Why I decided to stay in Africa, despite Corona

Corona is life-threatening for many Senegalese – even without an infection”, brilliant Swiss journalist David Signer writes in his most recent article. Signer is an ethnologist who lives in Dakar and knows the Senegalese way of living in and through. Coronavirus cases are increasing in Senegal too, and scope of movement has been restricted quite a bit. As Signer describes, lockdown has a few more nasty effects on people here than it has on most people in the West.

For example, it’s not unusual that ten people live in one room. Life takes place in the streets. Social distancing, stay at home? Forget it. Many generations live under one roof. People usually eat from one single pot. With their hands. Protect the elderly and sick ones from an infection? Well… difficult. Close down places where people gather, like markets? Deprives millions from food and income and hence threatens the life of people who are not even infected (most people do not have savings and spend the money for basic needs day by day. Panic-buying is not an issue here…).

Building the opposite of castles in the air

The health care system is the one of a developing country. What if the virus causes the few intensive care beds and personnel to be occupied in tremendously little time? That’s the reality Senegalese people live in. When events started to overturn back home, the Swiss government highly recommended all compatriots residing in foreign countries to come home. Friends and family called me, worried.

Dakar Airport DSS

What if I’m one of the young, healthy people who somehow will get serious lung problems caused by the virus (statistics show it’s a possibility, an acquaintance told me). What if I get sick for any other reason and I can’t get appropriate treatment, particularly if it gets really chaotic? What if food supply eventually gets scarce and ATMs do not issue cash anymore? At the airport, foreigners were desperately queuing to catch the last flights listed to Europe. The Swiss embassy organized a repatriation flight… and I asked myself: Do I better leave or stay?

Being in touch with the death principle

It would have been soothing to go home, preventing worries that I would have somehow risked my life by deciding to stay in a developing country, against any seemingly reasonable advice. I evaluated my situation thoroughly, tried to stick to some sense of proportion, and concluded that my heart wants to tell me something different. Namely that…

  • …I will be fine. No matter what happens.
  • …important decisions need to be taken with the heart, not the head.
  • …I not so long have decided to want to live, rather than “just” survive (“die to live or live to die”… the survival mode in my perspective seemed to be moreover the one people are in back home than in Senegal these days).

I decided to stay. And as this time has amazing potential for all of us to think about the essence of life, I was confronted with this question too: What is valuable to me in this life? What risks do I want to take, for what? What happens to me if I suffer, experience loss and disease? “

The more you’re in touch with the destructive principle, the death principle, the more objective you are, the more peace you have…,” one of my Vedanta teachers says. That’s why in Bali per example, death ceremony is the biggest ceremony, and people do apparently not fear death.

I’m a far cry from that notion. But I decided that I can take whatever comes with glad acceptance (at least that’s my pursuit), work on my emotional management and not let fear control my life (thanks to my friend Tànit, this is no longer a hollow phrase to me).

What we sacrifice for security

So, maybe this is a decision that will cause me to be confronted with challenges that will be too big for me at this moment. Or maybe it’s been some kind of pivotal point in my life, where I consciously opted for trust instead for security (thank you Phil for pointing out). Trust in the universe, trust that I’m aligned with the universe and my heart knows. Trust that I will be fine.

I feel like we need to see what we sacrifice with our deep longing for some relative sense of security. Maybe Yuval Noah Harari is right in writing that this is freedom: “For when people are given a choice between privacy [freedom] and health, they will usually choose health”. What also stroke me is a comment of feminine embodiment mentor Stephanie Cristina Engeli: For none of us it’s easy to “stay the fuck home!” for weeks. Imagine what happens to people with mental health issues when they obey the order…

Thank you to everybody for their most valuable considerations. Thank you to all my friends who inspire me. You’re the best and I love you 😀 Thank you also particularly to Ariane for editing!

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