Ever have one of those moments when a sensory perception takes you to a place where you haven’t been for a long time, or maybe even just once?
I just poured a drink for myself…a concoction of lemon juice, ice tea and sparkling water. Not unusual, but today, out of the blue, seeing the foam and hearing the fizz, I was transported to the lobby of a hotel in Sierra Leone–circa late 1990’s. It smelled mildly of mildew. Incongruously–as I later would discover was not atypical–the management was Lebanese, there were people around, but the place was not exactly buzzing. I remember having arrived after a long journey (via Rome) and having been informed that my suitcase was lost, sitting in that lobby and enjoying the simplest–and most unusual for me–of drinks: a supremely fizzy refreshing coca cola with a lemon twist. Strange how such memories pop up.
And, the next immediate relevant thought was Ebola. Now, of course I remembered that on that trip, I saw for the first time in my life a Leprosy clinic. I saw the famous gigantic cotton tree for which Freetown is so famous.
I remember that the hotel room was dark and dank. I always traveled with extra essentials and had brought a second black shirt. I washed out the travel one and hung it to dry, knowing that I’d likely be alternating shirts and undergarments for a week or more. Ready to dress in the morning, I realized that in the humid atmosphere that enveloped the place, nothing had thoroughly dried, so I wrapped it in a plastic bag, hoping for the best at my next stop.
I experienced absurdly bureaucratic unproductive meetings with the telecom operator, learned that most of the pay phones had been vandalized so that business opportunity was dead and got stuck in traffic so clogged–trying to head back to the helipad to catch this ancient white Soviet helicopter for my ride back to the International Airport in Freetown, that I demanded the taxi driver let me hop with my little knapsack on a motorcycle. Well, he wouldn’t permit his American lady passenger to do that and I made the “flight” just in time. These days, aid workers tell stories of their long commutes via car and ferry to reach the airport, preparing for long days of checking arrivals for Ebola.
Fast forward to the dreadful situation now more than a decade later in 2014…. Recall that Sierra Leone endured years of civil war off and on from 1991-2002 which featured horrifying mass maiming and routine child soldier enlistment, permeated and followed by massive leadership corruption. And now, as if all that and leprosy weren’t terrible enough, comes Ebola. Last weekend’s papers featured stories about the mass “lock down” of the 6 million population. Here’s an update on the attempt to contain the spread of the disease from TheWorldPost. And yet, the number of new cases is described as exponential—over 3,400.
Here’s the CDC site for anyone who is interested to monitor their official updates on this virus crisis.