Posted by: The Glove | November 23, 2011

A Holiday Surprise

Since I last wrote, I took a trip down the Senegalese coast to some beautiful mangroves in a series of villages named Palmarin, went kayaking through them for my birthday, and followed that up by going to a liquor tasting for the birthday of two other friends. I attended a summit for the volunteers in our sector, then went back to village leading up one of the two biggest religious holidays of the year, Tabaski (known worldwide as Eid Al-Adha).

Tabaski commemorates the day where Abraham was about to slaughter his son, before God stopped him and instead, Abe slaughtered a ram. The next part is where Judeo-Christianity and Islam differ. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is Isaac that is about to fall under the knife. However, Tabaski deals with the near-death of Abraham’s other son, Ishmael.

This story is not about religious lore. This story is about a feast. After the praying was complete, we returned to my house to eat. My house is far from busy at its most packed, and Tabaski featured a whopping four people at my house. My host mother, somewhere around 60 years of age, my 20-year old very pregnant sister-in-law, my six-year old nephew, and yours truly.

For the four of us, plus whoever came over to say hi, we killed an entire sheep. Plus a chicken, because I bought one. I also bought my family four pounds of onions (approximate cost: $1.60) and four pounds of potatoes ($2.40). We began by mixing the onions in a mustard-vinegar sauce, and then grilling various parts of the sheep and eating it with the onions.

After that, we fried up pounds of potatoes and snacked on some of them. For lunch, we fried the chicken I bought, and put it on a bed of onion sauce, and made sandwiches with the bread. Note: Senegalese fried chicken is NOT the same as American fried chicken. Though it is still quite good. There just doesn’t happen to be any breading. On the side, we ate the rest of the potatoes.

For dinner, we had delicious pounded millet with sauce, although that was slightly diminished by the bad meat in the bowl with it. I had to try to pick around the meat, which oftentimes was difficult in the dark. After dinner, I went to bed, exhausted by the pounds of food I had just consumed.

I awoke the next morning, went outside and greeted my mother. After we finished greeting, she told me to go into my sister-in-law’s room, where I saw a baby approximately seven hours old. A Tabaski miracle! After I told my sister-in-law how pretty her new baby girl was, I asked her if her husband (my host brother) was coming down for the baptism. She said she didn’t know, they hadn’t talked yet. When I asked her why not, she shrugged and said, “I don’t have any phone credit.” Horrified I quickly gave her my phone, she called my brother, greeted him, said “The baby came,” and hung up.

Horrified yet again, she informed me he would call back soon. Afterward, we posed for pictures with the baby, but not in the same way people in America pose for pictures with babies. In none of the pictures was anyone actually holding the baby, but in each one they were sitting next to the baby, who was lying prostrate on the bed.

The baby was and still is very light-skinned, leading everyone to say that she resembled me. I made jokes that I must be the father, which they all thought was hilarious. I’m not sure that joke would have gone over as well in America.

Wonderfully, everything is shared in Senegal, even babies. My mother still insists on calling the baby “Samba’s baby” to all of my guests, even though I had nothing to do with her birth, and she is in no way related to me. It makes me happy to be included, even if I’m only going to be there for the first five months of her life.



  1. What a nice posting. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We’re all thinking of you.



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