Monday- July 5th, 2010
Well, today was my last day of teaching- so sad! I must say that when I started teaching a few weeks ago, I was not too enthusiastic about it. After a few days of teaching at the schools, I started to fall in love with it. Between the questions students asked and the activities we did with them, it was so rewarding. Today, we taught hygiene and malaria prevention at the New Town basic school in Hohoe. We had three classes: two 4th grade classes and one 5th grade class. It is so interesting to hear the misconceptions that so many students have about malaria. One student today thought that you can get malaria by touching someone, and another student thought that malaria can turn into HIV. Of course, we cleared those misconceptions up and told them the truth, but I think that the students here are not being taught the proper aspects of health. I do understand that we are in a third world country that is very poor, but the teachers should be educating their students on the basics of how to stay healthy, preventing malaria, and other diseases that are so prevalent in the area. Since these students did not know too much about health care, it was even more rewarding to teach them, because no one else may have gave them this information if we did not come.
Since today was my last day of placement teaching, the rest of the week will be somewhat mixed between a few areas. My last week, so sad! Tomorrow I will be going to the spiritualist- supposedly a priest or some sort of religious figure that cures sick people by praying, etc. I am not exactly sure what it is all about, but will find out tomorrow. Wednesday I will be going to the hospital, Thursday I will be going to the bone setter, and Friday (my last day) I will be going to the RCH. Placement wise, this week will be the most diverse. I am really looking forward to the spiritualist and the RCH. It will also be nice to experience one last surgery/hospital experience and also going to the bone setter should be rather interesting.
After lunch today, we had quite a different experience. Four other volunteers and I went to the Voodoo shrine to visit the witch doctor. Once we arrived, Kofi- the witch doctor greeted us in ewe. He did not speak any English, so our intern supervisor George helped us understand what Kofi was saying by translating. He led us into his office, or so called "shrine," where we were able to ask questions about his so called work.
The first question that I asked was about how he became a witch doctor and how long he has been practicing. Kofi said that voodoo can only be acquired from a past experience. His experience was when he fell sick and got healed by a witch doctor- he got better and thus acquired the voodoo. He realized he had this sort of special power, so he was trained by a witch doctor in his hometown and then moved to Hohoe in 1973 to start his own practice. I then asked him what he usually cures and how he cures his patients. Kofi sees patients with all sorts of diseases and viruses. He said that he can treat any disease at all, and if he is not able to cure it- it means that they will die soon. I didn't want to sound like a smart alec, but I asked him if he can treat HIV- and he said he can. I guess he found the cure for HIV! He also said that he can cure any type of cancer, disease or virus.
When we arrived, he only had one patient there. She was a young girl, probably in her early teens and has been suffering from seizures. Her mother stated that she has been having at least one convulsion per day for the past few weeks, sometimes up to five per day. The doctors at the hospital did not know what was causing her convulsions and the mother did not want her daughter on any medicine, so the doctor suggested for them to see the witch doctor to try a herbal/spiritual remedy. So we were all outside under a huge tree and Kofi brought two bottles of some type of potion. I asked him what was in it, but he said he did not want to say- just plants and some other herbs. He had the young girl drink one full bottle of the potion, which took her about a half hour to drink- it seemed like it tasted extremely bad. After the young girl finally finished the full bottle of the potion, Kofi had her get completely naked. The other bottle was half full with the same potion, and he had her smear the potion on every part of her skin. Kofi said that drinking it is for her to feel better medicinally, and smearing it on her skin is for the spirits to escape.
After the young lady was treated, Kofi wanted to read us our fortunes. This was my favorite part of the day, I was so excited to hear my future! Individually, we went into his shrine area- with translator George of course. I sat down right in front of him on a straw rug. There must have been about 50 different types of stones, shells and bones right next to him on the rug, along with three strands of beads with some sort of wooden pieces all along the length of the beads. He first had me hold an oval stone in my hand, whisper to myself something that I wanted to "cure in my life," and something that I "want in life." I whispered these two things to myself, then he had me touch the stone to my forehead and then to my chest and then he had me spit on the rock and put next to his feet. Once this interesting introduction came to an end, he started to move around rocks all over the floor and shook the beads and dropped them and picked them up a few times, and repeated. He finally stopped everything. Kofi told me that he cannot see any troubles or major problems in the near future. He said that I should beware of making close friends and to be careful with trusting people too much. Then, he told me to look after my family- to treat my parents very well and to buy them lots of gifts. I was happy with my fortune- nothing too bad. Jessica, the girl that went before me said that Kofi told her to beware of her health because something is going to happen soon to her. I was happy that nothing like that was told to me- Even though I don't believe it's true, I would still worry about it. For example, if he told me my plane was going to crash on Saturday, do you think I would have an enjoyable and relaxing flight? It would always be in the back of my mind what Kofi said.
Even though I do not personally believe that this type of medicine works, I think it was very interesting to see the way people are treated herbally and spiritually. It is surprising that people really do believe that this type of treatment works. There may be a few coincidences where someone gets better for some reason, but casting a spell and having them drink plant extracts is not going to cure cancers and diseases.
Like anything in life, I believe it is important to have an open mind. Everyone has different beliefs and we must respect them. Some people really do believe that voodoo exists and the witch doctor can heal the ill. If that is what they believe, I cannot argue with them. Just like tomorrow- I will be going to the spiritualist. Even though I do not believe in spirits and all of that, it still interests me to see how someone believes it works and their reasons for believing in it to treat and cure sick people.