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Within and Beyond the Walls of Alyans Sante Borgne (A.S.B.) --By Lili Sundberg




The kreyol word Manje holds many meanings: food, eating, and affection. The connection between food and affection is strong in Borgne where women prepare meals with care, often spending good portions of the day gathering the ingredients or tending an item for the big meal of the day (for example, shelling peas or roasting peanuts). At the Alyans Sante Borgne (ASB) hospital, the kitchen is a bright and happy place. The whole space revolves around a simple cook stove, leaving room for women to move with purpose. The food they prepare is complex, flavorful, and fresh. One day after we made a trip to the women's market early in the morning, Villen, the chef at the hospital, allowed me to join her for dinner preparation. By the time we were done, the sun was setting over the bay, turning the clouds a deep pink. The summer air felt alive with voices and birds and the constant buzz of activity at the hospital. The kitchen was so alive; the smells of the beans cooking and the women talking about their days and laughing made the room feel comforting as the warm June air twirled softly around us. Villen cooked the fish and made the sauce; I stirred. I am not sure of everything she added, but I felt in the presence of someone who was comfortable and confident cooking for a huge group of people every day; she was eager to share with me what was second nature to her. When everything was done, we arranged the dinner on plates to bring upstairs to the dining room. As we were walking up with the food in our hands, I looked out over the walls of the hospital, past the school across the street, to the sea. Its magic presence is felt throughout Borgne, and in that moment I was reminded of how much meaning is made every day in routine activities within and beyond the walls of ASB. (photo credit, Lili Sundberg, 2019: Women's Market, Borgne)

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