Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Travels

Hey everyone, once again sorry for the lack of updates. I'm been distrated with hangng out with my good friend Rebecca. Well, and the fact that I am now in Scotland. :) I arrived in scotland a few days ago nd I'll be celebrating Christmas here with Rebecca, then heading on to see Caitlin in Ireland, and making it to Paris before in time to celebrate New Year's. I'll be in London for a night staying with my friend Orrin, who I met in Senegal, before heading back just in time for classes to start again.
Rebecca and I made latkes last night to celebrate (belatedly) Hannukah. I also made applesauce to go with them and was very impressed with my cooking skills. Perhaps my host mom should have come with me to see this extrodinary skill.
Mom, don't worry I've bough a coat (that goes halfway down my thighs) at Primark and a big purple (that's 'cause I'm thinking of you Kate!) scarf. I am keeping quite warm and Rebecca is indulging me with all the things I've missed in Senegal. Today it's a big old milkshake from McDonald's.

I miss you all and wish you a happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Moms are the same all over the world. 
It's been about 75 degrees out lately, with a bit a wind and I've had a bit of a cough. 
This morning when I tried to leave Suma Yaay told me to put on a sweater before I left. 
I thought there were supposed to be cultural DIFFERENCES

Wednesday, December 10, 2008



Tabaski, as Eid al- Adha is known as in Senegal commemorates someone (it’s been discussed in 2 of  my classes and people keep disagreeing) offering to sacrifice him son to God and at the last moment before the son is killed a goat is replaced and killed instead. So each year a goat (or bull or sheep) is killed for each married male member of the family.

So yesterday there was a lot of killing going on in Senegal. I am all for local foods, I just never thought that it would mean, my roof and courtyard local.  My family killed four moutons, which was quite the experience. I took many photos and videos, however internet connection do not really allow for them to be uploaded yet. I will try when I get back to the states. Also half of my program group is leaving and I am sure there will be a sure of photos once they get home which I will put the links to up.

While watching the goats be killed was slightly gory and grossed me out, it wasn’t worse than most horror movies in the states. Though looking around the courtyard and seeing all the blood everywhere was pretty gross.

My friend Sarah lives with a Christian family here and so she came over to my house to experience Tabaski. Sharing holidays is an important part of Senegalese life. It is customary on Tabaski to bring extra meat to Christian homes and to invite others over for the day. The same occurs with the Christians sharing with the Muslims on Christmas and Easter. So Sarah came over early in the morning, eating breakfast at my house, and helping to peel the potatoes, cucumbers and grate carrots. As I was sitting peeling potatoes I realized that I would be doing the exact same thing if it was a holiday at home.  We tried to keep occupied with jobs related to vegetables to avoid grilling or preparing any meat like the Senegalese women.

For those of the feint of heart I please skip the next paragraph. It’s where I describe how the goat was killed and butchered.

Recently I read the book Misery, by Stephen King. It details the story of how an author is kidnapped after a car accident and the torture he endures from his “nurse” including an amputation or two. I nearly puked reading the book, though I couldn’t stop reading and I felt it was very similar with killing the goats. I felt queasy the whole time, but I felt I needed to watch, because when else would I get an experience like that? The goat was trussed up with it’s legs tied up underneath, folded into a seated position. Then the goat was laid on its side and it’s head held back and to the ground. Then with one person holding the body the other held its head and slit the throat. The blood then gushed out of the throat and into the drain only a few inches away. There were often some last minute bleats of the goats and their grayish black tongues would stick out their mouths falling to the side like a cartoon character. The second goat also took a post mortem poop. After as much blood as possible was drained they were taken and hung up by their back legs to be butchered. The rest that followed was like a typical butchering, like you see at so many of the side streets and markets here. Nothing very remarkable except how the intestines spilled out of the goats, which I just thought was interesting.




One of the reasons I was vegetarian for the year before I came to Senegal was that I can’t really handle the idea of killing my own food, and I don’t even like handling raw meat in general. One of the rules of leadership I have always been told is, don’t ask anyone to do for you what you are not willing to do yourself. In that same frame of mind I can’t ask others to kill an animal for me, as I am not willing to do it myself.  My host family, and the student’s families who I talked to all comment on how many photos the students took. Granted it was a LOT of photos but the common response was “What, you’ve never seen a goat killed before?” To which all the American responded with a “no, we haven’t, really.” In fact besides some chickens I saw from afar in St. Louis it was the first animal I had ever seen killed.

