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.