Good evening readers –
After a pretty long hiatus, the blog is up and running again. In fact, this makes two posts in one day! And, for a change, you’ll be hearing from me – Emily – the communications director for Rice 360°. I’ve put very little of my voice up here because I’m new to both Rice 360° and the world of global health. I’ve certainly taken a crash course in both since starting this job less than a year ago but I’m slowly firming up my grip.
First, our (my) sincerest apologies for taking a break from this blog for a time. For those not familiar, we must submit our final proposal to the MacArthur Foundation by today (!!). In a way, I think we’re all taking a deep sigh of relief to be over this hurdle. We’ve put long hours of coffee-induced brain power and heartfelt conviction into our proposal, and it’s freeing to finally submit it for review.
Right now, though, I’m in the air. I’m on my second of three flights to Blantyre, Malawi. While there, I’ll help run NEST360°’s Facebook Live event as part of the 100andChange competition and document the trip on the organization’s behalf.
On my last flight, I kept thinking how time spent in the air is a kind of secret, meditative, found time – one rarely (for me, at least) experienced. While time doesn’t literally stop, it almost appears as such. You find yourself in a quiet, borrowed suspension.
For me, thoughtful and reflective writing requires this sort of space to tap into the subconscious. The mind, kept locked up and focused during our typical waking hours, is pried open as the plane’s cabin lights dim and the engine’s dull hum lulls you into a semi-conscious, introspective state. Thoughts drip slowly onto the page.
At risk of too much profundity, I hope to convey my experience in Blantyre in a way that may help those reading live and breathe this trip alongside me. While I call the Rice 360° office home each day, for the greater part of a year I’ve been that person on the outside of the organization, trying to grasp the gravity of the work it does without ever having traveled to a resource-constrained area. I understand the work, but not the context. And I certainly can’t fully know the impact just yet.
My hope is to lend a richer understanding of what it’s like to be a student, professor, clinician, engineer, mother, and even ex-pat in Malawi. I was once told that you can learn to love anyone once you’ve heard their story, and I agree. I think of human connection as the blood of our lives; narratives as the intricately-laced veins helping us make sense of a larger system at play.
I hope this trip affords me — and the readers of this blog — a glimpse at some of the faces behind Rice 360°’s work; the people that dedicate their days to its vision, the students who’ve been given access to a design studio — an idea still being introduced at universities stateside, the families who are profoundly impacted by our technologies, and the country of warm-hearted people who deserve nothing less than to have their babies live.
My eyelids are feeling heavy and I’m about to enter a peaceful sleep despite doing so thousands of feet above the clouds. It’s beginning to dawn on me that the map of Malawi hanging in our office, measuring just up to my forehead, is about to get a lot bigger and a lot more real. It dons colored pushpins, each positioned where Rice 360° devices have been deployed and are lovingly in use even as I write, helping the newest additions to Malawi’s population breathe peacefully tonight and every night.
Wishing you peaceful dreams,