Monday, July 29, 2013

Ramadan: A whole new meaning to hangry

Thankfully we are over half way through the month of fasting known as Ramadan that Muslims all over the world observe. Senegal is no different. Based on the lunar calender the month of fasting starts at sun rise  and lasts until sun set each day. Muslims also abstain from sex and smoking as well as eating and drinking during day light hours. If women are pregnant, nursing or menstruating they are to not fast.

There are extremes to this. Many people even spit out the saliva in there mouths during the day. And if a women doesn't know she's pregnant and may not fast due to many reasons. Sadly this report came out as well showing that it's true.
"For quite a while, scientists have known that maternal food deprivation is bad news for fetuses, correlated with everything from coronary disease later on to skewed sex ratios at birth. (Normally, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. But during food shortages and other times of population-wide stress, relatively more girls are born, probably because male fetuses are more fragile than female ones, and more susceptible to being miscarried.) Recent studies have uncovered new examples of this effect. The Chinese famine of 1958–61 saw male births decline sharply [1]. Even fasting takes a toll: When Ramadan occurred very early in pregnancy, Arab mothers in Michigan were 10 percent less likely to have a son. And Muslims in Iraq and Uganda were 20 percent more likely to be disabled as adults if their mothers were in early pregnancy during the holiday [2]."  The Unexpected Ways a Fetus Is Shaped by a Mother's Environment, The Atlantic, June 2013
In no way am I saying Ramadan is a bad thing. This article simply came out recently and reminded us to not only be aware of those around us who weren't eating but also for those who should. Small children, pregnant women, elderly, sick or those who are traveling usually don't fast. Usually being the operative word. Its good to remind or encourage those who should eat to eat. Ramadan is held in esteem to many Muslims.

Typical blessing for Ramadan as seen on TV
I am always greeted and then asked if I'm fasting. I tried it for a week and also drank water during it and thought that was more than enough for me. I still only usually snack for lunch rather than have my typical 3 around my village. But it was good to cut back, observe, be aware and think about what you have and what you are putting into your mouth.

Typical day in my village for Ramadan if you are fasting is:

4:30-5 AM wake up as 1st call for prayer shocks you out of bed. Women usually heat up breakfast of cere (millet cereal) and is eaten with milk or leaf sauce. You ritually wash your hands, feet, head, and hands, pray and either go back to bed or stay up reading the Koran or chatting with family.

8 AM younger children and rest of the family wakes up and heads to fields. Older men and women usually hang out at home chewing on a sooch stick (usually small and used for cleaning your teeth but chewing on them helps the hunger and thirst) and or sleeping, reading or visiting with others.

11-2 PM Kids might come back from the fields around now and relax before a small lunch is served, sometimes even prepared by them. I've had plain rice with leaf sauce on a few occasions (I rather eat a small snack of fruit, granola, or nuts in my hut)

2PM Call for prayer

2-4 PM Nap time, everyone usually is napping someplace. Nothing really happens until 4 in most places I've been.

5PM Call for prayer

4-7PM More field work, water animals, gardens etc.

7-7:45 PM Try patiently to wait until the call for prayer to end the fast. At which time you drink water slowly (you can become sick because you haven't drank anything all day) followed by sweetened kinkillba tea or cafe touba (either has enough sugar to kill most people) and bread (either buttered or if your lucky chocolate paste-not my favorite)

7:45PM Call for prayer

7:45-9 PM Kids dance because they've eaten and are a bit more lively and excited to eat lunch (for dinner because it's typically what you would have for lunch when it's not Ramadan)

9ish PM Eat lunch/dinner, sit around talk as everyone has a ton of energy and drink attaya (a sweet hot frothy tea loaded with caffeine) I usually go home and to bed after this because people typically will stay up late and talk into the night.

Typical bowl of ceeb bu jenn (rice with fish) in my village

10 PM Call for prayer

Lately the rains haven't been as regular as they should be so this is also all being done in 100+ humid heat with a little breeze (it usually comes around 4pm).

Group of boys eating at a lunch bowl at a wedding

Basically your days become nights and your nights become days and then you confuse your body along the way. No wonder everyone is a bit on edge, hangry and a bit out of it frankly. I have had a bit of work in Toubacouta this last week and have been out of site of a little while. Hopefully when I go back people aren't too bad. Mostly they are just tired.

I relate Ramadan to doing birkam yoga. Killing yourself for an hour and half in 115 humid heat, but when they open the door, and the cold air floods in, there are no words. It's like having that every night for a month.

Sorry this post is short on pictures, last month my camera and ipod died and I've been working on getting them replaced.

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