July 4, 2020
COVID-19 updates: living Dakar under lockdown

From the article: "When news of the corona virus broke, I took an interest in it as world news. Nothing special. As the virus spread like a veld fire on a windy day, first in China and then more widely to other countries, I identified a website that tracks the number of cases globally. I checked on that tracker twice a day and I would watch news about the disease and how it is spreading. 2 days before the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, I had already realised it was no longer an epidemic but a global phenomenon, and that it was only a matter of time before it hit home – the many places I call home.

I am a Motswana woman living in Dakar, Senegal. I was stressed and scared. Every time I read advice on who is vulnerable and what to do to combat the disease, I freaked out all alone out here with no support structure. I worried about my children in their respective corners of the world. I worried about my ageing parents, who are both over 85.

I live alone and maybe I should be used to my own company.  But these new terms and lifeways are different. Social distancing, lockdown, flatten-the-curve, quarantine, self-isolate... Whatever terminology you use in your language, it is not a norm for the average person like myself to live like this. Humans are social beings.

I say this from my own perspective, I am an extrovert and being among people gives me life. I normally venture out to most Dakar restaurants and hangouts. I sit there alone and enjoy my meal and my glass of wine, or maybe a couple of Desperados, the only beer for which I have ever developed a liking. I do not need to talk to anyone, but just to sit there among other people is pleasing for me. My need for being among people is fed and fulfilled.

I used to sit on top of my kitchen counter every morning while sipping my coffee or tea. I would look out the window and watch the morning traffic packed up in the big roundabout behind my apartment building.

While I sit there with my coffee or tea I would actually dread leaving for work. Now, after the ‘lockdown’, there is absolutely no traffic. Only a few cars zoom by because schools are closed. Most people are working from home in compliance with the social distancing protocols. Life as we knew it is no more.

I resort to a new routine aimed at maintaining my sanity. The border between work and home that was already ephemeral for people like myself has officially dissolved. Now, under lockdown, we socialise remotely, we work remotely, we manage remotely. It is the time of the remote control.

Dakar is a 24-hour city. It is alive at all hours and at all times: it is a vibey city with lots of things to do, rich in historical places to visit, with lots of art and cultural events. It is the place of teranga, the term for Senegalese hospitality. It is big on artefacts too. ..."