09 October 2010


My late vice principal and I
This past week, I've witnessed death about, 3 times now, the 4th time was indirect, but it hit close to to home. Two were major ones, the other two were minor, I guess, it depends on who you ask, but nonetheless, they put the cap on an otherwise death filled week.

1)My vice principal, Mr. Conteh passed away at the young age of 42 two thursdays ago. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown, and it was very depressing to see it happen to such a young individual and to a community that valued the contributions he made to the school. Carlos and Sarah came to visit me two Saturdays ago and we decided to visit my principal, Mrs. Jalloh, who happens to the official community.  "supervisor" the Peace Corps assigned to me here in Bumbuna. When we arrived at her house, she wasn't around, so we waited only to see her arrive with Mr. Conteh who complained that he wasn't "feeling to bright", (A local idiom used here which essentially means that the person is sick). He had just returned from the hospital, so I gave him my condolences and he went to his house. Carlos, Sarah, Mrs Jalloh, and I chatted for a while only to have our conversation interrupted by a child screaming hysterically, "Mr. Conteh! Mr Conteh! Come quick!, he is dying, he is dying. So Mr, Jalloh and I bolted to his home. Up until that time, I never once stepped foot in his home, but at that particular moment I didnt need any directions because the sounds of women and children wailing in complete and utter despair guided me to where I needed to go.

When I arrived, I followed the crowd of people to Mr. Conteh's bedroom only to find Mr. Conteh lying in his bed. He was unconscious, convulsing, sweating profusely, his pulse was racing, and his body was cold to the touch. There were men standing over him, fanning him furiously because the room he was in was unbearable hot. I tried to remain calm and did my best to restore any semblance of order in the room. I instructed those who were crying or crowding him to leave at once, and made sure that the men fanning Mr. Conteh kept it up. All I could really do was make sure that he was getting enough air and space.

It was very unsettling to witness this event, considering especially the random nature of it all. All I could do was hope that this man, this young, seemingly healthy individual, didn't die right before my eyes, in my arms even. His convulsions were alternating between fast, sporadic and slow, halting gyrations which forced me to hold my breath with the hopes of not witnessing firsthand what would eventually become inevitable.

He was eventually taken to Makeni in my principal's own vehicle where he spent the week recovering. Around that tuesday, I heard that he was conscious and recovering, although he didn't remember anything from that saturday. That thursday, I was walking back to my house from town, and I heard from a unidentified man walking down the street that Mr. Conteh had passed away that evening. I couldn't believe it so I called Mrs. Jalloh to ask if she heard anything, she said no, and called that hospital and family and it was later confirmed that he had indeed died that evening.

I think it is disturbing for anyone, especially a PCV, to witness the death of a colleague soo soon, especially somebody who showed no sign of sickness, and someone who was considered an invaluable resource for the school; Mr. Conteh was teaching a full course load at the school across many different subjects. At the same time, I have to be aware of my surroundings. Adequate systems of healthcare are minimal to non-existent here in Salone and it will take time for things to improve. In the mean time, people will continue to be misdiagnosed or go untreated for what are considered in the west as treatable diseases.

2) A student at my school who was pregnant recently died earlier this week during childbirth.

3) One of my colleagues came to work one day with a baby weaver bird! So I asked him if I could have it. I kept him in an empty chalk-box that was punched full of holes and fed him an eclectic diet of rice, peanut butter and earthworms, but he unfortunately died about a few days after taking him in :( His death occurred the same day as...

4) When one of my students in Integrated science (JSS3) showed me a bird he stoned. When he brought it to me, it was practically half dead, my scientific side took over, and I spent about 30 minutes looking through my Birds of Western Africa guide trying to identify him, to no avail ( He was a sparrow of some kind, There are soo many birds here!) One of the other teachers in my school, seeing that I was busy trying to identify the passerine, carelessly flicked him while saying, "ohh what's this?" No sooner than when he flicked him, its violently shuttered in my grips, and summarily died....

Well, I do plan on keeping an exotic pet or two, or three, or four, in my house, but at the rate Im going now maybe I need to reconsider my options?....Ehh...no..

Life is still good


Susan S. said...

My condolences, Ikenna, on the death of your colleague and student. Tragedies like those you described really bring home the fact that you are living in an isolated and undeveloped part of the world. Take good care of yourself!

Bogdan Burca said...

Hello, My name is Bogdan from Romania!
My blog address is: http://bogdanstelistul.blogspot.com/
Can we be friends??
Thank you!!