Here I am ten days from my return home! I think about home constantly, but still have plenty to do in Bamako so time is not being wasted. I have been keeping up with interviews and have spoken to a lot of my neighbors about my project that has helped a lot.
Mostly, winding down to holiday season in the US means plenty of Christmas songs and eating your full of all the buttery warm foods possible, but in Mali nothing like that prevails. We have attempted to play Christmas carols when need be, but for the most part Holidays are not the same here.
Last week was Thanksgiving, and celebrate we did. Assigned with the monstrous task of making mashed potatoes for thirty people we ran about the neighborhood in a hurried manner trying to find a boutiki (Bambaran for boutique) that could sell enough potatoes. We bought 15 kilos (about 33 pounds) of potatoes, seven heads of garlic, enough butter to supplement us for our lost butter intake the whole semester, and sodas for our demanding task. Peeling potatoes under the comfort of Lord of the Rings was the first part of our day. Taking almost two hours we finished and set to boiling the potatoes until the perfect consistency. While nothing went wrong, the difficulties from lack of kitchen technology were abundant. We used the mortal and ground the garlic Malian style to be roasted for the potatoes. The pots we used to boiling we not efficient but large enough for all the potatoes and when it came to mashing, we got quite the arm work out.
Getting to dinner was fun in itself. It never ceases to amaze me with the multitude of ways around the city and we arrived at school late but with more geographic knowledge. When we arrived it was blatantly obvious that we had brought enough mashed taters for everyone and their guest. Thank goodness though, because all other foods were lacking. There were no complaints of not having enough, and that was thankful. This Thanksgiving is one to realize what home is to me. Being home for the holidays is something that I treasure each year, and not until now had I realized how important Thanksgiving is to me. I enjoy the company of family and also the warmth around the table. Chicken Soup for the Soul can borrow that, but sometimes family is what you need! So in assault to the lacking thanksgiving last Thursday, we are most definitely making up for it and celebrating again this Thursday with just my three housemates and I. They are the closest I have to real family in Mali!
This past weekend was also Tabaski, the day where the Malian ram population decreases by about 100%. Rams are killed and eaten all weekend. I had never seen an animal being slaughtered and Saturday was a day to remember. Driving to our Malian families’ houses, Sarah and I saw countless sacrifices across the city. The day included eating ram meat and cooking ram meat. My family killed three rams, so we had enough for many stomachs worth. That is including the stomach and other organs, which while being a specialty have become my least favorite taste. After scarfing down enough meat my family surprised me with salad! They told me they had bought it for me! How lucky. After eating my full I crawled into my bed and took a long nap. Tabaski was very entertaining to say the least.
This week is the last week of research and writing my paper. I look forward to it ending however that means my time in Mali also is ending. But I am taking plenty new stories and ideas home with me.