Tabaski

I realised that Eid was around this time and asked Amadou whether they celebrated it, as I hadn’t heard it mentioned at all. He was a bit puzzled at first, asking ‘what is Eid?’ but then realised that I was saying the Arabic word for Tabaski. You’d think I’d have realised that they were the same thing! This past week we’ve discovered that everything is more expensive around Tabaski, especially in Dakar. It took us a long time to bargain for the sept-places, which ended up being around 20,000 CFA from Joal to Dakar. The ram was strapped to the roof and Amadou told me that it cost the same price as a human. I got slightly confused at this point, thinking he was making some bizarre joke about slavery. However, it turned out that he meant, the same price as a person’s seat in the car. I slept for most of the journey, along with Babo, who we dropped off on the way to Dakar, as he spent the festival with his mum. On our second day in Dakar, we were out for around seven hours straight. Julia and I were just under the impression that we were buying shoes, but first we had to get ID cards made for Amadou and Aicha at the embassy. This seemed to take forever! Oumou met us outside, as she was in Dakar getting things ready for university. It was boiling, and I managed to burn my arms and nose again. This time, my nose started peeling. It was definitely a good look. After going to the embassy, we went for lunch in Caesar’s restaurant. I got a goat’s cheese panini and vanilla-chocolate ice cream, which was so good! We then went to Dakar’s Chinese market to buy a present for Marieme’s birthday, and I chose some black heels to wear with my boubou. Julia didn’t find any shoes she liked, so we went on to Aicha’s sister, Medina’s house. We met Medina, her husband and two girls, Sally and Marieme. Marieme turned one in October and Sally got out the photo albums to show us pictures of baptisms and weddings, where everyone was immaculately dressed and made-up. We went to the market again the following day and Aicha said that she wanted to paint us black, so that she would stop getting charged ‘Toubab prices’ when she was with us. We took one of the colourful ‘rapid’ buses to a larger market with one of Amadou’s relatives for Julia to find some shoes and we both bought jewellery to wear for Tabaski and got henna on our hands. Amadou’s nephews, Youssouf, Abou and ‘Baby’ took Julia and I took visit the Renaissance statue. It was two buses away and a fairly long walk after that. After grabbing some water, we made our way up the steps to the top of the monument. The Senegalese don’t tend to be too happy about the monument, as it was extremely expensive to build and many feel that the money could have been better spent on health or education. Nevertheless, it was still something we wanted to see, and looked pretty impressive up-close. Afterwards, we went to the N’Dor (or N’Gor, I forgot) beach and paddled in the sea, as no one brought any swimming things. On the morning of Tabaski all the men donned their special boubous to go to the mosque. After breakfast, the slaughter began. The men and boys aided in ripping apart the rams once their throats had been slit and blood drained. The rams were still alive and scrambling around for a while when this occurred. The whole family, including Amadou’s blind elderly father and several young children and babies were gathered round watching the sacrifice, as if it were a TV show. There was a lot of blood, guts and breaking of bones. I helped out with cooking the lunch, scraping hair off the ram’s hooves with a razor, (which stank and took agesss) grilling the meat with Amadou’s niece, Fatima and preparing salad for myself. The night before, Fatima and I ate omelet by candlelight, as there was a power-cut. Julia gazed over a huge pot of boiling ribs and said ‘I don’t think I can eat any more meat’. After a bit of pestering from Marieme, we gave her her birthday present, a little pink handbag full of hair accessories. As there was no birthday cake, Aicha put Marieme’s ‘4’ candle into a large slab of meat and we all gathered round to sing to her, in French, English and then in Wolof (I think!) Aicha proceeded to show all of her family the photos I had taken of Marieme with her birthday meat, laughing each time she did so. Amadou’s niece, Aminata invited Julia and I to her wedding in December. She is the same age as us. We joined her and her friend, Kadija in visiting nearby houses, as is tradition for Tabaski. Aminata was struggling to walk in her new heels, so she grabbed onto my arm for most of the journey. In each house we were given a different beverage: chakri – yoghurt with millet, the green juice stuff, ananas, etc. It’s fun to see everyone out in their nice new boubous meeting up with friends and family. We left Dakar around ten the next morning, by seven am, the men were already stuck into slaughtering another two rams. Not something you really want to see that early! The sept-places to Thies did not take very long, but we noticed that the heat was a lot stronger there. Aicha’s