Saturday, November 27, 2010

"It's a cultural thing."

Upon learning the wonderful news about my option to choose a disease (malaria or cholera!?), I learned I wouldn’t be walking back to bed. Not that it’s too far. In good health it’s just about a five minute walk, all downhill… akin to the walk from the top of Avon to North Brooksvale. Regardless, I was getting a ride!

The nice thing was that one of the few other Americans here – a recent NYU grad and native of The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Jack * – was driving. So I’d get another minute or two of easy conversation. That would be great because in my condition I wasn’t really up for the often laborious exercise of:

1) someone speaking to me in creole;
2) me translating to English;
3) me realizing I don’t understand one particular word;
4) me asking “’Q’est-ce que c’est?”;
5) me listening to an explanation… all in creole… expecting there would be another word that I wouldn’t understand; then

6) repeat the process.

I enjoy learning languages. But I have to be in the right mindset and in the right health. But I didn’t have to do any of that. Fantastic.

I get in the Land Cruiser.

Jack starts chatting. I knew he’d been here only three months and already had malaria twice. And while I don’t think either bout was as severe as mine – they usually aren’t – he can relate. He had already told me about his surreal night sweating under a blanket in the balmy summer night, contemplating the fact that he also had his fan blasting and pointed directly at him.

Anyway, Jack asks me “Did you hear what happened at the bus station yesterday?”

I said no. But I know the bus station. It’s maybe a mile from where I live. He had my interest.

He goes onto explain.

I looked at him and said “so you mean a couple guys got necklaced?”

I taught him a new word. And if you don’t know the word, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:

Necklacing is the practice of summary execution carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with petrol, around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.

And if you’re wondering why someone may get necklaced, I understand that this particular situation was that a few guys were accused of voodoo witchcraft and conspiring to kill “many children” with a cholera spell. The evidence of this crime was obvious and overwhelming.

1) The men were found with a bottle with a liquid in it. The liquid was believed to be a voodoo potion.

2) The men were “known for those sorts of things.”

3) The men had relatives who had died, probably due to voodoo spells.

So there you have it.

It happened a mile from where I sleep.

As I spoke with my mom yesterday, I could read her mind.

“Cholera, malaria, riots, the likelihood of another earthquake and NOW... necklaces.

Why. Are. You. There?”

* (Jack is a volunteer here, acting as a jack-of-all-trades. He helps with everything from helping organize World AIDS Day events to GPSing assets to some photojournalism. He actually saw one of the corpses -- still at the bus station -- after we talked. It was at least a full day after it happened. I asked him if he stopped for any photos, but he said he was essentially in shock... and also concerned about his own personal safety... for obvious reasons, I think.)


Anonymous said...

Surely Tim will receive a special place in Heaven for his selfless sacrifice and compassionate service. Let's just hope it's not for many more decades!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like life in the South Bronx during the the deadly hot summers of the mid-seventies! Get well quick Tim and keep the great info lines open.