Thursday, June 25, 2009


Because of the way things run in Zambia I haven't been very good about keeping up a blog. There, internet is spotty and slow, my writing needs to be censored and conservative so as not to offend host country nationals if they happen upon my blog and Peace Corps wants it to be posted that these are my views and not the views of Peace Corps. Which of course this is true, but to avoid having to censor myself I have set this blog to private to be viewed only by family and friends. There is also an adult warning because there are some things going on at site that should not be read by children, plus I like cuss words for no other reason than emphasis, even though they sound unintellectual and give the impression that you know no other words to express yourself. This is my warning. The following post is what I have been experiencing at site for the past ten days.

Juju is not something I believe in, at least in the true sense of the word. Juju encompasses a lot of things; spells and curses, witches and wizards being able to fly on any object to any part of the world at warp speeds, charms, taking body parts from humans and animals to gain special powers. It is all encompassing basically, some include African Medicine in this category and some don't. It seems as if there is no distinct line really. My first encounter with African Medicine happened earlier last week when my friend wanted his Grandma to give him African Medicine to stop his chronic nose bleeds. In America people usually go to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and have their nose cauterized, or there are a variety of home remedies including humidity and Vaseline. In the bush of Africa you go to a Traditional Healer or in this case a Bana Chimbusa (basically a teacher of women and a midwife) to have African Medicine applied. I agreed to go with him to his family's farm a few kilometers from my house, his Grandma is a wonderful woman. In my mind she was going to give him something to drink or shove some herbs up his nose, no big deal. In actually she wanted to make four cuts on his face, tattooing basically. Two cuts between the eyes and two cuts on the chin, not very deep and with a new clean razor blade. Then she would rub the pounded herbs into those cuts. As you might imagine coming from a western culture this would seem very illogical and pointless. As most of you might imagine as well I had no reservation in telling them that is was pointless. It was an interesting situation, I was so visibly upset and just kept saying "no, no, no don't do it" that they realized it would be better to wait while I was not around. It was upsetting for many reasons; she has no antiseptic to clean the blade and the spot she was going to cut, she was going to touch his blood and she doesn't know what his HIV status is (and even if he tested negative he could still possibly be in the window period - meaning he is in the first three to six months of being positive), and second this man wants to go to university to become a teacher or a journalist at least where I come from face tattooing would make career opportunities more rare. This might not be the case in Zambia or anywhere in Africa for that matter, but my mentality is still very western. This was the first exposure to African Medicine.

A few days after this happened I went over to the neighbors for lunch. There were many people around, the neighbor kids, the grandma to the neighbor lady (who now lives there), the niece of the neighbor, and some other people. Nobody wanted to eat lunch for some reason, I found this alarming that especially the children would turn down a meal. That evening I was at my other neighbors house (the brother to the first neighbor) and found out that the niece had run away into the bush. She had said that her dad who passed away last October was calling her to be with him and she was ready to die. I had just seen this girl a few hours before and had no idea that she was in such a terrible mental state. Over the next several days her story was revealed to me. For the sake of time and clarity I will just give the details I know in the order that they happened (not in the order that I learned of them). I am also going to give her a general Bemba name so that if you come to visit me her identity will be protected.

Chanda is a 16 year old girl who went to go live with her Grandma after her father passed away. Her father had remarried after Chanda's mother passed away, I am not sure how many years ago. (If I were you I would be speculating about their HIV status right now, I am, but it is irrelevant to this story - right now anyway). Traditionally the mother's brother or brothers would become legally responsible for this child - keeping her house, clothed, fed, in school and later down the line for her marriage arrangements. For whatever reason she was taken in by the Grandma.

