Today, our team is going to Dearborn, a city that is more than 40% Arab American. Though the term Arab is not synonymous with being Muslim, there is also a large concentration of Muslim Americans in the city. We will be meeting with Professor Ronald Stockton at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to learn more about the Immigrant Memoir Project and, in the evening, with Muslim youth groups for iftaar, the breaking of the fast. Below is a reflection by Anthony that describes his experience with a day of fasting in New York City.
By: Anthony Ramos
During the month of Ramadan, Muslim people fast from sunrise to sunset. Last week, I tried to fast for one day. The journey began at 3 am. I woke up so early to be able to eat before the sunrise. I ate a package of cookies. There were 36 cookies in there. And then, I was trying to follow Zehra’s advise: “Drink a lot of water!” but it didn’t make sense because if I go to the bathroom I just will throw the water out. So I just drank one bottle of water. After this, I went back to sleep. The sun appeared and everything started. I went to a training about how to interview a person and do oral histories. The training ended at 12 pm. At that point, my stomach was screaming. It was asking for food. Then we took a break, I was about to drop but I just took a nap and my stomach relaxed.
Then we went to Manhattan and the torture began. I could smell food everywhere. I saw children eating ice cream – that killed me because that day was hot and I couldn’t eat ice cream. We arrived at the Islamic Center at New York University and went to the prayer space. Over there, I noticed that the woman use a different door than a man. They share the same room but they are separated by gender, male and female. Then, our team did the Sexual Harassment and Gender Relations training. Then, it was 6pm and I was getting crazy, my stomach and my intestines were fighting. At 7:00 pm I felt the fast. At 7:30 pm I was so happy but my happiness didn’t last long. They showed a movie titled Koran by Heart, and in the middle of the video there were 5 minutes dedicated to food. I was rolling on the floor and then this lady in the video began to cook a fish and it was like I was tasting the fish.
Then at 8:32pm a guy started to distributed date food and a cup full at half with water. I saw two guys eating date food so I thought it was right and I bit a little piece. Then I saw Zehra and she said, “No, don’t eat it, it’s not time!” 8:34pm, the most beautiful feeling of the day, I was allowed to eat. The fact that I was starving made the date so sweet and juicy. The little amount of water tasted like freedom. Then this guy said “You can go to the other room and get some food.” I ran to the line. After I ate the Indian rice, something was happening. I felt like a black hole in my stomach. I was patient for everyone to get food and afterwards, I went to get my second round. And I still could feel the black hole. So I was crazy to get home but Zehra was just chatting with her friend. I was like, “Let’s go I’m still hungry.” It was really late when we got out. The we walked a lot just to buy a taquito with chicken and onion. The onions were not good and I didn’t like that, but I had to fill up the black hole that was in me and I just ate it in three bites. Then the train 5 was not passing. Even though I could catch the last one I didn’t want to leave my people behind (Raldenys Tolentino and Riyaz Ali). When I got home, I just ate everything that was on my way.
At the end of the day, the lesson was to appreciate everything that you can eat because you never know when you will feel hungry and not have the opportunity to eat.