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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ramadan- One Week Down!

Well, over a week actually, but I was lazy about posting.  I seem to have worked out a system where I feel more functional during the day which is great, but I also feel like I'm putting my life on hold until nightfall and when I don't go out it's a big letdown.  I know I have things I need to do during the day but thinking of a place to go and work is limiting.  Someone suggested I go to a cafe, order water, and not open it.  Probably going to do that tomorrow- I really need to get some work done and it's so hard to work at home.  I would go to campus but the bus schedule is ridiculous and I would be out there for far longer than I could stand.
So far I've quite enjoyed Ramadan.  There's still a fun social atmosphere and a feeling of solidarity with those fasting throughout the city.  I had one slip-up the other day when cooking risotto- I needed to test the rice and without thinking i put a grain in my mouth to taste.  I read that it's ok if accidents happen so I returned to fasting and didn't eat until after the prayer.  I also had a dream that day that I drank water and broke my fast and I felt so guilty.  It's pretty funny that I'm fasting in my dreams as well.
The last few days have been pretty nice.  I get to spend a lot of time thinking of what to cook and my culinary skills are getting a work out.  I definitely appreciate food more and look forward to sharing it with others.  I feel like I'm finding something that was missing from my life the last two years in the Springs.  The imagined community here is much larger and more encompassing than it felt in CO; running downtown or to Hussein to grab shisha and conversation is so readily available.  I'm going to get spoiled when everyone goes back to normal working schedules.  My appreciation for Egypt and my life here is growing so much and I am in such a great place right now :)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Much too ful

This entry will be brief.
Made it through another day without "cheating" on the fast.
Went to the usual salsa club for a karaoke night.  The place was all decorated for Ramadan and looked so nice. There were some really good people singing which of course discouraged me from trying. Also, a lot of the songs were arabic, and I hesitated to ruin the flow of the evening by throwing in some random old-school country.  There were 2 salsa songs that I got to dance which made me feel better about missing last night.  However, dancing salsa is a challenge, especially when one is wearing cheap 50 le flip flops with crystalline flowers adorning them.  I did manage to keep them on my feet and ironically, it was my partner who had to stop the dance to tie his shoe :)
Sahoor was soooo  much food but sooo tasty.  Ful, bread, white cheese, tea, juice, water....I'm too full to lay here or think properly.  I really think my stomach is shrinking.  Makes you think about people who never get to have a huge meal, are always hungry, and never know when their next meal will come.  I want to find a way to help.  

Friday, August 5, 2011

Home is Where....

     Upon moving to Egypt a year ago, in the midst of Ramadan, I was constantly told to "wait and see how fun Egypt is after Ramadan, because it sucks right now."  I really didn't notice much of a difference when September rolled around, but I figured it was the constant inundation of new stimuli that caused the failure to notice how fantastic everything became after Ramadan.  This year, I was wondering if the difference would be noticeable.  So far, it is...
     There is a holiday atmosphere and at night the streets are flooded with people, businesses are open later, and still, the twinkly lights make me smile.  I have totally transitioned to a night owl which is a complete transition from my days as a barista when work began at 5:30am :p  Now I go to sleep after 4 and I love it.  There's something magical about being out late at night and having so much to do besides go to a bar and stumble to Denny's (don't get me wrong, there were good nights in there, too, but it's fun to have a variety).
     Today was a physically trying day.  I felt pretty tired and run down, and slightly faint when sitting up.  However, since I didn't have anywhere to be or much to do, I spent the day reading and stuck to my fast.  I think I finally drank enough water last night because I noticed hunger more today than thirst.  Not sure which is better, lol.  I know it's only four days in, I just hope my optimism can carry me through the rest of the month.  I turned down offered food and alcohol without feeling upset about it.  I've gone dry for a period of time before, so that really doesn't bother me.  Also, I feel as I get older that it might be a good idea to look at the example my parents set and slow down quite a bit on the liquor.
     I'm getting close to completing my first year here in Cairo.  I know I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but I really hope my pyramid of illusions doesn't come crashing down anytime soon.  I'm really feeling like مصر is home and I love it.   Yes there are challenging days, but half of the reason I moved was to escape tedium.  I like hearing the bikya guy come down the street with his little donkey cart.  I like having the challenge of learning a difficult language (and constantly being teased for it).  I love the food and drink, I mean, fresh juice, feteer, tamayya, ful, shawerma, and ahwa, c'mon!  So far I'm thinkin, "choice well made."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

