I didn’t fast last year. Surely, I could make several excuses for why I couldn’t do it last year. In short, I wasn’t ready and I wasn’t tough enough. My mind and body weren’t ready. Adjusting to site and school and everything was overwhelming. This year I’m in a much better place and I felt ready. I feel stable enough, strong enough. For those of you who know me well, you probably know that I have close to zero restraint when it comes to appetites and needs and general self-control. I’m a true glut and it started at a very young age… I was that 4 year-old (while my mom was still sleeping) that would scoot a chair up to the freezer on Saturday mornings to snatch jars of caviar (leftovers from restaurants my mom worked at), only to eat scoopfuls of it with my bare hands until they were empty (caviar and cartoons, what a good life it was) and my mouth black or red (depending on the caviar, man). I matured into that 7 year-old that (again, when my mom wasn’t looking) once ate an entire 12-pack of those mini bags of Lay’s potato chips because they were so salty and delicious. I couldn’t stop myself. I proceeded to get really sick and learned my lesson quickly. Consequently, I’m still that 20-something year-old that buys a block of fine cheese and a fresh baguette and eats all of it within a few hours, by myself (I’ll share if asked, I swear!). On the flip side, my gluttonous habits could be worse, the substances much worse, but they’re not. I’ve been blessed because whenever I’ve been hungry or thirsty, I’ve been able to satiate those needs. I am thankful for that. Really.
I’m going to fast throughout the duration of Ramadan (July 21st-August 20th).This time around though, I am working on isolating my mind and its sometimes overbearing thoughts from my physical needs. It’s as simple as that. When my mind begins to wander towards breaking into my stash of granola bars, or I feel tempted to walk across the street to the toko to buy some double-stuffed Oreos, I’m going to extinguish those thoughts. Pfffffff. I’m not going to cave.
Last year, I nearly went crazy during Ramadan. Thankfully, my restlessness eventually morphed into productivity and I started experimenting with cooking with my family. This time around, I’m staying busy while listening to my body. When I’m tired, I’ll nap. When I’m hungry, I’ll nap… and remember that everyone else around me is suffering from the same hunger pangs. There’s a lot of free time which has given me time to think about what I want out of this year. That means better documentation, and so I came up with a multimedia project that I’ve dubbed The Ramadan Diaries. It’s essentially a project composed of my written thoughts every couple of hours upon waking up to those final hours before breaking fast, how people are behaving, how activities or lack thereof are altering the community’s overall atmosphere, and what I’m doing to stay active all while capturing photos and videos of what’s going on around me. For example, the other day, two female neighbors come over to my house with two plump chickens. I knew what was going to happen and surely those poor chickens knew they wouldn’t live to cluck again. I proceeded to capture a video of my host brother slowly sawing at the chickens’ throats with a very dull knife (poor things), blood squirted everywhere, the chickens tried to escape, I could barely watch, but in a sick-twisted-experimental-documentary-non-PETA-approved-kind-of-way, I’m glad I captured that moment. That’s just one unique Ramadan moment in my village. The past three days have been fun but also challenging, I constantly feel sluggish and weak. My nose keeps on tricking me into smelling certain things that are obviously not around, like McDonald’s chocolate sundaes and french fries. Other PCV’s, please feel free to join in on The Ramadan Diaries. The final product should make for an interesting short!
I will be documenting all of The Ramadan Diaries scribblings in a separate tab at the top of my blog.
Scribblings from the past three days:
Day 1: Saturday, July 21st
3:30a: why in the world is there someone knocking on my door? am I still dreaming?
what I ate: little over a cup of oatmeal with honey with a thick slice of papaya, a piece of tofu, and an apple. chugged a lot of water.
after eating — those last few bites of papaya were difficult. I kept stirring it around in my bowl, cutting it into smaller slices with my spoon, thinking that would make it magically appear in my stomach. But I feel good. I woke up and felt alive and awake. Mbak Nur (30, host sister) looked completely opposite of what I just described. My ibu had to yell her name several times until she emerged from her bedroom. She came out looking like she had just put an entire bag of Sour Patch Kids in her mouth. It was the ultimate stank face. The family scarfed their food down within a matter of seconds it seemed, their bodies moved slowly except for the spoon to mouth motion. I couldn’t get myself to produce any clear or comprehensive thoughts during that time except for these scribblings. Now, will I be able to fall asleep again?
