Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today, I fast

5:00 am- I awake to the mosque outside my bedroom window. Daada, my neighbor, opens up her corrugate door and I can hear Sibona running to the pump to fetch her water. The rats continue to run along my cardboard roof. The day has begun.

5:30 am- Teneng, my host brother’s wife, comes to my door holding a bowl of dried fish and a cup of hot water with sugar. I eat the fish which has now become a delacasy for me. Very tired and groggy, I fall back asleep on my yoga mat.

8:00 am- I wake back up with the distant memory of eating dried fish for breakfast. I wonder what I should do with my day; I know that within hours, my porch will become the local hangout.

10:00 am –All I can think about is food. I walk around my village, which takes me 5 minutes, and return to my front porch. I find my brothers and sisters waiting there, staring at me wide eyed like I should show them a magic trick. Instead I take out a picture given to me by my Aunt Maryellen of her and a llama. They all laugh and point at the strange creature.

12:00 pm- I help one of my mother’s, Amie, dry fish for dinner. We lay the fish on a corrugate sheet and I watch it bake in the sun. I think “Temping to eat…but oh how I would love a burrito right now.”

1:00 pm- It is hot as hell, I sit on my porch floor sweating. Daada is next to me lying topless on her goatskin mat, she repeats “balaab aboliboli.” (the sun is hot).Gibril comes over and lays next to me...nap time.

3:00 pm- I walk to the community garden. I start to feel my senses come alive. The basil, cucumber, tomatoes. The aroma is sharp and I suddenly become aware of the food surrounding me. I look up to see the tall stalks of corn towering over me, taunting.

5:00 pm- I hear screams coming from the neighboring compound. The men are back from the bush. Working all day in this heat without food and water they become angry, they take it out on the children. Their true colors start to show. Siabatou, my sister, comes back with bruises on her face. Her father has beaten her. She sits on my lap, knowing that I will make it okay. But, I am speechless, I have seen this so many times now, I am numb.

6:30 pm- I sit on an old stool next to my host father. He looks at me and nods his head, 1 more hour till we can break fast. He looks at me with a sense of amazement, that I too, a white man, can give up something I love for religion and faith.

7:30 pm- I break fast with half a piece of bread and hot water with sugar. I walk into my house and chug a bottle of water. I am thirsty. It is still too hot in my house, so I go sit outside under the cottenwood tree to watch the sunset.The orange, reds, and yellows in the sky. Moments like these I just want to capture and take with me forever.

9:30 pm- It is silent in my village. I sit, alone, on my porch. Most of my family is in Kombo, I miss them. My stomach rumbles, I am still thinking of that burrito.

11:00 pm- Mmmmm...the rice has arrived. I sit with my 3 sisters and crumple a mixture of rice with sauce in our right hands and devour the bowl. I am full, and happy. I look around at the girls under my candlelight. They start to rummage through my things as if it was a garage sale. Their smiles shine and their bodies glow as they dance around my house in the candlelight. They are animated girls, each one with a distinctive and vibrant personality. Sarjo, the elder sister, tells the girls to go to sleep. I say tonight they can sleep here in my house. We blow out the candle. Through the darkness of my room I can still see my sister’s smiles glow, we are happy.

Ramadan is a Muslim holiday during the month of September. Fasting is meant to teach the person patience and sacrifice. Ramadan is a time to fast for the sake of God, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance into the future, ask for help in refraining from everyday evils and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

I have decided to fast with my host family to understand more of their culture and way of life. Though, some days when I work, I tell them I must drink water (Did I mention it is hot here?) They support me and are happy that I am trying.

“Whatever you can do or imagine, begin it. Boldness has beauty, magic, power in it.”