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Wednesday, July 25, 2012


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Morning prayers
Written 7/24/12

On Java, well over 90% of the people follow Islam.  Followers are called Muslims.  Because most of the Indonesian population is Muslim, and this month is Ramadan, a significant difference in their lifestyle is taking place.   Islam began with Muhammad, who lived in Mecca and Medina in the 600s AD.  He is said to have been visited by the angel, Gabriel, who revealed to him the word of God (Allah).   Muhammad told the words of God, first to his family, then to his friends, and finally to his community.  One important message he carried was that there is only one god.  Before this, people in the Middle East worshiped many gods and placed images of them at a temple in Mecca said to have been built by Abraham.  Good Muslims do five important things.  They are called the Pillars of Islam.  First, they must declare the there is only one god.  His name is Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.  Second, Muslims must pray five times each day facing the city of Mecca, where the Kaaba (the temple Abraham built) is located.  Third, Muslims give charity.  Fourth, they fast during the month of Ramadan.  Finally, Muslims must participate in the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca where they perform tasks that recalls the life of Muhammad.  This  pilgrimage is only required if it is possible. 

Preparing meals for the evening break-fast
I am learning , first-hand, what Ramadan means to Muslim students.  At this school, a Madrasah (private religious school), students wake up in time to be present at an assembly by 3:00 a.m.  Prayer is said and sung, and announcements are made.  After this, since it is still dark, students may eat a morning meal.  Once dawn breaks, there will be no more eating or drinking until the fast is broken after the sun sets.  Still, the important school day awaits.  The first of four 90-minute classes begins at 7:30 a.m.  After second period, students get a 15-minute break.  Because students awoke so early, and because they are not eating, they usually sleep during the break.  I tried not to take it personally when I was teaching and noticed a couple of students nodding off.  J  I wonder if there is any effect on the learning. 
Though I am living at the school, I am not fasting.  I did think of trying it for a day or so, to be able to empathize with the sacrifice Muslims are making, but gave up that idea.  I take food and water in private if possible.  My hosts are very understanding and have cooked Nancy and I several meals even though they, themselves could not eat them.  In fact, the meals have been very tasty and the portions have been huge.  At this writing we have asked that they only cook dinner for us.  We have collected such a stash of food to snack on in our rooms, that we will need several days to finish it.

Note that cooking class takes place on campus during the day, even though the product may not be eaten until sunset.  Both the boys’ class and the girls’ class prepared food that smells wonderful.  After sun sets, grand meals are served, so preparations begin early.  Imagine having to prepare food that you can’t eat until dark.

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