Bobo Has Malaria
Bobo is back in Cotonou, Benin. His story is long and thus far not happy:
After two attempts at leaving Benin to make the long journey back to Haiti, Bobo finally reached Madrid on Friday, only to be denied his onward journey to Havana. We are still trying to confirm details of why his trans-atlantic flight was denied, but it seems to be the fault of the airline, Air Europa, who claimed he did not have a ticket, even though we have all the valid documentation to prove the contrary. Without passage to Havana, Bobo was sent back to Cotonou by Royal Air Marok, via an exhausting and traumatic 24 hours in Casablanca airport.
Bobo arrived back to Cotonou from Casablanca this morning at 6 am. We had arrived in Cotonou the night before, having flown in from Nairobi after our continuing toilet tour to Kenya and South Africa (see other blogs to follow). Last night we envisioned rescuing our poor colleague Bobo from the airport after his ordeal, giving him some food and drink and putting him into bed.
The day ahead would unfold very differently:
We arrived to meet Bobo at the airport at 6am. We waited for him at the passenger exit for a few minutes until Sasha noticed him in his red jacket, seated timidly in the corner of the police office at the side of the Cotonou arrivals gate. Bobo had apparently been escorted by Royal Air Marok, back from Madrid to Cotonou, and was now under Beninoise police custody. After a frantic few minutes of trying to release Bobo, we realized that the only answer available on a Sunday was “You have to wait until the boss comes in”. After an hour and a half of waiting for the boss, Bobo’s health took a turn for the worse and we traded Sasha’s passport for Bobo’s free passage away from the police office and to a nearby clinic.
We were lucky to find a clinic “Mahouna” just minutes from the airport where the gentle Dr. Gipsy quickly ordered tests and found Bobo a bed in which to recover from his ordeal. We were happy that Bobo was out of the corner of the small crowded police office, and in good hands. We then set off once more for the airport to recover the passports from the ‘Boss’ and perhaps recover Bobo’s luggage too. After 4 more hours of waiting, we discovered that Bobo’s suitcase was still in Madrid, and decided that Sunday morning was a bad time for business in Cotonou. We then returned to see Bobo at Mahouna.
We returned to find Bobo barely conscious but just able to tell us what he had heard from Dr. Gipsy, that he had severe malaria. Our instant worry over Bobo’s health was met only by the shock that this day was turning worse. We spoke again with Dr. Gipsy and he confirmed what Bobo had told us; that Bobo had severe malaria and would need hospital care for 3 days.
Sasha and I have postponed our return flights to Haiti and will stay with Bobo until he is recovered enough to try again the voyage back home. It has been incredibly difficult to stay abreast of Bobo’s movements as we have also been travelling through South Africa and Kenya. We thank you all for holding Bobo in your thoughts, and we ask you to keep him there for a while longer, at least until he is recovered and eating again, and ideally until he is back on Haitian soil. On Bobo’s behalf, we would like to thank the incredible SOIL team in Port-au-Prince and Virginia who have dropped everything to talk to officials on crackly long distance phone calls and organize flights, we would like to thank the friends and family and Mums and Dads who have offered their unconditional assistance, and the many supporters of the SOIL family who have extended their hearts and made donations to Bobo’s cause.
As I write this blog at midnight from the German guesthouse in Cotonou, Bobo lies about a kilometer away in the Mahouna clinic. He is fighting off malaria with quinine pumping through his veins, and a warm glow of support and solidarity in his heart. To all those who care for Bobo, please keep holding him in your heart, and keep sustaining his gros-bon-ange with all of your love and positive energy.