Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Anticipating things unknown about Ramadan

The photos in this post are taken earlier in my time in Iraqi Kurdistan. They are not the children whose story I tell. 

This stint on team in Iraqi Kurdistan is my first summer and the first time I will experience Ramadan. My body is coping quite well with the nice, dry heat- so far up to 42 C. But I am feeling a little apprehensive about the unknowns of a month of practices that are integral to a faith that is not my own.

My team mates have given hints that our lives must change even though we are not fasting. Taking a swig from a water bottle in  public is considered rude and disrespectful. Many of our favourite restaurants are either closed during the fasting hours or have a white curtain that one must hide behind. The small alcohol shops are closed for the month. There will be many more occasions when I may have to wear a scarf.  And life is overall pretty quiet, with employees leaving work an hour or so earlier than usual. Then  at sundown, which is around 7 pm here,  activity in the streets will pick up and people will break their fast.

But I also wonder how Ramadan will affect the refugees and IDPs who rely on the small bits of money they can collect from those who are thirsty and hungry.

Around the corner from the CPT house sits an 8 year old boy - all day, everyday. His seat is the curb and in front of him are ten bags of homemade popcorn. He waits for sympathetic or hungry passersby to hand him a bit of paper money. He sits from morning to evening until the bags are gone, or it is dark enough to take his earnings home to his mother and siblings. His small amount of money helps to feed the family who are IDPs from the south..

Another small boy caught my attention in the bazaar. Apparently begging is illegal here so most of the many, many working children have something to give you for a donation. This 5-6 year old had a small styrofoam box with a bit of ice and 10 bottles of water. He stood holding a bottle as an example of his wares, for the masses of people passing by. I stopped. I had already bought one 500 ml bottle but had almost sucked it dry. I handed him a  small paper bill and bent to grab the top bottle. With a serious face he gently pushed my hand away and reached down to the bottom to give me the coldest bottle possible. I took it from him, put it on my hot face and said, "zor sarde/very cold". He finally smiled.

My discomfort with the unknown is not something that will harm me. I may be reprimanded for a faux pas. I may experience thirst in the hot sun that I am not used to. But I wonder about these little ones and the families that they support. How will Ramadan affect them?

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