Posted by: kristinej | November 30, 2009

November 30th

Tabaski, the biggest holiday of the year here, was on Saturday.  Apparently its Arabic name means “Festival of Sacrifice” and is meant to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  In order for you to get a good idea of what the holiday is like here in Mali, I thought I would take you through the weekend, as I experienced it.

Saturday, 6:30AM – I leave to go running, hoping that the sheep will have been killed by the time I get back.

7:30 – I return, sheep are still tied up in the compound. My host dad and brothers are at the mosque for prayer.

8:00 – While getting dressed in my room, I see the sheep being carried outside the compound.  I come out just in time to see my brother carrying one of them back in, with its throat slit.

10:00 – Wake up from a short nap, come outside to see the sheep’s body parts arranged on a blanket on the ground.

–       I offer to help cook and am allowed to peel the garlic. My host sister works away at peeling 20 kilos of potatoes, and the others work at sorting out all of the sheep parts.

11:00 – The first round of meat is served – a bowl in which the least unappetizing part seems to be sheep liver.  I manage to eat two cubes of that, and am thankful when my host mom says, “She’s worried about her stomach.”  Yes, yes I am.

11:30- I’m slightly disturbed by the fact that sheep intestines are being washed off in the same bucket that I shower with.

12:00 – Round two: ribs, though I have trouble finding much besides fat on them.  I probably offend the cook (my sister) by not eating much.

12:30 – Take pictures of the cooking and of my little siblings, who are dressed in new pre-packaged outfits that look a little too crisp and are slightly too big.  They’re cute anyway.

1:30 – Round three: potatoes, and couscous that a neighbor brought over.  Finally, something I can eat.

2:30 – Cailey and Becky come over to greet.  I am now dressed in my new basin outfit, which feels like plastic and makes quite a bit of noise when I walk.  Becky got a weave put in her hair and it’s really cute, but is giving her a headache and is pulling her eyebrows and eyes taut in a way that makes her look a bit Asian.

3:00-7:00 – We make the rounds of Yirimadjo, stopping to greet all of our host families, and several of the community health workers.  We are luckily spared any more sheep meat, given only watermelon and oranges instead.

8:00- Dinner at Becky’s: sheep meat and French fries.

Sunday, 8:30AM – Breakfast is served: bread and a bowl of sheep stomach.  I eat the bread.

9:30-12:30 – Dressed in my outfit again, we do some more greeting and go to church.  I’m home in time for lunch: rice with sheep’s meat.

1:30 – I can’t escape sheep: Walking to church I would occasionally see sheep’s horns and tails lying on the ground.  The skins are still out drying in our compound, the sheep’s head (which apparently gets eaten) is on the grill, and there is a slab of raw meat hanging on the clothesline, which I don’t see until I bump my head against it, thus unleashing a hoard of flies and the wonderful smell of blood and not-so-fresh raw meat.

5:00- Served a late afternoon snack of meat.

8:00 – Dinner – salad with fried egg and meat.

So, as you can see, Tabasci, for me, basically consisted of dressing up in a new outfit, giving lots of greetings and blessings, and eating lots of sheep’s meat.  I think I prefer Christmas still, but I’m glad I got to experience it.


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