Gris Gris is something, at least in loose translation for the american mind that is equivalent to voodoo, juju or good and bad vibes.
Gris Gris in Senegal was always considered protective; metal bracelet talismans for newborns all the way to the hunched over elderly.
Here is Togo, especially in my very Christian host family, Gris Gris is a destructive power most often used to hurt people. Actually, a lot of it just comes from the fact that its animism and not Christianity and people view Christianity as a sign of the western world and being "evolved" rather than the traditional animist and voodoo here.
As reports of Ebola continue each day,often creeping closer to Togo, I figured j better beef up security measures. I asked my host family where I could get Ebola Gris Gris. The conversation follow:
Me: Mom, I need Gris Gris against Ebola. I don't want to leave Togo like the volunteers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia had to.
Mom: You don't need Gris gris against ebola , Anna. Gris Gris won't protect you.
Me: I don't care that I'm american, I still think Gris Gris would help.
Mom: Anna, Gris Gris won't protect anyone from Ebola. You just need to avoid sick and dead people and not touch bats or eat agouti (bush rat).
Me: I still think it wouldn't hurt to get some Gris Gris.
Mom: Well, I'll pray really hard at church for Togo.
Me: OK. Wait. How is prayer different from Gris Gris?
Most of my Ebola hysteria has past (after many long conversations with other volunteers about what we would do if we got evacuated, a packed bag brought down to Lomé, and I gave away a bunch of stuff to my host family- Ebola scares clean a house even better than finals week procrastination).
It's still at the back of my mind, but in village, away from most media or communication, it slips even further away. A worry for another day. And so far, here in Togo, we're fine.