Tag Archives: Ramadan

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!


Last night the local mosque was in full force. At around 5am (post 4am call to prayer) something started that sounded like a Transformer (robots in disguise) reading from the Koran with loud swooshing noises in the background like the theme music from Doctor Who. My trusty iPod drowned out the sound and I was asleep again in no time.

Then I had a dream about an earthquake. The Gilmore Girls and I were in a library and when a huge earthquake shook the foundations of the building I ever so quickly remembered my training and ducked under a desk.

When I woke up there was some serious rumbling going on, like perhaps the aftermath of a tremor? No one else felt it though, so I guess I can’t claim my first earthquake yet.

THEN, I woke up to this:

It was dying on the floor next to my bed. It was bigger than my bed actually. About 8 ft long.

Sleep should not be this eventful.

Buka Puasa during Ramadan

Last night I went to my first Buka Puasa, which is the breaking of the day’s fasting at sunset.

During Ramadan the routine seems to be:

4am: wake up and eat
5am: pray
6am-7am: maybe have a bit more sleep
7am-onwards: go to work for the day
4pm: Go home because you’re too hungry to concentrate
6.35pm: tuck in (finally)

At 6.35pm an almighty siren sounds out of every mosque. The first time I heard it I thought it was an air raid siren. Not good for the nerves at all.

Yesterday I went with two of my colleagues to the mosque at the Governor’s office to Buka Puasa with other gender-enlightened types and the kids from the local orphanage.

We listened to a couple of different people speak for about an hour and then at about 10 minutes before sunset people started setting out food in front of us. As the siren went we all dove in to the food, especially the water. You can imagine it is pretty nasty going without water for the whole day in this heat. Technically I didn’t fast yesterday, but I did skip lunch. I was so hungry!

By the way, I was in the mosque without a headscarf. This was quite acceptable at this time apparently, so while I wouldn’t recommend walking in to any mosque without a headscarf it was a nice reminder that in all things, including Islam, there are different strokes for different folks.