Homemade Holidays

(Taken from my blog: http://laballard.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/homemade-holidays/)

This past weekend our region of volunteers celebrated Thanksgiving together.  It was a potluck style dinner that was fashioned from random findings in the city or from treasures shipped from home.  There was even stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie, deviled eggs, cookies, salad, turkey, cheese ball, gravy, and rolls to be had. 

The dilemma comes when everything takes just a little longer than it normally would to prepare.  Not only do you have to be creative with ingredients when cooking, you have to add in the extra time to find them at the local market.  In my case, I had to plan a little extra to find the main dish (aka Tom, the turkey).

It took about 4 days to figure out whether or not I could buy a turkey in my village.  It took another 4 days to work out of the details of payment, pickup, transportation, etc.  One of the wealthier villagers from my town owned three turkeys and my host father and I bargained with the man to sell it to me for 25,000 CFA ($60).  You’re probably assuming that if it cost that much it was probably around 100 pounds.  Well, you would be quite incorrect. It turns out that turkeys are quite rare in the desert, and therefore are rather expensive (we could have bought 15 chickens for the same price).   Nonetheless, I bought the turkey and my friend Ashley came with me to pick it up and take it to the regional capitol.  We arrived at the man’s house only to find that he had gone to the market in the next town and wouldn’t be returning for quite some time.  I texted my host father and he came to the rescue.  The man’s guard sold us the turkey and my host father rounded up some village kids to catch the turkey for us. 

The scene was quite amusing.  Five teenage boys, my host dad, and some random passer-bys were running/sneaking/jumping/diving all over the street in an attempt to nab our purchase.  After about 10 minutes one of the boys successfully grabbed a leg and proceeded to immobilize our poultry friend.  We paid the boys for their effort and they accompanied us to the tasha (bush taxi station) carrying the feast.  We scored a free ride in an NGO car (turkey and all) and had a nice, considerably comfortable 1 ½ hour long ride into Zinder.  It was only considerably comfortable due to the fact that Tom, as we lovingly named our turkey, rode on my lap for the entire duration of the trip.  I might add that when you transport a turkey it’s best to hold their legs (so that they don’t jump around), which causes them to be slightly distressed, which causes them to poo (which happened to fall all over my hand that was holding his legs).  I might also mention that the way he looked at me made me extremely nervous (I can’t decide if he knew he was going to be eaten or if he was trying to figure out if he could reach my face to peck out my eyes).  Either way it was better than most bush taxi rides I have so far.

Sunday (our faux-Thanksgiving) rolled around and we had to prepare our feathered friend.  Two other volunteers were brave enough to kill, feather, and cook Tom (I certainly couldn’t do it, seeing as how we had bonded during the road trip).  I wasn’t sure that anyone at home would believe that all this actually happened, so I’ve include the photo evidence.  And I would like to add that I would much rather just drive to Kroger to buy a frozen turkey for my mom to prepare (it’s much less traumatizing, for the turkey and for me). 

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.