.. or as they say here, Ramzan. Muslims are fasting from food and water from about 4:30 am to 6:30pm for thirty days. It’s a time of year when the community pulls in tight . . and you are either in, or out. It’s the time of year when passing beggars sit down with the family and get food to eat. It’s the time of year when all the employees gather round at sunset, all sitting on the edge of a mat, and feast together on dates, puffed rice and spicy chickpeas. Schools close. Hospitals open late. And most Muslim men put on the white pray cap and do the afternoon prayers. Yesterday I watched an older man at the neighborhood well teaching an younger handicapped man how to do the oju, the ritualized washing that one does before the prayers.

For women, Ramzan is both fun and hard. It’s fun as you don’t have to cook during the day, and as manual work is almost impossible (especially during hot season) you just sit and chat. But it’s a hard time because you must get up at 3:00 am to cook the sehri meal. For rich Muslims, it is a month of feasting and family celebrations. But for the poor, they watch the food prices go up . . and for many, fasting is impossible — how does one peddle a rickshaw all day long without drinking? How does one carry baskets of cement up flights of stairs without eating?

Muslims believe that keeping the 30 days of fasting earns lots of swab (merit) with Allah. Many people spend hours reading the Quran. And many people keep the Prophet Muhammed’s teachings and give generously to the poor.

For me, while I do recognize the good of fasting — regaining control of our bodily appetites and lusts, spending time thinking about eternity . . .fasting is one of those disciplines that I find very hard to do!! Even when I wasn’t nursing, I would eat and drink constantly. I guess it’s called fast metabolism. So I am VERY glad that I am not a Muslim!! I am very glad that I follow the Lord Jesus: he didn’t lay out stringent rules on every matter of life. And Jesus’ teachings on secretive fasting really have become special to me, as here alot of people fast just because of community pressure. Some people boast about it constantly.

So . . Ramzan month for us is quiet. Last night we had a crowd of friends over to break the fast, but usually, I stay home more during Ramzan. Honestly, I just get tired of their questions, “Are you fasting?” “Why aren’t you fasting?” “Does your religion have fasting?” Good questions that I would love to talk about with friends, but not with every person on the street.

And so Elias and I are spending more time on the roof instead of in the neighborhood. It’s a pleasant place to get some fresh air. And, as this is Bangladesh, there are always friends to play with!!

Laundry swinging in the wind

Roof garden: a lemon tree and a bitter gourd vine.

Neighbors playing ball.

Sneha, our landlord’s granddaughter

Elias and Ruma