So I was going to write a post about ritualistic killing in Liberia but…

My parents are becoming a bit concerned. Mom, Dad, don’t worry…

I have phone numbers for about a dozen DEN-L staff. Now, I’m not going to sugar coat this, all of them are male and several may have an unnecessary interest in me. However, I’ve learned from organizing and over the years how to push off an admirer and most of the opportunists realize that I’m leaving, that I’m not interested in that, and that I am interested in talking to them, so they settle for that. Also, as I said, I’m living on a compound full of my brothers looking out for me. My younger brothers wouldn’t let anything happen to me nor would my older brothers.

Now, I did take a couple of unnecessary risks last week: going out one on one with non-DEN-L staff on a motorcycle driven by non-DEN-L staff. Now I know that was stupid and will not be doing that again, though thankfully, nothing bad happened (I went out with my new friend from the Department of Health who is quite a gentleman). I will be riding a motorcycle again, but I will make sure I know the driver from now on. Motorcycle accidents are just too likely. Also, one of the trainers told me that there’s a helmet in the office so I’ll be borrowing that in the future. I also know where the closest hospital is, and have a contact there (thanks to the workshop with the health professionals) so if I was in a really bad spot I could get somewhere with doctors. However, like I said, I will be diminishing my risky behavior.

As for drinking, as that was also a concern of my parents, don’t worry, at the most I’ll have three beers in one night, and that makes me a very heavy drinker here. It’s probably not good that my tolerance is much higher than that but at the same time it’s very useful to be able to keep up with the drinks that are given to me without losing my head. It seems that Liberians don’t drink much and definitely do not have the “drink to get drunk” mentality of American youth.

So on to ritualistic killing. Seriously, this is a real problem. I bring it up to point out that I’m not vacationing here, this isn’t “Ally joy-rides through Liberia” and I want to make sure that I’m not presenting a distorted view of what I’m learning and experiencing even if it might be disconcerting from afar. I found out about ritualistic killings from one of the trainers, who at first did not describe what he meant by “ritualistic.” It turns out that there are people in Liberia who believe that some human body parts have medicinal purposes. In fact, there was a murder last year of a young man and the young people rioted after the lack of police response. DEN-L than organized a counter demonstration to show that while it’s important to take to the streets, you can get more done without burning down the police station (the counter protest was in May of this year). The trainer went on to tell me that most people who are targeted are “vulnerable;” such as young people, women, and the elderly. Nothing like another reason that it’s hard to be a woman in Liberia…It’s very complicated too, considering the traditional belief. I probed a little more into what the people believed about the medicinal value of human parts and hit a block (some things are just a little too sensitive) but what I did get is that the trainer who was explaining this all to me did not think that it was good but did recognize that the people who used these products not only believed that it worked, but it did work for them. Cultural relativity strikes again.

*The picture has nothing to do with the post but I like including pictures with my posts. That’s my dog on the compound, though he doesn’t like me much.


5 thoughts on “So I was going to write a post about ritualistic killing in Liberia but…

  1. yes, ally, you should definitely wear a helmet while on a motorcycle. we don't want you smashing your head on a rock and contracting a seizure disorder in liberia.

  2. hahaha this reminds me of me in ghana … “now i know that was stupid and will not be doing that again.” there was no motorcycle riding for me but definitely some “going with strangers”-type risky behavior

  3. if you want to find out more about the traditional beliefs and what not there are some people that hang out right at the door of the masque on main street that sell charms and what not. If you make friends with them they are really talkative and will explain everything to you.

    I was given a bracelet charm to protect me from evil spells but I was told that the medicine man that made it was not a very powerful one so a powerful curse could still effect me.

    The Mask of Anarchy is a really good book explaining the supernatural side of the conflict in Liberia and I think there is a copy at DEN-L. If not, Cherrie and Liam have one in Monrovia that you could probably borrow.

  4. I don't know about Liberia, but one good reason not to end up in the hospital in a lot of parts of Africa (besides the obvious) is that if you get a blood transfusion, it may not be the most HIV-free blood you've ever encountered…

  5. Right you are, PeePee, but the health people I've been talking to like to pretend that isn't a problem…of course it is…but they do what they can.

    As far as ritualistic killings, Matt I found out some more info, thanks for the recommendation too! I'll look into that. But I found out that its not that the killer sells the body parts, they use them themselves to increase their virility/popularity, etc. So theres the case of this senator from Lofa county who mysteriously left town after a 13 year old boy was killed right before an election. Now I'm not saying he did it, but he won't answer any questions about it so…hm…

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