4 days of fasting, and counting

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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 :)

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19 responses »

  1. This is awesome, and something I hope to try myself some day. I’m actually not surprised that you’ve experienced resistance from non-Muslims. I encountered similar reactions when I went vegan a few years ago, and recently when I gave up alcohol.

    Glad you’re able to keep on rolling though and not let those folks get to you.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Gaelle!

    • Hehe, I know, I’m also vegetarian and don’t drink alcohol and I always encounter jokes on the way. Funny how people can be judgemental, even when our choices don’t have any influence on them (I do eat meat if I’m invited to someone’s house if I have to, so that they don’t have to prepare something special).

      I’ll keep on updating later on :)

  2. It’s nice to read views from people like you – foreigners in a different land, respecting and trying out the customs on so many levels. I remember during my student days when many of my non-Muslim friends fasted alongside us (though many not the whole month, but still a gallant attempt nontheless). Kudos to you, Selamat berpuasa, and God bless (no matter what your belief system)!

  3. Hi,
    nice to know you tried the fasting bit, and not the feasting, which is wrong. have u also tried following the other rules while fasting? e.g. hear no evil, see no evil, e.g. avoid watching tv/media programs which contain bad influences? i would like to know your experience in this area too. thank you for sharing!

    • Hello Rosiah! I try the not swearing, but the no lying / gossiping / etc. are things I already usually try to fight, so I can’t see a big difference in this. I’ll try making a post on the mental side of Ramadan, thanks for the suggestion :)

  4. I like your post! my friend Monir told me about this and im reading it. I know exactly what you mean and feel. I’ve been getting a lot of the same remarks… I shouldn’t have read this during fasting time.. the chicken looks WAYYYYYy tooo yummy!

      • All good… If i don’t do sports 4 hours before break fast.. i can still survive …
        The water part is the hardest for me.. And yup you are right .. im not Muslim :) but i believe i get more “comments” Cuz i’m a Malaysian girl.

      • Oh yes, I can totally agree to that! A lot of people put my so-called “weirdness” to the fact that I am a foreigner. More difficult to understand – must be some cultural thing – maybe it’s normal for her – etc. If I was in France, everyone would be after me! :)

        Still have to try sport one hour before buka, but the no-drinking after scares me…

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