26 Feb 2013

Tuesday Truths!


I hope that was chirpy enough? Why am I asking you ask? You did ask, right? Well...anyhoo!

Tuesdays are THE longest day of the week, people may tell you that it has 24 hours like every other day but in terms of dragging along at the pace of a one legged snail it wins hands down.

So how can we make it whizz by a little quicker? I thought maybe, just maybe we could re-instate Tuesday Truths for one week only! Or at least from me. I would love to have a guest blogger to post their Tuesday Truth here...if thats you then get in touch!

Those of you who have been trapped on my blog for many a good month now will possibly remember that Tuesday Truth is either a true story or a rant. This week I have opted for a truth...so, grab yourself a cuppa, get comfy and I shall begin...

Surely, you're Ju-Ju joking?!

I’ve long threatened to regale you all with this true tale…and today is that day! Apologies for repeating some history bits here but for our new guests, they may not know….so…

When I was a young whipper snapper (if ever I was!) I applied to the VSO. The VSO is the Voluntary Service Overseas and is the British version of the Peace Corps. My application was accepted and I was offered a placement in Ghana, West Africa – back when it was still a third world country, lol – I would be teaching maths and science (my degree is in Physics – for my sins) in a small village in the Upper East Region.  What they forgot to mention is that a village school is the opposite of a village school here and is more like an inner city school and vice versa.

I have many tales I could tell but today I will share with you the tale of the Ju-Ju man. I have actually been to see two Ju-Ju men both specialising in different areas – crazy when you say it out loud - but today’s focus is on the one I went to see about the theft of some money from my bungalow.

Along with my job and a small stipend, I was provided with accommodation by the school. The accommodation was a rather large two bedroom bungalow on campus. I remember the day that I was dropped off at my placement. We had travelled up the country dropping off other volunteers as we went and I was the last one, being the furthest north, the driver was the one who left us. I went into my bungalow, looked around, put my bag down and looked at the driver. He smiled the broadest of grins and then said ‘Ok, I am going now’ and my response was undignified and pathetic, it was something like ‘No, you can’t go, don’t leave me, I can’t stay here on my own. No. Don’t go.’ And I watched as he drove off leaving me in this strange place, in this strange country.

I did eventually adjust (with limits) and settled into my teaching schedule as best I could, having had very minimal training in the UK (where the schools are completely different), and basically being left to it. It was nerve wracking standing in front of 40+ students, of varying academic ability, with minimum English and yet there I was. Left alone to control them and educate them as best I could on two of the hardest subjects that there could have been….why I didn’t turn and run then I do not know…but like I said, they’re stories for another day!

So, I was settled into my routine, and then the holidays came and off I went to spend a week in the countries capital, Accra, picking up a Kitten whilst I was there (I named her Buffy!) and returned home.

I had locked my house up before I left and had thought nothing of leaving some money in a book in a bag in my wardrobe.  A few days after returning, I went to check the money as my mother and family had been fundraising in the UK to help buy us new tyres for the school pickup truck, and it was time to go and buy them. The truck was used to transport the students to football matches around the area and as the school Sports Madam (another story) I wanted to help and my family being the supportive bunch they are wanted to help too. But when I checked the funds I saw that I was short by about £30. Three £10 notes were missing. I was shocked. I thought I must have misplaced it. I have never had the best memory and lose things easily but something niggled in the back of my mind that I hadn’t on this occasion. Which meant someone had been in my house whilst I was away and stolen it! Which creeped me out.Obviously.

I have been, on many occasion, accused of being too trusting but I didn’t think there was anyone who I needed to not trust. It’s only on such occasions that you discover things about your students that never even entered your mind, like the student who you had let clean your bungalow for you so he could earn some money, yet was known in the village by everyone to be a thief (I did later pass this knowledge on to my replacement who didn’t believe me and well that’s another story)!

I may be trusting but I am not shy in being forward and in a non-challenging way I asked if he had taken it. He said no and I believed him. Mainly because he had never given me cause not to in the 6 months that he had been working for me. Later on, he did steal from me (but that’s another story!), but at this time he denied it.

Some of my students suggested that I go to see the Ju-Ju man to find out who the thief was. I scoffed at this idea. Seriously, I said, I don’t believe in that stuff!  However, I admit I was curious and didn’t expect anything to come of it. So, a friend in the village said he would take me on his moto (motorbike) with another student (whose idea it had been) to see the Ju-Ju man.

I am sure at this point many of you are wondering what?!  Am I crazy? But I was young and curious and wanted to resolve the issue and I had no idea what was in store.

