Sitting cross-legged on my cot outside, I breathe a sigh of relief as the stifling afternoon air begins to mingle with a cooler evening breeze. I’m exhausted, and although the day’s been fun, I’m looking forward to the sweet reprieve evening brings with the setting of the sun. Finally, a moment of stillness.
Then there’s a knock on my courtyard wall. “Asalaam alaikum,” my neighbor sings, announcing his presence. He has come to give me holiday greetings. “Ne y taabo!” he says. “Wend na wing d vẽere!” Happy holiday! My God show us next year!
“Wend na wing d sẽn pa vẽere!” I reply. May God show us the years after next.
He sits down across from me and leans back as he reaches deep into his pocket. He’s brought me something. “Hadi nemdo,” he says as he pulls out his gift for me – a black plastic bag ripped in places, raw sheep meet spilling out the holes.
“Puus y barka!” I thank him, smiling, as I put out my hands and hope he doesn’t notice my reluctance to fondle raw meat that’s been sitting under the African sun all day. I take the oozing meat from him and go set it inside, then shake his hand again in thanks.
He killed the sheep himself about six hours earlier, after morning prayers at the mosque. He and hundreds of other men in my village, and in villages all over the world, took their best knife and slowly (the knives aren’t too sharp here) sawed off a sheep’s head, a sacrifice to God. Today is Tabaski, also known as Eid al-Adha, the day to honor the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his young first-born son. Today is the only day of the year that everyone in my village will get to eat meat, the day women cook giant pots of rice and noodles and more rice to share with all their neighbors. Today is Kibisi daare, as we call it in Mooré.
Well, not actually today. My village celebrated it last Friday, based on the lunar cycle and whether or not the Imam sees the moon the night before. It was a bitter-sweet day for me, celebrating with my community for the last time as I prepare to close out my two-year service. I ate rice with my kids, took pictures at the mosque, and greeted hundreds of neighbors. I cooked three giant pots full of spaghetti to share with my “family” (the approximately 250 people I live with), and brought Twizzlers (courtesy of a care package) to my neem cream ladies for a sweet evening treat. But through it all – the laughter, the prayers, the food – I would periodically just sit back and soak up the sounds, the smells, the scenes, thinking of the end that’s near.
The following day I said early morning goodbyes and headed out of town to help train the new Peace Corps health trainees who arrived earlier this month. It’s hard to believe that they were me two years ago! After working with them for a week in a city near the Ghana border, I’ll head back to the capitol and then home for eight final days before I leave my village for good. I’ll then have a week in the capitol, to finish reports and medical check-ups and have a final “close-of-service” ceremony, and that’ll be it. As of November 21, I’ll no longer be a Peace Corps Volunteer! Which is also hard to believe.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – back to Tabaski. Back to the rice, the sheep heads, the henna and the prayers. I’ll let my photos speak for themselves. Enjoy!