The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, nor any other governmental or non-governmental organization.

Nor is anything written here necessarily drawn from my own views, opinions, and observations. Please consider all postings and pictures complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality. For legal purposes, please additionally regard the author as utterly imaginary.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

sacrificing the sheep

I think I prefer Christmas. 

As I said last time, Eid is a special (and weird) time.  I woke up in the early morning two days ago to the sounds of screaming sheep. Or maybe it was just the neighborhood donkey, I'm not positive. I got on a bike and headed out of town to where my old host family lives. 

Just like on Christmas, Eid has its own last-minute shoppers so I saw a few people with sheep in little carts attached to the back of their mopeds. There's definitely a charge to the air- nearly every family has their own sheep, and they're all killing it at the same time.  Smoke billows up from all areas of town as people grill on their roofs and in the streets. I could look down from the top of my host family's house and see half a dozen different sheep being slaughtered. 

I got to my house, and we killed a sheep. There was a lot of invoking Allah's name and 'God is Great's right before and as the sheep's throat was being slit. I believe that the Koran says Abraham was about to kill Ishmael (not Isaac), because God demanded it of him. But at the last second, God sent down a sheep to be sacrificed instead. I'm not sure what God was trying to get out of this, but anyway, that's the story behind Eid.

 The father of the family is usually the one who does the sacrifice. The neck is cut open so it bleeds almost entirely out (the Koran says you're not supposed to eat blood), often spraying everywhere, onto the wall and rushing out of the sheep.  Then, less than a minute later, the mostly-headless animal starts to kick violently, almost running in place while on its side, for about 30 seconds. Once this stopped, my host father cut the head off, then cut open the skin near the back legs, and took the skin off. He snapped the front legs off (it was impressive), and then we hoisted the sheep by its back legs and hung the carcass upside down. Next up was removing the skin/organs. Organs are really nasty. The strategy seems to be you pretty much root around in the animal with a knife and pull everything out- being careful not to rupture anything. When taking off the skin, they're careful to leave the layer of fat, which is then removed and stretched out to dry. Then the women got busy cleaning the organs while Kamal and I grilled the liver. We cut the fat into strips and wrapped smaller pieces of liver and grilled them. Then we ate it. At about 9:30 am.  It was pretty good, but I think I'd prefer to eat that kind of thing a bit later in the day.  Meanwhile, at her host family's house, Krista was served sheep testicles at 8 in the morning.

Then, you sort of sit around for a few hours, and then eat some more sheep- for lunch we had a tajine which included heart, liver, throat, stomach, and some other stuff I don't want to think about.  I wasn't a huge fan of this. I left as soon as possible, went home, and avoided eating anything at all.  The next day, woke up early, went back to their house, and had some more early morning sheep, this time the ribs. Really good, but again, wrong time of day, and I was starting to get overwhelmed.  Then we had a late lunch of sheep. I left as soon as possible to go meet with a potential counterpart who runs an environmental association and museum.  He treated Krista and I to a second late lunch. Which was also lamb. Oh my god. I avoided eating anything for the rest of the day, and am pretty sure I can feel my arteries thickening, hardening, cardiac arrest lurking on the horizon.  I have eaten almost exclusively sheep for the past 60 hours. 

As for my feelings while the sheep was dying, I honestly felt a fairly strong adrenaline rush. It's a bit contagious, and everybody is ecstatic that they're fortunate enough to have their own sheep and are going to eat richer food than they do at any other time of the year. And everybody's joking about the sheep. I told my host sister, "poor sheep. He knows what's coming." and she responded "yes, he can feel it". I do feel bad for the sheep.

One unfortunate part of l'Eid is my continuing awkward relationship with my host mother. This started when I was staying with them and she gave me a note in English, which she can't speak or write, requesting help for her children to get to the US. Before Eid, she asked me indirectly for money for the sheep (a good sheep runs you more than 200 us dollars). She'd do this through her oldest daughter sending text messages to Krista, or talking to Krista over the phone. I responded at one point that I would be willing to help with the sheep, since it is expensive and I would be partaking in it, but that I couldn't help very much, could only cover maybe 10-15% of it. There's the old peace corps budget constraint, but furthermore, I'm not here to be in the business of helping people individually with financial obligations. Peace Corps doesn't give us much money because we're not supposed to be making these kinds of donations. Then at the door when I was leaving yesterday, I tried to give her that money and she refused it. What the hell. And I don't know how insistent you're supposed to be in the culture, so that adds to the confusion.  So I got to feel bad about it twice- when I didn't know what to do, and then when I got turned down for trying to help. Shit.

Also my host grandmother told Kamal he shouldn't be hanging out with me because I'm an unbeliever (aka not Muslim). I picked up on this because I recognized the word from the Quran. In one of the chapters I read recently, the book was quite explicit about not taking as friends non-Muslims, if you have potential Muslim friends. So maybe that's where she gets that. 

Anyway, happy EID! 

sorry sheep friend, you're about to go down that drain


These are organs. I'm not sure which ones. But we ate all of them.  That thing on the ground is the skin. Now I know how exactly a sheepskin rug is removed.

Organ cleaning party. The little girl, my host sister, is cleaning all the food out of its stomache. That's the kidney and testicles in the brown bowl closest to me. The heart, throat and other stuff is in the smaller bowl over by the pole, and the disembodied hands to the right are picking through the intestines.

pretty nasty


upside-down head. That's not a smile. I didn't stick around to eat this one.

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The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Nor is anything written here necessarily my own views, opinions, or observations. Please consider all pictures and texts here to be complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality, this one or any other. For legal purposes, please additionally consider the author to be utterly imaginary.