Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 19, 2007

Happy Holidays! It’s Ramadan. No food, drink (including water), smoking or sex from sunrise to sunset. Restaurants have shades or curtains drawn over windows and the kids’ breath is awful… for four weeks. The morning call to prayer at about 4:00-4:30 is a bit longer while people make lots of racket – fireworks and banging pots and pans – as they eat before sunrise. You can’t buy alcohol except at a few international establishments (grocery stores and hotels) and kids are late to the 6:10 p.m. classes as they are breaking fast. Nu Bliss is all but closed. Lots of the regulars there are eating with family and have given up alcohol altogether for the month. (Some Muslims do drink.) People are also supposed to pray and read The Koran more. Some of the teachers I work with are not allowed to take smoke breaks out front during this time. I think that’s tacky anytime of year though. Smoking in front of a school is poor form – I’m sorry.

Sunset is a pretty wild and festive scene. Lots of people eating and saying, “Buka puasa!” which loosely translated is “Break the fast!”

The beginning of the fifth week – the end of the month-long fast – is a lot like Thanksgiving in the States. Everyone is traveling back home to see family. Sarah and I get the week off from work then. No classes.

Many places like Nu Bliss become juice bars. They could pay bribes and serve alcohol, but then they’d have to deal with fundamentalists and after the amount they’d have to pay in bribes they would not make a profit.

The kids are little easier to teach, though you wonder if anything is sinking in. The Christian and Buddhist kids are just as crazy as ever though. New booths have opened in the mall and are selling traditional Muslims clothes and books by Koran scholars. That’s about the extent of Ramadan marketing. If I had to make a Western comparison with what little knowledge I have, I’d say it’s kind of like a month-long Thanksgiving, only with more emphasis on spiritual practice and discipline and less on gluttony. But family and friends are equally important.
Sarah’s and my lives are largely unaffected. Though Ramadan’s presence is everywhere, it is not the same as it would be in most Middle Eastern countries. We just need to be sensitive about eating in public – no coffee to go, etc. As I write this, an imam at a close-by mosque is speaking. At night sometimes a child will recite The Koran. It seems like a decent holiday to me.

1 comment:

Derek said...

This is all so exotic. I'm always so impressed by your posts.