This past weekend I prepared and celebrated the Fête du Mouton or the Feast of the Ram. This holiday symbolizes Isaac’s sacrifice of the lamb to solidify his covenant with God, which is a story in the Bible as well as in the Qu’ran. I felt like I missed out on the Ramadan festivities, so I more than made up with this fête. The theme of this weekend was “Do as the Cameroonians would do.” And I think I did just that.
Friday: Emma and I went over to our friend Hadjia’s house to get sepia done. A lot of cultures have their form of henna. Hadija then took us over to her friend’s house who then drew on us, for lack of a better term. (Cultural Side note: Hadijia is rarely allowed out of the house. Her husband is who I consider to be a moderate Muslim man who allows her to leave her concession to go to the market and see friends. I have known since I have moved to Meiganga and this is the first time that I have seen her leave her concession.) While Emma and I were getting our sepia done, we were playing with everyone’s kids. One 4 year old yelled at his mom right around bed time, “Mom! I cannot go to bed, I am too excited! There are Nascaras (white people) here!"
Just as the seipa was drying. Walking through the market afterwards, people thought that I got married.
Saturday: It was the calm before the storm of festivities. I waited 45 minutes for a meeting to start before I gave up and went back home. But during that time I was sitting while these little kids were touching my hands and feet because I had sepia.
Sunday: I was told when I first arrived in Cameroon 5 months ago that there are 3 categories of people here: 1. Cameroonian Men, 2. Cameroonian Women, and 3. Foreign Men and Women. I never understood what the person was talking about until Sunday when I attended the Fête du Mouton prayer. I invited my neighbor, Nene, to join me to watch the grand prayer. It would be both of our first times. Thousands of men were in the front praying and in another field the women prayed. This is a part of Muslim culture that the men and women are separated for prayer. I wanted to see the prayer, so I came in a traditional outfit, armed with my camera. I was nervous to take pictures or to even be there for that matter since I am a woman, but someone I knew made me go the front of the prayer to snap a ton of shots. After the prayer, my friend came again and told me that I needed to have a front row view of the sacrificing of the ram. I explained to him that I didn’t feel comfortable because I was the only female and not Muslim. He explained to me that because I am a woman who is a foreigner the rules don’t apply to me. He then took my camera and took a ton of pictures for me.
The Grand Prayer
Nene and me at the Grand Prayer
Emma and my beautiful feet.
Emma and Me on my front steps with Makala about to leave for the festivities.
The Meiganga Crew!! Charla (Youth Development), Me (Small Business Development), Carlos (Health), Emma (Health), Andrew (English Teacher) and Fanta (Charla and my Community Host as well as good friend)
Later on that day, all of the volunteers in the Meiganga area went to Hadijia’s house to feast. I baked an apple pie for the festivities. After Hadijia’s, I went to someone else’s house where I met a baby named Barak Obama. I ended the ended the day with having a girl’s night at my house and had hot chocolate.
Monday: Emma, Charlotte and I were walking around Meiganga. We walked past the Grand Mosque, when someone told us that we should come inside. We got a VIP tour of the under construction Mosque and a soda! Then, we all went to Meidigou to my friend Sal’s first wife’s house. Hadijia is his second wife. There we ate a ridiculous amount of goat again. We had a dance party with all of the concession children.
Tuesday: I went back to Meidigou for a women’s group meeting that I attend every week. I didn’t realize that the Fête was still going on. During the meeting people stopped by to greet us and the President of the group gave them money. It is almost like people go Trick-o-treating, but instead of candy people get money. I was given 600 CFA, which is like $1.10. I was shocked and beyond grateful. These women don’t have much, they save around 200 CFA a week, so the amount I was given is a huge amount! All I could say was “Useko jur” or “Thanks a lot” with tears in my eyes.
This weekend was jammed packed with festivities. From a cultural standpoint, it was an eye opening experience. Back home, I do not think I know any Muslim families. I felt like I experienced all aspects of the holiday. Especially at the grand prayer, I had to take a step back and say a “Thank you” to have been given this opportunity: to being in Meiganga, to be in Cameroon, to work for the Peace Corps, to making new friends.