Well to say the least, chickens are no big deal. I mean really, they are small, equivalent to a soccer ball. You could even kick them if you really wanted to. Rams are really not small, and I’m sure that if you kicked one, that it would kick you back, with sure damage being done. This past Tabaski was a day of Senegalese food and fashion immersion. The day started out with the peeling of about four kilos each of onions and potatoes. Peeler blister and onion tears: check. Be proud though, I only started crying after onion kilo 2.5. My little brother Thomas then dragged me to the other side of the building so that I could join in on the Ram Fest ’09. I came in just as they were slitting Ram #2’s throat : three full grown men holding the ram to the ground with its neck opening up to the earth as its life flowed from it. I promise I only jumped around and freaked out for a couple of minutes.
Taking back up my butcher title, I was allowed to skin the hind leg. The trick is to get the knife to find the line between the thin layer of fat, and the lean muscle. I think I actually did pretty well as my host father was particularly impressed with the fact that my leg was cut better than the ones not done by me. That is where my skinning ended though, as they slung up the ram on the wall in order to let the blood drain out as they hacked off bits and pieces with a machete. After a brief period of washing my hands, I moved on to cleaning and separating the hacked chunks of ribs, shanks, and other mystery meats. This lasted a couple of hours, as you much imagine that a full grown ram consists of quite a lot of meat.
Fast forward to nighttime when I go to put on my fabulous boubou, or traditional Senegalese outfit. With bright green with gold embroidery shirt, pagne (like a wrap skirt), and foulard (a head wrap), matching luminescent green eye shadow that I never knew existed, cornrows intact, and henna on the hands, I was a sight to be seen. All around me there were exclamations of “rafet na trop!”, basically “Its really pretty!.” I stand by the fact that I looked like a jolly green octopus, and possibly even more out of place than usual. The night began with a traipsing around the village visiting different families, and ended at my friend Awa’s house with legitimate dance lessons.
Beginning my day as a butcher, I finally transformed into the jolly green octopus that dances. There was no thing that was more important than another, just a totality of a complete experience… and knowledge that I helped kill my universities mascot of course.