Heather in Senegal

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

September 26, Tuesday
Ramadan began on Sunday night with the spotting of the moon. I was biking through the market when the moon appeared. Everywhere, people were standing with their fingers and eyes pointing west towards the glowing sliver on the horizon. People in another part of town saw the moon Saturday night, so they have already started fasting. I hear the a good answer for why I am not fasting is, "haa joni, mi yii'aani lewro o." This means, "I haven't seen the moon yet."
I was going to fast, or at least I was going to try. Jenny did the entire fast last year, and she said it won her a lot of respect in her neighborhood, and it showed people how far determination can take a person; whereas they fast for religious reasons, they appreciated that she was doing it simply to be part of the community. Quite a few volunteers have said fasting last year, and then breaking fast with their neighbors, brought them closer to their communities. In the months leading up to Ramadan my family teased me sometimes by saying that because I live here I would have to fast whether I liked it or not, other times saying that while they fasted I would not be able to. I wavered between wanting to fast to prove that I could do it, and wanting to not fast to demonstrate that they can not control me. Ultimately, I decided to fast on the first day and then decide about the second day.
Yesterday morning I woke before sunrise, drank about two liters of water, cooked and ate a traditional Senegalese dish, and felt terrific. The pre-sun weather was cool, and I considered taking a walk. A cloud burst pursuaded me to stay home. Within an hour of sunrise I was explosively sick. I thought that maybe with all I had already drunk I could still get through the day, but it quickly became apparent that I would be wise to rehydrate. I spent the day weaving between my toilet and my bed, watching my temperature rise to 102. In the evening I spoke to Neenee. She asked about my diet and then laughed. She believes my breakfast did me in. I had made a peanut sauce out of raw peaunt butter. I had boiled the peanut butter, but she said that because I boiled it for less than an hour, toxins remained. I ran this by Jenny, and she disagreed. She has eaten plenty of raw peanut butter without any malaise. She says I was simply hit by the good old oral-fecal cycle that plagues so many of us in this land of no toilet paper and little running water. Maybe my peanut butter was old.
Today I don't feel up to fasting, and now that the possibility of doing the whole month is dashed, there is little appeal in depriving myself of food and water for all sunlit hours.
So far, people are not visibly tired or grumpy, even in the afternoons. However, come evening, my neighborhood erupts into party. I have been waking up at all hours of the night to the sounds of people eating and laughing.


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,
I can't imagine fasting for an entire month. I wonder if the people become very cranky and tired through the day.
It pains me greatly to read how sick you were. Keep yourself SHH!!
All my love,
Mom (:-)


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