November 26, 2009

The nightmare that is Muslim holidays

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!!!!!!! I had no idea it was Thanksgiving today until I woke up to maybe 4 text messages this morning saying, 'Happy Thanksgiving!' Although I didn't know today was turkey day, I am WELL AWARE that the day after tomorrow is Tobaski. Tobaski is probably the biggest (and dumbest) Muslim holiday of the year, and it is impossible to escape. Wait, Marnie, you can't just call a Muslim holiday dumb. Yes I can, and I just did.

I have no idea how Tobaski is celebrated in other countries (maybe it's not dumb in Mali), but here, in one of the so-called poorest countries in the world, it is celebrated by buying a ton of crap that no one can afford. It is a four-day celebration that starts with the slaughtering of a ram. A ram can run anywhere from D1,000-D6,000. Let me put that into context for you, a host cousin of mine that drives a cab in the capital, which is a good paying job here, makes D1,500/month. And the people in this country without a salary (probably 75% of the population) don't make nearly that much. Could you imagine spending HALF of your ENTIRE yearly salary on a Thanksgiving turkey??? Well that's what happens here.

There are rams EVERYWHERE you look. At every single car park, there are at least 50 rams being bought and sold, rams being loaded on the roofs of every car, rams being dragged through the street by their horns, RAM NATION! It's crazzyyy. And then there's just sooo many people everywhere, fighting over cars, because everyone's trying to get to their birthplaces (or where their family lives) for Tobaski. It's a complete shit show. Several volunteers are stuck in various places, 4 in the capital, several at other peoples' sites, because the transportation is so crazy that they can't get home.

BUT, it doesn't stop there. No, no. Then all the women and girls need new complets (matching outfits). These run anywhere from D350-D2000/outfit, and you need a different complet for night and day, and preferably, a different one for all 4 days. AND THEN!!!! All the women and girls need new fake hair, which is probably D300. IT'S ABSURD!!!!

Families who can't afford a bag of rice, D600-D800, will blow D1,000 on totally unnecessary things because they don't want to be the only one in the village without a ram, wearing old clothes. This may very well be one of the poorest countries in the world, but it makes it pretty hard for me to feel bad for the people living here when they go and do things like this--wasting thousands and thousands of Dalasis. It's like a begger in NYC begging because he doesn't have food, but then going and spending his money on a new pair of sunglasses and an Armani shirt. He might be starving, but are you really going to feel bad for him? Probably not, because it's his fault that he can't prioritize his spending. SO! That's how I feel about a lot of people here, especially at this time of year.

I sound so negative about this. Sorry. It's just frustrating to see people who don't feed their kids healthy foods because it's too expensive blowing money on new clothes and fake hair. But it's their tradition and culture and we do the same thing. How many people do you know in serious debt in America, spending money on all kinds of things they can't afford? A whole lot.

OH! I forgot to talk about salibo. I guess upon more serious reflection, Tobaski is a combination of Thanksgiving and Halloween, because at night, the kids go around and ask for salibo, money or candy, from other people. However, unlike Halloween, which is one night, Tobaski is four, and the kids start asking for salibo well before the first night. It's super annoying. I probably won't even stay in my village for Tobaski. I'll try to get some pictures of the rams and all that.

In other news, I had a GLORIOUS day yesterday (one of my best days in this country to date), involving 20k of biking with Adrian and spending the afternoon at a pool in a tourist hotel on the near-by island. This post is already too long already, but check back for re-cap of that day and opinion on tourists here (surprise surprise, it's not a glowing review).



wgflorin said...

hahaha! you are hilarious.

Whitney said...

Gambians are so ridiculous. I hope you took pictures of the ram mayhem. I can only imagine how crazy it must've been.