04 June 2006

The Land Ran Red...Then Brown Again

I suppose it's not as extreme as self-flaggelation, but preparing a smorgasbord of flesh that will likely give you a strong case of biir bu daw (the stomach that runs) seems a somewhat excessive way to commemorate a moment of religious import. Yet so it was with Tobaski.

Tobaski (or Eid al Adha in Arabic) is marked in remembrance of Ibrahim/Abraham's near sacrifice of his son Ismail/Isaac, averted by a late substitution of a ram for the boy. So every year Gambians (well 90% or so of them) endeavour to sacrifice a ram (or, failing that, a billy goat). This is no mean feat, as most Gambians have difficulty affording a ram (around $100) or goat ($30) to slaughter. My family had a goat so, after praying at the mosque and watching the imam kill his ram, we headed back to our compound.

I didn't kill the goat (my bloodlust remains satiated by my offing of a chicken during training), but I did help skin it and cut up the meat. Compared to the chemicals and preservatives in our stateside fare, we were eating meat within two hours of the goat's death. My host dad and brother did a good job cleaning the animal, although I could have done without the testicles and intestines. Not much is wasted in The Gambia.

Aside from the financial hardship most endure to put on a good Tobaski, the other discomfiting aspect of the holiday is the shits alluded to in my title. Given the abject lack of protein in the daily diet here (I am excited by the prospect of eating egg sandwiches when I travel outside Njau), the sudden abundance of meat can be a shock to the system (and proved to be just that in my case). People still seem to wholly enjoy the holiday even if it is debilitating to their finances and digestive tracts (and their kids'). For all these misgivings, though, it is nice to see people having such fun -- eating heartily and dressing sharply in their new threads.

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