Usman Sani Dankoly from his kot in Morocco
My mum always tells me that life is uncertain but one who is positive minded and have a healthy relationship with people will never lack a helping hand. For the past 3 weeks, I have learned that she is right.
I was fortunate to receive funds from the City of Antwerp to do an internship and work on my master thesis abroad. On 3rd March I travelled to University Mohammed Premier, Oujda, Morocco. Since then I have been working on a VLIR-UOS South Initiative project entitled “Changing towards a cultural-sensitive multidisciplinary lifestyle approach for women with type 2 diabetes in Oujda, Morocco”.
“Let’s go to the farm”, my mentor in Morocco said after we ate a delicious couscous in his house on 18th of March. I knew right away that a something strange was about to happen. We drove almost 60 km away from Oujda to a farm. Soon, we started harvesting ripe oranges and collecting them in baskets. After filling five baskets we drove back. He dropped me in my student studio and offered me an entire basket of oranges. At first, I thought that was too much and not necessary. He insisted and told me I needed to stay healthy as we are anticipating a lockdown tomorrow.
The following morning the hostel became noisy. Local students dragged their suitcases downstairs and left. For me, either Belgium or Nigeria is far away and it was unclear if I would be able to return or not. Morocco shut down its airspace and as a Nigerian citizen I could not board on repatriation flights to Belgium. Then, I quickly bought groceries out of fear that food stores might be closed. By 6 pm the lockdown was imposed. Suddenly, everything was silent as if it was already midnight.
Since then, I stay alone in my room. I cannot go out with my friends or be in the company of my mentor and his family because here you can only leave your house with a special permit to go to the doctor or a nearby store.
But thank God for internet and social media! They have saved my mental health. I am in touch with everyone: my university, my classmates and my loved ones. I am stuck but my days are lively. Every morning at 6 am my wife gives me a wake-up call. That’s so lovely and I like it very much. Then, I get out of bed, brush my teeth, perform ablution and pray. It gives me much strength and good faith that we will come out of this pandemic. After that I make breakfast. Sometimes I do pushups to stay in shape. During weekdays I work on my master thesis entitled “Perceived barriers, benefits, facilitators, and attitudes of Health Professionals towards multidisciplinary team care in type 2 diabetes management in Oujda, Morocco: a qualitative study”.
I also attend ENACTUS project meetings with my team. This is a social entrepreneurship project aimed at achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). We’re working on developing a sustainable and cost-effective obstetric pain management device to improve Maternal and Child Health living in Africa. I take short breaks to have lunch and eat chocolate. On Monday and Wednesday evenings I attend an online Dutch language class from Linguapolis with others students. During the weekends, my day time is mostly occupied with video calls from family, friends and loved ones, relaxing, watching movies or news, and playing games on my phone. In the evening, me and my wife make dinner online. I am not a good cook and she helps me to make a tasty meal.
When will this end? I don’t know. The lockdown in Morocco was planned until 20 April with possibility to extend for longer period. I am in close contact with faculty members who are doing their utmost to put me on the first flight back to Belgium. I believe it will be fine, I’m alone but I am not lonely!
This article was written for fromyourkot.be, an online platform that was created in times of corona at the request of the University of Antwerp.
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