Muslims follow the 5 pillars of Islam: Swarm: Fasting during Ramadan. Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca. Zakat: Giving to the poor. Salat: 5 daily prayers and Shalada: Belief in one God. Ramadan follows the 9 month Islamic calender and is based on the sighting of the new moon. Like Christians Easter, it moves around 12 days each year.
During Ramadan adult Muslims are expected to fast from dawn until dusk. This time is meant to be used praying, practising spirituality, charity and giving alms to the poor. Muslims are obliged to give charity to the poor through Sadaqa which is voluntary giving or Zakat, mandatory.
Breastfeeding women, pregnant women, menstruating women the sick and the frail are exempted from Ramadan but are expected to make up the days throughout the year before the next Ramadan comes. But many persist despite these conditions because of their spiritual needs. Some people who suffer with undiagnosed kidney problems can get seriously ill due to the restriction of water in hot countries like Gambia. Children are also exempted, but try and emulate their elders but often sneak off and drink water when no one is looking.
In the British summertime Ramadan fasting hours can last as many as 16 hours, and up to 22 hours in northern Polar regions. While the fasting hours in Gambia remain the same no matter what month Ramadan appears (due to our proximity to the equator and dawn and dusk remain within 30 minutes all year round) the heat and humidity between the months of May to November make fasting and going without water very hard indeed.
The 9th month of the Islamic calender is believed by Muslims to be when God or Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur’an to prophet Muhammed. Muslims fast during Ramadan to remind them of self-control, of what it is like for the poor who have little to eat and drink and to purify their body and spirit. In addition to fasting, Muslims are expected to refrain from pleasures like smoking and sex. The purpose of Ramadan and abstaining from behaviours like gossiping, lying, insulting, cursing or sinful behaviour means their prayers and fasting are amplified in the eyes of God.
Week 1 of Ramadan went smoothly for Sol, in effect it is reversing your eating to the night and although not asleep, the fasting to the day. The heat and humidity is the worst. Lots of Gambians, Sol included eat a dish called Churah which is pounded maize or rice mixed with pounded groundnut, tons of sugar and boiled until no water is left. It is served cold. Sol wakes up at midnight, 2 am and 4 am and 5.30 am to eat this before his fast begins at 5.45am.
Water has been a nightmare this year more that normal. Not one drop of water now for 3 whole days and nights. We usually store water in bottles, pans, buckets and even an old dustbin brought from UK so we have water to wash, wash the dishes, clean the floor, bathe and water the dogs with. It has all gone, so if no water tonight between our allotted time of 3-5am we are screwed. Looks like we will be buying mineral water to wash our faces and the dirty dishes. The dogs will be happy at least!
If you think this is a major inconvenience for us, which of course it is. Imagine what it is like for our neighbours. They squat on empty land and sleep in a handmade shack with their 5 kids. Mum is pregnant with number 6! Although our money is really tight due to medical bills ( more on that later) at least we can buy bottled water. This family have nothing and no money to buy bottled water and no well in our “street”. This morning the mum walked 1 mile to draw water from the nearest well, carried it back on her head to have enough water to bathe the kids. I asked her if she was fasting, as pregnancy is an exception. Yes, but “not through choice, we have no food” was her reply.
I have had a bad back since falling off a horse in my riding instructor days, when the horse spooked, then fell landing on me and my back. I’m on long term paid meds for this so am used to having a bad back and being in constant pain. We are now talking a whole new level of excruciating pain. I was bent over the dogs extracting mango worms from their skin (separate post about bugs coming soon) when an invisible assailant took a samurai sword and swiped it across my lower back. Somehow I managed to hobble, as my right leg seems to have stopped working to my bed where I doubled up all my usual pain meds.
The next day we had to go to Banjul for a meeting. During that meeting I had to sit on a “chair” of Gambian style. By the time we were done 3 hours later I was in tears and totally immobile. First stop the private clinic where they diagnosed and treated my Leptospirosis earlier in the year. Within 30 minutes I had been triaged, assessed, had Two X-Rays, one IV morphine and the Dr diagnosed herniated L4 and L5 lumbar discs along with a twisted lower spine. I am not about to let a Gambian trained surgeon go anywhere near my spine with a scalpel. Even IF they had the facilities, which they do not.
My UK Osteopath is going to have to do something with this and I pray it doesn’t necessitate an operation. The two slipped discs are bad enough but with the twisted spine; I am not sure what is next…I just know my games of TWISTER are over! It couldn’t come at a worse time. June is our busiest month with registering kids, kids graduating and moving to new schools, paying fees and getting uniforms on order * we can’t get the uniforms made now as the kids grow over the summer and by September they will be too small*.