15 days into the Islamic cleansing month and 15 days left to go! My approach to each new Ramadan day is different compared to each Ramadan day that came before it.
Last year I saw the 30 days as an ‘easy ticket in,’ acceptance from my new school and community and the perfect way to get culturally integrated. It wasn’t until the end of Ramadan that I realized my attitude was all wrong. And before I considered it a complete wash, I still recognized my ability to follow the rigorous routine and the success I had with challenging my hunger and thirst.This year, on my way back to site from a Peace Corps mid-service training conference, I was hung up on my decision to participate.
However, upon my very return to my village I could already feel a new energy…
A few days prior to fasting, people weren’t asking me whether I would fast for 30 days but my friends and family were inviting me to take part in this tradition. Most of my neighbors and teachers assumed and didn’t act surprised to hear that I would ikut puasa.
This year I was looking forward to a good suci, a cleanse with a new attitude, mindset, and response to hunger. Not too concerned about getting from one new moon to the next, but the moon cycle itself; celebrating each day, each struggle, each lament to cave or resistance to learn, and opening myself up to my daily insights. For the past 15 days, Muslims and non-Muslims all over the world, myself included, have abstained from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual activity from sunrise until sunset. Even though fasting is sacred and done with individual reasoning, I feel that I am at an advantage to be surrounded by a constant rhythm of activities and collective support.
In my household, we finally succumb to the blaring calls from the mosque that have been bouncing off our walls since 2.00 am and drag our bodies away from bed to cook and eat sahur around 3.15 am.
My sister and I somehow always end up back in the kitchen washing our bowls and picking at whatever food is leftover until about 4.15 am. It’s either a morning walk or a return to bed until going about daily activities. School schedules have been adjusted to half days and we all return home to rest after 1.00 pm. After lounging around, reading, or wandering around the neighborhood to hang out with someone who is not sleeping (no pressure from their pushy offerings to drink their extra sugary teas or greasy snacks!), my sister and I met back up in the kitchen to prepare for the buka puasa meal.
Our hunger has subsided and instead we are excited to prep something delicious. Sounds of clanking, sizzling, rinsing, chopping, scrapping, cracking and my constant cackle fill the house as the aroma amplifies until we break the fast. We eat together. Making more eye contact that reads ‘we’re so happy,’ than actual conversation–not wanting to waste a blessed second away from shoveling more food into our mouths.
The kids set off small fireworks in front of houses as the entire village enters the mosque at 7.00 pm to pray tarawih. I mosey around to the pulsing chants that create this electrifying calm over the entire village. Upon my family’s return, they bring home snacks from the mosque or buy from a vendor walking up and down the street. We chat or watch TV until we finally surrender to exhaustion. I look forward to following the remainder 15 and hope that my daily thoughts and growth will reflect my initial intentions to suci and live each Ramadan day proactively.