Cultural Voice eZine

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Siren Effect - The inescapable sounds of a country affected by Ebola



The world is on edge of the devastation that Ebola has unleashed on affected countries in West Africa. Accouring to the World Health Organization there have been 9,936 Ebola cases so far this year and 4,877 people have been killed by Ebola. In an increasingly insular world where cultural crossroads are a necessity for normalcy, there is increased xenophobia and anxiety induced by the thought of a global outbreak. No sentence is complete without the word Ebola. 

My friend Jani is a citizen of Liberia, one of the countries most affected by the outbreak cannot escape the ‘threats,’ real and imagined. In her brief musing about the effect it has on her psyche, she has coined a term for her condition and the condition of those around her as the ‘Siren effect’. The change in cultural norms should not be frowned on. But my fear is that after Ebola, they may never return. 


Siren Effect - Jani Jallah

 It’s 10: 29p.m. on a Monday night. I am lying here and have a thousand things running thru my mind - Ebola, love, life, family, work and friends. There is a constant sound, a sound that flows in my thoughts all through the day and night. It is the most familiar sound currently in Liberia, especially in Monrovia. It’s a sound we once heard on the rare occasion that the Chief Executive passed by or once in a while, when there was someone ill. It is a sound used in emergencies. Now it’s the bell that rings, the sound of an Ambulance and/or Ebola burial team. It is now the reason we drivers can’t play loud music. We have to listen for the sound before crossing major streets. It’s the Siren Effect. I have lived in Liberia all my life; some Liberians may term me LTD “Liberian Till Death.” I truly believe the sweetest place in this world is LIBERIA – “The Sweet Land of Liberty.” Most people who have travelled to Liberia will agree with me. The Land is so free you can call yourself a King and live a royal life with a 500USD per month salary. You can become what Liberians call a “Big Boy” just because you are able to manage a little in the right way. You can drive with a full cooler and still have nothing to worry about, and enjoy the finest beaches. 



Liberia is my unique land. However, my land has started giving me nightmares. A full day is over but the sound of the siren is on ‘repeat.’ My country, my land is battling against an unseen enemy; a disease so ruthless, a host can ‘touch’ up to five persons in a casual meeting. What lost from my Land of Liberty? Shaking hands, hugging and drinking together are traditional methods of greeting friends. As a young lady, it’s a cultural shock when a friend refuses to properly greet another - that’s proud and rude. But now with EBOLA it’s the best and wise way to stay alive. This unseen enemy has shocked the cultural norms, a simple thing as borrowing salt from a neighbor is like killing your housemates. My head! oh my head!! I need it to get out of my head… the lights flash thru my thoughts, closed eyes so hard to achieve. Driving to work, the sound is all over, at work the sound never stops and when you make it home to that place you call a place of rest, the sound lingers…. EBOLA BE GONE. Let the sirens grow quiet.




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