Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fasting, Friends, and Residents…

To day was a wonderful day! I had made the decision prior to the start of Ramadan that I would fast for at least one day so I could have a better understanding of what my students feel as they fast. Today was that day. To be honest, it was not bad; however, I realize 30 days would be rough. I did not mind not eating, but I did notice the change from not drinking. I am thinking about doing again on Thursday, and possibly doing a full week next year. It does not hold the religious significance with me that it holds with my residents, but it does help me understand and connect with the culture more fully. After fasting all day I broke my fast at the Residence Life Iftar.

Timika and Chris planned a wonderful Iftar that had chicken Shwarma, crepes, Indian food, and Arabic food. I loved the shwarma – I might eat if every other day. It is essentially a chicken wrap, but better. There were about 150 students that attended and they all ate a lot of food! Students were lined up about 30 minutes before the start of the meal. As most had not eaten all day, they were ready for the sun to go down. The room was set up with majilis seating (as seen in the picture) which provided a more comfortable environment for students to sit and talk with each other.

During the meal I was able to get to know several of my residents better. One of my residents, a sophomore, was excited to tell me about her engagement. She told me about the whole process and how culturally things are much different than the US. She is in her 1st engagement, which is a non-binding first step. After she gets to know the fiancĂ© better, they will enter in a binding, religious, 2nd engagement, and then will get married. I really enjoyed hearing about how the process worked and how she came to make her decision. She started by telling me that when his family proposed to her family, her parents initially said no as they felt she was too young and still in school. The other family had only met her once, but the mother knew she was the one, and the son felt that she was perfect fit. When the family kept asking, her parents asked her what she thought. She told them know because she was young and wanted to finish school. Again her family told this message to the other family. Over the summer she was able to meet with the son a few times and get to know him better. She surprised her parents by agreeing to the marriage only after ensuring she could finish school at the campus of her choice. She really likes that the marriage has the family support and connection and she was the one who was able to make the choice. After hearing her talk about everything, it sounds like a good process to me. I think we get it wrong in the US – you start searching on your own, find the one, then convince you family and friends he is the right one. Why not start with family and friends and build a relationship on that?

After a great conversation with my residents I was able to talk with friends. I am so happy I work with amazing people. The young professionals in my office and at the other institutions all are supportive and motivated. I am looking forward to getting to know them all better! Last night I was able to get to know a few better at a different Iftar. It is amazing that we all come from such different backgrounds and have ended up in the same place. After hearing one person’s story of her experiences living through a civil war, I felt much more blessed to have grown up in a settled suburb of Columbus. I know I am going to learn a lot from my new friends and co-workers while living in Doha.

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