Her Grandma stays deep in the bush between a few villages less than 10 kilometers from my house. There was someone very sick who lived at the Grandma's, maybe her husband - I am not very clear on these details. The Grandma called an African Doctor from Kaiaiya to come and treat this person. When the African Doctor asked for payment the Grandma told him that she had no money but that he could marry her granddaughter Chanda. Chanda refused saying that she was still a school girl and was too young to be married. No service can go unpaid and this man, 40 something years in age at least seemed to think that this was an acceptable form of payment. Chanda refused and refused. This man wanted what was owed him though and he forced himself on her, he raped her presumably to feel as if he had received some payment for his services. I am unclear as to how many times he forced sex upon her, once is enough to do damage physically and emotionally, I can only hope it wasn't repeated multiple times. Chanda ran away into the for four nights sometime after this happened, the trauma had taken a toll on her mentally and she started acting crazy. A short time after she ran away in Kaiaiya she came to my village to stay with her father's brothers (my neighbors).

After she refused to eat lunch with us that day she ran away into the bush again around our place, this time just for the night. Paschal and Thomas, the uncles, were very distraught by this young woman's condition so they went to a very famous African Doctor/Traditional Healer/Witch Doctor, what ever title he goes by. People from very far, even other provinces in Zambia come to see this man. They payed 40,000 Kwatcha (about $8) to get some African Medicine. The African Doctor instructed Paschal to cut the scalp from the forehead to the nape of the neck (where the head meets the neck) and them apply the herbs given. Paschal told me he was giving her this medicine and wanted me to watch how it was done. As stated before I don't con don, agree or support this practice in any manner and refused to watch. He wanted to give her this medicine to help her stop acting crazy, to cure her mind of bad thoughts. At this point in time I was not aware of the entire situation and only knew that she had run away. If I had known the full situation I would have been much more adamant about him not doing it, but he is a very strong willed person who believes very strongly in African Medicine. I returned to their house about 10 mins after this discussion and Chanda was sitting there with green powder in her hair, he had done it already. She slept the whole rest of the day and would not talk or eat. That was on Friday maybe.

On Saturday they called some people to the house including the Grandma to my friend, the Bana Chimbusa, to have prayers for Chanda. They spent most of the afternoon praying for and with Chanda to help her clear her mind of all these bad thoughts. It kind of sounded like they were wanting to do an exorcism, but I have no idea what really went on. I just know they were praying and using incense.

On Tuesday I went over to Pascal's house in the late morning on my way to visit one of my farmers, by this time there were people starting to gather at their house. The Grandma to Chanda was there, the African Doctor from Kaiaiya and someone for his behalf showed up, as well as cousins and uncles for Chanda, Bana Chimbusa Grandma, and some others I didn't know. Chanda was there as well. The Uncles called the Grandma and the African Doctor in Kaiaiya to discuss the story that Chanda conveyed to them. After about 8hrs of meeting, the African Doctor denying these charges, and Chanda having to confront her aggressor and tell her Uncles he was lying the Uncles decided to take the African Doctor and the Grandma into custody at the market in the village to hold them until they could be taken to the jail in our BOMA, where all the government offices are for our district. As you might think, Chanda got worse after the torturous even of having to confront her aggressor and started saying terrible things, rocking and moaning and having basic suicidal thoughts. I left the village Wednesday, yesterday, and the two people taken into custody were waiting to meet with their families before they were taken to jail in Mungwi BOMA. So at this time I do not know if these people have been jailed or not. This issue now is getting Chanda back in school. The Grandma does not want her to go to school, she should be in grade 9. The uncles said if she gets well she should be back in school, I said put her in school to give her hope, a schedule and something else to focus on.

Needless to say I was very grateful to be able to get out of the village and away from this situation, which is very selfish. But at the same time I was upset that I could not communicate with her or give better advice to the family as to how to address this situation so as to not make it worse for Chanda. It is also a bit of a disadvantage to receive the information piece meal and after the fact, they obviously wanted no advice from me - otherwise they would of asked. This is a rather unfortunate event and it breaks my heart to say that this is not necessarily a unique case here. It is no wonder that I feel like I am loosing my marbles myself. The uncles wanted the African Doctor who attacked Chanda to lift the spells off her that he cast while forcing himself on her. While he has no power in actuality to do this, and this is not too far from the truth as to what happens when someone is attacked (in an obscure and unscientific way of explaining what happens to the mind).

No comments:

Post a Comment