All posts tagged: West Africa

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 …

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 …

on broken hearts

How many times a day does your heart break? Are you open to it, or do you turn away? Hearts are breaking, lately (Valentine’s day notwithstanding). And by breaking, I mean any state of disarray, from fully shattered to fractured, from weathered and worn to aching. Even those who remain intact still strain from the weight of fear, sadness, anger, deep confusion. Does your heart break from too little, or too much? Does it break on behalf of others, on behalf of tragedy or injustice, or on behalf of your own trials and more than the occasional tribulation? Does your heart break for questions? Do I love her enough? Is he the right one at the wrong time, or vice versa? Will she ever know what she means to me? Is this the sunset of a best friendship? Will she get through this without me? If they are good people, why do they do horrible things? How much hatred can the world withstand? What’s our breaking point? What’s mine? How will I know when enough is …