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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ano hoora Suumaye?

This Saturday, the 28th, marks the first day of Ramadan, the most holy month of the Islamic calendar.  Ramadan is seen as a time for practicing Muslims (ie, everyone in my community) to deep-clean their lives.  From sunup to sundown for the next month, my neighbors in Teyel will not eat or drink water (or any other liquids), and they will also show restraint in all other aspects of their lives.  They will avoid speaking ill of others, listening to gossip or obscene words, or going to unholy places.  They will focus on being better people and strengthening their relationship with Allah.

About three times a day for the past few weeks, I gotten asked in Pulaar if I would be fasting during Ramadan..."Ano hoora Suumaye?"

I'm going to try it.

Fasting for Ramadan appeals to me in the same way joining the Peace Corps, bungee jumping, SCUBA diving, and running a half marathon appealed to me.  It's a new experience.  I wonder what it will feel like.  I think I could learn from it.  I don't know whether I'm capable of doing it or not, but this is the perfect opportunity to try.  I will probably never be immersed in a devout Islamic community during Ramadan again.  By the time next Ramadan rolls around, I will be busy working with projects in my community, but right now, I'm focusing on language and community integration.  What better way to integrate than to suffer along with everyone?

During Ramadan, families wake up between 4:30 and 5:30.  They drink as much water and eat as much food as they can before the sun rises.  They use the mornings to work hard before they get too hungry and thirsty, which in my community means they go into the peanut or cotton fields to plow, weed, and water without any tractors or chemical herbicides for assistance.   In the afternoons, they rest, nap, reflect on their spirituality, and spend time with their friends and families.  At dusk, families gather together to break the fast with dates and bread (traditionally) or whatever else is available.  They eat and drink late into the night.  Other PCVs have told me that their villages turn almost nocturnal during Ramadan, which makes complete sense to me.  I’d rather nap through the hottest part of the day than sit through it thinking of how thirsty I am.

I think Ramadan sounds like fun, albeit in a slightly masochistic way, and I think if I participate fully it might help me bond with my family and everyone else in my community.  Worst case scenario: we’ll all be hangry together.

Despite my best intentions, I might not be able to go a whole month without drinking water during daylight hours. I am a white-as-milk Minnesota farm girl who has been struggling hard in the 115-degree afternoons here. I might give up after a couple weeks, or maybe even after a couple days.  I know I’ll regret it if I don’t give it my best effort, though.

Talk to you all later!  I’ll keep you updated!