Drumbeats & Drives

1 //

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”

Drumbeats & Drives

Packing for the Wild West

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”

Packing for the Wild West

Fragments, shored

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.

Continue reading “Fragments, shored”

Fragments, shored

Detrenching, retrenching

Standard-issue hello!, after falling off the face of the earth. I think I may have come close to actually doing that this time. Scrolling through this is like examining a profile of my brain on another planet: how did you have time to think these things? What on earth sort of motivation did you have? Do you know something I don’t?

But I’m all sorts of alive, and all sorts of on hold. I have a bunch of seedlings on my balcony that I replant each time they shrivel up in the heat after whenever I go somewhere for a while, equatorial climes be blessed/damned. I’ve planned a Thanksgiving menu and drop circumspect translations of MLK quotes whenever the Barkhane guys like to have opinions about elections1. I gave myself a good scare the other day by having no reaction to an extremely ill person. Sometimes I think about the scope of what I’m working on and my brain shrinks back from it, only able to deal in shadows; sometimes I can’t do anything but roll my eyes for days straight. The world feels like a wild Cheshire-cat ladder, with large things collapsing and small things expanding. Continue reading “Detrenching, retrenching”

Detrenching, retrenching