It was a grueling week: a 6-day training on epidemiological principles and protocol in the event of an(other) Ebola outbreak. The attendees were young doctors, men and women, Malian all, some trained here and some trained in places as far-flung as Cuba. The subject matter was serious, and the learning curve was steep: These doctors were expected not only to perform medical interventions in high-risk zones and avoid contamination by wearing proper protection (crazy astronaut outfits), but also to fully plan and prepare rural health centers and staff (logistics, training, infection prevention) in the event of an outbreak. The amount of information was significant, and the practicums and demonstrations were exacting: lowering your head a few centimeters too far while wearing the spacesuit creates a potentially lethal breach in protocol, and puts yourself and staff around you in lethal danger.
What all this meant, as far as I was concerned, was that cooling-off periods were crucial to comprehension and stamina during the training. Warm-up activities, learning games, and frequent breaks made all the difference.
Here’s an example of how young, studious, serious medical professionals, dedicated to protecting their fellow countrymen from terrifying epidemics, go about letting off steam: