Public service announcement: Why aren’t some people fasting?

It’s very quiet in the mornings at the moment. I guess after waking up at 4am to eat and pray for Ramadan you’re going to try to take a nap before work if you can. So the walk to work is far less crowded and there are delightfully fewer near misses with motorbikes. It also means that the people who are around notice the foreigner and stop for a chat.

About 50m from my house I walked into the first group of people I spoke to (by the end of the 10 minute walk I’d stopped and spoken to four groups). This group was six teenagers (four boys, two girls) all neatly arranged as if posing as “the bad kids” in Westside Story. The boys milled around and the girls were perched facing backwards on motorbike seats.

Conveniently, I incidentally took a photo of these kids (albeit from very far away) when I was taking a photo of the street outside my house.

Kids on my street

Kids on my street

I’m going to write the following exchange in Indonesian (with subtitles) so you can fully appreciate the humour of when the group jumped from Indonesian to English for my benefit.

As I approached the group, the youngest who looked about 10 but was probably 12 or 13 asked me “Miss, you smoking? You smoking?” Well…I not only got to refuse the kid but gave him a spiel about the dangers of smoking. He probably already smokes a pack a day, but the look of shock and bewilderment on his face when I said “Itu tidak sehat (it’s not healthy) etc etc” was enough to make me believe that he actually learnt something from my rant that the millions of dollars worth of cigarette advertising in Indonesia has failed to inform him of. (Not healthy? Really? But the advertisements tell me that smoking will help me play basketball?!)

Then we exchanged the “good morning”s and the “how are you”s and another boy asked me what was in my plastic bag. “Makanan (Food)” I replied (it was biscuits and noodles for lunch).

This was kind of the look on the boy’s face:

But with a little bit of this look as well:

(I’m not taking taking potshots at Bush here…This really is just the best photo of “confused” on google images.)

But to capture the “public service announcement” nature of this exchange, this photo does it best:

Accompanying this look, the boy said “Tapi puasa? (but fasting? as if to ask “but it’s fasting month so why do you have food?”)”

Sarah: Saya tidak puasa (I’m not fasting)

Boy: ??….??….?? (even more bewildered than before)

After a few seconds of stunned silence I said goodbye and kept walking to work. About 20 seconds later I heard, “miss!….MISS!…MISS!!!” So I turned around.


Sarah: Betul (correct)

Boy: Miss not Muslim…Miss…KRISTEN (Christian)!!

Sarah: Betul (correct) (Let’s have the discussion about why every white person in Indonesia is Christian by default another time…it’s quite interesting)

And as I continued up the road they waved and gave me thumbs up and smiles as if to say, now we understand! You’re Christian! Off you go then you little scamp! You go and eat your breakfast!

4 thoughts on “Public service announcement: Why aren’t some people fasting?

  1. benj

    A Muslim friend of mine informed me yesterday that she is in fact not fasting this week as she is on antibiotics for a throat infection. I wonder if that defence would hold water in Aceh, or more hard-core Islamic countries?

  2. sarahfortuna Post author

    There are all sorts of exceptions for fasting here.

    So far I’ve been told: If woman has her period she doesn’t have to fast but she does have to give some money to the poor and make up the days she missed later on in the year. If a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding she doesn’t fast but gives money to the poor (but doesn’t have to make up the days later). If you’re just generally unwell you don’t have to fast but you do have to give money to the poor (a different amount depending on who I talk to). So many clauses! I wonder how much they differ from place to place.

  3. Erika

    this website is stupid, why would you even ask that? sarah is obviously hiding and people arent fasting because they like to eat

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