Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eid Kbir

Today Muslims around the world have been celebrating the annual sacrificial feast of Islam.  Moroccans call it "The Great Feast," which is "Eid Kbir."  It is meant to memorialize how God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Jewish and Christian believers think that Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Muslims believe that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his other son, Ishmael.  Therefore, Eid Kbir is celebrated from the point-of-view that Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son Ishmael.  (All three faiths believe that after God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham was about to do so.  Under all three faiths, God then told Abraham not to sacrifice him, because God had only told Abraham to sacrifice his son to test Abraham's devotion to God. Instead of sacrificing his son, Abraham sacrificed an animal.)

Every family is to have its own sheep on Eid Kbir.  Those who cannot afford a sheep buy a less expensive animal, such as a goat.  In Morocco, families are not to kill their sheep until the King has slain his sheep.  Today I watched the King kill two sheep on TV. After the King has killed his sheep, then the head of each household kills the sheep for that family, then the sheep is cooked bit by bit.  Earlier today, I ate various sheep parts, including sheep liver.

It is customary to purify oneself for Eid Kbir.  One is expected to make oneself as clean as possible.  Accordingly, this morning my host brother, his visiting nephew and I visited the local hammam, which is essentially a Moroccan bath house.  Each of us brought a kis (Darija, or Moroccan Arabic for "exfoliating glove") and we scrubbed ourselves, removing much dirt from our bodies.  We scrubbed each others' backs, too.  Men and boys also get haircuts in preparation for Eid Kbir.

Community members also pray more than usual during Eid Kbir.  Also, it is customary, as always, to give alms to impoverished persons.  People also give some of the cooked sheep parts to poor people as well.  Since it is also customary to visit family and friends during Eid Kbir, I accompanied my host brother and his visiting nephew when they visited some of their relatives here in town this morning.

I certainly feel that I am learning about the culture of Morocco by experiencing Eid Kbir.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Final Site Announcement and Visit!

I've been meaning to blog a bit more in the last week. I've had a busy week!

On Friday, October 29, I found out that my final site in the Peace Corps is in the Sahara Desert! As long as I can remember wanting to be in the Peace Corps, I've wanted to be posted in the Sahara Desert, so I am excited!

Much of the ride south from Marrakech was beautiful. In fact, I thought that the further south we went, the more beautiful it became. And then once we arrived, in the region where I'll be, I saw that there's much to do outdoors. Mountains to hike, palmeries to explore, in which to walk and bike. So there will be great things to do in my spare time, when I won't be working.

The people are friendly. In the site where I'll be, the language predominantly spoken is Tashelheit, a Berber language. However, plenty of people speak Darija. And Darija is the language spoken at the Dar Chebab, or youth center, where I'll be working. And I used French a lot during my visit to my final site. And some people were speaking to me in English!

There has been a PCV at my final site for the last couple of years. So, I will benefit from his experience as a PCV over the last couple of years, and the guidance he gave me during my site visit. He'll be done with his Peace Corps service, having reached his COS (Close Of Service) date, when I return to the site, which is a bummer, because he is a cool cat, and rather hilarious, and I was enjoying hanging out with him and the other PCVs who my fellow PCTs will be succeeding in their sites in the region. But that's part of the nature of our job. New PCVs take the place of PCVs who are ending their service. But I am glad that there will be other PCVs in the region near me. There will be a half dozen other PCVs within a couple of hours of me by taxi. I'm thankful for their camaraderie and support and friendship.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Urgency Of Dinner

In the town in the Sahara where I'll be living for the two years of my Peace Corps service.  In my bedroom with the door closed. 

I heard a knock on the door.  I turned the handle.  The door wouldn't open.  I turned the key; no luck. 

I heard, in Darija, that is, in Moroccan Arabic, "Etini saroot," meaning "Give me the key."  I slipped it under the door.  Someone tried the key, then shook the door, then repeatedly pounded on it. 

The next thing I knew, shards of wood flew at me as the door burst open.  My host mother entered with my dinner.  Now I love to eat, but they didn't have to break through the door to feed me right away.