Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Part 2: Tobaski

 Tobaski is a Muslim holiday that takes place mid-November. It commemorates the discipline Abraham showed when he willingly attempted to sacrifice his son. Before he could carry through with the command, God stopped him and provided a Ram to be sacrificed instead. 
Things were quite chaotic leading up to this holiday. I was in Velingara (larger town) the day before and I observed as people frantically finished their preparations. The streets were full of women and men selling and purchasing goats, buying food items, and pressuring the tailors to finish their outfits. The women sat around in groups braiding hair or rushed to the salon to have their extentions put in.   

 The day started, as most holidays here, with morning prayer.  Dressed in their best, the community gathered around a local tree to pray and give thanks to Allah.   Many of the younger women stayed behind to prepare food for the lunch feast.  I made Beignets  (fried bread dough) and helped cut up onions.   Once prayer ended, the children, men, and older women returned to take part in the sacrifice. 

Every family sacrifices a goat.  (I want to mention that buying a goat is a very big deal, an expense that truly comes as a sacrifice for many families). Everyone gathers around to say a prayer of thanks as the head of household slits the goat’s throat. This is the first time I have ever watched an animal die and it was a very beautiful yet tragic thing.  It gave me a mind-altering perspective and I don’t think I will be able to eat meat again without being reminded that a life was sacrificed in order to fulfill my desire to consume.  It is something, I think; we all should take time to appreciate more.  Everything we eat weather it be plants, fruits, or animals are part of a lifecycle that we are interrupting to fulfill our own.  Be thankful for it and recognize the sacrifice.

 I helped my family skin the goat and prepare the meat to be cooked. The first thing eaten was the liver followed by the ribs, and other organs. These were complemented with an onion, garlic mustard sauce that was quite tasty.  Lunch was served with meat, potatoes, and some veggies.  It seriously felt like thanksgiving because the food did not stop coming.  I went around to greet the village and was offered meat at every household.  No kidding, for the next week all we ate was left over meat until all of it was gone.  I can officially say I have tried goat testicles. You're jealous, I know!   
In the afternoon, I contributed by painting henna on all the girls.  They absolutely loved it and I am considering a career in Henna work (J) A soccer match concluded the day and everyone gathered around the pitch to watch the boys play.  It was a long day with lots of greetings, laughing and love.  Hope you enjoy the photos...
My host Father sacrificing the goat

With my brothers and host mom

Tobaski outfit with the girls