If there is one thing that I love about the Islamic culture, it’s lEid. (pronounced like laaid)
LEid occurs approximately 2 months after the end of Ramadan. I guess you could consider it the Muslim equivalent of Christmas. This is the biggest holiday on their calendar, and consists of sheep slaughtering, community and family gathering, and lots and lots of food. (There is also a smaller lEid that occurs at the end of Ramadan, without the sheep slaughtering.) LEid iKbir is the one time of year where all families rejoin to celebrate and spend time together.
Having been through four of these holidays now, (2 small lEids and 2 big lEids) I’ve realized I’m probably going to miss it most out of anything here in Morocco. The whole community is like a family. Throughout the morning, the community visits everyone and all are out wishing everyone a congratulatory lEid, with plenty of hand shaking, kissing all over and hugging. I never feel more connected with my community than I do during and after these holidays. This last one especially just really hit the spot. It made me realize how far I’ve come in my service, how much I’ve accomplished, changed, integrated and learned. One really incredible, great day can somehow make up for all of those lonely, mind-numbingly frustrating and completely disabling days spent in the Peace Corps.
It’s that laugh I can share with someone. It really is. To have my language constantly tested and beaten down to the point where some days I just feel like I can’t say or understand anything, to then find myself and a women playfully joking about nothing. To be able to share a genuine laugh (not just one where they or you are laughing AT one another for some type of cultural faux paux), to make someone laugh, to have them make me laugh--is incredible. It really feels amazing when that happens. I think it’s a true indicator of how much a person’s language and integration has come. And it also shows that they are getting to see me as I truly am, and not just a quiet, foreign white girls who just says hi and talks about the weather or food because that’s the only conversation she can have.
The best part about this last lEid was that. My community somehow morphed into this pseudo-Moroccan-style family while I’ve been here. There are times when I just can’t help but fall into this black whole where I think I suck and everything sucks. The whole world sucks. But then something so simple as a laugh happens and everything is better. I don’t think any of the people here will ever realize the extent of how they’ve helped me or jaded me. How one little comment or action they said or did either smacked me down or sent me soaring. You almost feel bipolar here on some mental level because no matter what you do, or how subdued that rollercoaster of emotions gets, it still happens. (Recently I even reread some of my journal back when I began Peace Corps--I sound like a mental case.) I’ll find myself complaining about how terribly misbehaved and evil the children are to me here, and then the next thing you know, a little boy or girl in my village jumps into my arms to say hello….and then everything is better.
Anyways, back to lEid….
After everyone gets done with the initial prowl in the village, and after they’ve done their first round of praying—it’s time to kill some sheep. I really like this. I suppose I’ve always been into gory things, but the process as a whole is really incredible to me. After they cut the sheep’s throat, they let it die, then immediately begin the process of disassembling it, starting with skinning, and then dissecting the innards and whatnot. They have it down to an impeccable science that is pretty admirable.
This may also sound morbid, but I am appreciative of the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to watch something die through a religious process. I think it’s just an intriguing experience to have witnessed. A lot of people like to claim that they’d rather not witness anything other than the vacuum sealed Purdue chicken in the grocery store, but I’d like to think the more you see and do only enlightens your knowledge on a broader scale and helps you understand the world just a little bit better. I will always believe experience to be better than ignorance, good or bad. My bad experiences have shaped me into who I am just as much as the good.
(Tangent thought: Can you imagine how immediately annoyed you would get with someone if all they’ve ever experienced were good things?)
The persuasive epitome of all this argument regardless is that the meat is the best and most fresh you could ever taste. Not to say that I am a fan of organs such as liver,heart, lungs, or intestine…but muscle meat is delicious. And, not to mention-it keeps on comin! Oh, you finished your kebab? Here’s another. We have a whole sheep’s worth to eat, and only a matter of days to do it--says each and every family.
Well then, let’s eat.