Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week 36: Liberia, Voodoo



I've been 14 days with UN Tom and have got a little fatter due to eating a lot of Norwegian food. I had to stay that long because I am waiting for my new camera and mini laptop. My brother helped me with some money to get this stuff, which is very nice of him. The camera is an Olympus SP 560 with a great 18 optical zoom. Not too heavy nor expensive. My laptop is an Aspire One which has a 8.9 screen and weighs 1 kg. This is perfect for me as I don't want to have too carry too much stuff in my bag but there is not a lot that you can do with the laptop except to write or check my e-mail. I am happy now as I don't like to cycle without a camera as you never know what surprises you can encounter on the road, lions etc.....

I have brought lots of good nourishing food with me as I really don't want to be getting diarrhoea again. Tom was very nice and gave me loads of Norwegian food, about 20 kg actually. I bought 3 kg groats which makes a good breakfast and also with Banyan I am able to cycle for 5 - 6 hours without eating again. He also gave me 2 months supply of malaria pills which are very expensive here to buy. I have also got some Norwegian books which were kindly donated by Tom and another Norwegian UN police working here. There was many a time when I missed having a good book to read.

There are many signs and large posters on the road side,giving out messages like, "Rape is a crime", "Stop mob violence" etc. It's so sad to read things like this. War can make life so difficult.






The cycling has been very good this week because I have ate a lot of good food. You can well imagine how terrible it can be cycling on an empty stomach as well as having chronic diarrhea . Remember that a hungry man is an angry man!
The scenery here is so spectacular and beautiful with lots of jungle and river. However along the coast a lot of it is cut back. I also saw a lot of rubber farms the most being in Firestone Bay. America aids Liberia much and I see many things with USAID.......written on.
I am often told that people are nicer from this region and I am not getting people begging me for money or being asked to be taken to Europe. It really can be too much sometimes, but in saying that I do understand why.
I saw some pictures of myself today and I must say that I was surprised to see just how very thin I've got with hardly any real muscles left on my upper body, only on my legs. I really must get back into training and get my body finely tuned.


Some people from a small bombed out village invited me to their home. They had some really ugly scars all over their bodies. Just before we got to the village I saw a sign saying "No to ritualistic killing, keep murderers in jail and say no to sassy wood and forced initiations". I had no idea what the hell that was all about! I know that religion is a tradition here, but not ritualistic killings! I tried asking someone about this, but they didn't want to say anything.




They live here similar to what we did a 100 years ago with all of them, the parents with their four kids all sleeping together in the only room and on a mattress in the middle of the floor and all of the kids running around with the chickens, dogs, cats and pigs. I have to say that it is so nice to see this simple kind of family life. You know they don't even have electricity.
There has been great curious interest shown with my digital camera because nobody around here has ever seen this sort of thing before and they loved seeing photos of themselves and their friends. I gave them a slide show on the camera which really got them laughing a lot. It is so rewarding to see someone getting so much pleasure from something so simple.




When I went into town I met a journalist who told me about a recent ritual killing.
Many people around there still believe in voodoo. They practice this in the belief that this will increase their power. Due to the war they have also been known to take peoples' body parts and eat purely from hunger. However, he told me that most of the time they use them for voodoo rituals.

I tried to get him to write down the religion which is practiced as well as the name of those people involved but he wouldn't as he said that this could be dangerous for me if I were to know. He said that they can easily inject me with evil thoughts and I could get myself killed. Wow! is religion ever strong here.



We drove around the city today and met the town chief, an old man who inherited the title from his father. He has so much power that the city government can get problems if they don't accept his wishes. He told me many other things like the biggest problem they have in town is water as all help organizations' think the city has sufficient water and the only help required is in the countryside. He also said that there had been some ritual killings' and in the war there were lot's of them.
The journalist also took me to a hospital for Lepers. I really did think that this virus had completely disappeared from the earth. It was quite disturbing seeing people without legs, fingers and deformed bodies.


During the rainy season the road looks like a muddy river. I saw two trucks had toppled over and there were a lot of cars that stuck and couldn't move. I fell over two times and literally ended up covered from head to toe in mud.

The Town Chief.

A little distance from town there was a small village with people who believe in the old traditional religion. They believe firmly in mother nature such as mountains and rivers. The town Chief promised me that there was no voodoo happening there as that is a different religion to the one they practice.
When the mining company was formed back in 1959, the people moved away from the area and in so doing didn't receive any compensation from either the mining company or government. He also told me that one of the company's' was from Sweden.

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