Here you have the after and before pictures from Tabaski. :) Same goat.
My first goat slaughtering! The night before some of our neighbors came in and pulled the goat through the living room and brought him up to the roof. As I was falling asleep I heard the pitter patter of goat hooves on the roof. I thought to myself-wow it's like Santa's reindeer, only it's a goat, and tomorrow is like Christmas! Only we don't eat the reindeer usually.
Much has happened over the last week and a half. My apologies for not posting last week as I'd planned. This is my last full week and I leave on a jet plane this Sunday after dinner. Got to say I'm pretty excited to get home, well, very excited, although anxious about next semester and feeling that I don't have enough direction in life beyond the idea of doing Americorps after college because now there are even more issues I want to explore, like radical thought and black power movements in the context of development of African and diaspora populations and post colonial/colonial studies, like in the West Indies. As with most great learning experiences, I am left with more questions than aswers as I prepare myself for leaving. Before I reflect more I should talk about the highlights of the past week and my plans until I leave.
Last week, of course, was Tabaski. I finished my French exam on Monday and went home to prepare myself, including picking my newly embroidered shirt up from the tailor and applying a fresh dose of henna on my nails. Love the henna. As with most holidays, it was pretty anticlimactic, even the goat slaughtering. My friend Sarah came over because the family she lives with is Catholic. We didn't even hear the goat killed and were chatting in my bedroom when I walked into the living room and saw them dragging the goat in with it's neck slit. "Hey we missed it!" We did get to watch them skin it and chop it up, from a safe distance. It's something boys do. Kind of like stuffing the turkey I guess? Fresh goat was had by all in a late lunch/early dinner in a usual onion sauce with fried potatoes (french fries) and bread. I ate a lot of goat and upon reflection I feel that it is a little to pungent of a taste to replace chicken in my mind, though good nonetheless. I'm still more partial to curry than mustard. I donned my boubou after lunch and that was about it. We ate, had some soda, hung around, my host dad had come home Sunday so he was around. The long awaited Tabaski was not dissimilar to Thanksgiving or Christmas.
The next day was the bapteme/naming ceremony for baby Ami. I donned my less formal boubou for this one, and people started arriving at 8am. Did I mention I found out that the mom, my second oldest host sister who finished college last year and has a two year old daugter, is not married also, just like my oldest host sister. It's very difficult to find a husband once one has children, sort of like in the US. Apparently although it's difficult and frowned upon, it's more common in practice than one would realize. It's not like dad's do all that much besides work anyway... Apparently the father of the babies is still in school and is too busy to get married or something like that. On Sunday last week, before Tabaski, four female representatives from the father's family came, including his mother, and had a two hour heated discussion with my host parents about money and care for the new baby. I felt bad for my host parents, because they have to pay for pretty much everything in terms of the baby and her 2 year old sister. I'm not sure what the results were but they left in a cordial enough way. Of course, I never saw the father at the naming ceremony and I don't know if he came to the hospital to visit. It's difficult for me to comprehend why she would go back to this guy and get pregnant again after what happened with the first baby. Then again it's difficult for me to comprehend why people would get pregnant before marriage when they know they won't have financial resources for the baby and it will shame their family and limit their chances for future marriage. I feel silly a bit because here I am popping my birth control pill, not "using" it at all except that it helps with period cramps, and here is my host sister having children and having little access to birth control even though she's the one who needs it. I haven't inquired, but I hear that it's very expensive here to get the pill, morning after pill, condoms, and similar things. It doesn't make sense. It really doesn't, especially if you have so many people ranting and raving about birth rates and unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Just another case of hypocrisy I guess.
In any case, about 50 people came to the bapteme, basically all women, and mostly from my host mom's family. This is extremely small by usual standards-it's usually around 150 or 200 throughout the day, but again, there is no husband. Also it usually lasts well into the evening and there is an elaborate exchange of money between the women in the two families, but again this didn't happen and it all ended at the early hour of 6pm! About 6 women controlled the cooking-many gas tanks were brought in with various pots and I wanted to help, but didn't know where anything was and would be more of a hinderance, so I wandered around like a ghost reading until lunch was ready (4pm). Best cheebujen I've had since getting here! (maybe it was all the vegetables that did it). Another highlight was drinking red wine out of a plastic cup with my host mom's Catholic mother and aunts. They poured the left over wine from the bottle into an empty plastic water bottle. So typical and so amusing. When they offered me beer too I politely refused- don't want to be tipsy in front of the host fam! Pineapple soda was the chaser for my wine. I was pretty pooped by the end of it all.
Friday night a bunch of us got together at Sarah's and made "Mexican food" which was great, topped off by my improvised pineapple salsa and godiva chocolates because Stephanie works at godiva back home. We watched Moonstruck and another holiday movie with Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Jude Law, and Kate Winslet. Yea, it was like that.
Otherwise I've been chilling and am now done with my work, hence my ability to write this entry.
Tomorrow Sarah, Amanda, and I are heading off for a couple days rest down in Joal-Fadiout before we leave this weekend. Fadiout is an island town connected to the mainland by a wooden bridge from Joal. It happens to be the birthplace of my host mom, as well as Senegal's first president- Leopold Sedhar Senghor. It has an even mix of Muslim and Catholic and a little second island filled with Catholic graves. I'm excited. We don't have plans, it's just relax time. We come back Friday afternoon, and that's it. I'll spend whatever money I have left and continue to read my French books. Inshallah I shall return to Boston safely.
I read a book this weekend by this British guy who lives in Yemen and is a historiographer and decided to follow the travels of Ibn Battutah, a very famous Muslim traveller from Tangier in Morocco during the 14th century. He went all over for many years, as far as India and China and elsewhere. The book covered the first part of his journey, and now I want to go to Cairo and Damascus. Maybe summer after senior year? Anyone itching to practice their Arabic? I do want to go to Tashkent and Moscow too, so Russian is another option.
It's all so interesting how things far in the past are so connected to the present and how cultural traditions and concepts and values have travelled so far and how many words we have that come from distant places and things and how some people are credited so much more in history than others.
I was talking with a friend of mine back home yesterday and was asking her if she'd be studying abroad. I know that she is a traveller. She decided against studying abroad because it doesn't make sense to pay full tuition to study in the global south, where just as much could be learned for much cheaper. This is true, I have to agree with her. However, I needed to get away from my school for awhile and am glad that I did. Now I can come back with a changed attitude and be refreshed. Some of us are go-getters in the realm of self-learning and travel, however coming from a family that hasn't strayed very far since my great-grandparents emigrated from Sicily, I think it was good to have the extra structure of this program. And anyway, for whatever reason I have felt much better telling people that I am a student studying the politics, history, and culture of Senegal and am here for 4 months, rather than being a tourist or volunteer. You get more respect, at least I think so. Also it's been really helpful to learn some Wolof (and Serer) to throw around. If I had any superpower it would be the one where I was literally and culturally fluent in every language so I could talk to anyone. It's just not the same when you can't say much, if anything, to someone in their first language.
This won't be my last blog entry. I am going to write one when I am home next week (Inshallah) and reflect on what it's like being back home. I don't expect too much culture shock but I don't know. A lot of emails I've been getting and things I've been reading keep referring to the "recession" and I haven't kept up enough to really comprehend this from over here. I don't want to be one of those people who keeps saying "well when I was in Senegal...". Slap me.
In anycase, this isn't the last you'll be hearing from me! (Inshallah) Maybe I'll even keep up this blog. I do plan to do more travelling, after all.
Until next time,