Thursday, August 20, 2009

Time...for Ramadan....

I’m bored. There, I've said it. I’m used to being really busy. I need to fix this, as the boredom is giving me second thoughts about what I'm doing here, what else I could be doing. Not to worry, I’m sticking it out, but coming to the realization that I’ve got to find more work in my sight or close-by or I’m gonna go crazy.

Right now I’ve got the Fes Workshop and Craft Fair on the horizon and I’m driving it. Hard part is that there's no one around to help, given August vacations and Ramadan starting this weekend (upon sighting of first crescent of new moon, expected Saturday). Finally got a meeting scheduled w/Bouchra at Al Akhawayn to talk about the workshops, but I’ve got other volunteers who will handle them from there. Just about have the artisan selection and database complete for invitations to go out, but again, have other volunteers who will be in charge of this. This is not a lot of work for me now.

I’ve got a grant proposal out to fund computer/internet training for 2 women in the Coop. It’s essential that they get someone trained to take over the marketing work I’ve been doing since I got here, and some formal training is the first step. Inshallah we’ll get the funding, but for now, waiting for reply.

Meanwhile, the women are working long days on the table runners for the WaresDinner order. My plan to conduct mini-workshops every week on different aspects of business has been put on hold. It’s more important that they produce the order since they’re way behind.

Fatima wants to submit an application to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival for next July, and needs my help since it’s all in English. Another artisan from Sefrou attended this year’s Festival (incl. sponsorship) and just returned. I’ve told Fatima and Zahra that they need to talk w/her about this year’s fair, how much it cost her beyond her sponsorship, and how much product they need to be prepared to bring. Another PCV who works w/weavers did some of this investigation and figured there was no way her women could afford the incremental costs (ie; shipping heavy woven products overseas w/no guarantee of sale) and couldn’t produce what she estimated to be 100 items to sell. Instead of sharing this info from that PCV w/my Coop women, I want to help them go thru the process themselves. Now, given that they need to focus on order production, this may seem counterproductive on my part. Why not save them the time and let them know it’s not feasible? Because then how do they learn? Who am I to tell them what they can and can’t do? I will help them with the application and to ask the questions they need to consider before submitting, but they need to do it “themselves” and come to their own conclusions.

That’s pretty much it-and not nearly enough to keep me going. I like my downtime as much as anyone, but am realizing that it’s making me nuts/depressed/re-evaluating my time here/etc. I need to fix this. Problem is, this is the worst time of the year to seek out additional projects. The month of Ramadan is about to start, and it’s license to do less work, given the short days, variable work hours, heat, fasting, etc (see below). My next project is to find more projects. Don’t have the answer yet. Still ruminating. Thinking about what I’ll do when I return to US. Maybe go back to school? Been investigating programs, ie; Public Health, Social Work, etc., despite the fact that I don’t intend to get a “real job”, but would like to volunteer in a meaningful way. Think I’ll be doing some net surfing this month. Hmmm….food for thought.

Meanwhile, Ramadan looms, so here’s a primer for the uninitiated from Wikipedia:

Ramadan is an Islamic religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (upon spotting of the new moon); the month in which the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. In the western calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving forward about ten days each year.

It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual conduct, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramadan is a time to fast for the sake of Allah, and to offer more prayer than usual. Muslims also believed through good actions, they get rewarded twice as much as they normally can achieve. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

The most prominent event of this month is fasting. Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world get up before dawn to eat Sahur, the pre-dawn meal, then they perform the fajr prayer. They have to stop eating and drinking before the call for prayer starts at dawn until the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib, at dusk. Muslims may continue to eat and drink after the sun has set until the next morning's fajr prayer call. Then the process starts all over.

Ramadan is a time of reflecting and worshiping God. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam and to avoid obscene and irreligious sights and sounds. Sexual thoughts and activities during fasting hours are also forbidden. Purity of both thought and action is important. The fast is intended to be an exacting act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a raised awareness of closeness to God.

The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity.

The elderly, the chronically ill, and the mentally ill are exempt from fasting, although the first two groups must endeavor to feed the poor in place of their missed fasting. Also exempt are pregnant women, women during the period of their menstruation, and women nursing their newborns. A difference of opinion exists among Islamic scholars as to whether this last group must make up the days they miss at a later date, or feed poor people as a recompense for days missed. While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavor to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Lastly, those traveling are exempt, but must make up the days they miss. More specifically, Twelver Shī‘ah define those who travel more than 14 miles in a day as exempt. The elderly or those who suffer from a disability or disease and have no prospect of getting better in the future can pay the cost of Eftar for a person who cannot afford it, or else they can host him in their house and have him eat with them after sunset as a way of repaying for the days they could not fast.

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Qur'an. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Qur'an by means of special prayers, called Tarawih, which are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Qur'an (juz, which is 1/30 of the Qur'an) is recited. Therefore the entire Qur'an would be completed at the end of the month.

Ramadan is also a time when Muslims are to slow down from worldly affairs and focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment, establishing a link between themselves and God through prayer, supplication, charity, good deeds, kindness and helping others. Since it is a festival of giving and sharing, Muslims prepare special foods and buy gifts for their family and friends and for giving to the poor and needy who cannot afford it; this can involve buying new clothes, shoes and other items of need. There is also a social aspect involved the preparing of special foods and inviting people for the I-ftar meal (literally translates to break fast-outside of Ramadan it is the first meal of the day, ie; breaking the nighttime fast).

In many Muslim and non Muslim countries with large Muslim populations, markets close down in the evening to enable people to perform prayers and consume the Iftar meal – these markets then re-open and stay open for a good part of the night. Muslims can be seen shopping, eating, spending time with their friends and family during the evening hours. In some Muslim countries, failing to fast or openly flaunting such behavior during Ramadan is considered a crime and is prosecuted as such.

The Islamic holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (also known as Eid Sgira) marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and the first day of the following month, after another new moon has been sighted. The Eid falls after 29 or 30 days of fasting, as per the lunar sighting. Eid ul-Fitr means the Festival of Breaking the Fast; a special celebration is made. Food is donated to the poor (‘Zakat al-Fitr’), everyone puts on their best, usually new, clothes, and communal prayers are held in the early morning, followed by feasting and visiting relatives and friends.

1 comment:

Pam said...

Wow - what experiences you've had. Congratulations on your sales! Glen and I have spent the day reading your blogs - first time we've been able to log on.

Our family went to Fes for a long weekend several years ago and we loved the Medina and all the sights and the smells from the leather and rug shops. Glen loved the food. The boys almost got ran over by the donkeys carrying the soda down into the Medina.

Can't wait to read more.
Pam and Glen Knowles