Holidays, Dakar and Ebola

So, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written and naturally, much has happened.  Ramadan is over, alhumdoulilah (thanks be to god) and I experienced my first Senegalese holiday: the party at the end of Ramadan called Korite.  It involved a lot of eating, drinking (only tea and soda, of course), music and greetings.


A couple of days after Korite, I made my first trek up north after spending almost three months at my site in Kolda.  I am in Thies now, at the Peace Corps training center where I have a two week technical training.  A group of friends and I decided to spend this past weekend before our training started in Dakar.  Emerging from the South was a huge culture shock, especially going straight to Dakar.  It is unlike any other part of Senegal.  I felt almost like I was back in the States.  There is so much (comparative) wealth in the North — the large buildings, nice cars, roads without potholes… Not to mention restaurants, grocery stores, bars, and everything else a typical city has to offer. I realize these are everyday sights to those of you in the States, but after spending several months in the most poverty stricken region of Senegal this was all very shocking.  We made the most of it and noos-ed a lot more than we probably should have, but I have no regrets.

On another note, there’s been mounting concern in the media about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Now that I’m back in the world of (semi) consistent internet, I’ve read some articles online about what is going on.  It’s ultimately been yet another reminder that the lives lost here are not much more than an afterthought to the rest of the world.  Most of the articles that I have read start with some basic statistics about how many people have died, and then quickly move on to a discussion of whether or not the outbreak could reach The United States, Britain, or other Western countries.

The epidemic started in March, but I heard no concern from family or friends back home until the American media began covering it.  This coincided with the two Americans contracting it and being flown to Emory University where they are now receiving the best, most cutting-edge care.  Meanwhile, almost 1000 people have died, a great percentage of them medical personnel that lack the resources to protect themselves from contracting the disease from the sick people they are so bravely and selflessly treating.

People ask me if I’m scared of getting Ebola.  I’m not scared at all.  I know that if the virus becomes a real problem in Senegal, we will be evacuated just like the volunteers in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were.  American lives are too precious.  I wish I could say the same for West African lives.  Where is their emergency action plan?  Who will pay for their plane ticket out? If I am evacuated it will be terribly difficult to leave my family and friends here, and to try to explain why.  I sincerely hope that it won’t come to this, and that the epidemic will be controlled, and soon.  It is hard to be faced so up close and personal with the injustices of the world… And also to admit to myself that were I not here in this very moment I probably wouldn’t really have thought twice about an Ebola epidemic in Africa.  But I am here now, and inshallah, I will never forget this feeling.


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