Those last few days, I have been asked the same question, again & again. People were sometimes genuinely intrigued, and sometimes downright defensive.
“Why are you fasting?”
Why? For so many reasons. Be it pure curiosity, health experiment, personal challenge, opportunities to share moments with my Muslim friends or to slow down the pace of my life, spiritual time for myself… You name it! You could even sneak in a diet attempt if you wished ;)
What I find really interesting is this: I am not fasting out of religious convictions and, yet, Muslims are the ones who accept it the most easily. I knew it from previous experiences but, as a Westerner, many would think that religious people could see it as a lack of respect (“Just an experiment? Man, this is a holy month! Don’t fool around.”) On the contrary, I have found them open-minded, supportive and really caring.
The response from non-Muslims has been much more nuanced. More often than not, people are pretty neutral. Once they know your reasons, they let you alone and live happily without thinking more about it. But I have encountered more resistance than I thought I would. Some would just be sarcastic, throwing jokes on me. Not frankly criticizing, but making fun of it all. Others would be plain defensive, asking “Where’s your scarf then?” or having that look on their face. I’ll ignore those, but it always makes me sad that some people don’t want to create bridges with each other.
Fasting has been pretty effortless so far. I remember last year, when it went about that way:
First day: body doesn’t notice anything wrong, still stuffed on food & water from previous days
Second day: body screaming “What the hell are you doing to me?? Eat! Drink NOW!”. Head ache & weakness
Third day: body starting to get a sense of it but still weak
Fourth to seventh day: roll on, hunger & thirst on a subconscious level, I don’t notice them anymore.
This year, it somewhat feels easier than last year, in the sense that I don’t really feel the hunger or thirst that much. I do have a few pangs here & there, but nothing big. Thirst is always stronger than hunger for me in any case, but even this started to subdue today. Getting there :)
Where I’m having problems is actually with my sleeping pattern. Work had me staying up until 3am on Sunday & Wednesday nights, which doesn’t help when you have to wake up for sahur (breakfast) at 5am. Tuesday & today, I was so out that I slept more during day time than during night time (Monday was spent working as well so I couldn’t spare too many hours). My sleep schedule is really screwed up but, at the end of the day, I feel pretty ok :)
As an example, the last 24 hours have been : sleep from 2.30am to 5am, eat & roam around 5am to 7am, sleep 7 to 9am, errands outside 9.30 to 11am, sleep 11am to 3pm (yeah, I know :o) and then up the rest of the time. It’s now almost 1am and I’m planning to crash soon for 4 hours of sleep. I’ll see how tomorrow goes!
I don’t feel like exercising yet but I can see it coming :) I’m getting about 3L of water per night and enough food, so running just before buka puasa (breaking the fast, at 7.30pm) should be fine. Just need to find the days when I don’t have buka puasa appointments :)
So far, Ramadan has been really enjoyable. From friends bringing me food or checking up on me during day time, I find friendships strengthen. Going to the mosque and meditate 45min while my friends chant & pray, give you an insight into their life that you are usually not that familiar with. And I am both really grateful & honored for this opportunity. Probably more on that another time :)
Even when taking naps, days are so much longer & I usually finish all I wanted to do by noon. Which leaves me no choice but to tackle all the things I have been procrastinating on the past few weeks. Much needed, again!
Going to the pasar ramadan (Ramadan market) is a feast in itself. I can’t believe how much food I still haven’t heard of. I am considering giving up being vegetarian for one week, just so I can try a few of the dishes around. It does feel like I am missing a bit on the cultural experience here…
Having a restricted amount of food also forces me to be more conscious of what I eat, because I can’t imagine gorging myself on deep fried food or junk after 13 hours of fast. It just feels wrong. So I have to reconsider a few of my choices, which I am also grateful for :) All in all, the change in routine does make you more aware & conscious of what you are doing & why.
More updates later on, in a few days :)
A quick look into the Pasar Ramadan corner
Ayam golek, a kind of roast chicken
Fried springrolls at the Param (pasar ramadan)
Extracting sugar cane juice, a favorite for buka puasa
Pizza style, or how to make a murtabak
The best smile of Kg Baru param, at a watermelon stall
Spread the happiness :)