Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Swine Flu disrupts Bootcamp plans

By Doha Al Zohairy

“I’m not going to school next week,” my 20-year-old sister Asmaa told me couple of days ago over the phone. She just started her summer courses, but now the course is on hold until June 14, and might be canceled for the summer.

Only two days ago, two students in The American University in Cairo’s Zamalek dormitory were diagnosed with swine flu. Now, there are eight cases and the dorm has been quarantined for a whole week.

Panic started in Zamalek area as well as at AUC. In addition to closing off the dorm, AUC is closing the new campus located in New Cairo and everyone inside AUC is wearing a mask.

Quickly we got the news here in Qatar where six students from AUC, six others from Qatar University and 12 more from different universities from the United States are gathered in a journalism program.  We are supposed to spend ten days here in Qatar and ten days in Egypt.

I’m not worried about going back to my country next week. I’m more worried about my family who live there.

Here in Qatar, most of the parents of my colleagues contacted Larry Pintak the director of the Kamal Adham Center and the organizer of the program, to make sure that their daughters or sons won’t stay at the AUC dorm when we go back to Egypt.

Others just decided not to go.

“Well I would if you convinced my mother and my fiancé,” said Mira Alkuwari organizer of the Qatar part program said. “But I know they wont agree.”

The rest of the Qataris are worried but they will still go.

But the students were supposed to stay in the Zamalek dorms, throwing the program’s planners into confusion.

“I have been planning for their accommodation and transportation for the past three months, now I have to re-plan everything again,” said Caroline Ghobrial, the organizer of the program in Cairo.

“I will be worried from the moment they arrive Egypt till the moment they leave about where are they going and who are they talking to. They are my responsibility.”

My American colleagues seemed to not be bothered.

“I’m not worried. Not at all,” said Anna Koulouris a senior student in Syracuse University. “We never had an epidemic before so that’s why we see swine flu, as, you know, just a flu, not more.”

“Plus all the people who died from swine flu in other countries had illness before so their bodies were already weak for any kind of flu,” she added.

Jennifer Cupp, a graduate student, said if there was an upside to getting swine flu in Egypt, it would mean her return trip would be delayed.

“(It would) actually will be ok with me, I would like to spend more time in Egypt,” Cupp said.

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