Malabo feels like one of the last places on earth not to be touched by COVID-19. But of course, despite the small number of positive cases here, life has dramatically changed, not just for expats who are watching the news from home with horror and concern, but for Guineanos whose livelihoods will be permanently affected by border closings, curfews, and limits on non-essential businesses.
I’m going to break my decade long rule about not talking about work for ONE PARAGRAPH because I am so proud of my colleagues and the work that we do. Last week, the Embassy evacuated a number American citizens back to the United States — American citizens who did the math and decided that they’d be better off back home than sheltering in place here in Equatorial Guinea. As the EG government has interdicted commercial passenger flights on and off the island, the flight had to be arranged by us. We take our responsibility for protecting Americans abroad seriously and personally, and having American citizens here who couldn’t get home has weighed heavily on the entire Mission. I am so so so glad that we were able to get those folks back to the United States.
For my own family, the math was different. Both my spouse and I are essential staff at our respective employers, where we feel we are able to do good during these challenging times. The kids’ nanny, aka my right hand woman, aka superwoman, has moved in with us for the duration, which means that I’m able to telework when necessary, and both Bertrand and I can go into the office knowing our children are in good hands. And we are watching the news from the US with shock. The news from Benin is surprisingly better — many countries have had the time to learn from the mistakes of China, Europe, and the US. We are sure that the crisis will eventually hit our part of the world, but until it does, we are better of here than sleeping on my parents’ living room floor or social distancing in a tiny apartment in Washington DC.
Listen, the kids’ school is closed indefinitely. School-at-homing is a hot mess. We all have cabin fever. Our stress levels are sky high. But we are together, we are taking life day-by-day, and we are focusing on how incredibly lucky we are that we are able to continue our lives as normal-ish, when so many others cannot.