Yesterday as I was sitting in a Kyanja bound taxi- waiting for it to fill up, a passenger touched his sweaty head to mine. Now, I recently got my hair cut and my scalp is as smooth as the average baby’s bottom so when this man touched his sweaty; potentially Ebolic head to my own, I had a panic attack that involved scrubbing my scalp with every wet-wipe in my possession and turning to scowl at him several times.
My mind was burning with the information I had picked from the news about Ebola. I imagined blood pouring from my eyes and shooting out of my pores. My plan was to subject myself to an extra hot bath involving all the disinfectants in the house. Jik, Dettol, NOMI white and Samona were all lined up in my head. When the taxi reached my stop, I hit the ground running and didn’t slow down until I’d reached my gate.
When I entered the house, my baby, (OK baby sister) saw me and put her hands up- a command for me to lift and deliver multiple kisses to her adorable face. I refused and continued in the direction of the bathroom. I didn’t make it there because my recently returned siblings (I HATE boarding school) threw themselves into my arms, grabbing bags and kaveeras from my hands.
I was panicking all the while, but not hard enough to order them away from me. I hugged them back.
My father then hollered for me to go the living room, which is when the baby saw me again and began to scream for attention. There’s nothing more annoying or terrifying than the screams that accompany the tantrums of 10 months old babies. It’s like broken glass has been mixed with rusty razors and then poured into your ears. I picked her up.
If that clumsy, sweaty-headed man HAD given me Ebola, I would be dead or dying, along with my siblings and father.
This morning as we were driving along Gayaza Road, I saw a man squatting by a ditch on the sidewalk. He looked confused, light headed. Nobody was helping or even looking at him. He didn’t seem dangerous or drunk, just really weak. I asked myself what I would do if I saw a child Gabriella’s age squatting like that in the middle of the street and in a similar condition. Would I help? Gawk? Drive by?
Reaching adulthood in Uganda is no easy feat. First you survive those killer diseases that attack babies. Depression, rebels, natural disasters and AIDS all compete to take you out. Then you manage to escape those abominable business people who target innocents for ritual sacrifice and somehow, none of our homicidal drivers sweep you off road. You graduate, find a job and have food on the table every night.
Putting all that into consideration, I can understand how people might find it hard to sacrifice everything for the possibly infected little girl or man lying there, dying on the street. Self preservation won’t let you intervene, not unless the person in trouble is yours. You parent, your sibling, your child.
I like everybody who reads this column, of course, and wish you all luck. Make yourself as small as possible as you navigate the streets and for heaven’s sake, watch your head as you board taxis. According to twitter, Ebola surveillance teams can be reached on 0774 451762, 0706 506294, and 0757 174556.