BlogLe Corona

Le Corona

Last week, there was an announcement by the President on the radio. It upset my Baye so much he punched the wall in the main room until it cracked, a thin spider web winding all the way up to the ceiling. On my side of the room behind the curtain that separates my brother Pape and I from the grown-ups, I can hear my parents whisper at night. Frantic and harsh tones that make me anxious. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, all I know is that Baye has even less work now that he can’t drive his taxi at night, and Maman’s breakfast stand starts much later than before. We also have to cover our mouths and noses now, every time we go out. Maman made special ones for us, using the leftover material from her Tabaski dress, it glitters and sparkles in the sun so I don’t mind too much not being able to breathe when I go out to the Guinean’s boutique to run errands.

I heard the neighbours say there’s a mysterious illness and if we cover our faces and wash our hands all the time, we won’t catch it. My cousin Ndeye Khady showed me a video the other day, of the white people who they say brought the illness, she calls it LE CORONA, on boats in huge containers that they spilled in the ocean. She says it’s the white people who want to make us all sick and kill us because they don’t like us. She also says there’s some medicine they have sent for us to take, with the same boats, but that they use needles to give it to us. Ndeye Khady and her friends do not trust this medicine and say our governments are puppets and selling us and our lands to the white people. I’m not sure if she means all the white people though, I’ve seen her go out at night sometimes with Mr. Louis who is white and drives the big black car with the tinted windows. This was before we had to stay indoors all the time, he no longer comes to the neighbourhood now. Maybe he has gone back to his country. Ndeye Khady sometimes goes out with the older neighbourhood kids to throw stones at the police, she says they’re protesting the injustice and lies. I’m not sure what all of that means, all I wish is that I could still go to school.


I really miss learning. Some of my friends say there’s school on the television, and also sometimes on the radio, but what use is that to me? Baye keeps the house radio with him at all times, and we do not have a TV at home. Even if we did, I loved going to school so I could play with my friends and also eat the delicious Tchep we get there.  There wasn’t always food at home and now, we’re lucky if we get some old bread that won’t sell at the boutique and rice with a little bit of the tomato Maman gets for a discount because it’s gone bad. Baye says I’m old enough now that I can help Maman to sell some of her wares out in the city, to others who do not come to the breakfast stand anymore. I don’t mind so much walking around the city, balancing the tray of bananas on my head, my face cover sparkling in the sun. Sometimes though, I get scared of the big boys that chase me on the beach, or the men in the big cars that promise to buy my entire tray of bananas if I get into their cars for a few minutes. Perhaps I should let them, but something about the way they leer as they ask gives me goose bumps all over, I’d rather walk through the whole city in the sun and sell only a few bananas.

Baye is often disappointed when I don’t manage to sell the fruits. I heard him whispering last night to Maman that maybe it was time for me to get married – his friend Souleymane is looking for a second wife and lives only two doors down from us.  But I’m only twelve and I remember when Fatou next door got married, she stopped coming to class with us. Maman hopes LE CORONA will go away soon so that Baye can start driving his taxi at night again and give up this crazy idea. She says I will stay home to help her with her breakfast stand as soon as the police let us go out before day break.

‘’In the meantime, I’ll keep walking around the city with my sparkling face cover, trying to sell a few bananas and Insha Allah, I can go back to school soon.’’
Originally published by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)