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.
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”
This begins as a dumb story: a minor injustice among all the big ones. My favorite kitten got rabies. It’s bat season, and these things happen. It turns into a Chad Story™, of course, where my colleagues are all bit and blood is drawn and everyone is spirited off to the capital for boosters, while the parasites ravage on unbowed in their absence. Everyone is fine but I’m far away and informed of all this during the aftermath via untimely WhatsApp notifications. I’ll tell this to you while my eyebrows do that wayward “oh my god” thing and we’ll move on, but I want to keep feeling that these things are unfair. Continue reading “Shore Leave”
I’ve had a difficult time explaining exactly what it is I’m mourning. As with many things, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about it; it’s that I haven’t yet found a way to do so that feels true and satisfactory. But time is short and I want to trap this feeling of being on the periphery in amber. I want to be able to examine it in months or years as something tangible – something that felt murky and hard but eventual, worthy – in case it all goes bad. The dream was real once, within the realm of the adjacent possible, and that will stay true even if it won’t ever be achievable again.
In that spirit, here is a building block that is true:
The summer before my last year in college, it came out that a partial Hepatitis B vaccination campaign was either harnessed or construed in an attempt to identify the presence of Osama bin Laden in his compound via genetic tracing through his children. At the time I was a mediocre and indecisive bioengineer, latching on to international health as a motive for design and action, but still irrevocably drawn to human systems: how to forge big ones that work, & how to stop them from so dramatically falling over themselves over after complacency settles. So all of this prompted the sort of bizarre aspiration that can be spirited into being when you are 21 and just old enough to feel formed, but then everything shakes and you’re stunned lucid.