(braɪ) noun, Afrikaans. A meal in which meat and other food is cooked over an open fire outside.
We’re cutting across the gravel plain moonscape in an open bed of a bakkie. To the west, muted oranges and purples emanate skyward from an absent sun. Behind, dust clouds follow the truck, veiling the inky blue-black sky. My companion stares through me, her eyes sweating tears. I cover them gently with the palm of my hand while her moon-lit hair whisks amid eddies of chill air.
She, our new goat, is lying at my side, shackled at the ankles with twine. Frequently testing her situation, she convulses. Occasionally she curls her tongue through a loop in my shoelaces, pathetically pulling for a snack, a hold. All around her face, pools of sand buzz to the metallic reverberations of a rutted road. One bump sends her bloated ribcage skywards only to be slammed harshly down instantly.
Some time later we arrive at Tsababis, a collection of houses the Topnaar staff and their families call home. Just far enough from the main research facilities of Gobabeb to have a name unto itself, it exists, apart, perhaps as originally designed. A dirt area between the cinder block houses forms a small courtyard where we park. Excited shouts of young children pierce the air. They know what comes next.
In a single coordinated motion one of the men drags the bleating animal from the back of the vehicle and onto a raised cement slab. The head is left hanging off the edge, exposing the neck. Bathed in yellow light from a nearby porch, the carotid artery swells rhythmically. A careful positioning over a plastic bucket, and the punch-swipe of a blade ends everything. A dog warily cleans up the warm liquid.
Although none of it would not have been possible without the supervision of a toddler council, adults remove the hide, pull out the guts, drain the blood, and distribute the cuts to various stakeholders. Myself and a few other station staff, as the financial backers of the operation, claim the choice meat and the liver. The warm skin, too. You never do know when you might need a goat skin rug. We leave the head and innards for more appreciative recipients.
All are invited to a braai, to be held in one weeks time.