Eagle reporter John Sakata recently caught up with Tyringham resident Benjamin Schaefer, a Drew University junior who traveled to the African nation of Ghana last summer, to learn about human development and health care there.

Schafer, 21, a Lee High School graduate, said he expected to write a 20-page paper on Ghana's hospice program. What he found upon arriving in the country was the first of many health care-related revelations.

"There is no hospice program," Schaefer said, "so that threw my paper away."

Schaefer sweated through a three-week trip and 115-degree temperatures on the coastal nation located near the equator, which coincidentally is the burial site of civil rights activist and Great Barrington resident W.E.B. Du Bois.

During the trip, Schaefer saw a less-industrialized version of health care. The focus was on herbal medicines rather than pills. He attended prayer camps where locals, who speak English as their first language, swore they were cured by prayer. He said he also saw a booming mid-wife industry because there are many pregnant women who can't afford to go to hospitals and are burdened traveling from rural

"They don't have a lot of stuff they have in the U.S.," Schaefer said, citing ambulances as an example. "If you sever your arm, you will probably bleed to death."

Schaefer is studying biological anthropology, with an interest in pursuing a career in forensic science. With his research on hospice at a dead end, Schaefer re-directed his attention to learning about beliefs after death.

"They believe once you pass away ... you will have to use this coffin to cross a large body of water to get to an island," which is paradise, he said.

The belief transcends regions and dialects, he learned, and he said people would get buried in book-shaped coffins or a rocket ship, depending on personal preference

In addition, there also was another constant in his travels: goats.

"[The hospitals] always had animals lying around," Schaefer said. "You would not see goats around [Berkshire Medical Center]."


Berkshire businesses are getting a boost this month in national magazine publications.

No. Six Depot Roastery and Café in West Stockbridge sells an organic Fleur de Sel sea salt via its website, sixdepot.com. The gourmet salt, which bears a teal and gold "Berkshires Made" label is featured in Real Simple magazine's December 2013 article, "7 Stocking Stuffers for Food Lovers" by Heath Goldman, as seen here: http://bit.ly/1d7ajHd.

The Eagle got its own shoutout in the December 2013 edition of The Atlantic Monthly, in a book review of "American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell." The review, written by James Parker and titled "America's Artist: How Norman Rockwell Captured the Inner Life of a Nation," explains how much effort Rockwell put into finding models for his work:

"It was labor-intensive, to say the least," Parker writes. "To render correctly the girl's black eye in 1954's ‘The Shiner,' Rockwell visited two hospitals, spoke with ‘The Berkshire Eagle' of his need for a "ripe" injury ("Several hundred people responded," writes Solomon," many of them prisoners"), and finally settled on a 2-year-old who had recently fallen down the stairs." You can read the full article here: http://bit.ly/IOhHO5.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers. Visit the County Fare blog at berkshireeagleblogs.com/countyfare.