Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Party and a Funeral

The most prevalent holiday of the year; sheep are sacrificed, the finest cloths are worn, and the day is passed by eating and lying around, the usual I suppose. When asked what this holiday represented, what exactly was being celebrated, I was faced with responses of “it’s the holiday of Tabaski”. I had figured out that much on my own but was left with googling the actual meaning of the holiday.
With a quick search on my favorite website, which just so happens to also be my future employer, a girl can dream can’t she, I found out that Tabaski is “the celebration of willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead.”
The festivities began the night before the actual holiday when I went with Mari, her sister-in-law and a handful of kids to the market to buy some last minute items for the big party; shoes, vegetables, perfume and holiday attire to list a few. Upon arriving at the market I was thoroughly surprised just by how much the market quickly turned from women casually strolling to buy supplies to buy lunch to a every man for himself free for all, apparently all of Velingara. Roaming the dirt roads were the usual last minute shoppers, vendors with various marked up goods, women manning food tables to feed all the vultures, and kids looking to most likely start trouble. I kept a pretty low profile and shuffled from merchant to trader behind Mari and co. hoping to get as little toubob, loosely translated as westener or white person, remarks as possible. The highlight of my evening, besides the obvious of carrying children or shopping bags, was eating my bean and pea sandwich. They are amazing and after seeing it in writing and how unappealing it sounds you are just going to have to take my word for it.  They are bomb. We returned home just after ten just in time for my overdue bedtime.
Nene grilling the liver... yum
I awoke the next morning excited for the day. My first Tabiski, so many unknowns and firsts were going to happen today, this is what drives me. I just think about some of the not so glamorous jobs that I had in the states to get me to where I am today, living abroad, experiencing new cultures first hand and here it was. I quickly shuffled to the same park where the Korité service was held, my family apparently either forgot me or thought that I wasn’t coming. Being the only white person at the park, and showing up after service started, my family was easily able to spot me and grab me before I started wondering aimlessly for too long. I took a couple of pictures of friends and neighbors and realized just how comforting it was sitting next all these familiar faces; it felt like home almost. Amadou, the work partner, quickly sent over someone to steal my camera so that he could take pictures of all the action up front where women were not allowed to sit. Come to find out later the “action” was slitting the neck of a sheep; I could have probably done without documenting that. Service, I use this word loosely to describe prayer and preaching on behalf of a couple of the religious leaders in the community, was quick and painless and we were off before I knew it. Our walk back was rerouted to the long way home stopping at houses of family members and close friends to say hi, wish them a happy holiday, and about any other small talk that you could imagine.
After arriving home I went over to Amadou’s house to grab my camera and was just in time for him to slaughter two of his sheep (representing the sheep that God gave to Abraham in place of his son). I knew this was the holiday for sacrificing sheep, similar to Thanksgiving and turkeys, but come on. I miss the good old days in America where my mom would go to the grocery store, pick out a big frozen already dead turkey and bring it home to cook all while someone else did the dirty work of cleaning and preparing it for cooking. I quickly ran past him and the other “men” of the house to his wives so I didn’t have to watch the slaughter first hand. But don’t worry I did not have a chance to take my camera back form him yet so someone documented the whole thing. I sat a little with the ladies, asked them how their holiday was, told them that I was going to cook today which they found hysterical and made other small talk. I was going to return home shortly after retrieving my camera but of course they would not let me leave without eating something or looking at my outfit, which was the same one they gave me for Korité.
I returned home just in time to take off my smothering hot outfit and watch Nene, mom, grill the liver of our long lost pet. All of his other parts were sitting in a bucket waiting to be either grilled or thrown in a stew of sorts. I say “all” of his other parts literally because there were organs mixed with legs mixed with other mystery chunks. I gave the liver a try, in part to be nice and to say that I have tried sheep liver, and it was just as gross as I though it would be. Partially grainy in texture, kind of chewy, not really sure but I quickly passed up seconds once they were offered to me.
I spent the remainder of the late morning cutting onions. I signed up for this job for two reasons; it would give me something to do for a good hour or so since there were probably thirty or so and I finally have mastered cutting an onion in my hand without a cutting board and I wanted to show off my skills. Our holiday meal was good, served as a stew accompanied with bread. The whole time while eating it I stayed clear from the meat in part of because I still wasn’t sold on meat and also if I were going to eat meat I wanted to be sure of what I was eating and with this meal it would be an unknown.
The remainder of the day was devoted to digesting all of the food that was consumed, a requirement for any good holiday, and parading wives and children around town to visit family members and friends. I stayed home with Nene. This holiday also marked a very hard time for me, the day my grandfather passed. My dad’s dad had been battling cancer, and just about anything else one can get while sick it seemed, for a while now and he reached a point where he was either unable or unwilling to fight anymore. As hard as it is to admit I don’t blame him, towards the end he was not the grandpa that I remember and he was not living a life that he used to once enjoy. I miss him already and wish I was there with my family to rejoice the good life that he had, even though it was too short; there were still things that I wanted to do in this life and that I both wanted and needed him around for. I miss him and Janice coming to my parent’s house in Wisconsin for dinners and a round of either cards or dominos, which he always won somehow. I miss going to his house and listening to him talk about the birds, he knew everything about them and the wildlife around his house. I miss the passion that he had in his hobbies, be it his train set, gardening, wood work, quilting or any other random project that Janice had him working on that he pretended not to enjoy, meanwhile we all knew better. I miss his love for baking and how great his pies tasted. I miss how caring he was be it helping my dad build a mansion for all my pet mice in Hawaii or all the times on the phone he would tell me that he felt great even though I heard otherwise. I miss him. The day started out a holiday and ended as a day of remembrance. We lost a great man yesterday and I will forever miss him. Being away from family I am realizing just how lucky I am and how little time we have here. I am not sure where people go after they die but I am sure that we need to appreciate everyone in our lives.
I retired to my room early that night, not really feeling like celebrating at the hotel where a live band and unlimited sodas were awaiting me. I ended the night falling asleep under my mosquito to a few good episodes of Sex and the City, which reminded me just got great good girlfriends are, and Community, which provided a good laugh.
Alexx is coming to visit me tomorrow for a few days before we go to celebrate Halloween at a Peace Corps party in a neighboring town. Her arrival is coming just in time because I could really use a good friend around right now and she comes with promises of long cries and bottomless drinks, if I want. A stiff drink sounds good right about now. Cheers.

PS I promised my girls Erica Schumacher and Sarah Gunderson a shout out. Thanks for both reading my blogs and being there for me. Love you guys.


kristi said...

Great post Kelly! Awesome words and memories about your grandpa.

Anonymous said...

Hi love! Weird to see you write Erica Schumacher, I thought we agreed on Erica Cain ForEver! I miss your face and I'm sorry to hear about your Gpa I know how much you loved him and will miss him. Skype date soon! PS.. Which episodes of Sex and the City did you watch? I've been obsessed with Friends and King if Queens lately, but try to get Sex in the Coty once a week. Haha... Not Coty, city*. Well I love you! Have a great week!


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