The Goat

01 February 2008

Last weekend we held our MSF Pieri staff Christmas party. In case you’re wondering the good folks of southern Sudan do not celebrate some fandangled African Orthodox Christmas, we were just a little slow to get cracking on last year’s festivities. In Canada, a boy can make an evening out of dodging the dance floor. In Pieri, that Dane step doesn’t fly. Yet, much like Canada, the people in Sudan enjoy mocking those of us not blessed with the gift of rhythm (almost as much as they like dancing). Despite the self-shattering blow to my ego and the realization that I am now officially the worst dancer on two continents, the day was a great success filled with music and merrymaking.

Without doubt the party’s main event was dinner. We served up two goats, 25kg of rice with gravy, orange punch and enough candy that every kid in the village got a treat. Three ladies spent the day cooking up a feast fit for the Paramount Chief and, with the exception of the vegetarians in the group, everyone went home full. At this point it should be noted that the last time I ingested the flesh of a mammal was December 1995 so I didn’t go home full but I sure went happy.

True or false: one of my crazier concerns coming to Sudan was how I would handle a situation where I was offered the soft tissue of an animal, knowing full well its value in a starved village? True, and last week my dietary distress was elevated to new heights when I was given a live goat by John Deng, one of our compound guards and possibly the nicest man I’ve ever met. At first I wasn’t sure how or what I was going to feed my new pet Goat. That problem quickly subsided when I figured out that in fact it was Goat that would be feeding us! John’s gift was truly one of the greatest that I have ever received and one I consider to be a huge honour. But regrettably my sense of honour didn’t trump the fact that I don’t dine on swine, cow, fowl, or my short-lived pet Goat!

Thanks to a couple of nicely timed sidesteps highlighted by the donation of the goat to the party platter, my flesh-eating days are still a thing of the distant past. This coupled with the fact that during a speech John Deng was credited with feeding half of the staff, and low and behold in Sudan like the rest of the world we had the classic win-win. Unless of course you were Goat!

I did cut a ceremonial piece of meat with John Deng and believe me I tried to get it past my teeth and down my throat, but at the end of the day I couldn’t do it. Thankfully in my younger days I was trained in the fine art of hiding food in my mouth, chipmunk-style. John laughed with me and I took consolation in the fact that there were 80 other people at the party who truly needed to eat Goat.

Thirty years ago my Mom would tell Kim and I to finish our dinners because there were starving kids in the world. Thirty years later I can tell you this: finish your dinner because even with the aid of MSF’s Therapeutic Feeding Centers there are still far too many kids starving in Sudan.

Salutations from the south,