Become a Subscriber

Search
Become a Contributor
Shop for Books by Our Contributors

Also Recommended

Global Adventure with Judith Fein and Paul Ross

Support This Site
Navigation
Powered by Squarespace
Explore
25 Van Ness 25-word essays 40 State 40 Days 99cent store Adventure Travel Africa Aging Air Saftey air travel Airline fiasco Airline Passenger Bill of Rights airline safety Airplane airplane seat selection airport fiasco Alaska all-inclusive resort American Airlines American ignorance Amish Amsterdam Amtrak anger Arab Arabia architecture Argentina Arizona arm chair travel Art Asia Authentic Travel awards Backpack travel bad day baggage Bahamas Bali Balloon Festival ban whale watching Bangkok Barcelona beach being arrested Being authentic Belize Bellingham Washington belly dancing Belmont University Bhutan bicycling bike tour bikes bikes as therapy Billy the Kid bioluminescence Bird watching Birding birthday book contest Boycott Brattany Brazil Breaking news British Columbia Budget travel Buenos Aires Burma bus travel Cahokia Mounds Cairo California Cambodia Camino de Santiago Camping Canada Canadian Geese Cancer car travel Caribbean Caribbean rainforest Carnac Carnival Caving Central America Ceramics change your life Cheap travel Cheap trips cherish life Chetumal children China Christmas Christmas Day Bomber Claridges Class trip Classic Hotels claustrophobic flyer climate change coffee Colombia color contest continental airlines controversy Cook Islands Copenhagen Costa Rica courage cowboy culture Creative travel creative writing crisis Croatia Crop Circles cruise travel cruising Cuba cuisine Culinary travel Cultural travel Culture Cusco CVS cycling Czech Republic dance Death Death Valley National Park Denmark dining dining guide divorce Dominican Republic Dordogne Dubai Earthquake Easter Eco Travel eco-tourism eco-travel Ecuador Egypt elephant seal emergency preparedness England environmental commentary environmental problems Ethiopia Europe European Union excellence in travel writing expat living expats Faith falling family family resort family travel family vacation Fat Tuesday fear festival fiesta Filipino restaurant finances fitnees flight Florida Food forgetfulness forgiveness France French Camp Friendship frustrated flyer frustration gadgets Galapagos Garifuna Gaspe Peninsula Genealogy Germany Ghana gift guide Girona giveaway Glastonbury Festival global curiosity Global eating habits global nomad global warming good day Gorilla Trek Government GPS Grand Canyon grandparents Greece grief guys getaway Haiti happiness Hawaii healing healing journey hearing loss Helicopter tours hiking Historical travel Holiday Celebrations Home Honduras honeymoon horseback riding hotels How to how-to humor Hurricanes i do not love Venice i need a vacation Iceland Volcano Incas independenc India Indonesia inn reviews Inner Child Internal Reflection international marriage introvert iPhone app Ireland Islam isolation Israel Istanbul Italy Jack London Jamaica Japan JetBlue Jewish journaling Judith Fein Jules Older Kansas Karl Rove Kenya kindness of strangers land Language Las Vegas Latin America learning vacations Leukemia Library life lessons life transformation literature living abroad living like a local London Los Angeles loss Louvre at night love luxury hotels luxury travel Maine Malta Manatee Mardi Gras marriage Masonic Temple Massage Maui Maya meditation Mexico Michigan Middle East Military wedding Minnesota Missouri Molokai money Montana Monterey Moose Morocco mother's day mother-son travel motorcycle travel multigenerational vacation Music Musings Myanmar Namibia Nancy King National Prayer Day Native America nature Nepal Nevada New Mexico New Orleans New Year New York New Zealand Newfoundland Nicaragua Nigeria NNew Mexico noise Northwest Airlines Pilots Norway Nova Scotia Ohio Older parents Olive Oil Olympic Peninsula Washington orcas Oregon Orkney Islands outdoors ownership Pacific Northwest Parent's love Paris Partners Passover Paul Ross Pennsylvania personal essay Peru Pets Philippines photography contest Pilots Plane plastic plastic bags Poem Poetry police Politics Portugal postcards Pottery poverty Prague Prayer procrastination pueblo culture Puerto Rico Q&A Quebec Quito ranch vacation random acts of kindness rap song reading reasons to travel recession rejuvenation relaxation Religion Religious holidays remembering mothers Responsible travel. Sustainable travel restaurant reviews revolution River Rafting Road trip roadtrip romance romantic travel Rosemary Beach runway delay Russia Sacred Places sadness Safari sailing Samba music San Andrés de Teixido San Francisco Santa Fe Sardinia Saudi Arabia Scotland sea kayaking Sedona self discovery senior travel Serbia Shakespeare Shamanism shame Shopping short stories Sicily Siena silence Sisters ski vacation skiing Slow travel Slum Tourism Slumdog Millionaire small-group travel Soaking tub Sociology Songwriting South America South Dakota Southeast Asia soviet satellite Spa Spain spirituality Springtime SSan Francisco St. Louis St. Petersburg Standing Stones Steinbeck stress stuff happens Sumatra Summer cottage surfing surviving disaster Sushine Coast Switzerland Tacoma Taiwan Tanzania Taos Taxi Taxi Driver Tbex Texas Thailand The Netherlands the writing life Tokyo Tourism train trip Transformative travel transportation trash travel travel advice travel agents Travel Blogging travel commentary travel confession travel contest travel essay travel gear travel hassles travel humor Travel interrupted travel musings travel opinion travel photography Travel Reviews travel safe travel safety travel security travel technology travel traditions travel trends travel videos Travel with Kids Travel Writing traveling alone traveling with kids traveling with teens trekking trip to the dentist truffles TSA complaints Ttrain trip Tunisia turbulence Turkey Tuscany typhoon UFOs Uganda uncensored travel opinion UNESCO World Heritage Site Union Station United Arab Emirates United Kingdom Upstate New York Utah vacation vacation rental vacation tips Valentine's Day Vancouver Venezuela Venice Venice California Vermont Veterans Day Vietnam Vinayaka Chaturthi virtual vacation Wales Walking Washington Washington D.C. water project waves we don't care airlines weather wedding White Oaks Pottery White Sands National Monument why I fly why not to cruise why travel wildlife spotting wine Women travel workout World Festivals world peace World War I World War II writer's block Writing Yoga Yucatan Peninsula zombie boot camp
« Meeting the Sultan at Topkapi | Main | A Woman Like a Fort on Sullivan's Island »
Tuesday
Oct302012

