January 19th 2003
Wall to wall the room must have been big enough to fit four single size beds. I know this because it had two single beds in it and I figure they took up about half of the room in that “house”. The house was a part of serious of housing kind of like a duplex but I would say it was a ten-plex. Maybe twenty to thirty people were living in this sort of long skinny building divided into different separate rooms kind of housing in this one family compound. The people living there are all related in one way or the other and most do not have jobs but basically just spend there time with the family in the compound most of the day. I had walked by this specific housing block which I know for all the people it houses is not any bigger than the place I stay by myself and I saw the old lady, a grandmother of the group. Something set her apart though from the rest, a Hindu might say she had the Dharmakaya light but in the Western culture we just say, “there was something about her”.
I was walking with a young man in who was taking me to his garden. He is an Aids orphan and not having any money or an education enough to get a good job is more or less reduced to begging. I have told him basically he is not getting anything out of me but after coming into a surplus of seeds I struck a deal with him that if he dug a garden I would give him the seeds. If it all works out he will have more food to eat and can maybe sell some of the food to have money for other things.
After we walked passed this lady he kind of mentioned in a soft humble voice that the lady is a sangoma or traditional African witchdoctor. A week later I am sitting in her house as I described above making a deal for a potion. She while not having the thing that I had come for was willing to make a bargain for something else. After negations that for me seemed to go on and on in an excited “I can’t believe I am in Africa making a deal with a sangoma type of way” even though it could not of been more than twenty minutes the deal was struck. Like I had said I had not got the thing that I had intentions of getting and had also passed up a certain concoction that was supposed to make “people obey me” some kind of power potion I think, I settled on a mixture that is supposed to make me more in tune with my spiritual side. I paid fifty rand which by all means is very expensive here. It is one third of what I pay on a monthly basis to have my house cleaned and my wash done once a week but is better than the two hundred rand we started negotiations with. All in all though fifty rand in American money though is only five dollars so I gather it is how a person perceives it.
Sitting in that little room on a hot day making a deal with a witch doctor is not for everybody I guess. In fact I am not too sure if very many Peace Corps have actually done it but I know many must have. I am sure it is not too unsafe or they would of warned us about it in the way they warned us about the herd boys or the secret circumcision schools. And I can also take into consideration one of the other Peace Corps volunteers who stays on a compound with a supposed sangoma saying, “My dad is supposed to be a sangoma but every time he has a headache he comes to me for aspirin.” After all the mixture I bought is probably something like ground up herbs and vegetables or something and I am not sure just how blessed I will be from the mixture but I am excited to have had the opportunity to have done such a thing and been brave enough to do it. Love ya’ll, jeff