A couple of weeks ago I had a training on personal safety and security. This training is an intense experience where you discuss anything that you might come across in terms of safety, from knowing when to shut up when someone tries to rob or kidnap you, to getting tips and tricks around encrypting confidential emails. I left the training slightly paranoid, which might have had to do with the guy that taught us internet safety. He was so obsessed with his personal safety he had considered attaching a rubber boat to his rooftop. He wanted to mitigate the risk of flooding for living in a city below sea level. A session with the appealing title ‘Ammunition Awareness’ didn’t help either. I simply don’t want to think about the number of mines humanity has developed over time. The Russians even made one especially for soldiers on skies.
And here I am in the Casamance, where all these tips potentially come in handy as there has been strive and insurgence going on between different ethnic groups for a long time. But the first thing I noticed was none of this, as the flight in was absolutely amazing. The view over the green delta of mangrove forest was stunning. The sun was setting, making all the water look like silver streams and basins lining pockets of giant mushrooms. I have never seen something so mesmerizing in my life.
The people I’ve met thus far have also given me no indication of possible danger and the hotel is extremely calm as well, making my anxiety for potential risks, basically subside to zero. So much, I happily stepped on the back of a motorbike this morning without a helmet, in a summer dress, on heels. I did ask the coordinator of the organisation I’m working with to drive slowly, which he courteously did. And while the engine of his brand new Yahama – only acquired in July – was modestly roaring because of the slow pace, I soaked up my surroundings. Forgetting the one risk my white skin appreciates, but cannot really handle, the tropical sunshine. Tomorrow I’ll need to remind myself of the song by Baz Luhrman: Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen to deal with the one risk I should be able to control.