Sunday, October 4, 2009


Korite is the celebration to mark the end of Ramadan in Islam. It usually involves the killing of a chicken (or several chickens or a goat or other animal, based on the economic standing of the family), getting dressed up in new clothes, saying you’re sorry, eating a lot, and blessing others by saying that you hope they will be around next year for Korite. Since Islam is based on the lunar calendar, we didn’t know exactly when Korite would be (like we didn’t know exactly when Ramadan would start). There are also 3 main brotherhoods (and another smaller brotherhood) in Senegal, and these brotherhoods celebrate Korite on different days (one right after the other), so my homestay family celebrated Korite on Monday, September 21, while other families in my village celebrated on Sunday. This works out well because everyone who is celebrating Korite gives food to the other families that aren’t celebrating so my sisters and mom had a break from cooking on Sunday, and then just cooked extra to give to others on Monday.

Everyone (who can afford it) gets new clothes for Korite. All the men get dressed up in the morning and go around to all the compounds and greet everyone and ask for forgiveness for anything they’ve done wrong during the past year. Once everyone has asked for forgiveness (and received it), they often offer a blessing, such as (essentially) “I hope you’ll be around for Korite next year.” I find Ramadan and Korite to be a very cool tradition – kind of a new way of getting back on the right foot each year with yourself, your faith, and others. It seems pretty similar to Lent and Easter.

Korite for me involved a lot of sitting, drinking tea, cutting my fingers with a dull knife, and being amazed at how well Senegalese men and women can dress – and then remain pretty/handsome – in this heat. My sister braided my hair for Korite, and to my surprise and delight, it didn’t really hurt! I thought for sure getting a million and half little braids in my hair would be a painful experience, but she is a true pro. She kept asking me if she was hurting me, but she rarely was – more often than not her question would be the one thing keeping me awake – sitting under the mango tree and leaning against my sister’s legs with the Senegalese breeze gently blowing is the perfect scenario for a nap. I did my best to stay awake and succeeded, while a little girl who was getting her hair braided next to me by my neighbor did not succeed at all – she was out cold for a good 2 hours while her hair was being braided. After I got my hair braided, I put my new Senegalese clothes on (that Cora’s sister had made) and tried to not feel like I was trying way too hard to look and feel Senegalese. It didn’t help that I really struggle with walking in the wrap skirts (called a pagne in French or a sër in Wolof) that most Senegalese women wear. I am tall, have long legs and am used to walking with long strides, which is not possible in a sër. I found I could look less goofy if I hiked up the fabric a bit on the sides, but if I do it took much everyone tells me to pull down the fabric because it’s too short. Cora, Teresa, Jo and I got pictures taken of us all dressed up in our new outfits. We all feel conspicuous walking through the village, but we felt especially conspicuous that evening – and the next evening when we went to the soccer game in our outfits.

Getting ready for Korite! My older sister, Karna, is braiding the hair of the wife of the man who works for my family (they live in our compound with their 2 children). My other sister, Mama, is holding baby Amin Jai and Sallu is inspecting a plastic bag.

Me, Cora, Teresa, and Jo in our new Korite clothes!

Cora, Teresa, and I over at Teresa’s house with her family (and a French girl who stays with the family periodically on the weekends – her parents work in Thiès)

For Monday (the day my family celebrated Korite), I got up early with my family and immediately started cooking. My mom and sisters had already cut up the goat (I think – maybe a sheep) and chicken by the time I had finished breakfast, so I started peeling potatoes and cutting onions. Let’s just say that by the time we were done, I had a huge blister on my index finger on my right hand where the knife was digging in and numerous cuts on both my right and left hands. Peeling potatoes is challenging as it is, but especially challenging with a dull knife. Cutting the onions was jus t as worse – since I was cutting them in my hand, too. I have a ton more respect for these Senegalese women. Cooking has never been so challenging or dangerous. :) I could tell my mom and sisters were thinking “This girl said she cooks in the US. That can’t be true.” I respond to these thoughts by saying, like I say for many things, it’s different in America. My brothers and husband were impressed though. I think they were mostly just being nice. :)

Once lunch was done (around 2ish), a young neighbor girl came over and brought several bowls of food too other neighbors while my mom, sisters (sister-in-law included in that), and I went over to another compound who is a relative of mine (not sure how we all were related at all, but somehow through my father since there were mostly all Fall’s there) with another big bowl of food. All the other women who came to the compound brought bowls of food too (essentially all the same food – macaroni with potatoes and onions in a sauce with either chicken or goat/sheep), and then the older women mixed all the bowls of food together into a bigger bowl and then separated the food back into the smaller bowls, distributing them around to the men who ate on one side of the compound and to the women and children to ate on the other side. It was delicious – one of the best meals I’ve had in Senegal by far. And then after lunch we drank sweet milky millet (I think), which was also very delicious (I’ve had this several times now). Then it was time to disperse again until the next celebration (whatever that may be).

After lunch my sisters and I went over to a neighbor’s house so one of my sisters could get her hair braided by a friend. The rest of us sat, talked, drank tea, and relaxed. Late in the afternoon all the young boys and girls go around to all the compounds in groups in their nice clothes and ask for money. Everyone expects this so all the men make sure to have small coins handy to give to the each group. The children then split the money between themselves and give it to their parents or use it to buy small treats for themselves.

When my sister’s hair was braided we went home and all “showered” (I still call it that even though it’s a bucket bath – not that I’m complaining at all; I really enjoy bucket baths, they just take a little longer ) and put on our new clothes. (By “we” I mean all the women and children since all the men had their nice clothes on all day but the women and children didn’t usually because we were cooking/working in some capacity.) Then it was off to the soccer field, which is conveniently located less than a 2 minute walk behind my house (my father’s field of cowpeas and bisaap and a few trees are the only things in between my compound and the soccer field). Our village’s soccer team played itself in a very animated match. There was a rather extensive fight in the middle of the game – it involved mostly just lots of yelling and shoving, but it went on for a good 15 minutes. We (Cora, Teresa, Jo and I) speculated that it might not resolve itself and the match would just end in the fight, but eventually some sense and peace was talked/shoved into enough people that everyone settled down and the game resumed. The side that my brother and husband were playing on won the game – the final score was just 1-0.

After the match we all dispersed to our homes for a light dinner of leftovers. After dinner my sister (the one who is 18) and I joined up with all the other girls our age (that aren’t married with kids) to go around the village asking for money like the kids had done in the late afternoon. We talked for a while next to the well (the village “peñc mi” – i.e. public place) and then went home to go to bed (since all of us were so tired from the excitement of the day). The next night all the same women gathered at one of the girls’ house. They had bought powdered milk and mint candies to make hot, minty milk which sounds kind of gross but was actually really really good.

The soccer game

My brother Demba just kicked the ball really hard, while a guy on the other team tried (unsuccessfully) to block the kick

All the women hanging out on the sideline, with Jo sitting in the middle

Abdou and some local boys

Abdou and I


  1. Hey Danielle! I realize that this is a REALLY late in coming, but I was wondering if you could email me the picture of all of us in our Korite outfits. I have been bummed about never seeing this picture since I left Senegal! I thought it was lost in the universe. Turns out it was on your blog the whole time and I just never checked out your older posts until now. Shame on me! Your blog is beautiful, by the way. Keep writing! (

  2. Sorry, also the one of me in the crowd of people from this post. I think Abdul is in it and I would love to have it as well! Thanks!