Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ramadan in NYC (essay)

(assignment for an awkward international student class, well, it was OK though)

This is the first time for me to have a Ramadan fast outside Indonesia. It is good, actually, to have this different experience. Fasting is always a good challenge for me, and doing it in a place where you don’t have an ‘infrastructure’ for it is just adding the challenge even more. It is hard to keep your fasting continue, for everyday in the whole month, from sunrise to sunset, we have to drop our desire to eat, drink, have sex, we have to control all of our emotion from being angry or upset, and avoiding bad thinking. It is basically a meditation process, when we are expected to contemplate about what we have been doing in the past one year, be focus in doing good deeds to others, while we are obliged to continue our everyday activities like usual.

In Jakarta, you can see families gather at home just before sunset to open their fast together. When the sunset time comes, mosques sign the fasting time is over by sounds of big drum, loudspeaker, or in some places with a canon, and we have to open our fast immediately. They would start with some sweets and cookies, and after about thirty minutes after their stomach had the softer food, they start to eat real dinner. It is a community moments. When we live outside family house or when we can not go home in time for sunset, there are people who open their fast everywhere. Restaurants offer special menu, the appearance of seasonal food and drinks kiosks on the streets, or free foods and drinks in mosques. We are also suggested to have a breakfast before sunrise. Again, we usually do that with our family or housemates. It is like a whole month fest.

I am not considering myself as a religious person, as once or twice here I opened my fasting with beer (alcohol is forbidden for all Moslem ever) and continued the night with other kinds of drink. But doing this daytime meditation is somehow fun. Here, the challenge is more. While I can enjoy my family cooking if I go home to my family house, here I have to cook (yes I cooked!!) and prepare everything by myself. I can go and open my fast in restaurants, like I usually did in Jakarta, but here, nobody share the same moment with me. I even have to wake up in 4.30 AM and heat the food by myself. I am not complaining here, I’m saying it is even more fun!!! I face more challenge to do all those things here. For some reason, I don’t really want to go to local mosque. Well, maybe later, but celebrating I am doing a religious ritual is not the main reason I enjoy this whole new experience. I love the idea of the communal fest, but here, in the capital of dream of the world, I rejoice who I am and what I am. If there is really God out there, he let me ritualize being me – for a whole month.