Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, September 22


The end of Ramada, and all its weight-loss inducing fasting, is marked by a day of feasting called Korite. Every gets a new formal outfit, but they’re worn at different times of the day depending on gender. Men get up early, put on their new cloths, and go to the mosque for a final “breaking the fast” prier. It’s not the 530a stuff we’re used to, but somewhere between 8 and 10a and one might go so far as to say it’s a special service.

Women are back at the compound still in pajamas or normal cloths preparing a special breakfast of lahk or chalkery- which is millet with spiced yogurt porridge over it. The yogurt substance is either hot or cold with bits of fruit depending on which your family prefers. After the men return they generally change out of their new outfits and everyone is served their own individual bowl of breakfast. This is a big deal because we generally eat all meals out of one communal bowl.

After breakfast, I had to pester my brothers to keep their new cloths on for just a few minutes more, while begging my mom to put her’s on (if only temporarily as she hadn’t showered). After making a big enough commotion about it, they all did as I asked and I was able to successfully capture a picture of my family in their best dresses just inside the front gate to our house. I too had a new Senegalese outfit made, of very light fabric and semi western style… but alas there are no pictures of me with the family as everyone ran away from the camera to change as quickly as possible. But I swear I was there!

Next is the preparation for lunch, also known as the most important meal of the typical African day. This factor is compounded on holidays. My family bought many many chickens (and had the foresight to kill, clean, and precook them the night before) to go with Moroccan couscous and onion sauce. My mom handled the preparation of couscous while I was in charge of cutting up all the onions. One very large bowl’s worth. As it became time to eat, children appeared in our living room. Friends of my brothers, I assume but I didn’t recognize them from everyday normal activities. In addition, about a half a dozen extra servicing platters were brought out. Couscous, a chicken, and onion sauce was placed into each one, followed by a cover and a small napkin or towel. Then one of my brother was called forth to take the serving to a designated Catholic neighbor or close family friend.

Then we sat down to eat: the older kids and guest kids at one bowl, my parents, youngest siblings, and myself at another. I ate so much I had to ask for extra onion sauce at one point. It was damn good, and I’m fairly certain that if someone had handed me a beer after that I would have quit Peace Corps under the guise that things couldn’t possibly get better. But alas, no beer and I remain.

After cleaning up, it was my Mom’s turn to get dressed up. Sporting her new garb, she and her friends walked around town together asking forgiveness from family members, friends, and neighbors. Forgiveness for sins committed in the past year is asked with a series of phrases exchanged upon entry into one’s home; phrases only used on this particular holiday. My Dad had been doing much of the same all morning, but continued his rounds in the afternoon with accompanying friends as well.

In the evening we ate left over chicken spread over onion sauce, French fries, and lettuce. Afterwards we had sweet yogurt with fruit pieces chilled almost until frozen. I like to joke with my family that my youngest brother has a knack for wearing his favorite dishes on his face in a sort of toddler testament to the chef, but in truth it’s just his inability to successfully utilize a spoon- no matter how small.

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