Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Dakar Photos: Tabaski Sheep

Tabaski is the Senegalese name of a traditional Islamic holiday which celebrates the time when Abraham (Ibrahim) was going to sacrifice his son, but then God told him to kill a sheep (or a goat?) instead. The date for this holiday changes each year; it was most recently celebrated on 31st December. In Dakar everyone buys a sheep to kill and eat on the day. In the weeks leading up to Tabaski the suburbs of Dakar were filled with sheep for sale; on one outing we were caught in a huge traffic jam and surrounded by sheep! Here are a few photos of some of the sheep - they are much larger and tougher looking than the sheep usually seen in places like England or Australia.

These past few weeks have flown by so fast I hadn't even realised it was so long since I'd posted anything on the blog. During this time I was acting Head of Mission for a couple of weeks while my line manager was away, I moved into a new house and am still getting it organised the way I want it, I took in two cats that my friends at IRC didn't want, and my new housemate arrived. At work we've been busy holding meetings with our potential partners for the coming two years, and I designed a needs assessment form to assess their non-formal education programs.

It is inspirational meeting with potential partners. They are local people who work incredibly hard for little or no pay, to help children the rest of society doesn't care about. They work in cramped offices often without basic needs such as a clean toilet, electric light, or a computer on which to write the project proposals and reports that we request from them. The children are former child-soldiers (both boys and girls), orphans, girls who have been raped and thus shunned by their families, children who have been accused of witchcraft (often just a ploy by a step-parent to get rid of an unwanted child), street children who left their families due to maltreatment or simple poverty....and there is so much poverty here, due to years of war and rampant corruption.

Yesterday I visited one center which provides literacy classes to youth, and a catch-up program where the primary school curriculum can be completed in three years. The classrooms are constructed out of pieces of wood and plastic sheeting from Unicef, the windows and doors are just blank spaces, and the floors are mud. However, they had constructed brick and cement toilets which are actually a rarity here at most centers I visit.

All of this is in enormous contrast to the protected and privileged peninsula where I live in a large, comfortable, two-storey house providing tranquil views of Lake Kivu and the mountain range beyond, and set in a spacious garden full of tropical flowers. We are pampered by an excellent housekeeper who cooks delicious food - all of it cooked from scratch using loads of fresh local fruit and vegetables. I feel rather sorry for the majority of Westerners who survive on tasteless processed products.

It was bright and sunny when I left the house this morning to come to the office. Since then we've had yet another tropical downpour and my walk home is going to be very muddy indeed!