3 Down, 27 to Go

I feel like I'm getting more used to the routine, however, I keep getting headaches in the afternoon. Tonight I drank water nonstop so we'll see how that affects tomorrow.  I might be imagining it but I feel like I'm able to focus better and maintain concentration.  I've also been more creative lately, drawing and writing again, which is nice and probably at least partly due to the inability to go anywhere during the day :)
I like how everything is decorated with twinkling lights and lanterns- it feels like the same spirit as Christmas (the closest thing I can relate it to).  The nightlife is so active, such a change from the Springs.  I want to write more but it's 3:30am and I'm drawing a blank on what I want to say- ashoofku bookra :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ramadan Day 2

Went to sleep at around 4 am and woke up at 1pm.  I was in the best mood this "morning."  I'm not sure if it was the novelty of eating off of the back of a car in the middle of the street in the early Egyptian morning, or just being able to hang out with friends that late, or feeling some sort of peace from completing something challenging, I had a smile on my face.
I had planned to drink enough water before I went to sleep to be able to make it through the day without feeling faint, however, I don't think that happened.  After cleaning the house and reading, I was bored enough to attempt a 40 minute walk to the grocery store.  It was too hot and I was too dehydrated; by the time I got home, I was feeling kind of shaky.  However, my stubbornness and my desire to take this month seriously won out and instead of drinking water I relaxed under the fan and recovered just fine.  I also managed to not drink too much water at iftar and get sick like last night.

So to the question I get the most: "why?"
There are a multitude of reasons that I've decided to fast this Ramadan.  The first reason is a mixture of curiosity and empathy.  As an anthropologist, I would like to understand how challenging this month is for the majority of the people around me by participating in an aspect of their lives.  Talk is nice but it's one thing for someone to tell you about being thirsty, and another to ask for help (from some higher power, beit God or not) in not drinking water when you're very thirsty.  I also hope participating will foster a sense of solidarity with those around me as I am trying to understand their religion and their lives.
Another big reason I feel compelled to fast is that for the formative years of my life I was governed by a strict religious moral code.  Yes, eventually I decided it wasn't for me and I left that lifestyle behind, but there is a part of me that feels like I'm flying through life without any comforting restrictions.  So I feel that living by "others'" rules for a month will be a good exercise in self-discipline and remind me of the focus I used to experience in my earlier years.
I really hope I don't offend anyone, as this is meant to be an exercise in communion and I would hope that any offenses are brought to my attention so I can rectify them.  I also ask for support as this is going to be a trying month, but I'm very determined and believe I can do it.  Ramadan kareem.

My First Ramadan

This year Ramadan falls on the 1st of August. 
These are the different prayers in Islam; fasting takes place between dawn and sunset.

Fajr (pre-dawn): This prayer starts off the day with the remembrance of God; it is performed before sunrise. 3:45
Dhuhr (noon): After the day's work has begun, one breaks shortly after noon to again remember God and seek His guidance. 12:00
'Asr (afternoon): In the late afternoon, people are usually busy wrapping up the day's work, getting kids home from school, etc. It is an important time to take a few minutes to remember God and the greater meaning of our lives. 3:30
Maghrib (sunset): Just after the sun goes down, Muslims remember God again as the day begins to come to a close. 6:48
'Isha (evening): Before retiring for the night, Muslims again take time to remember God's presence, guidance, mercy, and forgiveness. 8:20
Made it through my first day- that first bite of date was the sweetest thing I’ve ever eaten.   The hardest part today was the thirst,  not the hunger.  I’ve had half a liter of water and some daal and I’m too full.
Just had sahoor with ppl on the street- pretty cool.   I'm going to try to learn from yesterday and drink a lot of water before I go to sleep and hopefully fare better tomorrow without the dehydration.  Also, I want to flesh out this whole experience, I just don't have the energy right now.