Ramadan Kareem!

Amman, Jordan

Yesterday was the first day of Ramadan, the month of fasting and abstention for Muslims. This includes not only physical abstention, but also the practice of restraining oneself from speaking or thinking ill of others, day and night for a whole month. Those who choose to fast will not eat, drink or smoke from first light till sunset, and then will probably stay up most of the night partying and stuffing their faces with delicious food and a whole array of special Ramadan sweets.

Fasting for Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, one of the 5 things which Mohammad said were the most important religious duties of a Muslim, in a test by the Angel Gabriel related in what is known as The Hadith of Gabriel.

Technically, second graders are not required to fast. They’re too young. However, they are encouraged to try it for part of the day on some days, and perhaps especially in majority Muslim countries, many second graders do fast because it’s perceived as a sign of being grown up, something second graders everywhere are desperate to be! (I don’t know why! Being grown up and responsible is over-rated!)

I’m noticing something this year that I didn’t notice when I taught in the village, perhaps because the village students are so habitually over-caffeinated and hyperactive generally. Yesterday I was really frustrated with students who couldn’t concentrate on copying notes from the board into their copybooks for more than five or six letters at a time. They almost had to be prompted word by word through the whole day, until I began to worry that we had some serious learning disabilities in the classroom. Today I figured it out. My least “on task” students yesterday and today are the ones who are fasting. No wonder they can’t concentrate!

Actually, I’m feeling really disconnected from Ramadan this year. I think it’s probably living in Amman, which in Peace Corps always seemed like it may as well be America compared to village, and working at the American School. I don’t often feel like I’m really connected to Jordan. (Then again, I suppose I haven’t really been here all that long yet, either.) After reminding my students yesterday morning to be extra patient with each other in this time of fasting, I went yesterday afternoon to Starbucks to use the Internet, walked right in, and ordered a frappuccino. “Sure,” said the barista, “but only to go.”
“Oh, right!” I exclaimed, feeling stupid. “It’s Ramadan.” In Jordan and many majority Muslim countries, it is not just inconsiderate but illegal to eat in public in Ramadan. “But I came all this way to use the Internet!”
He just shrugged. So I guess I’m stuck with my stolen wireless connection, slow and frustrating as it may be.

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