Ebola. A bit of perspective.

I am writing with the TV on.  The latest CNN report is talking about U.S. President Obama’s pledge to send three-thousand troops to help fight the “deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” 

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I am writing in a hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria. In West Africa.  As a veteran journalist, I know there is a tendency for the media to oversimplify.  In spite of our 24-hour-news-cycle, there is somehow not enough time to provide deep context or broader perspective on a given story.  Instead, what we get are dramatic  headlines  designed to captivate viewers  – and the notion of a virus like Ebola is certainly one that lends itself to fear.

Needless to say, I have friends who urge me in emails and on Facebook to “be safe.”  “Be careful.”

I am.

A former CNN colleague and current Facebook friend of mine now works for the World Health Organization (WHO).  She assured me that since Ebola is NOT an airborne virus, as long as I am not cleaning up the vomit or diarrhea of an infected person or touching an infected corpse, I will be fine.   I can promise you I will not be doing either.

You are right, however, that this illness is a very serious thing. As the news continues to say, this is the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history. Liberia is particularly struggling.

Nigeria has also reported cases.  But here is the perspective I promised in my title:

According to the World Bank, there are 245 million people in the 15 countries that make up the Economic Community of West Africa .  A whopping 174 million of them live here in Nigeria.

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The Ebola outbreak –  from WHO recent figures  – looks like this:

Guinea – 771 cases, 494 deaths

Liberia – 1698 cases, 871 deaths

Nigeria – 21 cases, 7 deaths

Senegal – 1 case, no deaths

Sierra Leone – 1216 cases, 476 deaths

That’s some 3,707 cases out of 245 million people.  

(The Democratic Republic of Congo last week reported 62 cases and 35 deaths. But they’re not a part of West Africa geographically. )

So, here in Lagos, a bustling mega-city of around 21 million, people continue to work, play and live pretty normally.

Commendably, they are also taking new precautions against the spread of the virus.  When I landed late Sunday, informational FAQ posters were everywhere.

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A sample of the posters at the Lagos airport.

Immediately after disembarking the airplane, each of us passengers lined up to have a doctor shine us with a temperature-taking laser.  (You may recall, Ebola first arrived here after an infected Liberian diplomat flew from Monrovia to Lagos and collapsed in the airport.)  In addition, hand sanitizer dispensers have been added to every building lobby I enter.

The line of passengers getting temperatures taken at the airport.
The line of passengers getting temperatures taken at the airport.

Today, as reported in the Nigerian Bulletin,  President Goodluck Jonathan said there are no more active cases in Nigeria.  Yes, seven people did die, but the remaining others have recovered. He proclaimed, “ The virus is under control.”

I met up with a longtime friend last night.  John Walker and I used to work together at WTTG Fox News in Washington, DC.  Now, he’s with the Voice of America and here to train journalists at Channels TV.  I’m here working with other professional groups.  Imagine us meeting again after all this time in Lagos!

Longtime DC friends reunite in Lagos!
Longtime DC friends reunite in Lagos!

We laughed and caught up at the popular local restaurant Yellow Chilli.  The place was filled with other patrons – who watched the football match on TV and enjoyed themselves.

Before entering, each of us had had our temperatures laser-checked by the hostess.

It’s good to be careful.

Till, next time, take good care, everyone!

Copyright Gina London 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

 

 

 

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Welcome to Ireland! Or, er, Failte!

We’re one week into our new home here in Cork, Ireland and it’s funny how the more things are the same, the more they seem different.

We now live in Ireland!
We now live in Ireland!

It’s called the Emerald Island for a reason.   You might think a simple color would not be enough to market an entire country, but as Lulu and I looked out upon the landscape stretched out before us as the bus drove us to the coastal village of Crosshaven, the word “green” is what kept coming to mind.

Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.
Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.

“It’s like Indiana,” Lulu said, reminded of my rural home state where we spent much of this summer getting reacquainted with family.

What with its cows and farms and pastures, indeed it does.

And yet it doesn’t.

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The architecture is different.  You’ll see fewer wood frame homes here and most are slathered in a gravelly cement coating.  Grey seems to be the predominant color with neighborhoods accentuated by a few bright creamy yellows.

Unlike Paris with a patisserie on every corner or Tuscany with a trattoria or pizzeria on the same; here on every corner blooms a pub.

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Just a few of Ireland's assorted pubs
Just a few of Ireland’s assorted pubs

The interesting names painted on the signs outside may vary but the interiors are relatively the same. There are cozy, dark wood tables and chairs, and a collage of photos, paintings or other knickknacks covering the walls.  Menus so far seem heavy on things fried.   I haven’t had a salad in over a week but I have had plenty of cod and chips.

A sneak-peek inside this pub.
A sneak-peek inside this pub.
The "pickleback" is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice.  They tell me it's terrific. I wouldn't know!
The “pickleback” is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice. They tell me it’s terrific. I wouldn’t know!

As for the language: “Everyone speaks singy-English and says ‘Grand.’” Lulu has observed.

I can read every billboard and every newspaper. I can overhear conversations in the pub and understand them. The words don’t blur into a faint white noise like when we lived in Italy.

Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte
Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte

We moved into our new apartment a week ago today. It’s tiny but cozy and within easy walking distance to Lulu’s new school.  We had a nice visit the first evening from our landlord Liam, who, like every Irishman I have met so far, is a very easy-going and humorous person.  Having an enjoyable conversation – even when it is mainly about the heating, washing machine and other apartment things – is so much easier when you speak the same language.

In the short single school week Lulu has attended so far, she has already gone to a birthday party and had two separate play dates.  I have already been invited to go out with some of the moms this Friday to a chic trendy restaurant on the River Lee named Electric.

The people here are so kind and cheery, we make friends just by saying, “Hello.”

The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.
The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.

And yet, the ease with which it is all happening makes me pang a little for the rush of being in Italy.  There, I felt an extra sense of accomplishment after even the littlest exchange or transaction I managed successfully.  I sort of miss it.  There are no extra points for clearing the language barrier for me now. 😉

Hmm.  It has been unusually sunny every day since we have arrived.  I better wait until the legendary Irish rain arrives before I am convinced there will be no major challenges here.

Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?
Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?

As my lovely Italian friends would say, “Piano, piano” – take it slowly.   Or as my Irish friends might say, “Tis no bother at all.”

Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!
Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!

No matter where you are. Another day presents opportunity for another little adventure.

To adventures great and small.

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.