The rainy season has passed and everyone is sighing with relief. Now it is the dry season, and the mosquitoes are mostly gone, though my family still sleeps beneath the blue malaria nets. My mother tells us we must always be careful, and since she is the health extension worker for our village, we listen. Malaria is the spirit that haunts our dreams, always walking in the night, touching the faces of sleeping children and bringing fever. I say a prayer for Assefa, my little brother, who did not even see his first birthday. Assefa, you were the reason our mother became a health worker—so you’ve saved people’s lives, even though you could not save your own. And because of you, I will be a doctor someday. I have promised this in my heart.
Every day that I go to school, I tell myself it’s the path leading to my dream. I am so lucky that my mother is a health extension worker. She understands that girls can grow up and make a difference. She knows how badly our country needs doctors. She smiles when I tell her I am trying hard. “Rahel,” she says, “You will make a fine doctor. But also remember to be a lej, a child, while you can. Your father and I work to give you that chance.”