Monday, March 23, 2015

EVD: conversations during my travels...

It's inevitable that some slightly awkward conversations will come up related to Ebola during one's travels having come from the Ebola region. I have to say that as terrible as EVD is, knowing the mode of transmission and the extremely small risk of it reaching the Europe, I find the conversations and people's reactions somewhat amusing.

Conversation with the immigration officer at Heathrow:
Officer: Good morning
Me: Good morning, how are you? [handing over my passport]
Officer: [scans passport and looks puzzled] Where did you just travel from?
Me: Brussels and prior to that Sierra Leone
Officer: Um, that's what I thought
[pause in the conversation]
Officer: I am sorry but I will have to call someone
Me: That's fine, that is what I expected.
Officer: I am going to have to have someone from public health England meet with you
Me: No problem
Officer: You haven't been around any dead bodies recently have you?
Me: No, don't worry, I haven't and I am well 
Officer: Okay, sorry, this is the first time I have encountered this
Me: You don't have to worry, there's no risk to you
Officer: Okay, please have a seat and wait

Conversation with the man sealing suitcases at  Luton (yes, my suitcase if falling apart):
Me: Good afternoon, I would like to seal my suitcase
Man: Okay, I can help you [takes the suitcase and puts it on the machine]
Man: Where are you traveling to?
Me: Amsterdam and then Geneva
Man: Oh, that sounds interesting, what are you doing in Geneva?
Me: I am going to a WHO meeting
Man: Oh, wow, what is that about?
Me: Ebola
Man: Are you sure it's safe for me to touch your suitcase?
Me: Yes, it's not a problem at all, you are safe, I am well, there's no risk 
Man: If my 11 year old daughter finds out about this she is going to be terrified
Me: Really, there's no risk
Man: My daughter is worried that I will get Ebola since I work at an airport. I better not tell her about this.
Me: I think you are pretty safe here in Luton, I wouldn't worry about it. Thanks for sealing my suitcase.
[and off I went with my sealed suitcase]

And there you have it. Some people just don't know what to do when they hear the word Ebola. I guess that is understandable. I have to say, I have wondered how people in the plane would react if they knew I had just come from Sierra Leone. I bet some people would feel pretty uncomfortable for no reason. Thankfully, so far, friends I have met up with in London have not treated me any differently and it's been great (although a bit weird) to shake hands and hug people again. And today for the first time in a long time I held a healthy baby on my lap - that's been a while. It made me realize how little physical contact I have with people now in Freetown. 


Anonymous said...

Soon I will give you a hug and so will your nieces.

Linda said...

Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. I just found your blog today. Unfortunately (or perhaps it may be fortunate in some cases...LOL) I don't get to travel, so I had no idea how things are or can be with customs and baggage, so I appreciate you sharing all this. I think a lack of knowledge can make some people scared. I wish you all the best, and please feel free to visit my blog and leave a comment, you are most welcome.

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~