Wednesday, August 1, 2012

12 Days Down

I am 12 days deep in my first Ramadan. Only 18 days to go! My fasting is a cultural experience not a religious act. I haven't learned much from a spiritual level but I didn't really expect to because I  haven't sought that out. My experiences have been concentrated quite heavily around food. The lack of it of course creating a strong desire to consume large quantities of it. Ramadan is supposed to be a time to develop self-discipline and renew thyself. I've renewed my pre-Amman weight so that's plus and the self-discipline is somewhat mandatory when it comes to fasting.

My experience with self-discipline is more about what you do to break the fast than it is about the fast itself. Its actually not that hard to not eat anything all day. The no water however is somewhat insane in the summer but that's another issue. The busier the day, the easier it is to accomplish my malnourished mission. My days off I find are the hardest to cope through. Obviously keeping your mind busy keeps if off the growling stomach. Honestly though, three days in and my stomach had shrunk so that it purred more than growled anyway.

Breakfast, (literally break-fast, I bet it was eye-rolled the first time that pun was used) is where the self-discipline is really developed. After walking to work under the oppressive sun, teaching a full day of dance classes, and in general sweating through the Amman day, the first meal is quite a welcome site. Ravenous is a good word to describe how I feel by sunset. On some days dizzy, loopy and, at times, giddy would also be appropriate. I learned quickly, although 15 minutes too late, how painful it is to lack self-discipline and over-indulge. Fifteen minutes is apparently the amount of time it actually takes our lackadaisical stomachs to tell our brains that we're full; greedy organ!  It's like our own built-in Catholic-guilt function.

After my first breakfast of Ramadan, I felt like I'd imagine 9-months pregnant feels like. No resting position felt comfortable. Standing for that matter wasn't pleasant either. I wanted to walk around in nothing more than my birthday suit because anything touching my skin felt like a Victorian corset. I felt as if nothing short of a cesarean would alleviate my self-imposed glutinous punishment.

This feeling in hindsight may explain the floor-length man-dress which seems quite fashionable in my current neck of the woods. My first thought upon arriving in the country and seeing this surprisingly current fashion trend was to open a boutique shop and give my ancestor's famed kilt a go. Ya know - enjoy a little more updraft to help alleviate the mercury impact if you know what I mean. Upon experiencing the Ramadan pregnancy however the kilt's lunar-preventing tight waist would be a marketing nightmare. Also, the extra leg, although quite a hit with the ladies in my experience despite the garish white hue I sport, wouldn't go over well with the Arab's proclivity towards ultraconservative fashion trends. Alas I'll keep to dancing to pay the bills and put the food on the table, even if I can't eat it all at once.

I have eaten some interesting meals during Ramadan and more importantly, I've learned how to eat them. Taking cues from Mohammad himself, who would apparently break his fast with a glass of lemon water and dates, I start with water and then something light like a salad, piece of fruit, or half a pizza. I said I've learned how to break the fast effectively. I never said I was able to do it properly every time!

I've included some pictures of some of the more interesting breakfasts I've eaten. My favorite to eat is the Msakhan - so far my favorite Arab dish. You simply can't beat half a chicken with a bed of sauteed onions and delicious purple spices dressed with olive oil on a flat bread for under three bucks. You just can't beat that! My favorite presentation was the "pineapple in a box" I received from the delivery guy after I ordered an avocado salad. Biggest disappointment was the pizza but it was better cold the morning after so it wasn't a total loss. Morning being the next night's breakfast in this case.

I couldn't wait to take the photo, that hungry
Ramadan has been a learning experience so far. With 18 days to go, I'm sure there is much more to learn, to eat, and to experience. I'll tell you about the goat later.

Like a taco

The After

The during
The Msakhan before

A very healthy meal

So much potential

Pineapple in a box
Better looks than taste