A flight attendant who could learn to whisper

Flight attendant, loudly, to her seated colleague on the other side of the plane: “Is that smoke? I smell smoke!” Her colleague agrees. Minutes pass as my heart races. “It’s getting worse! Has anyone told the captain?” she gets up and strides quickly to the cockpit.

These are things you really *don’t* want to hear and see as your flight has just taken off, especially after a 3-hour delay due to electrical storms that the crew have been describing as “a code red situation” –a delay that has definitely eaten up your connection time to catch your flight to Nairobi. Continue reading

Malaysia 20 years later

I’ll be going to Kuala Lumpur this July for a conference—a very different experience from my last trip twenty years ago during a backpacking adventure through Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Though I’ll be heading to a meeting where treatment advances in HIV will be discussed, my hotel will be comfortable, I’ll be stuck in a conference centre and I will no doubt feel very much removed from the lives or ordinary Malaysians. Continue reading

Remembering through stories

The events of Sandy Hook Elementary and other tragedies have me thinking again how storytelling can help heal. Twenty-four years ago, I lost my best friend to gun violence. Naomi was a bright soul extinguished at twenty-one and for a few years after her death, her mother and I met occasionally to check in and reminisce. Then one day I received a letter. Naomi’s mother explained that she had spent the better part of a year writing a small booklet, and would I like to receive a copy. She had written her daughter’s story, she said.

Her daughter’s story. At first, the phrasing rankled. Surely one story couldn’t possibly suffice. Furthermore, the attribution seemed wrong. In English, we have a convention of naming a story that is about a person after the person, but any writer knows that a story first belongs to the teller and once told becomes shared property. Finally, it seemed too definitive. Where was the room for my point of view? Continue reading