Friday, June 19, 2015

Ramadan 2015, Day 1 – The Struggles of Fasting

I got to bed around 12:30 in the morning I had to set an alarm for 2:45 so that I could be up before first light (which was around 3:06am) and have my sohour meal before the fast starts. I can't say it's pleasant having an alarm ringing in your ear at 2:45 but it's even less pleasant to skip a meal and not have food or drink for another 15 hours. So I struggled up and with my eyes pretty much closed the whole time ate my meal. I always keep it by my nightstand for easy reach.

I'd like to think it's pretty healthy – cereal, a bit of cheese, some nuts, some dates, olives, a few low-cal crackers, a banana, two glasses of water and a glass of low-fat laban. I would've preferred a cereal with a bit less sugar but I need to have a cereal I can easily grab with my fingers, experiments have shown that trying to eat a bowl of cereal with a spoon in the middle of the night, in the dark, while you’re half-asleep, results in bits of cereal all over the place including the bed. The cereal needs to be something that is in big pieces that are easy to grab and put in your mouth.

Since I'm not Muslim I don't have to worry about then going for prayer, I just go straight back to bed and start sleeping again.

In the morning the traffic was actually worse than usual, which was annoying. I recall from previous years the traffic was pretty light but that might be because I was starting work at an earlier hour (8am). This year I'm starting work at nine so I guess I'm hitting the Ramadan morning rush-hour. I’ll now need to leave a bit earlier to make it to work on time.

By 10:30-11:00 the lack of food started to hit and I started to feel tired, by noon my stomach was really growling and I could feel that mentally I was a bit dull and not as sharp as I would normally be. I knew from past experience that my stomach would settle by about two o'clock as this happens every time I fast -- noon comes along and my stomach starts going "lunchtime!" and by two o'clock it realizes it's not getting anything so quiets down.

Work was over at 2. As I arrived a bit late in the morning all of the parking spots that were under shade were already taken which meant I had to park my car in the open so naturally inside the car it was around 60°C. Lovely. Even though I put a shade in the front windshield so that the sun was not on the steering wheel the inside temperature was so hot that still the vinyl was hot to the touch and difficult to hold. In temperatures like that the a/c can, at best, blow some lukewarm air on you for the first 20 minutes, by which time I'm almost home. 20 minutes in a sauna and you’re not allowed to drink any water while fasting. I'm not sure how in the past Arabs managed to do Ramadan fasts in the summer without air-conditioning, they must've just sat in tents all day and not moved, 15 hours in this heat without drinking water must've been a real struggle.

So when I got home it was straight to bed for a nap, which lasted almost 2 hours. I felt a lot better after the nap a whiled away the time on the computer waiting for iftar to be called around 6:30. I was heading out to a dinner that evening so I kept the iftar meal small and simple: a big glass of water followed by an odd number of dates (tradition is you should eat an odd number), some cheese, bread, and some olives. After that more water and some milk. I felt a lot better after that.

Got home from dinner, put my sohour meal on the nightstand, set the alarm for 2:45am, and prepared to settle into a routine of early wake-ups and growling stomachs that was going to last all month.

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