RebeccaT's Travel Journals


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  • Currently in Vermont, United States

Living Routes Senegal Fall 2009

Living Routes study abroad program in Senegal, Fall 2009 (September-December 2009)

Thanksgiving and Tabaski: Two Feasts in a Row

Senegal Dakar, Senegal  |  Nov 29, 2009
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 'There's a giant dead goat outside our windows!' 

I just celebrated two holidays over a span of three days, one American holiday and one Senegalese.  As you probably all know, Thanksgiving was on Thursday, November 26.  We American students and Brooke (American Living Routes staff) put together a Thanksgiving celebration at Brooke's apartment. 

It's not easy to find a turkey in Senegal, but we managed to get one from the Casino supermarket.  (Apparently when Gabe asked if they had turkey, the man working there said, "American Thanksgiving?  We'll add you to the list.")  It's also not easy to find an oven.  Most families here either don't have an oven or don't keep their oven in working order because they hardly ever use it.  But we did have one working oven among all the host families, so that was dedicated to the turkey.  Other dishes included stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, creamed corn, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and a green salad.  For dessert there were fried apple turnover things, fruit salad, and ice cream.  We also had appetizers:  crackers and cheese, pickles, and olives.  (The crackers and cheese were my contribution.  I was really excited about them because I love cheese and it isn't really used in Senegalese cuisine.)

All the American students attended and contributed food.  Akou, one of the Senegalese students, also came.  Most of the other Senegalese students had left to spend Tabaski with their families.  There was plenty of food for all of us, plus leftovers that we shared with our host families.  Being vegetarian, I didn't eat the turkey or gravy, but everything else was really good.

We also took turns talking to our families in the U.S. from Brooke's apartment via Skype.  I had never used Skype before (the Internet connection at my house in Vermont isn't fast enough for it to work properly), but with me on Nas's account and my family on my aunt's account from her house in Connecticut, we were able to talk.  Overall, we felt that it was a very successful Thanksgiving.

The Muslim holiday of Tabaski had originally been scheduled for Friday, but it was moved to Saturday because of something having to do with the moon.  We were happy to have at least one day in between Thanksgiving and Tabaski.

The main thing that happens on Tabaski is that every family that can afford it slaughters at least one sheep.  There have been tons of sheep around for a while now.  Some families raise their own sheep in their homes, and others buy them a few days before Tabaski.  Our family bought two big sheep just before Tabaski, one for Papa Lo and one for Mama Lo (although Mama Lo is actually gone in Mecca right now).  Papa Lo said that the family doesn't eat the sheep all themselves; they share with people who don't have their own sheep. 

I didn't witness the slaughtering of the sheep.  But I did hear a lot of knife sharpening, and then Ruthanne said, "There's a giant dead goat outside our windows!"  (The animals they refer to as sheep here look a lot like goats to us.  I don't know what the official designation is...)

The family spent a lot of time preparing the sheep and cooking the meal, which we ate around 3pm or so.  As on Korité, children stopped by throughout the day to greet us and collect small coins.  Other than that not much happened until the evening, when our host sisters all dressed up in fancy new boubous and went out after dinner.  I put on one of my boubous and went to Ruth's house with a bunch of the other American students to watch "Elf." 

Despite the holidays, I have been doing a lot of work on final reports over the past few days.  We also have final presentations and exams coming up. 

On the bright side, the weather in Yoff seems to have cooled off while we were gone in Guédé Chantier.  It still gets pretty hot during the day but not too unbearable, and evenings and nights are cooler.  Since our shower only has cold water (which is typical here), I actually get pretty chilly showering in the morning and evening, and it is usually a comfortable temperature for sleeping at night. 

Even so, it will be quite a shock to arrive back in Vermont in December.  Jim was playing Christmas music the other day, but "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" just doesn't have the same meaning when it's in the mid-to-high 80s every day...

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