Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Where to Start?!

**Please take care to be sensitive to my online status and that of many of my friends in the region. Note the special words and abbreviations I use and please follow suit. This helps my friends in the region and I participate in projects like this blog, giving us the security, confidence and comfort to read and comment. Thank you!

I’ve spent a majority of my college years studying and learning about the majority religion, Is. as I’ll call it, and one of the most interesting things I’ve learned while being here is that many people don’t know what they believe or why they believe it. And to take it even a step further and get all academic on you, it’s amazing to consider that the choice of beliefs and lifestyles is not actually a choice for my friends. The idea of a choice is not really thought of, and if it is, it is usually not acceptably attained. And so, when a religion and belief system is strictly adhered to and straying or even asking questions holds severe consequences, I turn out to be a curious friend to have around.

Ya see, the thing about me is that I love asking questions—especially of women who have much to say, but no audience. Rama, as I’ll call this ninth month of the Is. lunar calendar, is an excellent time to be a foreigner in my city. I love playing dumb so that’s exactly what I do, but let’s be honest: all my questions are leading the witness. I go to my friends and say, “So, what’s Rama? Can you tell me about it? What do you do? Why? Am I supposed to, too?” And so begin hour-long conversations where these beautiful, intelligent women get to be the expert. It makes my heart sing to just give them attention and respect, to challenge them to know what they believe and be able to articulate it in English [God bless them] to a foreigner who believes differently.

Truth be told, only a small number of my friends are actually sure of their religion and traditions. They will quietly admit to me that they don’t know what things mean or represent or why they do them, they just do because that’s what their families do and everyone else in the neighborhood, and it’s what their religious leaders expect, as well as their Holy Book. So I often back down and turn it personal.

I’m so glad you asked how I do this.

Well, the first time I meet a new friend, I’m sure to ask her about dreams. Nothing in particular, just dreams that she has. Dreams are intensely vibrant in this culture as they are respected as a way that God communicates and shows Himself. I love this. And what I love even more is that they don’t think I’m weird. No. They gladly welcome this question and tell me about the dreams that they have. And there you have it. Now every time after that, I throw it in there. “Hi! How are you? How’s your health? How’s your family? You mom? Your dad? Your siblings? Your kids? Have any dreams lately? How’s school? Work? Your favorite soccer team?” See? You didn’t even catch it.

In my first weeks here, I was sharing with a veteran worker how I loved hearing about how Mus. have been changed because the Son approaches them in a dream. And she shared this with me:

“Sarah, always ask them, very casually, about the dreams they have. Sooner than you think, they will have a dream about you. You’ll be standing in a green field, wearing white, glowing. They’ll come and talk to you about it. In fact, every time they have a substantial dream, they’ll think to come talk to you since you’ve expressed an interest.” I was like—Pssshh!!!!! No way, lady. Ok, yeah, in like 5 years. Cool.

But no. Just three weeks later, I was with a family, and the daughters, all in their teens and early twenties, were with Roommate [see previous post] and me, dancing in their living room, and one of the girls turned to me and gasped, “Oh! Ya Sarah!! I almost forgot! I had a dream about you!!!”

“Whhhhaaaa?! Really?” I replied all stunned. “Well… did I look pretty?” I joked with her.

She rushed to me, very excitedly, and explained, “You weren’t smiling. Your face was calm, but you weren’t mad. But you were walking, in a green field, all by yourself toward something. The sun must have been very bright because you were really shiny and you were wearing a white dress, like a wedding dress. And you just kept walking.”

I think at this point I peed my pants. We kept talking, me asking questions, her having short responses while continuing to dance and laugh and smile. She asks me what I think it means. Well, green is a holy color of Is. So I was in a place of holiness, and wearing a wedding gown, Roommate and I took the opportunity to talk about how the Son has come to take all our shame from us, allowing us to be washed white… you get the idea.

Dreams are significant. They’re paid attention to. And they’re personal. No one can tell you that your dream is wrong, in my opinion and practice. Why do I share this to introduce you to Rama? Well, here’s the basics you should know:

Rama: A month where Mus. draw closer to God through fasting, prayer, giving to the poor, reading their Holy Book a lot and just being overall more religious. They don’t eat, drink or smoke from sunrise to sunset. At the Call to Prayer at sunset, they break their fast with a few dates and a lentil soup. And a huge meal. They continue to eat all night with their friends and family, watch a lot of TV, pray and read their Book. Again they wake early, before sunrise and eat more before that Call, before they can’t consume anything for the rest of the day. It’s a brutal change of schedule on the body, mind and soul. In general, everyone sleeps more, especially during the day, gains weight and is cranky. Shops keep different hours and the whole country is pretty quiet during the day. Only children, the elderly, pregnant women and menstruating women are exempt from the Fast. The women have to make up the days of menstruation or pregnancy. As a foreigner, I have to publicly fast. It is completely unacceptable and perhaps illegal for me to eat or drink in public. [There are rumors among the foreigners that say it’s illegal for us to, but out of respect and maybe fear that some grumpy locals would jump me, I refrain.]

Please be thinking of our region for the next month. It’s an incredibly important and hot month, one that I approach with caution and hope. God is strong. And He wants to be known. I’m praying for lots and lots of dreams for my friends, and my friends’ friends. Won’t you join me?

My favorite little “mini-market” that I go to almost everyday.
CLOSED. You can’t eat or drink, so you might as well not even be able to buy.
They’re makin' me be a good neighbor.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts on the special month. I was just sitting down to write a post on this myself. I guess it's something you can't miss living around here.

    I really like the idea of actively ASKING people about their dreams. I'm going to use that idea. Thanks.

  2. We lived in Montreal for a few years and some of our friends were from N. Africa - immigrants to Canada. Dreams were the key things in their lives that changed everything. They were fascinating to listen to. Definitely something that does not happen in every culture. Will be thinking about you and my other friends who live in your area during this crucial month. We live in a Catholic country; many of our national co-workers had never even heard of Ram.! So we've been educating them so they know how to think for you guys in other parts of the world.

  3. Oh, I think I serve in the wrong country. I have some many dreams I'd love to share with some one! Be praying for you this month and that all your friends have incredible dreams about searching for real peace!

  4. OT: I need to become a blog reader. Is it okay for me to admit that I don't read blogs? Whoopsies. I'm checkin you out, promise. Please--let me know how the deliberately asking about dreams goes. I so enjoy it. It's an intimate thing I tell ya. Again, thank you for your continued blogging friendship--I really appreciate you. :)

    TTAH: What up. I'm so glad other people are fascinated by this--isn't it amazing? I love when my worldview is dominated by the beauty of another's. Thanks for spreading the education help! It's Good work. :)

    AM: Girl, get a penpal or somethin. Just move. We love visitors & resident tourists. Dreams are totally cool. Come share.



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