The year is over, almost. In a few more hours separating us and that faraway place, we’ll change calendars and wish each other a happy new year within drinks and glee. Why January 1 is such a special day is beyond me. I don’t worry myself about it now anymore than I worry about the Chinese year of the Tiger or the Moslem Hijiras with its lunar calendar. In another faraway place, it is a time for reflection, sometimes in the premises of a church, with singing and praying for grace for the new year. In some other part of the world, it would just be another day. For me, it shall be for cheers of whatever kind possible in a foreign land.

What did I learn this year? Much, along the many roads that I trod and the peoples I met: that people are different, that people are the same, that the earth is large, that the earth is small, that there is pleasure in travel, and food, and adventure, in writing, that the problems of Nigeria will not end tomorrow, or that America is not the heaven where everything gets solved, that life is an adventure and that plenty can be learned in every little experience.

On Christmas Eve 2010, I heard with sadness of another major terrorist attack on Jos, a city in the Nigerian middlebelt. In a continuation of a cycle of madness that has gripped the otherwise beautiful homeland of the ancient Nok culture, some politicians and other undesirable elements have chosen religion as a means to further their evil machinations to seize political power in 2011. Scores of lost lives later, the country has returned to a path of precariousness held only by a small thread of hope. For the many residents of that town and the many other unsuspecting ones in Nigeria today, 2011 is already too far away to wait for a country where safety is guaranteed for lives and property.

And so, the year ends. What did we learn? That humans will never learn anything but will return to their folly and squirm in the mire of their own barbarity? That there’s hope? Maybe neither. Maybe just the certainty that no matter what happens, and no matter where we go, we will meet with both the beauty and the barbarity of humanity. The challenge might be to delight in the minutes, and let the hours take care of themselves. Or maybe do what we can to help in whatever way we can, wherever we can. Maybe, just maybe, evil might get defeated? Maybe.

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