It is crazy how superstitious some people are over here! And it is not a religious thing, it is more of a cultural thing. People who are devout Christians who believe in God will also believe in something called Juju or black magic. I have heard about it from people in the village, girls at the school, Nick’s roommate and even read about it in the newspaper.
In the newspaper I was reading a story about students who skip school in order to spend their time in internet café’s cheating foreigners out of money. There are huge rings of scams going on. It is a large problem for the education system because of the poor attendance rates and dropping test scores. However not only do they skip school for this some of them also apparently use juju (spells and different rituals) to give them special powers and make them more successful in cheating people out of money. Some of the rituals include sleeping in coffins, not bathing, eating flies… They believe that if you bathe after you have used juju or while you are using it you will die. Sleeping in coffins will give you power and eating 15 flies 3 times a day will also give you certain powers.
Some of the students at the school have told me I should only take tro-tros and not taxis because some taxis have coffins in the trunk and one out of every 10 people the drive will die. They will just keel over and drop dead for no reason. Nicks roommate Bella is probably the most superstitious person I have yet to meet. She is so scared of juju, yet she is also very hard core Christian. It seems very strange to me that you can believe so fully in Gods power and love, yet at he same time believe so strongly in juju. She will not pick money up off the side of the road in case someone has put juju on it. Apparently people can put juju on money so that when you pick it up off the side of the road something bad will happen to you (you will turn into a yam, your manhood will fall off, etc.) I do not know what good this would do to someone else, so I am not sure why someone would put a spell on money to do that in the first place… It just blows my mind how strongly some people believe in these things. Nick told me a story about when his Dad worked in Africa as a colonial police officer – One day a man came into the police station ranting about how a witch put a spell on him and he was going to die in 2 days if they did not go and make her take the spell off of him. There was nothing the police could do for him, so the man left. 2 days later he dropped dead and the autopsy showed no sign of anything being wrong with the man. There was no cause of death. I think that when things supposedly happen because of black magic it is because people have psychologically made themselves so convinced of them. The human mind is a powerful thing and you have to be very careful what you choose to believe in!
This is a huge cultural difference that I have noticed and it continues to put me a little on edge. I was feeling very uncomfortable by it until I talked to Anita about it. She told me that so many people believe in it, but it is just silliness in her opinion. She holds the same view that I do in terms of the mind being a powerful tool and it is only when you believe in something so strongly that something will happen. It will definitely be an interesting summer here having people quote scripture to me in one breath and then in the next be telling me about juju and black magic! Life sure is different here!