4:46a: fell asleep once more after reading
8:16a: woke up to face the day. As I walked past my family’s prayer room on my way to the mandi, I found my bapak spread out all over the floor and prayer rugs, snoring like a big grizzly bear, mouth all open, palms up.
3:08p: spent all day at school, skyping and feeding my mind since I couldn’t feed my tummy. The stomach has been growling for a few hours now but I know I’ll be okay, only a few hours more until buka. Just took a sip of water (I’m occasionally allowing that) behind my door where Jay-Z looked me in the eyes (a magazine cover I taped the back of my door) where I read a sticky note that says ‘wake up and do yo’ damn thang’
5:27p: motorcycles are racing by. The increased revving a direct result of their stomachs on the prowl. It’s almost that time. I think my nose is beginning to hallucinate. I smell french fries… could it be, ibu, could it be? My host sister is playing an acoustic version of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ on repeat and I’m not sure if it’s the hunger, but I am IRRITATED and want to chuck her phone into one of the mango trees in our yard.
Day 2: Sunday, July 22nd
3:16a: knock on door, interrupts my dreams. I sleep for 2 more minutes and force myself to get out of bed.
3:39a: ate two pieces of papaya, cup of oatmeal, one piece of tofu, one piece of tempe. Found it difficult to focus my eyes on something while I ate. My mind feels slow. Host sis asks if I’m still sleepy. DUH. Can’t tell if bapak is praying in the dark or if he’s just fallen asleep sitting up. Wouldn’t put either one past him. Oh, he’s awake and eating.
Sounds — hissing from the boiling water on the stovetop, fuzzy speakers coming from mosque
3:46a: I’ve eaten 6+ pieces of papaya in the past 12 hours and yet my body isn’t responding as it usually does to eating that much papaya. Dear fiber, please do your thang. I worry about constipation. Going back to lay down.
4:46a: fall asleep once more
6:16a: zombie pee, return to bed
9:20a: I could have kept sleeping. Read, caught up with Erin, watched an episode of Sherlock. Every time I stand up, I get an intense rush of blood that blurs my vision and I must hold onto the door frame. Internal struggle not to break into my granola bar stash. I can just imagine crushing the sweet almonds between my teeth. Stop it. But the raisins!… Stop it. The family is moving slowly around the house doing their daily activities. I keep finding my ibu sitting, making these dreadful faces of of utter energy drainage. She looks absolutely exhausted and I often worry about her health.
2:15-3:15p: Nap time!!!!
4:00p: Ajeng comes over for TOEFL help. Never did I ever think I’d enjoy explaining English grammar rules, just this one time, to keep my mind off of my stomach.
5:30p: too tired for 2nd mandi of the day. This must be the first time in a year that I’ve skipped taking a 2nd mandi altogether at site. I’m no longer hungry. Just weak. My family’s just bought pecel! And ote-ote! Must eat!
6:25p: didn’t overeat but feel uncomfortably full. As always I’m the last one to finish my meal — everyone scarfs theirs down as if it’s a race. It’s eerily quiet outside. Not a moving motorcycle in sight.
Day 3: Monday, July 23rd
2:01a: awoken briefly by neighborhood children banging on drums to wake everyone up for sahur (first meal taken before dawn).
3:16a: awoken from dreams of cruising around Sam’s Club on a search for a massive pack of Twizzler’s Pull ‘n Peel to bring back to Indonesia. I never find it. Slip on shirt that I just picked up from the laundry lady that I’ve managed to dribble toothpaste on several times now. Go eat. I have already managed to break the first rule of Ramadan. I lied to my ibu who sees my bowl of veggies, she suggests I add some rice so I don’t become hungry later. I say I already have some. WHY ELLE WHY.
3:46a: in the past thirty minutes, the bathrooms been occupied and I fear I could have a shitastrophe. To be fair, this was the first time since I came to site that I’ve eaten anything but oatmeal for my first meal. The intestines are moaning. Everyone’s spent this morning going into my host sister’s room, crawling into her and her husbands bed to check on the baby. It’s a unique occurance, really.
3:54a: return to bed until I gotta be up for school.
A fun photo from last year when I sat in my room and tried to think about anything but food and ended up becoming a MONSTER: