There we were on our roof, pacing from one side to the other, peeking our head’s over the the edge, witnessing all the men in the neighbor’s households killing their own sheep, letting the blood flow from no longer breathing sheep.  Through out the day we continued to go on the roof to see what the neighbors were up to.  The women seemed to be preparing all day, cutting up tons of potatoes, cutting tons of onions, and wrapping what seemed like intestines around something… and we began to smell the amazing smells of a city cooking mutton.

And here we are a year later, our dreams came true and we were invited to someone’s house for Tabaski.   We didn’t know a whole lot about the event except that they kill a sheep for the sins of the family and then the women spend the entire day preparing.  We knew that there were nice clothes involved, but wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.


I got my iron out and my ironing board which is a piece of wood and a towel that I put over our coffee table in my bedroom.  I got out my dress and the girls dresses that all match, and ironed everything.  I did each girls hair, then my own hair and my own make up.  TJ was waiting for a call to let us know when to come.  When he got the call, TJ said “so when should we come?”  he said “Now!”  We were nowhere near ready, but did what we could to get out the door.   We headed to a town about 45 minutes outside of Dakar depending on Traffic… could be two hours!


When we got to the gas station our friend told us to go to, we got out of the taxi and found some Klondos close by that also take people where they need to go, but each person pays for their seat rather than for an entire taxi.  El Hadj, our friend talked to the Klondo driver to explain how to get there, but he needed to take someone else to her destination first, so there we were waiting, wishing we could just get a taxi, us impatient Americans… but we waited, Ava needed to pee so I helped her find the side of a building, when we returned the Klondo was there.     Our Klondo driver talked to El Hadj our friend as we went down some back dirt roads, until we saw him.  We got out of the Klondo and payed him, at this point there was almost ponds in the road because of the rain the night before and so we couldn’t drive through.  So we made it back to his house.

Upon arriving at his new house, there was his brother, continuing to clean insides of the lamb over a large bucket.  They brought us into their house that they had been living in for just a month, it was new and quite nice.  You could tell they had just moved there and they weren’t quite settled.  As soon as we walked in, our friend showed us his bedroom that we could relax in if we wanted to, I think they weren’t exactly sure what to do with us.  They brought a mattress out to put on the floor with a new sheet.  We had brought some coloring stuff for the girls and so Ava began coloring and sharing her stuff with a little girl and boy there she had just met.  Penny was a little more curious about what the men were doing, so she went out with TJ to watch the gut cleaning happenings.  Even TJ got to do some chopping 😉


I poked my head in the kitchen area, said hi and asked if I could be of help to the women.  They said “Oh no no no, it’s okay… you rest!”  I explained to them that last year I saw all of this happening all around me, and that this year, if I got the chance to attend a Tabaski party at someone’s house I wanted to help prepare!!

A few minutes later they called me into the kitchen, and El Hadj’s new wife gave me a different skirt to wear instead of my nice clothes for preparing.  I realized who she was, because if you remember, we attended a marriage event before… well this was the couple!  So it was really nice to have already met her and have some things to talk about, there was some connection there!  I met El Hadj’s older sister and I think a cousin who was cutting onions.  After a little while of sitting there on a bench doing nothing, I grabbed a knife and just starting cutting onions Senegalese style, mind you I have cut like 2 onions like this before… I suck to say the least.  It’s a very particular method, much different from the American way of cutting onions, which I’m super good at… but this is not America and I cut onions worse than a 12 year old girl.  But, I was SOOOOOO grateful BECAUSE they let me cut onions.  They didn’t say things like others before me, like “your too slow, give that job to someone else” or “give her something easier to do!” (like a child).  So the 16 year old girl showed me how to cut onions, and she put a little piece of onion on my head so that I wouldn’t  cry while cutting onions… it kept falling off and we kept laughing about it.  I never thought I would say this, but… I GOT TO CUT ONIONS!!!”.  Penny even came in for a while and they let her pound the big mortar and pestle, I told them she LOVES to cook with me in the kitchen and so they let her do that until they started putting spicy peppers in then they took over.  They were making a large amount of yummy, onion garlic peppery paste for the mutton they were going to cook next.


After helping prepare in the kitchen for a while we got ready to eat a meal.  It is the first meal they eat in the day.  The girls ate with the mama of the household around a platter, and we ate around a different platter with the others.  There was meat and bones spread around the platter with little dollops of mayo around, and then we ate it with bread.  The meat consisted of the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys… and it sounds like it wouldn’t be super yummy, but truth is that it was SUPER yummy!!  The flavors were popping, and the experience was rich for us.  We laughed and talked, and took pictures.  They were so welcoming and it was the beginning of a relaxing un-stressful day, where we could just live, learn and be.




The last time we were at an event with El Hadj it was for their marriage and there was ALOT of people there, all his friends and extended family.  It was a totally different feeling, for us it was good but stressful and a little overwhelming.  We imagined this day being sort of like that and so we were trying to mentally prepare our minds for something like that.  But it wasn’t at all like that.  He really did invite us to an event with just his family, and we felt really honored to be there and to be included on this special day for them.