So, early the next day we went to the edge of the bush (African for forest) where the ju-ju man lived. He lived here to be close to the bush of course and his supplies. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the harmattan season, when the days are extremely hot and dry (about 37celsius and then some) and the drop in temperature makes you feel icy cold (when the nights & mornings were about 18-20celsius). I was sat on the back of a motorbike (no helmet, no protective clothing) of my friend (he was the son of the Village chief – practically royalty – but that’s a story) and he had not been to see the Ju-Ju man either. I didn’t wear a coat or jumper and regretted it. When we arrived we were welcomed into the compound and pointed to a bench to sit on as we waited for the man to come.  I remember laughing at my friend who was shivering with cold and shaking with fear. My naivety meant I was giggling in anticipation of the antics about to occur.

First there was the conversation (in gurune – translated for me at that time) and the usual greetings and then the question of why we were there. He then asked who we suspected. I didn’t have anyone in mind but the student gave two names. One was the student who worked for me and the other was the headmaster’s son! So there I was sat at the Ju-Ju man’s house waiting to see some trick that would tell me who the thief was only to discover that a suspect in all this was the son of the headmaster of the school that I was teaching at….it was getting political…and then I was told that he was also a known thief and had access to the spare set of keys that the headmaster kept in his house.

What happened next was that the student volunteered to be the person who would have to undergo this thing that would tell us the truth.

The ju-ju man put some items into a bowl, lit them and then placed the ignited bowl onto the abdomen of the student who was kneeling beside him , if it caused a vacuum and stayed attached to the student then it was a positive answer and if not then it was negative. So I was not sold.

Anyway, first a question that we all knew to be true, it stuck. Then a lie. It would not stick. Then the question, did so and so steal my money? It fell off. Did the headmasters son steal my money? It stuck.

The only way for the headmasters son to prove his innocence (according to them) was to go to the Ju-Ju man and submit himself to the test.

So I had to go to the headmaster and tell him what had happened, where I had been (the man was a pastor of his own church so wasn’t impressed) and the possible solution. In all honesty at that point he was very supportive, and he agreed to bring his son to the Ju-Ju man.

The next day, he never turned up and so I went to see him, he told me that he had asked his son and his son had said that it wasn’t him and he believed him. But he (the headmaster) would give me the money that was stolen and when they found the thief they would get the money back from them. I was not happy, not because I didn’t believe that his son was innocent but because it made no sense to me that they should pay! I told him that I thought he shouldn’t, that I would wait until the thief was found. I may even have mentioned my confusion at why if it wasn’t their son then why would they? I can see you’re shocked. I had less of a filter on my thoughts then than I do now. What else could I do? So I accepted that decision. Life carried on.

About a week later, the brother of the student who had taken me to the Ju-Ju man and who went to the same school as the headmaster’s son, told him how he knew him and the son had been boasting that he had taken it. Again, what do you do in those situations? Would I do things differently now? Definitely! But at the time I mentioned it to the headmaster and how I thought it weird that he would say that and the headmaster flew into one, and told me that it wasn’t true, then he insisted that I go with him into town to his sons school and he would search his room. I didn’t want to go. He insisted.

Whilst he was in the room searching or whatever he did, I was left in the truck thinking about the whole situation and how stupid I was to be in it, and seriously for £30 was it that big a deal, yes the money  was for the students, yes the people had worked hard fundraising for it and yes it was a breach of my trust and burglary but was it that big a deal?, and what if he came back and could not find anything?! Was it really 3 £10 notes or was it a £20 and a £10? How clear was my memory?

The headmaster returned to the truck and sat down, I sat and waited patiently and then he handed me a £10 note…I froze, I couldn’t look at him, I could only imagine his disappointment in his son…who having had a chance to confess all had carried on with the lie…I didn’t know what to say. The headmaster spoke…’as soon as I saw the £10 I knew it was him’ …and that was all he said as we drove away. That wasn’t the end…we stopped on the way back at one of the teachers houses who was surprised to see us there. The headmasters son was with us and they both went into the house with the student from before and then they came out. Apparently the son had hidden money in the teachers house without his knowledge.

I won’t deny that the relationship with the headmaster wasn’t stilted from that point on but it had never been that smooth to start with (another story) and life carried on.

In other news, I have been nominated for a Pay It Forward award, if you fancy voting for me or checking out the other nominees and voting for them then please do so here!


  1. Wow!! Fascinating!! Want to read more of your time there...extremely interesting!!.......I love the way your writing animates the contents of the story...well, animates everything you write actually!..Yep...need to read more of it...C'mon then!! Get at it!...lopl...;)

    1. Thanks - I dont know what posessed me....I think I was procrastinating, hence the updated Music page too!

  2. what's that saying.... "mud sticks" or in this the bowl! nicely told.x

  3. Good story Kate! Enjoyed it. I'm with Lynn. More please.

    1. Thanks Hap..maybe! Would you like to write a guest post true tale?


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