Today’s Learning Objective: Kill a Goat

by Laura Fuller

 

Ron’s blue eyes were bloodshot and watering when he returned to the group.  His cheeks were sunburned, his hair sun-bleached. He shoved his hands in the pockets of his white hooded sweatshirt, an act of 13-year-old toughness.  He and Mary had volunteered to eat the goat’s kidneys, not because they’d wanted to, but because peers’ opinions outweigh adolescent reason. Mary now smiled proudly in a pack of incredulous girls. Ron fought to put the texture of warm, raw goat kidney behind him and move on with his life, but I could see that he was struggling to gain control of his gag reflex.  Kyle offered to walk with him back to the tents, stoically, so as not to make Ron feel weak.  

I watched them walk away, their shadows long in the evening grass, and turned back to the other 20-some seventh-graders, all of them perplexed as to how to receive this cross-cultural gift. They were outlined against a horizon of royal blue Tanzanian sky, high above tufts of trees and shrubs on the rocky terrain below. The high rocks on which we stood began to glow reddish in the setting sun. This, I predicted, was both the height and the conclusion of my short, ridiculous teaching career in Dubai.  

The kids had all chosen to observe the ritual slaughter of this goat, not wanting to be cowardly among the courageous or rude to the Maasai guides.  After sixteen hours of Serengeti driving from the nearest city, we were lucky to have the Maasai patrolling our campsite’s perimeter every fifteen minutes at night to ensure our safety.  They silently taught our students to carve spears and showed us the soft cave in the bush where they held their councils. 

