Obviously spending three weeks out in the bruce will lead to many interesting stories. One is especially worthy of mention above the others. And thus I present the night of the living dead.
The first day I returned to homestay I found out that one of my homestay mothers had passed away. Though I had never met her (she had been in the hospital in Bamako for a number of months) it was still a sad but fascinating occasion to see a Malian/Muslim funeral. The following day, the day of the service, she was buried within the required 24 hours, there was a big dinner, and lots of people from across the town and region were in our concession. Now begins the “story”:
Around 8:30 I was sitting with my host brother (Alu) in the middle of the compound, talking, watching the starts, etc… Suddenly one of the daughters (age 14) near the entrance begins screaming and shaking. She falls to the ground wailing and one of the older men attempts to try to pick her up and move her towards the nearest room. At first this appears fairly normal, it being the day of a funeral and all; however, as the screaming continues it begins to steadily increase in intensity and noise. Now more people have gathered around and are trying to drag the girl into the nearest hut, presumably to quiet her down. In the process of all this my host brother explains to me in French that the girl is “sick in the head” and that each full moon they know she’s getting sick/having an episode because the screaming begins.
At this point she is now surrounded by adults who are physically dragging her across the ground. As Alu explains, and is apparent, she is literally not her normal self in this state. Clearly some form of mental disorder (name??). They manage to get the girl onto her feet and she attempts to run towards another one of the rooms in the compound. Apparently thinking she is running herself into her own room, the adults momentarily release her. Mistake.
She goes running, and shrieking, full speed out of the compound and into the Malian night. At this point all hell breaks loose. My host brother, along with five or six other guys, go sprinting out of the compound and down the road, all clearly freaking out. My host brother has such amazing speed and agility (he hurtled two chairs and three children on his full speed exit of the compound) that someone needs to sign him to the Redskins. Hello new free safety.
The men chase her down about a block away, tackle her in the middle of the road, and drag her kicking and screaming back to the compound. Full moons are bright enough that you can see all of this in the dead of night, no problem. She is taken into one of the bedrooms and they (six men) proceed to wrestle with her as they attempt to bound and gag her to the bed. All the while she is screaming bloody murder.
Suddenly, however, the screaming changes. Now the men start yelling. And come flying out of the room into the courtyard. And what follows them? AN ENTIRE STOVE OF HOT COALS. It explodes on the ground as everyone, myself included, dive for cover from the burning embers. Apparently the zombie daughter had managed to break free and was sending all objects she could get hold of out the doorway and towards the rest of us. With a momentary pause in the dangerous projectiles (though not the screaming), the men charge back into the room like a swat team as the women frantically run around trying to put out the small fires on the ground.
More screams from all parties involved. After about five minutes it finally gets quiet (I think the gag held) and my host brother comes back and sits down with me. He explains that she gets like this everyone now and again, is very sick in the head, and that it’s sad that she is completely removed from herself (which it is). I then proceed to ask him how they got her to quiet down…
His answer? Well, it seems that when she gets like this they run and summon the local witch doctor, who comes and performs brief but highly effective “spells” on her. No exception in this case, and I watched as the witch doctor later left the compound and slunk off into the night. The following day I saw him walking with our local wizard down the main road. Who needs a hospital when you've got Harry Potter?