After the first meal that we ate about 1:00 P.M. the younger girls cleaned up all the dishes and then cleaning happened in the courtyard area in-between the kitchen and living room because that’s where a lot of the cutting up of the meat happened.  After all the clean up, I went back into the kitchen and watched them begin cooking the huge pot of onions, and the huge pot of meat with all those yummy things they had pounded in the big wooden pestle.  That cooked for several hours.

big pot of onions :)

big pot of onions 🙂

big pot of meat :)

big pot of meat 🙂

They also cooked the fries.  The sister told me that the potatoes were from Mauritania, and they were different and a little more expensive so we were going to be having some special kinds of fries with our meal.  During the afternoon, the girls played outside, colored, watched some shows on TJ’s phone, it was a relaxing non stressful time for them as well.  TJ spent hours sitting on that mattress on the living room floor with El Hadj talking about the condition of the heart and discussing spiritual things.  I was proud of TJ, these things are not easy for us to talk about in French right now. He was pushing through!!


Around 5:00 p.m.  We all gathered around the 2 platters again and began eating the main meal of the day.  This time there was mutton in the middle (the stuff that had been cooking for hours!) and then fries and mayo around the outside.   So we ate once again with bread.  They explained that on this day no one eats rice… here they eat rice every day, but on Tabaski rice is not eaten!  The meal was sooooooo good!!


Through out the day there were people that would come by, and it was explained to us that this day is a day for pardoning and so everyone who needed to ask for forgiveness would come by and ask for forgiveness for whatever they did wrong that year.   I was getting very tired after the meal and was just sitting on the living room mattress, and Ellage’s wife brought a bunch of pictures of her sister in law’s wedding because we had been talking about it before.  So we sat and talked about all the pictures and about the customs for a muslim wedding for them.  She explained that the day we came to see them on their wedding day they had been to the mosque to get married and then she went to her families house to celebrate with them and he went to his families house to celebrate with them, and there were lots of people at both houses.  I asked her if there would be a big celebration and when would that be?  She said there wouldn’t be a big wedding party until they have their first child, it will be then that they have a big party.


She explained to me that she had just arrived at El Hadj’s house the Saturday before at 2 in the morning (Tabaski was on Monday) and they had been married in late May… She had JUST arrived to live with him.  She said sometimes when people get married the wife never lives with her husband, it depends on what she wants to do.  I asked her if she knew him before they got married, and she explained that his mom knew her and really liked her, because she was smart, kind, worked hard, and thought that she would be a good wife.  She met all of his family and he met all of her family, but they never met each other until their wedding day.  And if I understand right this is the first time she was actually living with her husband.  I don’t know how it is with everyone, but he was pretty excited to have her there!  She also explained to me that there is a baptismal ceremony one week after the baby is born.  The mom gets all dressed up (ONE WEEK AFTER SHE GAVE BIRTH)… I’m like what?  one week?  They said ya, maybe Africans are stronger than “toubabs” (white people).

After talking for a while, she and I went out and sat on the steps she explained to me that little kids would be coming by to ask for money.  All the kids do it, and all the neighbors give little pieces of money.  She told me she was going to go change again.  So here I was on the steps with TJ and the girls and sure enough kids all over the neighborhood were VERY dressed up and were going around asking for money.  Most of the girls wore heals, even the little little ones.  It was really fun seeing everyone so dressed up!!



Then my friend came back out and she had this beautiful dress on, and then I noticed most people would be wearing a really beautiful dress.  Later I asked her more about it.  She said the fabric was about $22 a meter and she bought 4 meters, and it is normally about $60 to have this dress made.  For a nice wax African fabric it’s about $16 for 6 meters and then maybe $10 to have a dress made and you have fabric left over, so you can see the difference here.  You can see Tabaski is a big expense here which is why you have to be vigilant in the weeks leading up to it.  Each family also needs to buy however many rams which can range from 150,000CFA to 10,000,000CFA ($300-$17,000)  It is not cheap, and most people here don’t make this kind of money).


Anyway, when the time arrived for us to leave, our friends did not want us to leave and they asked if we could stay the night, or maybe insisted.  We reminded them that we are learning little by little, this was a good day but we needed to go home and rest, maybe next year when we bring clothes and are prepared :).  We walked for about 1/2 hour back to the main road in the dark shining light with our phones, when we got to the road all the taxi’s were full so we got another Klondo. When we arrived into the city a little bit there, we were gonna try to get a taxi, our Klondo driver reminded us that we were the only white people out here right now and it’s sort of dangerous so to hold on to my purse good, and to get a taxi as quickly as we could… So I prayed God would provide us with one quickly and He did.  We got in the taxi, the girls fell over and fell asleep and we arrived home about 1 hour later back into the city.  It was a wonderful day and I’m grateful for the relationship and for the time to learn about people here, what they do and why, while getting to know them.  I’m super grateful to the Lord for these opportunities.

sooo tired!

sooo tired!