Sunday, January 6, 2013

Melcom Gena ( Merry Ethiopian Xmas)

Not for the squeamish. And for those that get upset by the death of animals, even live-stock, just remember the context.  This entry captures an important chunk of Ethiopian culture; the slaughter and consumption of an animal to celebrate a religious holiday of great significance. 

Today’s Sunday, my day off, so I sleep in ‘til the church music starts blaring at 7:15.  During the last 8 weeks, I have grown accustomed to the long drone of Pentecostal preaching over the tickling of synthesized keys projected on blown out speakers.  Not a small feat considering the church and its goliath sound system are literally next door, but then again I grew up with train tracks and a freeway in my backyard.  I'm a talented sleeper once I get going.  But this Sunday’s alarm was accented with Sigamo and Tamri effectively chasing down and wrangling the families newly purchased goat.  Hooves scrabbling against broken cobblestone, heavy breathing, and some peculiarly human sounding guttural noises.  The latter also from the goat.  Any-who you know where I am going with this. 

No sooner was the goat’s femoral  artery slashed and bleed dry did Sigamo show up at my bedroom door enquiring if I was skilled in skinning, and sectioning off the meat of a freshly slaughtered goat.   With a serious amount of man points on the line I of course replied “ sure, I’m game to try”.  At that Sigamo chortled and handed me a knife. 

Sigamo, Tamri, Kia (Sigamo’s youngest) and I worked as a team to hold different appendages in different angles as Sigamo skillfully undressed the meat.  Skin was scrupulously fileted with a combination of delicately slicing and brutal pulling.  In less than 10 minutes the pelt slid off in one strikingly clean section.  Sigamo exhibited little astonishment.  Unlike me, he’s been at it for a half century of holidays.
I could go on, but I feel I’ll lose more readers than I’d gain by better illustrating the morning butchery.  Though, on a side not, all four of us were wearing flip flops, though Sigamo and I were especially smartly dressed with shorty shorts.  Nice little mental gem huh?

That all said, about 13 kilos of meat was beautifully sectioned off and piled in a large basin to be cleaned and prepared by Mom, Sahi, and Meta.  The pelt was put in a bag to be given to a friend (he is a furniture maker), and the unwanted parts were taken by Tamri to the far end of the property to be given to the birds.  While Sigamo and I were busy cleaning our hands and legs, Lolo was busy sniffing out those bird scraps.  I figured Tamri was shew Lolo away if she got curious.  Silly me.  When dogs in Ethiopia are fortunate, they are able subsist on holiday meat scraps.  That said, when Tamri noticed Lolo picking at the leftovers, unannounced to me, he thought nothing of it.  I didn’t see it, but I imagine Lolo chowing down on what was left: stomach and skull innards.  

While all that is going on, the family and I are happily eating a morning feast comprised of fresh eggs, milk and raw goat liver powdered with burberry (Ethiopian spice).  When you take part in the death of an animal its wrong not to take part in its consumption, right? Lolo and I both were chowing down.  30 minutes pass and my belly's swollen with good eating and butter salt coffee; another holiday delicacy (celebrated on daily basis by my fam) that  I’ve come to think of it as a stew in a coffee cup.  I said my thank you’s and walked over to my room to change into some running clothes for my Sunday work out.  That’s when my morning took a Godfather turn.   

I entered room, and then enthusiastically shouted my first English of the day… “awe you got to be kidding!”  Cute little Lolo was splayed out on my pillow, covered in goat and contently gnawing on the animals now empty skull.   Upon my shout, she just looked up at me with a… what’s your problem scowl.  After taking the whole scene in, I snatched up the head by one of its horns and walked into the dining area to play some show and tell with my family.  They thought it was hilarious, well so did I, I guess.   With incessant laughter in the background I stepped out to the family’s porch and slung the skull into the back yard.  Of course Lolo chased after it, somehow she successfully burrowed under the old corrugated door, and then gave it one last go. 

I had to take a couple photos, the damage to her GI system was already done, and then placed Lolo's holiday chew toy on top of the compound’s 8 foot tall stone wall so the birds could finish it off.

Merry Ethiopian Christmas from Azedebo!


  1. Well, at least your 'man points' didn't get taken away! :) Way to take one for the team! As for your sweet puppy... ugh!!

    Happy Christmas! and thanks for all you do in the community!