection and philosophical conundrums.

Many times I nearly cried during my 14-hour day with Dino, a veteran and torture survivor of the Balkan wars of the 1990ies. He has become a dear friend to me even though 22 years and a bottomless pool of events and actions creates a distance in life experiences. His likeness with me moves me - the way we understand each other and can finish sentences when they haven't even been uttered. Thee silence between makes my soul ache for him because only then will he expose the scars of his trauma and true age - closer to 150 than 50.

Every 15 minutes of silence would be broken up by Dino exclaiming 'Hej Sara!! Hvordan går det??' Ín the beginning I felt obligated to come back into the realm of the car, but soon realised that this was Dino's way of pulling himself back into this world rather than disappearing into the past. Thus, I'd respect his wish and answer 'Hej Dino!! Det går fint, hvad med dig?'

The one thing I absolutely hate in this world is loneliness. I hate when I feel lonely - I hate when I meet people who are lonely. But in these past months, working with the traumatised refugees of Bosnia, I've had to learn that loneliness is a part of the human condition. That some lonelinesses are existential and impossible to break apart and vanquish. It is hard for me to accept this fact, and I - you know me - just really wanted to hug Dino, behind the wheel, staring into space, the lines on his face more vivid than ever, the scars of torture screaming at me. I wanted to make sure he feels remembered and important and knows how fantastic he is - for he's gonee through, for what he was and what he has become.

Outside the car, ruins of houses stare at me blankly. Like big empty eye sockets, the window panes gives you a sense of death, despair and hopelessness - there's nothing to do about the past, these houses are not worth saving. So my mind races an analogy to the people I see in the streets here in Bosnia - are their souls liek empty eye sockets, showing you the scars? No. Is life here predetermined by the war? Yes and no - the financial situation is dependent on the war, but the everyday life does not include it as a meaningful factor.

Dino tells me, as we pass by his childhood home, that he was the one to introduce Janis Joplin, Hendrix and all them to Prozor. He would hold disco nights in his house, on the 1st floor, bringing people together, bringing the world outside the Balkanns to them. He had long hair back in the day. I laugh. Dino, the rock'n'roller. Not hard to imagine - even if it seems like a different lifetime.

Dino's aunt, only known to me as Tetka (aunt), prepared a Bajram meal for us in her home. She is beautiful beyond compare, at 81 surrounding herself with an admirable air of calm and caring. I loved her at first sight. Dino calls her his best friend, and I'm sure this is an objective fact of the world. She is a best friend.

And as we drive through the night, towards Sarajevo again, I try to fit the day's experiences into my pool of life lessons. How lucky am I to have met Dino. He shows me all sides of humanity, struggles to keep himself on the right track, after having his identity and life force broken by torturers. His existence is driven by the need to feel human, his thoughts circling around the fact that someone tried to take that away from himm. A professor. A wise man. Broken and angry at himself for not having the strength to develop his intellectual skills after the war. I love him so, my friend Dino.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

On the radio

Sunday in Valby. View to the pear tree of my neighbour, thoughts running around in my head, radio on about the international courts andreconciliation after genocides, unfinished letter for grandma on my desk.

I have to say, I've been blessed. I have to remind myself that even if my friends and acquaintances are not as verbal about being blessed as I am - it's okay to express it. I've been fortunate enough to be in this life, have and make these opportunities, know and love these humans - and endowed with a gift that allows me to describe my happiness, my love, my passion and strength with words that anyone can understand.

I am happy. I don't think I ever knew what it would be like to achieve personal goals, to be able to do what I'm good at and get paid for it - and to have someone to share my dreams, joys and sorrows with. I am blessed. Truly.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Favourite things

(Coffees with) Jesper

Laughs with the ladies

And parents

I am the one to catch

Last week, I spent some hours securing the home of a single mother and her three children. She had failed to pay her rent on time and had received an eviction notice.

The week before, I made sure that a single mother of 8 did not have her power cut off due to unpaid bills.

This week, I went to the bank with a Lebanese woman who has never in her life had control of her own funds, nor paid a simple phone bill. It is a teaching experience.

Late Thursday afternoon, I had a talk with a woman who came to Denmark from Bosnia 15 years ago. She had, during the war, been held captive by a Serbian officer and abused over a period of 14 days. After 15 years and no treatment for her trauma and PTSD, she's run down and desperately seeking an outlet. I listen.

Friday morning, I had an appointment with woman from Kosovo whose husband has been denied residence permit in Denmark due to lack of 'family ties'. The authorities claim that he, his wife and their 2-year-old may as well create a life and a future for themselves in Kosovo. She is pregnant and depserate, as she fears the life she will lead in the future.

On the same day, I helped an Afghani woman who is about to hand in her application for Danish citizenship. One of the conditions for granting it is that the subject has been 'self-sufficient' for 5 years prior to the application - meaning that she has not received any social welfare means for 5 years.

Today, I had a long talk with an Afghani man who is very highly educated and hence, does not fit well in the social welfare system. He and I are trying to find better solutions.

I spoke on the phone the other day with a 'pig-coloured' Dane, as we say, who was planning to bring his American wife to Denmark and was concerned about language school and financial support in case of need.

I also had a conversation with an Iraqi man who wishes to bring his wife and three children back to Iraq. I gave him advice on how to apply for the special services, the Danish state provides in these cases - financially, health wise and practically.

I send people home, I send people back, I help them stay where they are, I help them move forward. I have to stay calm and cool and collected because they do not. I have to be patient and understanding because they do not meet those capacities anywhere else. I have to stay focused because it has a deep impact on their lives how I handle myself. I have to leave part of my personality at the door because none of these people udnerstand irony - and I have to expose other features of my personality because it is the only thing that will get my through the day.

I love my job, care for the people - learn and take inspiration from the humans - but I'm so freakin' tired when I get home in the afternoon!