In my long-range travels I have learned two great lessons: 1) the people most removed from the modern world not only think differently than I do but are far more logical, and 2) Western-style capitalism has invaded the most remote areas of our world.
Case in point: Namari Godogo, a voodoo priest from the Taneka region of Burkina Faso in West Africa.
Namari, who was somewhere north of 90 at the time, has been sought out by National Geographic and appeared in more than one coffee table book. He was not hard to find, as everyone for miles around offered directions to his village and he's become a popular stop for American trekkers.
I found him placidly smoking a long hand-carved pipe under the shade of his mud-and-thatch hut, clad only in a small animal skin. He was the color of mahogany, wore a hat made from tree bark, and his true age defied approximation. He was the spitting image of what a witch doctor should look like, and all folklore aside, he is a local legend – a vision out of old spear-and-loin-cloth Africa.
To me, he was a story waiting to be told to the outside world. As I approached he motioned for me to sit and join him.
Through a local interpreter I asked about various powers his villagers attributed to him, such as turning into an animal or being able to fly. His answers provided great insight into the local thought process.
When I asked if he could make himself into an animal, he answered that all men become animals when they drink bantu (millet beer), and when I inquired as to why he flew he looked as though I had asked the most stupid of questions and countered with one of his own, inquiring if I had ever flown.
I said of course, an airplane had brought me to him. He sniffed dismissively to this and asked if I had seen God while up in the sky on this airplane. When I answered no he replied, “Then what good is an airplane?”
Round one went to ancient logic unencumbered by the trappings of the modern world.
He assented to my taking his photo, obviously being used to such requests, and after a pleasant hour of conversation that left my head spinning trying to understand his thought process, I rose to leave.
My guide directed me into a mud hut, where Namari’s wife asked for three U.S. dollars for his time and one dollar more for taking his photo. As I handed over the money she asked if he was smoking his pipe when I took the photo. I answered yes, he was smoking his pipe, and she then pulled out a laminated card and ran her finger down a column of numbers.
“Then that will be another dollar.”
I left before I was charged for his animal skin or hat.