22 Mayo 2012|
By MICHAEL DUCKWORTH
1. ISLAND IN THE SUN 1
2. THE BOOK OF BARON SAMEDI 7
3. THE BUILDING BUSINESS 10
4. THE VOODOO MAN 13
5. THE GRAVEYARD 16
6. CONWAY HAS A VISITOR 21
7. CONWAY’S HOPES 23
8. THE SPIRIT OF THE WIND AND THE RAIN 27
9. VOODOO LAW 33
ISLAND IN THE SUN
James Conway put away his business papers and sat back in his seat. He looked out of the aero plane window down at the warm blue sea below. Far away, in the bright sun, there were the long white beaches of the island of Haiti. Behind them, he could just see the small wooden houses and the deep green leaves of the coconut trees, which were moving lazily in the soft afternoon wind.
“It looks beautiful, doesn’t it? Conway looked at the woman sitting next to him.
“Very nice”, he answered. “Is this your first visit to Haiti?” the woman asked.
“Yes, but I’m not here as a visitor,” said Conway. “I have a building company – it’s called Conway Construction. My company has offices all over the world – America, Europe, Africa. We’re very big in Australia too – everyone in Australia has heard the name Conway. I’m coming to get an office here, buy some land, build a few hotels, you know. The land is very cheap here – you can buy a piece of land to build a small town on, for a few thousand dollars. Sorry, I don’t know your name. I’m Mr. Conway, James Conway. Just call me Conway.”
“I’m Karen Jackson.”
“Nice to meet you, Karen. What do you do? Have you got a job, or are you married?”
“I’m at Harvard University.”
“From the University? Are you a secretary there?”
“No, I’m a doctor. I’m teaching medicine.”
“A doctor! That’s interesting. What are you doing here in Haiti? Are you on holiday?I know you teachers get long holidays.”
Karen Jackson was beginning to dislike the man.
“No,” she said. “I’m going to work in the hospital at Port au Prince. And while I’m here, I’m going to do some work for my book.”
Are you writing a book? What is it about?”
“Voodoo!” laughed Conway. “Are you telling me that someone is paying you to come here and write about voodoo? I know Haiti is not America, but voodoo!
I thought people stopped believing in those years ago.”
“Oh, no, “said Karen. “People still believe in it. You see, it works, and it can be very dangerous.”
“Surely you don’t believe in voodoo, do you?”
“Yes, I do. We don’t really understand voodoo in America. Most people think it’s magic. They think it can kill people.”
“That’s right. I remember hearing about it. People who use voodoo get a picture of a person or make a doll, don’t they? Then they put pins or knives into it, and the person feels terrible pain.”
“Yes, that’s right,” Karen answered. “I have a photograph here in one of my books about voodoo. Look, there’s one of the dolls. It’s not a child’s doll – it’s made from coconuts. You see, the face is a coconut, and someone has drawn eyes, a nose, and a mouth on it. And look, there’s a pin in the doll’s stomach. A few days later the man came to hospital because his stomach hurt. He knew that someone was using voodoo against him. The pain was terrible, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him. In the end, he died.”
Conway was surprised.
“So you think that was magic because there was no reason for it,” he said. “But you’re a doctor, aren’t you? You don’t believe in magic, do you?”
“Voodoo is more than magic. I don’t believe in magic, but I know that voodoo can be very dangerous. I want to understand how it works. Here in Haiti there are still a few people who know how to use voodoo. They are called “houngans”. There are still a few “houngans” in the villages in the country. And that’s why I’m here. I want to meet some of them and talk to them. Of course they aren’t all bad people. They can use voodoo to help people, like doctors. But they can use it to hurt people too.”
“But we’re living in the modern world!”
“Yes, but the people here are very sure that voodoo is real. Teachers, business people, doctors, everyone believes in it…or they are afraid of it. And perhaps that’s why it works. After all, if you believe you are ill, you can be ill. And if you really think you’re getting better, you can get better. If you think that someone is trying to kill you, then you can die…because you are so afraid.”
“Well, that’s a good story,” laughed Conway. “If I need some voodoo, I’ll come and see you.”
“O.K,” said Karen. “Excuse me for a minute.” She got up and walked to the back of the plane. She was bored and angry with Conway, because he thought he understood everything and he never listened to other people.
