Saturday, October 13, 2007

destiny, korite, and food

i found out my site yesterday! i will be going to a small village (meaning 280 people) on the border of the kaolack region (i don't think i am permitted to give the specific name). no electricity or water (as predicted) and 100% wolof speaking. it is a new site so i will be the first PCV there but they have already started planting trees with the assistance of world vision. very excited. and nervous! went out to dinner last night to celebrate site announcements. it was fun but it is always a little hard to be that gigantic group of americans taking over an entire restaurant.

today is korite (the day of feasting following the last day of ramadan) which has been hyped up to us since we've gotten here and i think most of the PCTs have found it somewhat anti-climactic. however, i suppose that if one has been fasting for an entire month, it is a big deal to finally be able to eat and drink during the day. i helped cook all morning, which involved peeling and cutting a lot of vegetables without the american conveniences of peelers and cutting boards and sharp knives.

as much work as cooking is and as many empty carbohydrates i am consuming here, i appreciate the amount of time and effort put into cooking. it fascinates me more than ever that most americans are quite willing to have their meals come out of boxes and don't know where exactly their food came from. while -- in my opinion -- cooking takes up far too much time of senegalese women, i can certainly appreciate that we take the time to socialize around cooking and eating and that it is a communal activity. however, i must say that what is not different between americans and senegelase is that everybody eats too fast! i feel like i am always one of the last stragglers at the bowl. i am quickly learning that in order to get the good stuff, i've got to shovel it up like the rest and when i do so, i usually wind up with a bellyache. interesting dilemma.

for clarificiation's sake, "at the bowl" is literally what it sounds like. senegalese epicurean culture involves everybody eating out of one big bowl. food is often eaten with the bare hand (right hand only!) but sympathetic senegalese will provide spoons for toubabs (foreigners). at first this concept was kind of difficult for me, as i am all about personal space and all, but my brother-in-law explained to me that if he raises his daughter to eat out of her own bowl, she will forever be selfish and hoard things to herself. i found that quite poignant and telling of senegalese culture where what is mine is yours and what is yours could quite possibly be mine (so long as i ask). recently i've started to try eating with my hand more often and while i do not prefer it, i don't mind it too much. moreover, i find eating out of the bowl rather comforting because it forces interaction and conversation and in reality, how different is it really from fondue or chinese hot pot? well, maybe it is a bit different, but the point is, i don't mind the communal aspect of it and am starting to get used to it. in fact, i found myself rather taken aback the other day when i heard about a past volunteer who was a vegan and had his own separate bowl for his entire service. while i understand one's dietary preferences, i feel like one is missing out on a big part of senegalese life if one does not eat out of the same bowl as the rest.
must go, as it would be rude to withdraw myself from the family on such a holiday as this. so far korite means

to me: new clothes, new weaves, lots of cooking, and loads of food and goodies. not too shabby!

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