Wednesday, November 9, 2011


So it's Tabaski time in Senegal. that means that day before yesterday I gave my family a whole bunch of onions, Maggi bouillon, and vegetable oil, and spent the morning helping stir pots and chop things for yassa onion sauce.

The day started with my host brothers warming up the skin of the big drum that they used to call people to prayer at the mosque.

Everyone got dressed up in their newest, nicest, clothes, and much to everyone's great delight I wore a new complet, earrings, and a headband thing. I went to the mosque for the morning prayer, and even though I had to sit outside the mosque, with all the other women and children, it was really pleasant and nice to see people and greet everyone. People around here are observant but not particularly conservative, so it's a relaxed atmosphere and everyone was really warm and welcoming even though I was wearing nail polish, had no idea what was going on half the time, and am not Muslim.

Complets are neat-looking, but really hot and not super flattering. 

Mankaba and Sajou Ba and their shiny new clothes.

There aren't any horses in the southern part of Senegal (there are tse tse flies here and their bites are apparently lethal to horses) but there are cows, who stand in the middle of the road when there are cars coming, and donkeys, who usually hang out on the outskirts of the village, braying loudly and eating grass. Every once in awhile, though, they chase each other around and it's terrifying because they come tearing through the compound and everyone scatters to avoid being trampled. The donkeys were  out and about on Tabaski, so people kept an eye out, shooing them away so they wouldn't overturn all the cooking pots or run over anyone.

The most terrifying animal in Salémata.
Aside from the donkey excitement, it was a very mellow day. My family slaughtered a ram, which I thought would be messy but turned out to be shockingly quick, calm, and totally silent, and my host father, Sadat Souaré, portioned out piles of meat for the mosque, for elderly people in the neighborhood, and for lunch and dinner. It's impressive how every possible piece of the ram gets used.

Dividing up shares of meat.
I mostly hung out with my host sisters, watching them steam vermicelli ("cous cous Americain" as they call it) and slicing up onions and garlic, stirring pots, and keeping an eye out for marauding donkeys. There are usually between 20 and 30 people eating meals on my host family's compound, and almost everyone comes home for Tabaski so there are quite a few pots and bowls and fires and whatnot involved in holiday food prep.

After lunch we all put our fancy clothes back on, and I walked around the village, greeting people, being fed all sorts of little sandwiches and bon bons, and complimenting everyone on their lovely new complet outfits.

Bailo and Bineta chopping meat and peeling potatoes 

Host mom Mariama dishing up lunch.

Host sister Diabou smiling in her fancy new clothes.

Me (Adama) and host sister Mariama Gaulo

Host siblings Gaulo and Mamadou

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