I started Ramadan with a little bit of apprehension. Not because of the lack of eating and drinking during the day. This I have been doing accidentally at various times during my European trip, when I was too shy to ask for an English menu or when there was a complete absence of vegetarian food. Though breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, so the thought of having it when I should be well asleep at 3:30am was a little hard to think about. I discovered one day before the start of ramadan that the family I thought I was sharing meals with wouldn’t be having it with me as I would be opening the cafe for another guest and eating with him.
The biggest worry however was that I didn’t feel I knew enough about Islam to participate in Ramadan fully while giving full respect to the practice. Coming from a non religious family in a historically christian country gave me little background in Islam. My first exposure being 9/11 being shown all over the tv, and my insistence after that to anyone who said horrible things about Muslims that no whole population is bad and that I was sure most muslims were normal people – I have always been a very logical person. Unfortunately this view isn’t shared in many areas of Australia, especially in the low socio economic area that I grew up and went to school in.
Luckily when I reached the age of 22 I met a lovely Muslim lady who put up with my consistently random questions. Fortunately I didn’t hold too many stereotypes, instead I was intensely curious about this religion that had been mysteriously emitted from my entire upbringing. When I was 23 I was lucky enough to meet many more amazing Muslim people from all over the world including Germany, Egypt, Afghanistan, USA, Morocco and Pakistan. All as willing to answer my strange questions as each other. Now here I am at 24 staying in Turkey, with the call to prayer blasting out of the mosque speaker 30 metres from where I am staying and a wonderful group of Muslim people to further question when a question pops in to my mind.
Participating in Ramadan was important to me for two reasons, regardless of any worries I had. The first was to continue getting the amazing cultural experience that I was getting in Turkey up until that point. The other was because, like my past self, many of my friends and family have still never met a muslim. Many of my childhood friends still have stereotypes and worries about the Islamic culture. I wanted to encourage discussion around Islam and expose my contacts to the culture through this blog and discussions. The fear that surrounds Islam contributes to a lot of violence on the part of non Muslim people and that fear has put the blood on all hands who believe the stereotypes. In Australia I believe that our terrible, inhumane treatment of refugees is fuelled by the fear of what people think Islam represents. Until we engage with each other as fellow humans and not as enemies fuelled by dangerous media we will continue to terrorise beautiful lives.
Day one started at 3am for breakfast. Eggs, bread, muesli and some plain cereal. My aim being protein and carbs, no sugar though as that makes me super hungry. Back to bed with my alarm set for 7am to wakeup and get breakfast ready for guests. My first wakeup I was surprisingly awake. I found it hard to go back to sleep, but when I woke up again at 7am I was really tired and felt sick from having a full belly and sleep. It felt like my body was playing a joke with me as I felt more dehydrated than I had for weeks. I helped prepare the breakfast and resisted the urge to drink. I kept walking toward the water and then remembering I wasn’t drinking.
Surprisingly I was almost never starving in the evenings before dinner. I even did yoga each day at around 5pm and was only hungry at around 7pm, an hour and a half before dinner. Most days I slept between two and four hours during the day though which definitely helped. I am sure this isn’t how you are supposed to do Ramadan, however I thought I would take a leaf from everyone else’s book who seemed to do the same thing.
My body felt a whole heap better after a few days, kind of like a cleanse. I had been eating too much breakfast prior to Ramadan so it made me feel a whole heap lighter during the day. I also learnt a lot from the process of retraining my body, especially with water. Each time I reached for water I had to remind myself not to drink it. Eventually I stopped reaching for water. This happened in a remarkably short time frame, around 3 days. I found that I could use this same method to change other behaviours. I started eating mainly vegan food during Ramadan and am now in the process of turning vegan, thanks Ramadan!
I am so thankful that I participated in Ramadan for ten days. I had an amazing experience and was fortunate to always have an amazing group of people to break the fast with. I came away with a new way of changing my habits and a heightened appreciation of what I put in my mouth.