The driver steered his moped down the corrugated red mud road, with Ava bouncing along on the back seat. In front of a wooden gate he wobbled to a halt. The surrounding rain forest was dripping with humidity, all while the wraiths of mist wandered between the big trees. Ava exited the automobile, paying him respectfully, and finally entering through the large doors.
In the Sacred Grove shrines, they honor all the local deities, including Obatala, the god of creation, Ogun, the god of iron, and Oshun, the goddess of water, whose aqueous essence is made manifest by the river running through the trees. The place is unique in the Yoruba religion, and that intrigued many tourists like Ava herself.
As Ava passed through the gates she heard a squeaky voice. A diminutive middle-aged man came out from behind the trees. He was the caretaker. He worked a toothbrush-sized stick around in his mouth, digging into the crevices between algae'd stubs of teeth.
He was barefoot. He wore a blue batik shirt known as a buba, baggy purple trousers, and an embroidered skullcap. Ava asked him if he would show her around the shrine. Motioning her to follow, he spat out the results of his stick work and set off down the trail.
They stopped in front of a many-headed statue. "Ako Alumawewe," he blurted out, sucking on the stick.
"A deity?" Ava asked. He nodded and spat once again, then headed down the trail to another stone effigy, that of Egbe. After kissing the ground at its base, he held forth at length in mellifluous Yoruba. Since Ava spoke no Yoruba and he, it turned out, no English, it became clear that her visit wasn't going to be as edifying as Ava had hoped.
Ava looked back...