Remembering in December

My wandering field life passed the ten-year mark earlier this year. That’s ten years of finding my way into a new work environment and getting to know new colleagues once a year or so. In a more mundane way, it’s ten years worth of photo files to keep up-to-date and to try to remember to share on my blog. A cousin (thanks, Juliette!) noticed that the entries from my earliest days had lost their photos: mine was a rather early blog, and the ways of uploading photos have changed since then.  (Many of those earliest posts appear frankly so embarrassingly shallow to me now that I’m tempted to simply wave my editorial wand and have done with them…but thus far my sense for historical accuracy is controlling that temptation…) If my continued research succeeds, many of those photos will be directly restored onto the blog as I find their originals in backup hard drives and other obscure locations: ah, new year’s resolutions before the old year has even wrapped up!

In the meantime, I’m uncovering little treasures that never made it up here, while fondly remembering where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I was recently saddened to learn that Nancy Schrom Dye, former president of Oberlin College, had passed this year. During my years of active alumni-association work I greatly appreciated her contributions to my alma mater – so I was proud to join some other colleagues in taking her for an end-of-year meal which, the digital date stamp tells me, occurred in Beijing on December 31, in 2005. Up above are also a few rediscovered December 2005 Beijing-area shots which somehow didn’t get posted at the time. (Posting photos was more challenging in those early days…)

Just below are some previously-unposted 2015 shots: early-morning moonset at my home here in Haiti; me with my brother and a colleague when I gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University earlier this year; and some shots from the lovely Frick House & museum in Pittsburgh, from the same visit. And since this put me in the mood, I’ve wandered through the many countries & continents, family meals & trips & assignments on four continents that have filled the years between these two sets of photos so very fully. Assembling them’s been fun for me so I hope viewing them is fun for you too :-).

This time last year? In December 2014, I returned from Sierra Leone & later went with great friends to enjoy the Ai WeiWei exhibit on Alcatraz Island (more photos from that one in the original post….though that particular set of great friends – you know who you are! – are remarkably camera-resistant):

Where’d I spend 2013? Living in PNG, participating in meetings in Amsterdam & dive trips in Australia, then celebrating the holidays with Steve & Mom in New Zealand:

I began 2012 in the US (where I visited Washington, DC in cherry-blossom season), turned 50 in the company of Howard & Gene at Kakadu National Park in Australia, and finished the year in PNG:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2011 was mostly Mweso, a little Lamu, a little London and a year-end back home seeing Frank Lloyd Wright homes of Pennsylvania with family:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2010…wow, what a year. Just seeing all the continents and countries where I spent time (actually meaningful time, with friends and family and work) makes my head spin even now. The photos evoked so much for me that I just couldn’t narrow it down to three or four…so I’m giving you a lot from 2010, a mix of Manipur (start of year) and Mweso (end of year), with a sprinkling of Sweden, Berlin, Paris & California in between:

House, Valley, Hills on Hike - Pre-Monsoon Season

I entered 2009 in Tahiti, yes it’s true: during the year I took off from work to help Mom with her house, I dedicated two months to exploring Australia (and watching the Australian Open!) and New Zealand, flying in via Tahiti with a few nights in Papeete, just because I could. The year ended, of course, in Manipur and included a great trip to see excellent sites of Rajasthan with Howard & Gene:

Ngauruhoe Summit View of Lakes & Clouds

2008 started in Nigeria, and ended in Tahiti…with a lot of good work in Nigeria, a short assignment for the earthquake in China, visits in Germany with my exchange family friends there….and a good deal of time in and around NYC (Mom, aunt Judy & I enjoyed a harbor trip past Ellis Island where our own immigrant ancestors entered the country, and also a trip to our favorite sculpture park up th Husdon)…with a side trip for some hiking in Sequoia and other California adventures:
Rivers-Abia Border Boats & River

2007…I began the year based in Colombo but spend the new year’s period with Mom & Steve at  Angkor Wat, returned to Colombo to finish out an assignment, headed on for training in Paris where I also got celebrate Mom’s 71st birthday…back to the US to reorganize my life after my first two years in the field, and then off for a new assignment in Nigeria. At the time it felt big. Now it’s all fond memories:

…which will bring us back to year two of this current phase of life’s great adventure, the lovely year 2006. From Beijing & Yunnan in China, to Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (where I was based at year’s end), with family time on Cumberland Island (Mom’s 70th birthday dinner!) and in Germany in between. With a special souvenir from Seoul, where I had the opportunity to work a bit with the young ladies pictured with their daffodils. In a small-world twist, I had dinner with one of those two young ladies just a few nights ago in Port au Prince, which she visits sometimes in her current work with the CDC. So much small world, so little time for it all. Happy end of 2015, and many good hopes for a 2016 of more peace and health to everyone, everywhere.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Colleagues, Patients & Friends in Manipur

In the posts above, you’ve already seen many of the people who made my life in Manipur so rewarding — colleagues both national and international, patients and their families, neighbors and residents of the town we lived in and the town we worked in, and so on. For me the most humbling part of working with MSF in an area like Manipur is the welcome that MSF and our staff (both national and international) receive in the small towns and villages where we work. Most of the photos in this section were taken during the final couple weeks of my time in Manipur – in final visits to the clinics where we worked, during the handover with my replacement, and during my farewell party (that’s some colleagues singing at the farewell party which was also a family get-together, above). These big photos, and the gallery of images below, are a final thank you and ode to some of the many people I worked with and around during my months in Manipur.

This young patient at one of our clinics started out dubious about this weird balding guy who wanted to take his picture…

…but with encouragement from me and some of the mom’s sitting around (their shown below), he started to warm up…

…and finally let loose. 🙂

Below are the smiling adults who encouraged him. One of them might be his Mom but I’m not sure.

Magna Cum Confusion & Humor

Since beginning this MSF phase of my life, I’ve lived & worked in three regions which the British ruled as colonies for some period of time. Along with that British colonial history comes a greater familiarity with English among at least more educated people. English is a good lingua franca in Nigeria, whose people speak hundreds of tribal languages in their homes and families.  I think English is actually a bit less widespread in India because there are superpower regional languages like Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, etc. which are spoken by very large numbers of people. But India certainly has a group of highly-educated citizens whose English is often far more refined than mine. Then there are the unique forms English takes as it adapts to local needs and usages – I recall an article in Nigeria’s Punch newspaper about how unusual Nigerian English was becoming; so unusual that the editorial writer feared it was moving out of the mainstream of global English and becoming nearly incomprehensible to other English speakers. I don’t think Indian English runs that risk…but I did find some things to enjoy and to have a chuckle about. Or simply some very nice uses of the language. Herewith are some of my favorite signs and monuments, with a strong emphasis on the Indian penchant for using the latinate cum as a junction between two different parts of one whole. I and my colleagues sometimes found these signs rather humorous.

…and, directly across the street in the the center of Churachandpur Town:

I don’t want this post to disintegrate into a bad joke – though indeed Fiona & Marja & I got some great laughs out of the signs just above, and some others that you’ll see. The parts of Manipur that I frequented were big on commemorations and memorials, many of which were nicely made. At left and right are two stone memorials commemorating important anniveraries in local history. I’m hoping that these will all lay out, when finally up on screen, more or less as I’d been hoping. We’ll see – learning a new blog host is hard!