Well ever since August 1st we have been celebrating Ramadan here in Malaysia, the month of fasting. Each year the time of Ramadan changes because it is based on the Islamic Calendar. The Islamic calendar is different from ours (according to the Islamic calendar it is the 22nd day of Ramadan , in the year 1432) and it is based off of the lunar calendar. During the month of Ramadan all Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex during daylight hours. The point of Ramadan is to help Muslims learn about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to Allah. All Muslims are also required to read the entire Quran during the month. (However from my experience few do). In general, they must focus on their religion and being a good Muslim instead of their other desires like hunger and thirst. You frequently hear short commercial clips on the radio reminding Muslims to celebrate Ramadan the 'right way', and not to gossip and do volunteer work or find new ways to connect to God. However, from my personal experiences that most Muslims simply use Ramadan as an excuse to be lazy, and pig out after the sun goes down. It is unfortunate that the original meaning of Ramadan has been lost. Either way, it is a fun month and I have been learning a lot.
In order to eat before the sun rises, we have to wake up at about 5.00 AM and eat and drink we much as we can to try and get us through the day. This is not as easy as it may sound, where as you are already upset that you have woken up so early (usually only after four or five hours of sleep), eating left overs from last night is the last thing that you want to do. After we finish eating at 5.30, we usually go back to sleep until 6.30 when we get ready for work or school. All school activities (like clubs and sports) are cancelled, and adults usually have shortened work days. After school, I come home and sleep from about 1.00 to 4.00 or 5.00. At 5.00 we head to bazaar Ramadan, which is a huge number of stalls of food. They have every type of food you can imagine, and all of it is extremely cheap by US standards. At each stall you select the food you want and how much, and they load it into a plastic bag. After we have enough food for about 10 people we head home. Immediately we put the food on the table as if ready to eat, and then we proceed to wait for another hour and a half. My family sometimes likes to sit at the table for thirty minutes or so until we are allowed to break fast, but I choose not to join them. It always amazes me how much my family is able to eat. We have been to buffets a couple times for buka puasa (breaking fast) and my family will refill their plates 8-10 times, completely cleaning their plates each time. I usually only eat one or two plates, and my family spends the last hour at the buffet trying to get me to eat more, and are convinced there is something wrong with me. This is one of the challenges I have been facing with Ramadan, because most people take it to mean that I don't like the food and consider my behavior rude, so I have lost count the number of times I have had to explain to people that I have a 'small stomach', and not that I don't like the food.
|Breaking Fast - Dinner for two|
The food always includes rice, and lots of meat. All kinda of meat - fish, squid, chicken, lamb, steak, clams, shrimp, etc. The food is always bright yellow or red, and either extremely spicy or extremely sweet. For dessert they like to eat sugar cubes coated in dried coconut. Where they are delicious, they are also extremely overwhelming and can never eat more then one or two.
I personally don't find fasting that difficult, and sometimes I'm not even hungry when we break fast. I think this is due mostly to the lack of physical activity. Where as Malaysia is already considering, in my mind, to have a rather 'lazy' life style, it is even more so during Ramadan. I also think Ramadan it is a great way to loose weight (as long as you don't pig out at night haha), and almost every single exchange student has lost weight since they arrived in Malaysia.
I am looking forward to the end of Ramadan - Hari Raya. It s a long festival celebrating the end of Ramadan, when family members and friends often go to each others houses and eat. Eat, eat, eat! We take a week off from school and work for celebration. I can't wait and I will update you guys soon on how it goes!