I, along with all of my newly acquired Malian, Muslim friends and family, recently celebrated the feast of Eid-ul-Adha, or as it is referred to locally in Mali, Tabaski. The BBC Web site provides a good explanation of the religious significance of this feast which is the, “festival (which) remembers the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to.”

On Tabaski and the days that follow, Malians spend time with friends and family sharing food (mostly lambs’ meat) and tea and relaxing.  On the day of the feast, I woke up around 6:45 in the morning.  I think that this feast, along with other holidays here, provoke a similar reaction as the holidays I’m used to celebrating in America – it’s impossible to sleep in due to your excitement, and the long list of holiday preparations that await.

I woke up early to a lot of hustle and bustle outside my room.  I ate a quick breakfast and went out to look for one of my host mom’s who had indicated I should spend the morning celebrating with them. I found her sitting around the “kitchen” with the other women of the house hard at work preparing food for the celebration.  For the first half of the day I sat with them while they cooked basi, a couscous-like dish made from millet, and we shared dableni, tea made from the hibiscus flower.

I took a break from our circle when it was time for the traditional sacrifice of rams, the animals which my language tutor told me will serve as protection on judgment day.  In total, my host family – rather the men of my host family – killed four rams.  If you are interested in seeing this rather graphic, but interesting, affair in photos, I’ve documented it here.  I’ve also included photos from my morning with the women, in the beginning of the album.  If you’d prefer not to see the sacrifice, but still want to see how my morning was spent with the women, you can do so!

After witnessing “saga faga” – killing of the rams – and the skinning and cleaning that followed, it was back to chatting with the women.  Within 30 minutes of the ram being killed, I was eating its meat with some sautéed onions.  I believe that is what foodies like to refer to as farm to table, haha.

I ate lunch with my homolouge’s family and spent some time there drinking tea before making the rounds to greet, eat and drink tea at many of my new acquaintances’ homes.  Everyone was in high spirits and donned new clothes, shoes, jewelry and, for the women, henna on their feet and hands.  I took part in the tradition of wearing new clothes and wore a “dampe” that I had made during my first few months in Mali.  This type of clothing is traditional wear for women in the northern regions of Mali and the fabric likely made its way to Mali from Mauritania.  I haven’t taken the henna plunge yet, but plan to do so before leaving.  I will certainly take pictures!

Blessings, more than usual (which is already a lot!), were being spouted off all day long.  If only I had 25 CFA for each time I said “Amina” or Amen!  Most of the traditional Malian blessings for Tabaski refer to the long life you wish upon everyone you know.  You should all feel good knowing that in addition to people wishing me a good feast, they also blessed nearly each one of you in some way or another.  To all of you, “Balimatigiya la, Fatigiya la, Batigiya la, dentigiya la, ce or musotigiya la” – may your relatives, father, mother children and husband or wife all have a long life!  The children of the village, wearing their new duds, head out to home after home, blessing the families and asking for small change – a trick-or-treat of sorts.  Most of this change is given to the children’s parents, but they will be allowed to keep some of it and will likely use it in the coming weeks to buy candy at the boutigi or some fried dough or french fries at the market.

Day two of the feast was also enjoyable.  Although it wasn’t the marathon-of-a-day that was the first day of “Seliba,” (big feast) I managed to greet several families that I didn’t get to see the first day, took in a soccer match between my village and a neighboring village (1-1 tie), and met the son of one of the women from my association who is currently living in Brooklyn – proof that it is truly a small world.

Right now, I’m in Bamako celebrating Thanksgiving in American fashion.  This evening, I’m heading to the United States Ambassador’s home for turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie.  It certainly won’t be the same as sharing a Thanksgiving meal with my family in Kentucky, but spending this holiday with my Peace Corps family in sunny, 80+ degree-weather in Bamako, will be as good as it gets this year.

I’m returning to my village for a short while before heading to the training center for the highly anticipated “in-service training” or IST that will take place in early December.  At this training, I’ll be learning more skills that will help me put successful projects into action now that the initial assessment phase is complete.  I’m looking forward to learning about the additional resources that will be available to me in the coming years and swapping stories with fellow volunteers during this two-week training period.  I’ll certainly be in good touch during this time.

For those of you in America, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends!  I’ll be in touch again soon…