Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The President of Ramadan?

The President of Ramadan?

So Ramadan has ended, and many people in Kampala (and the world) celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr today. One of my favourite activities to observe on this day are the Muslim families dressed in their flowing clothes walking together to prayers in the morning. The colour scheme includes a lot of black and white, but it is mingled with rainbows of colour with sparkly sequins thrown in for good measure.

Apparently, there are some significant health benefits to fasting, so I decided to get in on the fasting action during Ramadan this year. Plus, I was curious and just wanted to share the experience with some of my Muslim friends and colleagues, to know what they physically go through during the 29-30 days of this month. I was raised Mormon, and my family fasted the first weekend of every month, so fasting was nothing unfamiliar to me. What was unfamiliar to me was fasting for multiple, consecutive days.

Oh, and have I mentioned that I'm training for the Nairobi Marathon in October? Fasting. Long-distance running. Not a great combination. And I'm not the wisest person, so I put them together anyway. When a friend of a friend heard about what I was doing, he insisted that I could not (not should not, but could not) fast and keep training. On that particular day, I was feeling very Will & Grace-ish and I asked, "Who made Ali the President of Ramadan?"

My level of maturity astounds me sometimes.

Over the past month, I became obsessed with two activities: fasting and running. What was originally intended to be a one-day experiment turned into 20 days of the 29. I know, crazy, right?

Luckily, for most of Ramadan, I was on holiday from work, so I could spend many hours lying on a bed, watching dvds. But all convenient things come to an end, and returning to work was a true test of my stubbornness, or will power; call it what you like. I honestly do not know where the energy came from. Obviously not from glucose.

Well, today marked the end of Ramadan and the beginning of a new month. Families went together and prayed. I went to a coffee shop and had a hamburger. Ok, later I was invited to a Muslim friend's home for 'pilawo'. I truly felt honoured as this was the first time I'd ever been invited to share in Eid-ul-Fitr festivities. One of my favourite parts of sharing food on the rooftop deck of his house: seeing the neighbour's cows eating out of an old bathtub.

I think my heart's more likely to benefit from my regular running than from my sporadic fasting, but my time fasting (and being tired and a bit weak) did give me time to reflect on many areas of my life (some I'd intentional avoided reflecting upon in the past) and to also appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to make the choice to not eat a meal or two. I was hoping to be humbled and shed a bit of pride. Maybe I did, but I still find myself too easily provoked and ready to quarrel with security guards that want to scan me with a metal detector wand even when I'm in my skimpy running clothes. Where the hell am I gonna hide anything?

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