Friday, October 26, 2012

TABASKI in Dakar, Senegal

As an Abrahamic faith tradition, Islam celebrates a day in October just about the end of Hajji (pilgrimage to Mecca) to commemorate Abraham's sacrifice when God provided a ram instead of his son. In Dakar this was celebrated on Friday October 26, 2012 and it was a big public holiday. Yesterday (Thursday October 25) the was quite deserted as the usual traffic jam we notice at 5:00PM were absent. There were billboards advertizing spices for Tabaski with a picture of a ram in them and wondered what it was all about until someone explained it to me. Well I was lucky to have a friend I met here in Dakar in 2008 who now works with CODESRIA and invited me to his house where I was able to see the entire ceremony and enjoy grilled meat with him and his family. You can see me happily getting ready to start feasting on grilled mutton on the picture on top left and the ram from which the meat came here on the top right. I had read about this celebration when I was an anthropology graduate student in Illinois in the early 1990s but the area of focus was Morocco. We had so much to eat that even as I write this at 8:15PM I am still so full. We started off with the first round of meat which was grilled liver and ribs then after having our fill we waited a few minutes and had Senegalese tea which has tea, sugar, and mint (my friend made it a little light knowing I was not a pro at it). It is supposed to assist in digesting the food which is a good thing because three hours later there was set another big tray of meat with french fries, baguette, sauted onions with olives, lettuce, soft corn and some cucumber and fresh tomatoes. After this second round we had another round of tea then some fruits (apples, bananas, and oranges) as we watched National Geographic featuring all kinds of snakes with narration in French. Watching teh whole process of Tabaski from slaughtering the sheep to skinning it and preparing it and then having it was a real treat for me and I am grateful for such rare opportunities.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dispatches from Dakar

This is my room at the Marie Luciene Hotel in Dakar where I am staying for almost three weeks as I serve as director of CODESRIA's 2012 Child and Youth Studies Institute. CODESRIA stands for Council on the Development of Social Science Research in Africa and was established in 1973 to promote and facilitate social science across the continent. While driving from the airport Sunday morning (my South African Airways flight from DC arrived at 5:30AM) I was reminded of the many similarities one can find in African cities-stray dogs in the streets, a lot of people walking to various destinations as they weave through traffic, many old public transport vehicles where some passengers hang onto the cross bars with most of their bodies outside the vehicle, smell of vehicle fumes, and constant blowing of the horn. I also love the availability of all manner of wares on the streets, from roasted peanuts to USC football jerseys. And then there are the young ones who sit a little distance from the entrance to a popular fast food restaurant and quickly come to you with their hand out asking for some change. It is easy to ignore them but what about the older woman who crosses the street and says something in Wolof that you know is about some little food or change for her? Back in the hotel I am typing away and using some free internet from someone who has not protected their Wi-Fi with a password. You gotta love these macbooks and their ability to "smell" a Wi-Fi connection from miles away:). I am looking at the clock on my computer and it says 7:16PM and my wrist watch says 11:16PM local time which means my family in the US is just about to finish their dinner or probably coming from a volleyball practice while I am just about to get into bed and think about some intelligent things to tell my 15 colleagues from ten different African countries about trends in research on African children and youth. I think it's time to say bye bye.......