Friday, July 20, 2012

20 July: Ramadan!

19 July Ramadan Kareem---a traditional greeting during the holy month of Ramadan. Similar--in intent--to "Merry Christmas," but "kareem" means "kind." And the traditional response to "Ramadan Kareem" is to say "allahu akram," or "God is kinder."  Today was the first day of Ramadan.  Ramadan is the Arabic name for a month in the Islamic calendar.  The 28-day period is dedicated to fasting by day (food and physical intimacy) and feasting by night.  Today, and each day of Ramadan, Muslims ate a large meal before dawn (around 4am), likely after staying up the whole night.  Most people will have slept in late and done as little today as possible.  And when the sun set over Jordan, exactly 27 minutes ago, everyone broke their fsat first with something light and sweet--usually dates--and then likely dug into a gigantic meal.   As it happens, today was also our Sabbath Day.  Luckily, we had some oatmeal on hand because the hotel did not, nor will not during Ramadan, offer breakfast.  The hotel was as silent as a tomb; the few guests staying here were all asleep, all staff but the on-call/part-time guy who's name I cannot remember were off...even the lights were out in the reception.  We slipped out and went to church.  Nate and I gave talks, or mini sermons, at the main worship service today.  The assigned topic was gratitude.  Thinking about and preparing for the talk has inspired me to renew my efforts to train my "gratitude muscle." Being grateful...for things beyond the obvious and especially when one feels a habit that takes effort to maintain.  I am going to try harder to be aware of my many blessings and marvel/rejoice in them. Yumi stood in the middle of the aisle at church waving to me the whole time I spoke, much to Nate's annoyance.  Not much he could do about it without risking an altercation.  Other than that, Yumi has been great the whole day.  Just like her old self--spirited, occasionally defiant, quick to aggravated or be aggravated by her sister, but not bitterly angry and hysterical when receiving a reprimand or order.  For that, I am GRATEFUL. After church services and a brief playtime in the garden behind the villa, we returned to the hotel, ate another makeshift suite 501 meal (but at least we had some food!!), and napped.  Yes, all of us but Yumi napped!  Both Nate and I feel head colds coming on.  I am sitting here with a box of tissues now.  As Nate just pointed out, however, we have all escaped major illness thus far and that is another thing to be grateful for.  After naps I took the girls for a very un-Sabbath Day activity.  We went to Mecca Mall--my first visit--to meet the Jordanian-American family we met last week on Rainbow Street.  I had suggested meeting up at park, although I am not sure how much more "reverent" a park would have been.  They rejected the idea considering the heat and countered with a mall visit.  Thus, that is what brought us to the near ghost town of Mecca Mall this first day of Ramadan.  Usually packed, especially on a Friday, the mall was relatively empty.  All the restaurants were closed.  I had plenty of opportunity to observe just how closed they were as we waited 45 minutes in front of the food court for our new friends to show up.  Once they arrived, however, they took us to a little play area where we all enjoyed ourselves.  The girls played well together and I enjoyed chatting with Ashraf and Angie.  Angie is a Muslim convert so she, too, was fasting today.  Both she and her husband are physicians and live in Northern Virginia.  I expect we will see them when we return and continue getting to know each other.  They, too, have three girls, two of which share the same names as my girls' middle names: Mariam and Leila.  And my Leila and hers are both in the middle.  Fun. The mall closed at 6pm for Iftar (breaking the fast) and would reopen again from 9pm until midnight.  Catching a taxi proved difficult and I had a very thirsty and cranky Emi on my hands by the time we returned.  We were all tired, hot, hungry, and a little sick.  As there was suddenly no drinkable water in the suite, Nate dashed out with Emi to the store.  Luckily, it was open.  It seems everything will be closed from 6-8pm, exactly the time we do our shopping and dining.  We are going to have to be creative about meals now; time to learn how to cook a meal in a microwave.  I am happy to once again be in the Middle East during Ramadan but it is going to make our domestic arrangements even more challenging.   One last statement of gratitude: Aya only woke once last night and went right back to sleep!  So, SO grateful about that.  Let's hope for the same tonight.

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