Saturday, July 28, 2012


Hello, my favorite folks!

I have been missing in action, more than I had anticipated (I hope you don't all think I'm an enormous flake!). Summer in Tunisia means I am with my family, all day every day, and it also means occasionally difficult internet and long stretches of beach time. This summer has an added layer of get-in-the-way-of-blogging, and that is Ramadan.

(Curious as to what it is? Read on for a brief explanation if you'd like!)

What is Ramadan? It is a holiday in Islam⎯or, more accurately, a holimonth. The Islamic calendar is a lunar one, which means our holidays shift over time. This is my first summer celebrating Ramadan in Tunisia, but it is certainly not my first Ramadan. During this month, Muslims fast⎯that is, refrain from eating, drinking, and sex⎯from dawn until sunset. It is a month of reflection and piousness. We avoid arguing and cursing, and try to do good things (like read the Qur'an or spend time with our family).

I have been fasting since I was about 7 or 8 years old. While many of my non-Muslim friends are shocked at my ability to keep away from grub for so long (and wonder, fairly, how I don't shrivel up without water), I enjoy fasting. Sure, it is not always the most fun to sit by with a grumbly tummy while your buddies are chowing on pizza⎯and I swear to you, there is a huge rise in free-food-availability during Ramadan, as in all of your colleagues decide Ramadan's the best time to bake brownies every single day when they never did before or your stingy friend finally offers to pay for lunch, like it's some horrible conspiracy or something (I ought to run a study)⎯but all the momentary agony aside, it's a fulfilling experience. I attribute my extraordinary self-restraint in other aspects of my life to years of controlling myself during Ramadan. I have a great amount of will-power. I also have a real appreciation for what I have been given in this life. Ramadan forces me to really acknowledge my privilege. The exhaustion I get after a day of not eating is the daily reality for many people all over the world. Not drinking water for a day makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to get clean water any time I'd like by just walking to the kitchen faucet. I promise you, you will never appreciate food as much as you do after a day of not eating. Everything tastes amazing. Fasting makes you appreciate the blessings you so often overlook.

Ramadan during the summer is an interesting experience. Because Ramadan moves, due to the lunar calendar, I have spent most of my Ramadans in the winter and fall. Fasting is much easier when sunset is at, like, 5. But Ramadan here is something special, even if the days are both longer and dryer. In the United States, Ramadan is a rather isolating time; it is difficult to be the only child not eating, when much of our American culture and daily life involves food (an example: I've had to fast on Thanksgiving). Ramadan in a Muslim country, however, is quite the opposite. When Henrik and I were teaching in Mali in the summer of 2010 (fun fact, that is where we met and started dating!), I was fasting for Ramadan. The tables were turned⎯my American colleagues and friends were the ones on the outside as the Malians and I bonded over our fasts. I enjoyed getting up early with the Peace Corps volunteer to eat breakfast in the dark. I enjoyed, too, the unity I felt as we all hungrily dug into our long-awaited dinners as the sun began its red descent into the horizon. This is how it is in Tunisia. While the majority of my family does not fast, some do, and the entire country is in "Ramadan-mode." You should see how empty the streets are once the Adhan rings out as the sun sets in the distance. Restaurants are closed. People understand why you are passed out in exhaustion at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. When you finally break your fast, there are congratulations and toasts and recognition for this beautiful, wonderful thing you have done. My fasts are not lonely here.

So, I apologize for my infrequent posts on my journey (which is in fact soon coming to an end). I have been fasting and it has completely wiped me out; I have been sleeping most of my afternoons away in an effort to ignore my headaches and thirst. When I finally am replenished, I am spending that time with my family.

Henrik and I leave here on Monday, when we will begin a 2-day journey back to Oakland. I have so many pictures to post, not counting the numerous rolls of film at the bottom of my backpack. On the way home, we'll stop in Nice and New York, and I'm not allowed to fast while traveling (I make it up after the end of Ramadan), so the way back should be enjoyable! Thank you all for your patience with me while I've been flitting around the globe. :)

Now⎯Instagram shots of my Tunisian Ramadan! :)

my favorite!

brikas! the best Tunisian Ramadan treat :)


mloukhiya, food for the best of occasions!

watching Tunisian Ramadan television (a soap opera type show called Maktoub)

Okay, now sleeping until dinner because I am totally wiped out. :P Hope you all are doing well!


  1. I'm glad you're having a good time and that ramadan is going well for you. It's fascinating to hear all about it from a Muslim perspective.


  2. I love Ramadhan- my Non-Muslim friends seem to think it's torture, but it's such a good (& much-needed) spiritual cleanse (not to mention the family time involved, too)! =D


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