The day was filled with grilling the meat, preparing other aspects of the meal and butchering the four goats.  After the main meal (the lunch) everyone takes a little nap, then, as the Senegalese do so well, gets dressed up. The Senegalese go all out when it comes to getting dressed. Everyone one has their own tailor and therefore there are no duplicates when it comes to outfits. Nothing is bought at a mall or real shop, everything is custom made. The skills of a tailor here are different than in the States. “Tailor made” in the States means someone who does impeccable work, with a fantastic knowledge of line and form. Usually a tailor made item is not heavily decorated but rather has an eye for line and shape. Here tailor means someone who can sew. While the quality of the “tailoring” leaves much to be desired (in my opinion) the embroidery is what stands out here. The idea of clean classic lines and a good fit does not exist. The “little black dress” would be met with attempts for embroidery floss and jewels to be attached. I had a boubou made for myself, a bright blue with light blue embroidery. The top had sleeves to elbow length and a V cut front and back, falling a little past mid thigh, while the pants had some embroidery at the bottom. I thought I was looking pretty good until my host family got dressed and I saw how amazing all of them looked. Suma yaay, (host mom) had a lilac boubou with gorgeous embroidery running down the whole front.  I told her how my sister in the States would be very jealous.

The night is celebrated by heading out to the most popular venues for the youth of Senegal, friend’s houses, concerts and the gas station. Yes, that’s right, the gas station. In an overwhelmingly Islamic country, bars do not hold the same popularity as they do in the states. The gas station has a fried chicken and pizza options in addition to typical gas station snacks, and for those rebellious youth, alcohol. They can pretend they are not drinking and hang out at the gas station, a respectable way to spend the night. Across from one of the best gas stations nearby is La Gondole, which has ice cream(!), hamburgers, chwarma, and other great food options. The two venues and the road in between were filled with young Senegalese decked out in their best boubous. I made an early night of it; hanging out with Alex and Tom after there was taxi miscommunication and we realized none of us left actually knew where the concert of Senegalese music actually was.

Tabaski was really great experience, I definitely got to experience things I had never even thought about before. Although a little sickening at times, and even though I will be stuck eating mouton for the next several weeks, it was so cool to see something that had seemed so far outside my sphere of knowledge before. 

Papers, HLM, Yoff, Tabaski and departures.

Like I’ve said the last few times, sorry I’ve been so absent. There has been a lot going on here and it’s a lot to catch up on right now.

The thing that has been keeping all of us busiest was our History of Islam paper. While only 4-6 pages double-spaced, it was in French and also our research options are not the best here. We were basically forced to use online resources from our home institutions and hope that whatever we found on these random topics would be sufficient. As usual my Islam professor liked to remind me and the class that my French is lowest in the class and recommended that I write the paper with someone else. I chose to write the paper by myself, seeing as I didn’t really care what he thought and if, worst comes to worst, I fail the class, I don’t need the credit anyway. In the end of it all, it’s been keeping our last week very busy.

On Saturday I went to HLM with Alex. HLM main attraction is fabric, but you can find anything there really. I needed shoes for my Tabaski outfit and Alex wanted to buy some fabric. Imagine any Black Friday, and then imagine it being ten times worse. There were times were I floated through the crowds just from the sheer volume. Many of the vendors had sound systems and were calling out to the people walking around, they were always surprised when Alex and I would respond to their calls of “Xop-nopp,” (sounds like hop-nop and means red ears).

After a long search, Alex found his fabric and I shoes, though unfortunately they were not the ones that I had seen EVERYWHERE two weeks ago, but I have something that will work, so it’s enough. One guy pretend to stumble into Alex, trying to steal an wallet from his back pocket but luckily all of his things were in the front pockets. I realized later that night that my bag had been cut at the bottom, but luckily the pocket and the outside layer of the bag were cut and the lining was still intact and still kept all my things inside. Dakar is a very safe city, but it was unsurprising given the crowds of the market that it had happened. Being white we are also greater targets.

This morning Alex continued our St. Louis tradition of getting to the beach early in order to catch the best rays, and then get back to our host families for a free lunch. Yoff is a beautiful beach that stays very shallow for a while out, making it good for kids, and for when you don’t really want to go into the water all the way. Saturday afternoon involved Tabaski preparations, in addition to many trip to my tailor who lives behind to try to get my boubou. Unfortunately, each time I’ve gone it hasn’t been ready yet. As Tabaski is tomorrow should will be ready when I get back from school today (incha’Allah).

The first group of people to leave are leaving in just 12 days. It’s hard to imagine half of our group gone. Yesterday marked the halfway mark of our program (and Grandma Zweip’s birthday!). It seems like we’ve been here much long than to just be reaching the halfway mark now. Among us 6-monthers, we’ve been discussing how were are so happy not to be going home in two weeks, just because it seems to soon, but if you had asked us how we felt at any other point in the program we would have jumped to be on those flights on December 20th. I am glad to be seeing friends over break, and get a chance to be away from Senegal for a bit. I do love it here but I really do love the snow and winter, and it will be nice to get a taste of that. The last two months after break are mostly filled with an internship we do and a few classes. I  hope to be helping in English class at a primary school, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.  Well I hope this has caught you all up, and as always I love to hear from you. (Thanks grandpa, I always get your emails, but sometime sending responses back out takes a while with the Wireless internet system we have).

Send emails to awilliams409@gmail.com or to anna.williams06@kzoo.edu

Miss and love you all.