Blog: Alive and in Abidjan (West Africa)
What’s on everybody’s mind?
What is on my mind?
My boyfriend who out of the blue said he did not want a commitment… (Hey we are in the middle of a plague- I can actually pose the question, but what if I were to die tomorrow?)
And of course my students who are preparing for the AP Exam in May and finishing their college applications. I promise, that is what I think about every day. Most of the day. Sometimes I complain about being woken up the by the call to prayer at 4:30 (since I am not a Muslim- but I am learning the prayers), and sometimes I wonder if my toilet will ever be fixed, but for the most part, it is business as usual.
Don’t get me wrong. I am afraid.
When I returned to my job as an international teacher from a lovely summer in the Bay Area, I was greeted by the principal who said it is now a school policy that when greeting, teachers may not hug, shake hands or otherwise touch. We were informed to uphold this with the students as well.
Our Nurse came to give information in every advisory in the first week of school and the maintenance staff installed hand sanitizer dispensers in every classroom, hallway and doorway in the school.
On TV there are regular reminders and public service announcements about Ebola: causes and effects, precautions and preventative behaviors. Our airport monitors all incoming passengers. I am impressed by the vigilance and organization of the government here as well as all the other organizations that are helping to keep the country safe.
Regardless, we boarder two countries infected with Ebola, and if it can travel to the United States, I am not that optimistic that we will remain isolated from this plague.
The fact that Liberia and Sierra Leone are two West African countries that have dominated US news for the past decade due to civil war and strife is not lost on West Africans. It is no surprise that these impoverished war-torn countries would not have the facilities to adequately prevent a plague of any kind, just as we saw with Cholera after the earthquake in Haiti.
Of course, at work in the lunchroom, we talk about politics, injustice, Ebola and witch craft. After all, it is still plausible that this plague has hit certain regions due to some malevolent forces with some ulterior motive.
And here extreme fear sometimes harkens the belief in witchcraft. Just yesterday I overheard a profound statement, directed to the Americans in the room, by a Liberian colleague. He said, “There are ways people cope with poverty in Africa that you don’t understand. Witchcraft is one of them. Unless you have experienced this kind of poverty, you will never understand it, but it is real. Even though I believe in the Christian God, I also know that witchcraft exists. It is an evil force, and it is there.”
So what am I doing about Ebola?
Well, I take an extra towel to the gym, carry hand sanitizer everywhere. and feel nervous every time I shake someone’s hand. I am thankful every morning that my water is clean and warm. Ironically, I have taken great care to update my daughter and family of all the precautions that I know. I mean, why shouldn’t she also be careful to wash her hands regularly and be sure to use toilet seat covers, even though she is at Stanford. I am worried about the reckless and the uneducated. I am also worried about those I love. I do spend some secret time worrying and hoping, but for now I am alive and healthy in Abidjan.