Tag Archives: Filippo Bozotti


Witchcraft is deeply embedded in Sierra Leonean spiritual traditions.  Rituals often include a devil dancer who pays homage to those who have passed on. Ancestors are thought to be able to intervene, advise, help, or punish enemies.  Not only do some believe the deceased may return as harmful spirits, they even believe a witch or sorcerer has the power to transform the living into animals or inanimate objects.

John Obey is filled with a supernatural vibe.  There’s an energy in the air, especially at night when the only light is that of cooking fires and candlelight. Faces I’m so familiar with during the day reflect a different light in the darkness- a bit of the occult perhaps. Given their vulnerability and belief in the paranormal, this little village provides the perfect backdrop for a sorcerer, A.K.A. a scam artist, to make a tidy profit.

One day a cell phone went missing from the solar shack where we charge up our electronic gadgets.  The next morning during our post-breakfast meeting, Filippo asked if the guilty party would please return the phone to a bin he placed behind the loos and no questions would be asked.  Sadly, that night, the phone did not make its way home.  The next morning, two of the local village managers suggested they bring in the big guns, the sorcerer!  Well, that got my attention.

After the meeting, Hooman and I sat at the breakfast table talking about the sorcerer.  I asked him what to expect.  According to Hooman (A2H), our resident earth-bag architect, the sorcerer is a powerful man in the area whom people fear.  He charges a whopping Le200,000 (US $50) for his professional services. A2H, the sorcerer would  come to the village and gather everyone in a circle.  He would announce that a phone had been stolen and there would be dire consequences for the guilty party if they did not confess by sunset.  The consequences?  A2H, the sorcerer would walk around the circle locking eyes with each of the villagers and with a booming ominous voice predict, “If the thief does not return the cell phone before sunset (eyes bulging and a pause for dramatic effect) they will be turned into a… a…(long pause building even more drama)….a rat!”  Hooman, went on to act out the trembling thief immediately dropping to his knees, hands together, wailing in a high pitched voice, “Oh god no! Please!  Please! Don’t turn me into a rat!”

Although the sorcerer was paid his Le200,000 he never came.  Who’s the real rat, eh?

photo of a 3' John Obey rat courtesy of the very brave Noah Balmer




One of the things we westerners really don’t appreciate is the privilege of having clean running water pumped into our homes.  I remain fascinated and thankful for the water that comes out of my wall and especially water that goes around in the toilet.  So, what’s it like to not have water in your village?  Well, it pretty much sucks.  When I arrived at Tribewanted October 1, the compost toilets and just been completed- a true luxury for us firstfooters.  For the poor guys who were here preparing for our arrival, they had to carry the orange shovel of shame to the bush, sometimes having to hold an umbrella while attempting to keep the roll of toilet paper dry. Needless to say, we all love the compost toilets.


As for drinking, bathing and laundry, it’s a one mile walk up hill to the river to fetch fresh river water.  Granted we’re beach front and also have a beautiful brackish lagoon for our backyard, but it’s not drinkable nor ideal for wash.  Jerry cans, those bright yellow 20 liter plastic jugs seen all over Africa, are the water delivery vessels.  Children as young as ten can balance these  40+lbs. cumbersome things on their heads, some with no hands. I can barely drag the cans ten yards to fill the bucket shower.   Early on, we had to load all twenty jerry cans into the back of our truck, drive up the bridge where we’d scramble over rocks to submerge the cans into the water,  load the truck, drive back down the road to our village, unload the truck and haul the water cans down to the outdoor kitchen.  After nearly two weeks, we now have a completed well which will provide water for us and the neighboring village of John Obey Beach.  It’s going to be wonderful not to have to haul water anymore for us and a life changing luxury to the villagers here.


How many showers can you take with one of these? The more you carry, the less you'll use!

James and Aaron at the river

Filippo, Aaron and James fill the water tank

the well diggers