All posts filed under: Mali

what’s to eat #25

Saturday’s lunch at a training for Malian doctors, by three foreign epidemiologists, put on at the Centre Aoua Keita in Bamako: Chebjen (aka Ceebu Jën, or Thiéboudienne) Red rice, fried fish, and an assortment of vegetables.

on loosening up, Bamako style

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 …

on miracles

How do you like your miracles? Grandiose? Sweeping? Brazen? Secret? Hushed? Hidden away? Noisy, with puffs of smoke and flashes of light? Or earthy, humble, even sensual? i’ll tell you: i prefer the latter. I prefer the miracles you can touch, taste and get inside of, over the spectacular ones you only hear about. Yesterday, I came upon a miracle-maker. He’s friendly, down to earth, and passionate about his craft. In fact, he spends most of his time in the earth, bringing life to wonderful and long-missed aromas and flavors. He makes magic happen, and the list is long: Fresh rosemary, thyme, cilantro, flat parsley, curly parsley, sage, three varieties of basil, scallions, chives, arugula (!)  … and fronds of fennel silky enough to coax superlatives from your lips. He’s got lavender, citronella, three types of mint, and more and more and more. I stood in his field, jaw hanging, enjoying an olfactory adventure I hadn’t known for years as he handed me leaf after leaf to inhale. This is my kind of miracle; this is my brand of …

what’s to eat #24

For the pause café during an Ebola prevention training at the Centre Aoua Keita in Bamako: Instant Nescafé with hot milk and sugar; A beef pâté: ground beef inserted into a savory pastry dough; A slice of raisin gâteau, or breakfast cake. . . . *I like to think of these as pauses lait, since most Malians prepare their coffee with just a few granules of instant Nescafé dissolved into a full cup of hot milk, and plenty of sugar to help it go down smoothly!

on perfection (and indigo)

Did you know that you’re perfect ? In case you needed to hear it … Not perfect like that. Not in the ways you wish for when no one’s looking. Not in the ways that nibble at your edges and wear them down sometimes. You’re perfect in the sense of whole. Full. Complete. Enough. You’re perfect like a stretch of indigo cloth: nobody is looking at those few ragged threads, and faded fibers have character. But the long view, the full view, the ensemble: it’s miraculous, it’s delightful, it’s perfection. And so are you. . . . Images from a Malian indigo atelier, put on by Sékou Tours. Indigo is a lesser-known Malian miracle, the little sister of Bogolan. See this beautiful  article on one of Mali’s indigo stars.

on knowing a place

Last Friday marked 1.5 years since I’ve lived in Mali. Some people settle in to a new place quickly, but I like to take my time – observing, breathing it in deeply, engaging only delicately at first, slowly building a steady foundation for Living. But by now, I’ve learned a thing or two, and the arc of my life has bent in ways I didn’t know it could, to accommodate being lived out in this place. To wit, a few things I’ve picked up: – I’ve learned the neighborhood boutiques by heart, and I know which stocks flour un-infiltrated by insects, which keeps real butter, where the eggs are freshest, and where I can buy on credit if I don’t have CFA handy; -I’ve got Plans B and C vegetable stands, and I know that if one is out of cucumbers I might get lucky at the other, but if one is out of limes, there’s a high probability nobody has them; -I know the hours of the 3 fruit stands in the neighborhood, and who I can …