relatives were really sweet. Medina, Sally and Marieme met us there, as well as Medina’s sons, one of which was called Tidiane. Tidiane showed us around the neighborhood and offered to take Julia and I out for a meal, but instead we went to the town centre, where young people seemed to gather and ride motorbikes. The teenage boys here, Tidiane included, are so mature. He’s only fifteen, but he’s really good at looking after baby Marieme and helping out with the cleaning, etc. It’s funny to compare with British teenagers, as my brother is the same age. When I told Tidiane that I didn’t eat meat or fish, he replied with, ‘c’est grave’. One of Aicha’s sisters didn’t know what a vegetarian was, so Aicha explained it through using the terms herbivore and carnivore. This led her sister-in-law to start crying with laughter, as I was compared to an animal. She cried again when we told her that we learnt the Wolof for ‘badman’, pronounced ‘sighsigh’. On leaving Thies, Julia and I got a taxi to Dakar, whilst the rest of the family went home to Joal. In the taxi, we met a brother and sister who lived in Dakar with their uncle, but their father had a plantation in Thies. He grew oranges, mangoes and tomatoes. The sister, Lysa, was studying commerce in university. They said that we were welcome to visit them any time. Julia and I met up with Mr. T and went out for some food then the next day, Conor and Richard arrived from Kaolack. We had a meeting with the British Ambassador to discuss the elections in February and possibility of riots. For some reason, it was only my name on the guest list, so we had to wait outside whilst the security guards made some phone calls. After a while they returned and said, ‘we just need to check – are you British?’ to which we replied ‘yes, of course’ and went straight in… despite the fact that Julia is German and Conor, Irish. In the embassy we were given snacks and drinks and met lots of other Brits working in Senegal. We saw a woman called Beryl, who we had previously met on our flight over. She taught English in Mbour for nineteen years. We also met a geography lecturer who was doing a research project on inheritance and land in Senegal and had lived in Tanzania for a year. The British Ambassador spoke to us about what help would be provided in the worst-case scenario of riots around the time of the elections. There’s a chance that Julia and I may become ‘wardens’ for Joal. In which case, we will be given a satellite radio and have to find any other British nationals living in Joal to alert them of a crisis. Julia and I introduced the boys to the Senegalese dish Mouhammsa, (the rice pudding / porridge type thing) and we also took them to Caesar’s restaurant to get some pizza. I went to the beach with Richard and Conor before leaving Dakar and we managed to avoid getting swept away by the current this time! Conor even wangled us a free hut to put our things under, due to his great skills in speaking Wolof. Unfortunately, Julia stayed at Mr. T’s. She’s been in the wars recently, with an infected leg, eye, a temperature and flu-like symptoms. She’s been back and forth to the hospital a lot this past week and is due to go again tomorrow. Mr. T is trying to get our visas for free by speaking to the Minister, but he said if it takes too long then we can always pop over to the Gambia and we’ll have another three months until we need to get them. We’ve booked our boat tickets to Ziguinshor for December! I’m really excited to visit Lottie and SJ and explore the Casamance region. I arrived back in Joal yesterday, and although we had an amazing week in Dakar and Thies, I felt happy to be home and see everyone. We have a new maid called Sophia, who seems really nice and has been helping me learn some more Wolof (she doesn’t speak any French or English at all!) I tried out some of the slang phrases that Conor taught me like, ‘naka baggage?’ – ‘how’s it hanging?’ She found this absolutely hilarious, but Amadou told me that these phrases they say in Kaolack are not proper Wolof! I’ve noticed two small lines scarred by each eye of some Senegalese people and finally remembered to ask Amadou what they were. He said that it was traditional for some Pulaar or Serer people to have them at birth, as they were thought to ward off illnesses. Apparently some people would have them stretched over their whole cheeks, not just by the eyes. Last night, we were looking at photos from Tabaski, and when Mouhammed saw ones of the rams being slaughtered, he could not bear to look, even though he had eaten and helped to rip them apart. Julia reminded me that she saw Mouhammed crying in the bathroom after the rams were sacrificed. It was not a very nice sight for young children, but it didn’t seem to affect anyone else in the same way it did him. Now that Tabaski is over, I go back to observing English lessons tomorrow. Madame Jojo has planned to do comprehension with the class, so I have that to look forward to. Hope everyone is well back in the UK!

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