Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Communal Experience: Ramadan Begins

When I tried to fast in Zambia, big epic failures occurred. Staring at my co-workers while they ate piles of white bread and mangos didn’t lend itself to keeping my sanity throughout the long, hot and empty afternoon. By the end of the day, I found myself wondering about my motives and unsure that this spiritual discipline was for me.

On the flipside, fasting with 45 Moroccan kids, several Moroccan counsellors and five very hungry PCVs (not to mention the rest of the country), allows you to rely on others and focus your energy on the real purpose of Ramadan. Team Ramses (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Heart!) bound together to beat the first few days of Ramadan. Afternoon walks, a Star Wars Marathon and strict rules about when food could be mentioned all aided in our success. We decided that anything said between the hours of 12pm and 7:45pm, was off the record and that we “hated the hunger, not each other.” Did we complain when we woke up for the 3:30am meal? Yes. Did we make pointless conversation directly before the cannon went off? Totally. Did we struggle and succeed together? Absolutely.

Here is a brief itinerary of the first few days, typically the most challenging in a month.

3:30am : Good Morning! It’s time to eat! Bags of bread, sugary yogurt, fake cheese and possibly fruit have been delivered to our room. We slowly roll out of our individual dorm beds and wander onto our communal bed zone (pictures to come). Blake lightly taps his head for a few minutes before speaking, Leah starts working on her water, I babble incessantly and make bad jokes, Cait watches in amusement and Zaana reminds us that she didn’t want to fast in the first place.

4am- Fajr Prayer, pretty sure I fall asleep partway through this one...regardless I try to focus on my spiritual journey and ask God to help me fast successfully and easily throughout the day. 

5:30am: Sunrise, the official fast begins.

10am: Feels too early to wake up, but the clapping has begun.

11am-12:30pm : Zoned out English classes on the side of both the teachers and students. We found group activities kept their attention, not much else. I nearly passed out trying to do the “Peel Bananas” song and “Boom Chicka Boom” in a row.

12:30pm- Dhuhr Prayer, currently my bible study time and reflection on God’s word.

1pm- 4:30pm: Free time! This normally included a trip to the Peace Corps office, swimming in the pool at the American school, napping, slow walks, long naps, meditation, etc.

4:30pm: Asr Prayer – This is a tough one. My body feels like it has atrophied by this point of the day. This prayer goes between listening to praise songs and asking God to look after friends, family.

5pm-7:15pm: Star Wars Marathon! We cloister ourselves onto the communal bed, safely away from other humans and food. Hangriness has taken over our brains. If someone sneezes, I may assault them. It’s best to stay quiet and rest.

7:15pm: (technically 30 minutes before Maghrib prayer). I spend this time in prayer focusing on the least of these; those who struggle with this hunger everyday and won’t get to “break” their fast.

7:45pm: The cannon goes off! The call to prayer begins for the Maghrib (the official signal that the sun has set). It's time to feast! We all take our first date and a sip of milk before digging into harira, chebakia, juice, hard-boiled eggs, fried bread and an assortment of other goodies. God is good and we are starving.

8:15-9:15pm: Digestion. Seriously, we all just sit.

9:15pm: Isha Prayer; I normally sing this one. It's all about Thanksgiving and Praise to God at this point in the day!

9:30pm-12am: Walks around the old Medina, visiting the Marina, talent shows with the kids, eating McFlurries at McDonalds and general happiness. It feels so good to finally be full.

12:30am: More food? Yes please! In Morocco, this is typically the biggest meal of Ramadan. I'm not a fan of the tradition, but am still capable of eating an entire veggie pizza directly before heading to bed.

1am: Time for bed! We are full, exhausted and aware that breakfast comes in two hours. The cycle continues...

Work at the Dar Talib, my second camp of the summer, has come to an end and the first four days of Ramadan are complete. Stay tuned for the rest of Ramadan musings in El Jadida, the adventure continues!

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