by Colette DeJong
“So who’s supposed to do that?
I said that a lot this summer.
Like my mom, I’m methodical to a T in my work. The same part of me prompted the ten thousand questions I asked our guide in Dogon country. “Yes, you said the Dogon women grew beans here. But I guess what I’m wondering is…what SPECIES of bean?”
The sauce is in the details, the details in the method. My method means spending seven hours to read one chapter of theory in the Sci Li. I never let things go — and the result is an excruciating, inescapable, and perversely glorious non-productivity sandwich.
Working in a small NGO socked the method.
The previous leaders of my project had left by the time we arrived, and my own judgment got a startling promotion. We set dates and raced to meet them; we flew by the seat of our pants. And how did we do? The yardstick to measure our work was hiding out in the same cave as the manual. We invented our evaluative tools alongside their subject.
It’s a fearless, fast-paced language – and MHOP’s Caitlin Cohen speaks it with a striking fluency. It means racing down a road that runs out of bricks, because either the bricklayer’ll get there first or you’ll jump the gap. It’s those SAT prep books’ response to my snail-like reading style: catch the first word and the last phrase, and trust your judgment for what comes in between.
How did we stay sane? Like stressed-out office shepherds, we’d each be fretting over our hillside of tasks. But then. Remarkably, Caitlin would set aside her own mountain range of sheep to call us home.
“Who’s in the mood for Mexican?”
Then, mining a pantry of Malian bouillon cubes, cocoa powder and cajun spice seasoning, she’d fashion the best Mole sauce of my life. Needless to say, without a recipe.