“Nigerian men like to CHILL,” a colleague says, going horizontal in public and contorting a leg over his seat back. We’re at the Lake Chad Club, a bar we’re not sure we’re allowed to go to because the outer walls lack razor wire. It’s not that great but there’s grass and darts to adorn the thrill of mild subversion. The darts are hogged by a trio of Hausa men in white robes, who occasionally rotate in and out of the group of men who are chilling.
It’s become a game: adopting the most ridiculous position, slowly, sliding into it until called out. The street corners in Maiduguri feature what we’ve termed “chill squares” – large woven mats surrounded by low concrete blocks, where men laze in the afternoon heat. These are incongruous with the headlines, yet there they are. Continue reading ““Your experience is an integral.””
My mother is allegedly buying a new house at some point, and also getting married. I’d been using one of her rooms as a second storage unit, so in lieu of having anywhere else to be this week, I’m submerged in the logistical complexities of the long-put-off task of, well, figuring out how to move all my stuff to a single location (very millennial, I know).
This entails digging through a lot of unintended remnants. At 14 or 15, I had an inexplicably intense T.S. Eliot phase; I found a marked-up anthology in the back of some drawer that hadn’t been opened in a good decade. Eliot is known to have been something of a garbage human, but this was before that sort of information was readily accessible, and so in the way things you dig into at that age lodge themselves in your brain I’m stuck with it regardless.
Still, there’s something there in the way he grapples, structurally and thematically, with fragmentation. He frets a lot about time and mortality, excoriating inaction even as he stews in it. Continue reading “Cactus Land”
1// A while back, on the road, a friend & I were trying to compare gulfs.
Urban to rural, for one; across oceans, for another; the cross-hatch matrix. The threshold to the neighborhood you felt uncomfortable driving though at sixteen. And the paths by which those transitions become at first manageable, then fluid, then recursively reduced until something inside you becomes either irrevocably liminal or elegantly Jacobian and, while you may not be sure which, either way they no longer register.
Continue reading “Inheritance”
I don’t remember exactly where it started, but I remember when I knew how it would end.
A hint of something in the diction had arrested my attention: “How can I not be encouraged?” Faith in the form of a subject line, of a mass email, fifteen months out from election day. It’s a post-storm summer recess travelogue, all trucks swinging around obstacles en route to town halls in Paris, Palestine, Nacogdoches. An excerpt from Sunday morning warns imploringly: “When you could, you wouldn’t. Now that you want to, you can’t.” More than a tinge saccharine, if you weren’t already sold.
Continue reading “In Abeyance”
I began writing this on a flight home from Uganda, which was Normal beyond my wildest expectations. There were small signs, of course, that things weren’t quite right: the key wouldn’t extract from my hotel door unless it was in the locked position. Trip two is delayed. Whoever organized the marathon forgot to leave pinholes in the bibs.
But there was a marathon! The cell network still works when it rains; guns were not everywhere. Buildings are painted different colors, and ads on the radio routinely extol the virtues of condoms. There’s an app, SafeBoda, that you can use to hail motorcycle taxis with tested drivers and reflective vests; the division I interned with at USAID a few years ago provided seed funding for this, so using it felt like closing a tiny circle (do not tell my mother, part infinity). The English, a still-reverberating repercussion of colonial ghosts, was a game-changer. I know why I was there, and I did feel like I made myself useful, but all of this gave me pause: why was I there, again?
Continue reading “Part III”
It’s been a summer full of golden hours, which I didn’t know I’d missed. I lost them all last year, in a stunt of equatorial robbery.
Making up for lost suspension-of-time, I’ve wrung enough use out of them to make the whole summer feel almost like one long penumbra: dozens of glimmering evenings where whatever was discussed felt so inferior to the gist, some of them chock full of plots and tightly-wound striving, others heady and implicit, most clickity-clack back-and-forths with the occasional soaring overture. Some gussied up in the gloaming, but far more ragged on the road, fiddling with kerosene stoves and the good kind of spent.
Continue reading “Drumbeats & Drives”
I’m packing again (she says, as though having not also lived out of a suitcase for the past four months) – this time for only a month abroad, book-ended by haphazard weeks on the East Coast. Not long enough to justify attempting to create a sense of home elsewhere, but just long enough, and logistically convoluted enough, to complicate the process of selecting contents for one’s hermit crab shell.
Cobbling together a set of munitions to ensure decent functioning and preserve sanity at the end of the earth is a tall order. These sorts of lists have disappeared from circulation since the global health/development/natsec blogging heyday, but I have gotten good at this, have a number of friends striking out for assignments soon, and wanted to jot down my less-obvious recommendations.
Target audience: early-mid career folks and graduate students who work in international locations with few amenities for 2+ month stints between re-fuels. A step above Peace Corps, a rung below the point where your organization pays for you to ship things over, no diplomatic pouch privileges, little access to major urban centers. Continue reading “Packing for the Wild West”