4:00 p.m.- My stomach does crunches of its own accord. It sounds like I’ve trapped something down there under the cage of ribs and flesh. It’s grumbling to escape. I have concluded that 4:00 p.m. is the worst hour each day during Ramadan, when Muslims are required to fast between sunrise and sunset for the entire month. 4:00 p.m. is way past lunch when you are sure to feel the sharp pangs of your missed meal, but not near enough to sunset when you can finally satiate your hunger and thirst. Sunset happens around 7:31 p.m. in the village of Sinchurio Samba Foula, approximately 4 minutes after the sunset in Thimindala, the village of Kumba Diallo (aka Ruth Nervig).
I lick my lips and am jealous of Kumba Diallo for a moment. I squirm to quiet the creature in my stomach and focus my eyes back to the words I’m reading about the unrest in Bangladesh in a fairly recent Economist.
“According to Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human-rights watchdog…” Hungry. I’m hungry.
I give up and decide to go back out to the field after all. It’s better than laying around in my hut.
6:00 p.m.- I’m back from the field and I’m glad I went. Viay and I transplanted 50 mangoes, so that’s one more thing to check off the list during this busy rainy season. Not only did we get work done, it kept my mind off of my stomach for the most part. Transplanting is also much better to do in the evenings because then the little tree, who has just been uprooted from everything it’s known since seedhood, can spend the night in its new place in the ground or tree sack un-beleaguered by the merciless rays of the sun.
I close the door to my hut, strip down to my underwear (FINALLY), rev up the ipod, and begin a 60 minute podcast session of Yoga to the People. While I am not a Muslim, I live in a village and a community dominated by Muslims. I am by no means expected or forced into fasting with the rest of my colleagues, friends, and family here, but this year, I have decided in one of my last acts as a part of this community to join them in their struggle through Ramadan. The Muslims fast because it is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. It is the 30 day time period where they are expected to remember God first, forgive others of wrongs against them, be forgiven, and think about their actions in the eyes of God.
I am using it as a time to reflect on my last two years here, meditate, and become mindful of my own actions and thoughts. While fasting, I am also dedicating an hour every day to yoga as my choice of meditation. For anyone who knows me, you might understand that yoga is a great challenge to me. I have always been more of a fast sport kind of gal—basketball, track… give me a sport where I can be competitive and maybe even push someone on the ground and I’ll be happy. But yoga? A sport that expects you to be patient, focused on the breath, and completely non-comparative to anyone and anything around you? That’s a sport that’s challenging to me. How many times have I tried to “bind”, which means to wrap one arm around your back and one arm under your leg all while balanced in a thigh burning lunge and resembling an impossible form of human origami, only to collapse and growl in frustration at my lack of yogic ability. A lot. And you know what? It’s good for me.
7:10 p.m.- Take shower. Watch the sun tantalizingly sink below the horizon. I swear it hovers there and laughs a big blazing grin.
7:20 p.m- Fresh from my bucket bath, go outside to join my family in my compound as we all hover like vultures around the breaking of the fast being prepared by Mari and Jenabu. Stare into each other’s glazed over eyes and weakly smile in empathy.
7:31 p.m.- The plastic mugs of weak coffee and sugar are set out before each faster with a hunk of fresh baked village bread on top. I take the bread and shift it back and forth between my hands and perk up my ears for the eerie call of the Imam that will drift over the village and break the fast. My thoughts wander until…
Be noddi, my brother cries. They called! He looks towards the chief who raises his mug of coffee to his lips and drinks. We all follow suite and drink as well. The coffee feels warm and foreign in my completely empty stomach. I dunk a hunk of bread into my coffee, tear it off and try and force myself to chew slowly. My brothers and I all smile at each other mischievously, triumphant in our fast for one more day.
After bread and coffee comes the traditional moni. This is often served as breakfast, but it is always used to break the fast during Ramadan. It is made of flour or cornmeal balls rolled with water, boiled, and made into a kind of breakfast soup, sweetened with sugar and milk and made sour with a bit of lemon, lime, or hisbiscus juice. I have always loved moni, but never as much as I do during Ramadan. As I slurp down my moni, my family jokes that they should give me an entire bowl just to myself.
Hey, Mariama yiddi moni! My mom hoots, and slaps her leg. I embarrassedly slow down my slurping.
Sometimes if we are lucky, we get pieces of meat fried in oil with fried sweet potatoes and onions, but this is only some days.
9:00 p.m.- Dinner is brought to my room in a bowl. It is much richer than the dinner I am used to having and also much later. It always has some kind of meat or vegetable, instead of just the plain rice and millet with peanut sauce. I save it for sugilari, which is the meal before sunrise. This way I don’t overeat right before bed and I save myself and my family the aggravation of them having to give me something to eat before dawn.
9:30 p.m.- I am so exhausted, I just fall asleep.
Oh Ramadan! It is such an interesting month and also a challenge for me as well as all of the people in my village. I am only on Day 8 now and have held strong. Well I did just nibble a 5 twizzler nibs out of the care package my grandfather sent me. I won’t do it again though! Promise!
Until next time and may all the Muslims out there have a peaceful Ramadan!