THE BOOK OF BARON SAMEDI
While she was away, Conway looked at the open book on her seat. There was a picture on the page which showed a black man with open eyes and bright white teeth. He was laughing, but he looked frightening and dangerous. Conway read the words below the picture: “Baron Samedi, the strongest and most dangerous of all the voodoo houngans. No one knows who Baron Samedi is, but they believe he is both dead and alive. He lives in two different worlds. Many people are so frightened of him that they are afraid to say his name.”
Conway looked at the picture. “Baron Samedi!” he laughed. “How can these people be so stupid? Still, it will be easy to make money if they think like children.”
A few minutes later, Karen came back. She picked up the book and put it in her bag. As she was sitting down, the lights in the aeroplane came on.
“We are going to arrive at Port au Prince airport in a few minutes. Please stay in your seats and put out your cigarettes. The time in Haiti is 3.15. It is a warm day and it is 30ºC. We hope you have enjoyed flying with Air Haiti, and we hope that you will fly with us again. Thank you.”
Down below them, in the village of Bussy, not far from Port au Prince, Kee was in his small wooden house among the trees. Outside, a few brown chickens were trying to find something to eat in the garden. There was not much rain in the summer and the ground was dry and dusty. The old man Kee was sitting by the window in the front room. Suddenly he felt that something was wrong. In the garden the wind blew harder, and the dust from the dry ground flew into the air. He stood up, went to the window and looked out.
“I can feel danger,” he thought. “Someone bad is coming,” He looked out into the trees, but he couldn’t see anything. Then he looked up at the sky, and saw the plane just before it went behind a cloud on its way to Port au Prince airport.
THE BUILDING BUSINESS
After nine months in Haiti, Conway was a happy man. His business was going well, and he was making a lot of money. He had a large office in Port au Prince, a big house, and hundreds of people were working for him. He had some land near Port au Prince and he was building a new town. There were already hundreds of new houses, and many people knew the name Conway Construction. But Conway had a problem, and he wanted to see a business friend, Jacques Remy.
The telephone on his desk rang. He picked it up. “Yes?”
“Mr. Remy is here to see you, Mr. Conway,” said his secretary.
“Send him in immediately.” A few moments later Jacques Remy came into the room.
“Jacques, it’s nice to see you. Thank you for coming. Sit down.”
“Thanks,” said Jacques. “You said on the phone that you had a problem.”
“Yes,” said Conway. “You helped me buy the land for the new town when I first came to Haiti. Some of the houses are ready, and people are living in them. But now I need more land.”
“You can buy land anywhere,” said Jacques.
“I know, but I want a piece of land near my houses. People will need shops, and perhaps I can build a hotel too, and some more houses.”
“What piece of land do you want?” asked Jacques.
“Well,that’s the problem.” Conway took out a pencil and a piece of paper, and began to draw a map. “Most of the houses are here,” he said, “Now I can’t build on the south or the east side of the houses because of the sea. On the north side the land is no good there is too much water in it. So I can only build on the west side. I can only build on this hill.”
“Good,” said Jacques. “Buy the hill and then you can build more houses on the other side too.”
“I want to,” said Conway, “but there’s a problem.” He went over to the desk and picked up a photograph. It was a photograph of the graveyard. He gave the photograph of the graveyard to Jacques. “You see, it won’t be easy. I want to build on the graveyard.”
Jacques looked at the photograph carefully.
“It’s very old,” he said, “and that’s good. If only a few people go there, perhaps you can buy it. But if it is new and a lot of people go there, they will be angry, and it will be difficult to buy it. Go and look at the stones. Find out how old the place is. I’ll talk to some friends. Perhaps they can help.”
“Thank you very much, Jacques. I won’t forget this.”
“It’s nothing,” said Jacques. “Tell me how old the stones are, and I’ll ring you again in a few days.”
THE VOODOO MAN
A big lorry drove past Kee’s house. It was going very fast and it made a lot of noise. Before Conway built the new town, Kee’s village was a quiet place. There were only a few small cars. Now big lorries went past every five minutes, carrying things for the new buildings. Kee was a very unhappy old man. He was sitting in his small house looking out into the garden.
Another big lorry went past the window. He heard the sound of a car coming down the road. The car stopped near the house, and a woman got out.