7.31.2014

Barka de Sallah / Fête de Ramadan (aka Eating Till Your Belly Explodes)

Me ( exhausted and full in an oversized random
Muslim-ish dress I got for free in up for grabs),
Didja, Djouberoua, Yaya and Oumi
Monday was a big celebration here in Cameroon - at least for us in regions with Muslim populations. Monday marked the end of Ramadan, during which Muslims worldwide fasted for a month and refrained from eating, drinking, and sexual relations. I asked one of my Muslim friends who owns an omelet shack near my house if drinking his spit is allowed, to which he replied “No, nothing can pass your uvula”. Good to know! 


I was planning on partaking in the fast the last week of Ramadan in solidarity with my Muslims friends in Lomié (my only friends in Lomié), but given that I was in Yaoundé and had the temptation of all sorts of American food, I just couldn’t torture myself like that.

Regardless of my month of non-fasting, I wanted to partake in the Ramadan festival. Early in the morning I got a call from Yacouba, my beekeeping counterpart, who is a Muslim from Foumban, West Cameroon. Given that cell reception is sketchy in my house, the only things I heard when he called me was “Hello…good?…celebration today…Foumban…Ramadan…today…with me…if you have time….see you there”. He hung up and I realized I had clearly missed all the important parts of the phone conversation. I got dressed and walked over to his boutique to find that he had already left…probably to the party that I assumed he invited me to. Carlos, a kind old gentleman, rambled on in rapid French in an inaudible tone about how Yacouba ordered him to send me to the party. He linked my arm in his and led me to the motos and sent me on my way. I arrived at the location and found nobody there so I decided to make my way home while stopping by some other Muslim friends to greet them. It turns out that I was indeed in the right vicinity, but Yacouba was hiding behind some abandoned house - so I just barely missed his party! As I turned away, a kind old imam from Maroua, with whom I had previously talked with and shared bouille and chai with after several of my morning jogs approached me.

He took me to his house and introduced me to his wife, who was feverishly making croquettes - mini fried dough balls. He sat me down in his big, empty living room across from a lady who was clearly not Muslim and quite evidently bored of the whole celebration. As a TV blared in the background playing Fulfulde and Arabic music videos, I introduced myself to the lady across from me, Madeleine, and we made small talk. I found out she is from Ebolowa and works in Mbalmayo and she knows all about the Peace Corps. Alhadji Issa brought me chai, croquettes, rice with oil (how tasty…not), and some chicken. I ate it all and then he brought me more, to which I couldn’t refuse and risk being perceived as impolite. I continued to make small talk with Madeleine as my stomach protested me continuing to shoved food into it. After spending two hours chit chatting, having an open invitation to visit Madeleine in Mbalmayo whenever I want, and having my stomach near bursting point, I made my way home.

I arrived home and Djouberoua, Didja’s husband, informed me that there was a party at my house at 8pm…I’m glad I was the last to know! With that in mind, I decided it was time to take a nap, since normally I’m asleep by 8pm. At 8pm, Didja, Oumi, and Yaya came over bringing pots and pans full of dishes. Djouberou later headed over bearing various sodas. Grant then came over and the feast started. Didja spent all day in her kitchen preparing dinner, which consisted of fried baquette bread (literally just sliced bread, fried, and all oily), croquettes (fried dough), rice in oil, liver biftek, chicken, meatball-ish things, and egg salad (which was prepared on the inside lid of my garbage bin…gross). We ate, talked, and then Didja forced me to eat a second round! I felt near ready to explode, and tired!

At 10pm everyone headed home and I fell into another food coma. Fête de Ramadan reminded me a bit of Thanksgiving, but with more food and with food ALL DAY. And much like Thanksgiving, after the f
ête, everyone enjoys leftovers for days on end. Muslims fasted for a month and then ate a month worth’s of food in one day - for me, I ate a month’s worth of food and now I’ll have to fast for a month! 

It was a food-filled and fun-filled day. Sadly, I had no idea that I would receive a call the next day informing me that I was being emergency evacuated from Lomié, and that that would be my last night in Lomié.

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