In the early seventies, I found myself tracking through the Liberian jungle, accompanied by a fellow Peace Corp volunteer Michael, within a city called Harper (right on the ocean) as our starting point. This was probably the worst idea I even conceived of. Some students at the Catholic mission high school, where I was teaching, told me about this herbalist. The only way to reach this person was to have a boatman (the term for a native paddling) take us from the city of Harper, to a remote island, and walk the equivalent of several miles.
Now I don’t know what I expected to find, nor do I recall why Michael agreed to come along. Probably it’s the crazy youth, as some other volunteers were hitchhiking across the Sahara desert, hitching rides from Arab truck drivers. My goal was to reach this herbalist before nightfall, and walking at a fast pace, was the only option.
When we reached the village, we were greeted by this African medicine man. He was waiting, as we were walking along the ocean shoreline, coming into his village. Did he know that we were coming to see him? The thought ran through my mind. Yet there was something dark and menacing about this man! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but fear was reeking up inside me. Michael seemed not to sense anything, and I wonder if I was hearing too many stories from students, of magic men.
To be continued…