Until 90 years ago, powder made from mummies, i.e. human corpses, was considered a useful drug in Europe, and available in pharmacies until 1924. I need to remind myself of this when reading about body-part juju in Africa. The practice arose from a misinterpretation of the Arabic word for bitumen, mumiya.
The third step in misinterpreting mummia was to substitute the blackened flesh of an entire mummy for the hardened bituminous materials from the interior cavities of the cadavers. The ancient tombs of Egypt and the deserts could not meet the European demand for the drug mumia, so a commerce developed in the manufacture and sale of fraudulent mummies, sometimes called mumia falsa. The Italian surgeon Giovanni da Vigo (1450-1525) defined mumia as “The flesh of a dead body that is embalmed, and it is hot and dry in the second [grade], and therefore it has virtue to incarne [i.e., heal over] wounds and to staunch blood”, and included it in his list of essential drugs.
See also this article (in English) published by German pharma company Merck.
30 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Three weeks ago I was looking for a present for dad, and as a late thought I considered Gert Dietrich’s Cultural History of East Germany (Kulturgeschichte der DDR) a good idea, albeit an expensive one, perhaps a joint present for us all. So I went to Göttingen’s best academic bookshop, which happens to be located down the road from the publishing house where the book was made. I couldn’t find it on their shelves and asked for it. Their response: it’s “too exotic” for them to have it on stock. East German matters are “too exotic” some 60km from the old border, I get it. You wonder why I feel at home in Africa, kkkkkkkk! Have a happy anniversary next year, you re-united Germany!
Goethe, Germany’s “bard” and “national poet” forever, has his most famous character Faust make an Easter walk. Upon leaving Magdeburg, I felt I should follow suit. Some of the action in Faust is set in the Harz mountain range, and since it happens to be right in the middle of a bee’s line from Magdeburg to Göttingen, my home of over six years now, I went there and walked all the way up tp the summit of the Brocken, at 1141m northern Germany’s highest peak.
Yay! We made it happen. At the end of October, Chimz arrived in Germany. We had two months ahead of us, with German classes to attend, music festivals to enjoy, with some trips to Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and the Alps. With Christmas markest and family get-togethers in Magdeburg and Munich.
Addis Ababa airport. As for a farewell, Africa has given me a treat of what the negative stereotypes about her hold in store: cancelled flights, bad service delivery, lack of water, and now quite some chaos at the airport. I feel obliged to add: obstacles like this amassed, that’s new to me here. My Africa year up to here, the last few days, has been mostly smooth, so much so that I can wholeheartedly dismiss the negative stereotypes as prejudices. That, however, doesn’t mean negatives don’t occur. They are just not as “typical” as the prejudices would have them. So here I go, through a row of obstacles on my way out.
I’m leaving Africa for a few days – there’s a party to attend, with some of my most favourite people in this universe, some paperwork and clothes for uni to pick up. I’m happy to visit friends and family. I leave Africa with lots of impressions, and a sense that I don’t have enough yet. I’m still hungry 😉
Back in Germany for a few days
The cold and the dark are appaling. I am still angry at my ancestors: they left the land of mangos, guavas and bananas to go north. Once there, they had to bleach their skin so the sun could make up for the poor diet. Then they realized they’d die in the winter months if they didn’t stress throughout spring and summer. So they became really good at that, stressing. It made them “successful”, if a stressful life is a success at all. So much so that they conquered the rest of the world and imposed this stressful system there as well, unnecessarily. Welcome the 20th and 21st centuries – my philosophy of history in short. We could be sitting under mango trees and wait for the next harvest, all the 5 million of us or so …
So, after loads and loads of stressful things, annoyances and all, I’m out. Out here on my way, and treading unknown paths mostly on my own, the feeling of it being my way is so much more intense … Continue reading →