Peace Corps year 1

ramadan fizzles out

Since the timing of Ramadan goes by the lunar calendar, the dates change, moving something like ten or eleven days ahead every year. The imams watch for the moon, and then announce holidays based on when it shows up or disappears. Yet here at least there always seems to be some debate over when exactly that happens.

Last Wednesday was potentially the end of Ramadan, so at dusk my entire compound stood with their break-fast bread and tea, craning their necks to look for a sliver of the moon in the pink clouds at the horizon. No such luck; tomorrow would be another day of fasting.

However, the next morning the word was going around that people in Saare Madi, one village over, had seen the moon last night. Ceerno Jallo from Saare Kali was sent to verify; as Deya explained it, if Ceerno decided they really had seen the moon, it would in fact be Korite today. I asked Deya, had anyone checked the radio to see if Mecca had celebrated already? (Apparently holidays here often occur the day after they take place there.) No, he replied, they’d just wait and see what Ceerno said.

This is the rough equivilant, for you Baton Rouge people, of a priest in Denham Springs driving his pickup truck over to Plaquemine on what might possibly be Easter morning to ask a priest there if it is in fact Easter morning instead of, say, turning on WAFB to see what the bishop says.

So anyway, we flagged down Ceerno Jallo as he rode back home on his bike, and he confirmed that the moon had been seen and today was Korite, and so then everyone was happy and sat down to breakfast.

As on Tabaski back in January, the surrounding villages gather in Saare Kali for prayers on the morning of Korite. Last time this involved a mad dash to the service, followed by a day of sheep slaughter and fancy outfits. Not so much for Korite.

Around 10am we take a charette to Saare Kali. When we arrive a crowd of men is gathered around various pieces of cow, so I follow the women into a hut to sit and wait for them to finish and the prayers to start. Other than people passing through to greet, hunt for clothes, or deliver water, it’s just us guests in there.

We sit on the beds and wait. My moms gossip in soft tones about people passing outside; every once in a while someone goes to the hut door to peer out at new arrivals or to check on the progress of the cow slaughter. A woman and her little girl, hair unbraided and sticking straight out from her head, come in to greet our group. I open my eyes wide, cock my head to the right, and smile broadly, and her hesitant curiousity turns to terror; she starts screaming and has to be shooed outside by her mother. I think, Yep, still got it.

And we wait. One by one the women lie down instead of sitting on the beds. Bidji and Aljuma get restless and start talking about heading back. I sit with my back against the curved wall of the hut, trying to ignore the flies, and watch a woman outside cutting indecipherable chunks of cow into smaller indecipherable chunks of cow. Watching her, I imagine how when I’m back in the U.S. I will set aside a week of celebration for every possible type of food: a week for meat (bacon and sausage for breakfast, lamb kebobs for lunch, chicken fried steak for dinner), a week for fruit (berries in the morning, peaches midday, blueberry pie at night), a week for cheese, a week for boxed breakfast cereals. Today I’ll probably have to settle for some cow intestine.

Bidji and Aljuma leave. Two-year-old Aadama is running out of ways to entertain herself. I don’t have a watch, but I know we’ve been sitting there for hours now. I casually wonder if Bandi, who I locked in my hut so he wouldn’t follow the charette, has destroyed anything yet.

At what turns out to be about 1pm, I give up. I walk the kilometer or so back to the village, enjoying how my outfit, which is a huge forest and lime green tie-dye boubou—about three meters of fabric folded in half, with a hole cut for my head—billows in the wind. I feel like a tent, or maybe Jesus, but look more like a psychedelic flying squirrel.

People eventually return and change out of their nice clothes. Things are pretty calm until lunchtime, when they continue to be calm as first the men and then the women go as a group from one household to the next, eating a bowl of food at each compound. Nice (but not new for Korite) clothes are re-donned, I go around and take some pictures… and that’s about it. A few boom boxes going until midnight or so, but no goat carnage, no brand-new outfits. I figured that after a month of fasting they’d be ready for a huge feast, partying til all hours… but it was all very sedate. Photos are here.


Excitement has arrived, however, in the form of giant dump trucks: preparations have begun for the construction of the second village well! Only a month and a half after they were supposed to!

So far they’ve delievered coils of wire, great loops of rebar, a load of dirt, a load of rocks, and six metric tons of cement. Standing in a cleared field to watch the truck dumping out dirt, surrounded by a crowd of children, I had a clear vision of my entertainment for the next month and a half. They’re supposed to finish the digging by Christmas; keep those fingers crossed.

2 replies on “ramadan fizzles out”

beautiful post. the bit about the cow intestine made me laugh out loud. let me know when you decide to have a “dessert week” and i’ll join you; crepes for breakfast, cake for lunch, ice cream with chocolate sprinkles for dinner…

no that i don’t love “so it goes,” but if you ever decide to change the name of the blog, my vote goes to “psychedelic flying squirrel.”

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