Through the Looking Glass
The new Casa del Karen -- without the groovy terrace or the excellent washing machine -- but with a little TV and air conditioning and a flush-toilet and bathtub. There's a lizard in the closet and I've killed three cockroaches so far. I am cooking on a charcoal stove (once a day is about all I can muster, usually pasta or rice. The market has mangoes, tomatoes, garlic and onion, plus all the ingredients for jollof rice.)
Napoa, above, firmly believes she is still practicing.
Assiba, above, has no sons and was accused by her rival's son's wife -- she treated the boy as a son when he was growing up, bringing him candies and new clothing.
Just arrived back in Accra after my first two weeks at the witch camp and I feel mentally exhausted. It feels like I fell through the looking glass...
I arrived in Gambaga with 50kgs of luggage in tow, most of it electronics and food items, to snag the last room at the NORRIP guesthouse, which has been empty each time I've stayed there in the past. This time it was full to capacity with Afrikaner miners flying helicopter surveys of northern Ghana in search of minerals. (How bizarre. They work five hour shifts
and spend the rest of the time drinking. The first time we met, it was because one of them had been trying to light a brandy bottle (why?) and burned his hand. They suspected I might be a nurse and could help them out. Much harrassment ensued until I finally gave up and left. They are tolerable when sober, but slightly frightening drunk. The Ghanaian staff are all
keeping a very wary eye on them, especially as relates to pure little me.)
I made my initial visit to my contact, Simon, who helped me sort out a list of who I need to speak to, where and by when. He came up with a list of women and worked out a guy who could translate, then took off for the remainder of my time. The translator turned out to be a total peach. He's doing his teacher training in Tamale, so I only get one week with him, but he was so fantastic I said, "Gee, Carlos (a weird first name for a Ghanaian kid) I wish you had a twin brother." And, of course, Carlos does have a twin brother, so he'll be my translator from here on in.
The only thing I need to sort out is transportation. I thought I'd be able to make it by scamming motor bike rides and hiring taxis, but the road is so incredibly intolerable that it's kinda not feasible. It's like driving on a corrogated roof. We did a 40-km journey on the Tuesday and I could feel it for two days afterward. (Poor Simon had the earliest symptoms of giardia at the time; I don't know how he did it.)
The women themselves are real mind benders. Lots of sad stories of jealousy, or outbreaks, or just old ladies outliving their usefulness. I'd walk away a true believer, then consult Carlos who invariably said, "Oh Madam!" in a real disappointed,
what-a-gullible-dunce sort of way. He firmly believes every one of the women is a witch and we had all sorts of trippy conversations about what makes a witch and how to identify a witch. The theme: trust no one.
I feel more confused than ever and have hardly commited a word to paper.