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ali in mali
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abraham's sacrifice

sheep were everywhere.
tabaski is the muslim holiday, celebrating when god replaced Isaac for a ram when he had demanded that his father, Abraham, sacrifice him. 
it was amazing how many rams were being dragged around by happy young boys and men.  you could tell the rams were not too happy about the affair. 
i caught a ride out on the 11th to get out to bamako by thursday.  i needed to talk to an assistant program director before he left on friday and had to go to a gender and development meeting on sunday and monday.  and also stop by the stage house in segou to pick up some materials. 
the ride was rather interesting.  my friend, who works at the justice department and is a key figure in many ngo activities in town, caught a ride out with me.  he appears to be a very suit and tie wearing up right citizen.  a very obscure trait in my bobo town where the dugutiki (chief of village) spends half the day in the local millet beer bar.  jeremy kone and i were sitting on a baschee when he pulls out a bag next to me.  "what's that?" i ask.  "it's my medicine bag".  i was intrigued.  it turns out jeremy is an animist.  his father was a great shaman with 11 wives and 30 surviving children.  he begins pulling out powders.   "this is to make the women fall in love with me"  "this is to protect me from evil" and then he pulls out a long, large, mud and feather molded object with a horses tail.   "this", he says smiling gently, "i never voyage without it.  before i leave i must bathe it in le sangre de poulet".
"sangre de poulet?"  i ask. 
that's chicken blood.  my, what a new side to him i got to see.  irregardless,  his uncle is going to make a charm for me for protection of my family and friends.  he said he would sacrifice a chicken for me.  i thought that was nice.  i'm working with him on several projects. 
arriving in segou, i was greeted by abba kone, the day guardian at the segou stage house.  "sannihan!!!!" he cried out.  another version of my name samouhan.  "you are going to come to my house to celebrate the fete!"  i said no and then he laughed.  i wasn't going to get out of segou on tabaski.  no one would leave.  so i stayed for the fete.
that night, my friend dan, got hit by a moto.  no harm done, but we were very careful on the streets.  it was like everyone was drunk, but no one drinks here.  they are all muslims.  i then saw a huge ram, the size of a pony.  smooshed on the front of what would be considered a petite moped in the united states.  the ram wasn't happy.  he was bellowing as his chauffer drove past. 
the streets were so crowded that night it was hard to walk.  we looked for bread, but everyone was out.  finally, we found some at a table in an alley.  people were going crazy.
we got up the next morning and put on our best clothes.  walking out to the street, we could see the rams were already slaughtered.  heads were roasting on the dirt streets, being prepared for tomorrow's breakfast.  i guess they char them all day.  we took a taxi to omar's house, our night guardian, to celebrate during the day with him.  we all sat around a table.  ate some ram liver and onions.  then we played a game of what we would call parcheesi.  after wards we sat around and said fun things like "i djarra"  that's "you djarra"  and talked about what the fete was like. 
we also got to meet his kind family who were very interesting people.  his sister is an architect.  highly unusual here in mali.  his father and older brother have died, leaving him in charge of the family.  he now has adopted his brother's 3 children.  he had an option to marry his brother's wife if he wanted, but he refused.  he did not want his first wife to be his brother's widow.  so she went back home to the village she came from. 
we ate several rounds of ram.  different parts of the body.  arteries, valves, liver, who knows what else.  some had some very chewy textures.  they also made a great rice and sauce dish that we ate with our hands in a circle.  the women of the family gathered around a seperate bowl and ate there. 
we watched tv for several hours after that.  it was a play put on by children mostly with singing and dancing in traditional outfits.  it was so cute.  i loved the peul imitation.  we then took a bunch of pictures and headed out for abba's house.  we spent 5 hours at omar's house. 
abba lives quite a different life.  if you can imagine that guy on saturday night live that used to sit in the xerox room and yell out variations on his colleagues names, you've pictured abba.  he is tall and toothy and when i saw a woman in the street i knew it was his mother.  she also began yelling "i coulibaly", "solo"  hahahaha.  just like the xerox room guy. 
where omar lived in the same concession as his family, abba lived in a one room bachelor pad on the street outside his family concession.  he too, was the main provider for his family, but unlike omar, he is the only one that works.  omar's neighborhood is quiet, abba's chaotic.  omar's clean, abba's looked like the ruins of some ancient civilization.  omar had a healthy donkey in his yard. abba had the hugest pidgeon i've ever seen.  it was quite a difference. 
we sat there and went through another 3 course meal, greeted the family, took a bunch of photos and then drank tea.  the tea ceremony is quite traditional here.  they brew them of charcoal tin stoves in small tea pots.  then they pour sugar in and out of another tea pot to mix.  then heat again.  they serve the very strong tea in shot glasses on a sometimes silver tray.  we stayed for three rounds. 
long day.  it was great though.  as we left, we saw several pits of congealed blood where they had slaughtered the rams.  flies buzzed everywhere.  we had a great time.

12 february 2003

march 2003