The seventh-graders, from Dubai – who actually came from all over the planet – were upper-class, elite, and as such, polite and appreciative. They were first inquisitive: goat slaughter? And then horrified: goat slaughter. 

We’d watched the men tenderly spread a clean surface of leafy branches on the ground.  We’d looked on as they used their bare hands to smother the goat. We’d seen it stop kicking. We’d witnessed their first incisions, leading to a pink, nude creature on a bed of leaves like some strange salad.

OH-my-God!” cried Melanie, her accent Australian, ever the first to scream, ever apologizing for screaming. “I’m going to vomit. I’m sorry. I’m going to vomit!” 

She was not going to vomit.  

I raised my eyebrows at her to say, I hoped convincingly, “Not okay.” 

This was the happy eight-week anniversary of my first day of teaching. I was on a very tall rock in the wilds of Tanzania, and my kids were eating raw goat bits. A plastic cup of goat blood was being passed among the students.  Some triumphantly proclaimed, “It tastes like warm, metal milk!” and others tried hard not to follow in Ron’s barfy footsteps. 

I wondered how long it would take upon our return for the mothers to rally around firing me. They would come to school for Zumba class and hear tales of that loose cannon of a seventh-grade English teacher.  Just who does she think she is, feeding our kids sacrificial goat’s blood on a cliff?! they would say. 

Holy God, I thought. That’s not even sensationalized. It’s just true.  

My, how quickly I’d landed on the educational blacklist. How little power I’d ever wielded over my own trip there. 

Douglas, our non-Maasai Tanzanian guide, explained the significance of drinking the goat’s blood, but I couldn’t properly learn what he was teaching, stuck between two roles.  

I wanted to learn. I was twenty-three years old and in Africa.  I’d gotten a yellow fever shot and enlisted in an adventure reserved for characters who were not me, characters who would never have been interested in a domestic life in Des Moines, Iowa, even for a minute, characters who would scoff at girls who had no concept of the Maasai people before participating in their ceremony. By some mistake, I was here in their stead, and learning would justify this.

But I was also a teacher, and eight weeks of that life had been enough to show me that thirteen-year-olds know only three classifications of ages.  There were those their age (regular people, those of primary importance), those younger than they were (fools), and adults (those aged 19-106, and the ones in charge).  There was no understanding of any continuum from teenage years to adulthood. I knew that newly-minted adults – perhaps myself included – are often dumber than teenagers.  I felt scarcely responsible enough to bring myself to Tanzania, let alone to carry the lives and passports of twenty-four children.  

Melanie whispered, “I’m sorry, Ms. Fuller. I just – I’ll stay. I just – it’s so gross!” 

I bucked up. I took my educational lead from my student and spoke with what I hoped was tender authority. “Yes, sweet-pea, and that’s why maybe you should head to the tents. It’s okay to have limits, but it’s rude to just stand here screaming.”

She nodded, and I continued, “You understand that every piece of meat you’ve ever eaten was an animal first, right?” 

“Yes, but to kill it like that?” Her nose wrinkled in disgust.

“Honey, they’re going to use every bit of that animal. They respect that whole goat. They need it to live. This process is more humane than how we get most of our food.”  

She turned back toward the action, subdued now, deciding whether she would scream or leave or learn something.  

When the cup of blood came to me, I learned that the now-congealing red inside did indeed taste like warm, metallic milk. My kids knew it before I did.  

“Brandon!” I called. “You guys are making me nervous. Not so close to the edge!” 

The boys nodded and moved their game to safety without question.   

I handed the cup to the next observer and washed down the taste of blood with my water bottle.

 

Laura Fuller is an Iowa native living and working in New York City, where she is pursuing an MFA in creative nonfiction at The New School.  Her essays can be found at baddenglish.com.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)

Please write more about your adventures in Tanzania and Dubai! I'm curious about the reactions of the students after they had a chance to absorb this adventure.

October 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean Ross

Great writing! I really enjoyed this post.

October 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean McDaniels

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...