Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Faith for Fuel

I'm not the type to do Ramadan, really. Of course, not being Muslim
is the biggest factor, but there are quite a few people who do it for
cultural reasons, not religious. In part I don't like the idea,
because I like to eat lots of small meals, not just one enormous meal
at the end of the day. In part, because I couldn't possibly go all
day - no matter what temperature - without water. In part, because
fasting all day will force your body to consume hard-earned
bodybuilding muscle for protein during the day, and feasting at night
will force your body to store it as fat at night when your metabolism
hits sleep mode. And in part because I don't like the sluggish,
drugged, slightly dumb feeling I get when I do it.

And how do I know I get feeling that way? Well, since it really is
part of a cultural experience, I figured I should give it the benefit
of one day's effort per week. I can't do more than that without
losing too much muscle (I work too hard to get it!). This way, I
figure, I'd know how others were feeling. What I'm not willing to do
is give up water, though. So I keep drinking.

So far, I've noticed a couple of things. The first is that the
smokers and coffee drinkers seem to be suffering the worst. Fasting
here, means that you stop nourishing the body. Nothing cleansing
about this at all, just sort of quasi-punitive. Don't put anything in
that fuels you. I'm thinking if Ramadan had a slogan it would be
Faith for Fuel! The second is that fasting with water has a markedly
different effect on the body than fasting without. Like everyone I'm
getting slow and I have a continual grumble in my belly, but I don't
"want" food. I want the hungry feeling to stop, but I don't
particularly crave anything. I even have an after eight mint on my
desk and it's not tempting at all. I just want the grumbling to stop,
and that has nothing to do with food.

We have a friend arriving tonight and we have to get him at the
airport, so I'll be breaking fast sooner than the usual time. That's
alright, though, since I'll get to do this again next week, and the

I'm really starting to appreciate Christmas, you know? Feasting sure
beats fasting!

First Nights of Ramadan

The situation has been devolving now for the past five days. Driving has become more erratic. There is more congestion. The other day, I walked the hour it takes home because there were no taxis available at the "heure de pointe" (rush hour). Tunis has become insane.

And now, and for the coming lunar month, most people won't be eating at all from sunrise to sunset. I'm sure that's going to improve their judgement. Ramadan is upon these hapless Canadians...

And what of it? I could complain thereby of another gulf between tradition and practice - Out in the western world, we have a similar chasm around Christmas. Here, during the month of fasting and spirituality, people many buy more food than normal and stuff themselves to excess at night. But that's not entirely fair, no more than complaining about corporate Christmas. Good and right and beautiful persist despite modern permutations.

It is still a period of togetherness and family. It is still a period of spirituality and social awareness. And the culture that comes alive at night looks to be incredible.

But if this sounds a little back and forth or wishy washy, well, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the whole ordeal. I've never been flung into anything that is so completely outside of my sphere of reference and so completely pervasive. I think I'm going to have to give it some honest time to sink in. I'll try to get back to you a little later this week.