Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Have you ever seen a possessed guy before...?

The beginning of December has been...interesting. It's summer here in the southern hemisphere, and it's the rainy season in American Samoa. Downpours drop from the sky out of will be beautiful, sunny and humid as all get-out, and then Blitzkrieg, raindrops the size of gumballs are pounding on your classroom roof making it impossible to talk to the student 5 inches in front of you. At least I don't have to worry about a drought anymore...drinking water abounds in my metal rain barrel! I've also found that it's exhilarating to run in this kind of weather (and a lot cooler, too). So, after work, KC and I will run along THE only road that exists on the entire island. Earlier this week on a rainy afternoon, we made our way over the hill to the next village, Ta'u and we came upon a crazy situation....

At the bottom of the mountain is the sole medical clinic on the island. It's staffed by one doctor, Malo, and his family (who I LOVE). Anyway, as I'm rounding the corner, I look up, and see about 9 boys carrying a teenager's lifeless body into the clinic. It was shocking to witness....there are no ambulances here (or even right now there are hardly vehicles of any kind since we are always almost out of gasoline). The boys had been playing volleyball at one end of town when Ili (the teenager) collapsed. The clinic, which is about half the size of an olympic swimming pool, was bombarded by the whole town. Families followed after the human ambulance that carried the boy through the double doors to the clinic. KC and I stood there in horror. We interrogated the crowd: "What's going on!? What happened? Is he conscious!?"
The people who responded had a hard time understanding us, and with what little English fluency they had, pointed to their chests and said..."His heart, his heart."

It seemed like the entire village was there, pushing past each other trying to enter the clinic. Even in my moment of panic, I was touched by the community's support for one of their own. A medical emergency here can often be fatal...with one doctor, no medicine and hardly any equipment, without airplane evacuation, something treatable elsewhere can easily become life-threatening here.
KC and I decided to stay outside of the clinic (which also serves as the doctor's house) to stay out of the way. After about a half an hour, Malo's wife, Caroline, emerged. She said she didn't know what was going on, but he was conscious because she could hear him screaming. Malo was working on him. We waited with her in the rain, making small talk and trying to ignore the eerie screams coming from inside the clinic. After almost 45 minutes, Malo emerged shaking his head:

"Have you ever seen a possessed guy before?"
KC and I just stood there. "uhhh....what?"
Malo continued, "Do either of you know how to do an exorcism...the faefeao (minister) is off island..."
I could tell Malo was being sardonic, but KC and I were still shocked! Possessed!? We could still hear his screams coming from inside the clinic. I explained how someone told us it was his heart. Malo shook his head and said that it seemed that an "evil spirit" had inhabited his body and was trying to escape..and the villagers were trying to exorcise it with Fofo (special Samoan massage) and banana leaves.

My kids assured me the next day that Ili had been saved and all was well in Ta'u again. I had my class write about if they believed in ghosts. I knew that there was talk of this island being haunted by Aiiku (I-ee-ku), ghosts, but, after reading my kids responses and witnessing this crazy "possession," I'm sure going to be careful walking around town after dark. I mean...I'm prone to rare occurences like tsunamis and earthquakes...I really don't want to get possessed while I'm here!

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