Week two of Ramadan was a little easier than week one physically, because my body has adjusted to the altered feeding schedule. However, many people, myself included, have been testy or even downright cranky in the afternoons. Take a normal feeling of “hangry,” multiply it by 5, and imagine that everyone you come into contact with all day feels the same way. Reading through my journal is funny. Entries written in the afternoon or early evening are pessimistic and entries written in the mornings and late evenings are not. It’s like there were two different people writing it, and one of them's a bitch.
Ramadan’s been easier physically because I started eating like my family does. Last week, I would break fast as the sun set (with my family, or in town at a sandwich stand), then go to bed soon after. I felt full after breaking fast and I usually try to avoid eating when I’m not hungry, especially since I knew I’d be waking up early to eat more just before sunrise. The first week of fasting, even though I didn’t feel too hungry, I started getting dizzy while walking around in the afternoons, and I came close to fainting a couple times. I decided to try a new strategy. When in Teyel, do as the Teyelians do, right? Therefore, this second week, I started eating the evening meal with my family (at around 9-10 pm). The last few days, I’ve been eating everything they put in front of me. Last night’s dinner had courses, Beauty and the Beast style. We started with bread and leaf coffee, then ate gosse girte (which is technically the “thin rice porridge” out of a Charles Dickens novel, but is delicious if we have enough money for sugar at the time), then couscous and bean sauce, then more bread, then peanuts. After every course, my family would discuss how they were haari (full), but not yet haari tepp (very full), so more food was needed. Every day is Thanksgiving during Ramadan, and every night I fall asleep in a food coma.
Because I’m eating more, I have more energy. I’m able to do everything physically that I was doing before Ramadan started. I’m posting this today from Velingara, the closest town with electricity and internet, which is nine miles from Teyel. I biked here today, and I’m planning on biking home later, and I feel totally confident in my body’s ability to do that. I haven’t gone running since Ramadan started (I don’t want to stretch myself too far) but I’ve been able to do normal light activity (walking, biking, laundry, etc.)
Not drinking water is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I realized that thirst can safely be ignored. I’ve always been scared to not drink water when I was thirsty, so this is the first time I’ve tried to stretch that limit, and it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. The thirst is there, but it’s not overpowering, and every evening, that first drink of water is like heaven. Interestingly, when I first drink water, my whole body breaks into a sweat almost instantly, even though I never feel warm at the time. I drink tons of water at night and in the early morning, and I haven’t had any trouble with getting dangerously thirsty during the day. I suppose our bodies didn’t evolve to always have a Nalgene with us.
I decided that I’m going to take a 4-day break from Ramadan next week, when I have a training in Kolda. The following conversation did it for me:
Steph: “So, you’re fasting, huh?”
Steph: “Water, too?”
Steph: “All month?”
Me: “If I can.”
Steph: “That’s really impressive. A bunch of us are planning to make brunch at the Kolda house when we have training next week.”
Steph: “Yeah, we’re gonna make pancakes and eggs.”
Me: “I’m not fasting.”
Done and done. There are few things I love more than brunch.
People in my village are starting to quit Ramadan now, too, or at least to take breaks from it. My nearest Peace Corps neighbor, Kim, said last year in her village, once one person was brave enough to admit they had quit it was like an avalanche. No one wanted to be the first. I think it might be the same here. Yesterday, I met four people that said they were done fasting. All said they were tired and they had a lot of work to do, so they needed energy. They were upfront and non-apologetic. I told them my plans to take a break from Ramadan, too, and they were totally supportive. I think most people appreciate any Ramadan effort, no matter if it’s incomplete.
Not too much else is new. I’m still continuing my routine of studying in the morning and trying to talk to people in the afternoons. My language is slowly, slowly improving, but not as quickly as I’d like it to. I wish I could just load a Pulaar cartridge into my brain, Matrix-style, instead of messing with flash cards and a faulty memory. I have an agriculture training in Kolda next week (with the aforementioned brunch) and the week after that I head back to Thies for a 2-week technical training on the health system in Senegal. There, I get to learn more nuts and bolts about what my job here actually is.
Until next time!