Another Week Passes By in Sumbawa: Sickness, Longing, and Doubt

As I started this post, I checked back on what I wrote on the last post, and I saw that I’m supposed to write about guy stuff. Maybe next time, I have other things on my mind right now.

I’ll be home in Bali in another 13 days. My does that sound good. This ten week period has been a long stretch with one medical problem after the next. After I recovered from the mini-stroke, I picked up the flu that has been raging through Indonesia, and I’ve been battling that for the past three weeks. This week I went in and taught all my classes and then went home thanks to my understanding principal and went to sleep. Actually, I don’t get sick all that often, but this term has been the exception. It could be age, but thinking back on it, I do have a hard time getting rid of the flu when I do get it, so maybe it’s just the luck of the draw. I have missed more school this term than I have in the past two years combined.

But then these problems could be related to the intense longing that I have to return home and get on with my life there. I miss the kids and my wife. I miss the house and the Bali Sea. I miss the little funky neighborhood that I call home. I miss my library and my afternoon naps. I miss my wife’s cooking. I miss the kids coming up to the third floor to watch the sun set with me while they yell at their friends down below in the kampung. I miss the howling kittens that are now probably cats. I miss the daily drive on my motorcycle with my wife to the local food shop to by the few imported foodstuffs that I treat myself with like cheese and olives. I miss living in a place where people are more concerned about life’s necessities than they are about the behavior of their neighbors.

This is my first Ramadan inside townsite –that strange mutilation of an allegedly multicultural town that’s been carved out the jungle here in Sumbawa. I’ve been a Muslim for ten years now, and Ramadan, for me, has always been a time of joy, joking, reflection, humility and learning. I spent my first four Ramadans in Pakistan where I was working when I became a Muslim. The school population was predominately Muslim with a few Christians –Pakistani and expat – but Ramadan was a time when the Muslims would talk about religion, about life, about what fasting meant to us, but without impacting the portion of the school population that was non-Muslim. The cafeteria stayed open during Ramadan, and Muslim teachers did cafeteria duty. Some of the Muslim kids ate lunch – most of the primary students and even some of the secondary students and teachers. It was never an issue. No one complained that they couldn’t fast because others were eating, and the part of the school population that ate did so as usual.
At our school here, the teachers that eat (Christians and others) are consigned to a tiny room at the back of the school where they huddle to eat their snacks and lunch. The students have to eat in a little area in the front of the school that is surrounded by a cloth banner so that the Muslim students won’t see them eating.
I don’t really understand this segregation. Muslims are supposed to be demonstrating discipline and self-restraint by fasting. Aren’t we strong enough to keep our fast even if someone else is eating. In my Muslim kampung in Bali, women spend the day cooking for the evening meal. Smells of roasting meat, baking cakes and sweets fill the air; everyone keeps their fast.

Ramadan should be a celebration, not an occasion to separate people.


~ by drbrucepk on September 4, 2009.

2 Responses to “Another Week Passes By in Sumbawa: Sickness, Longing, and Doubt”

  1. You have had a rough term mister! What I want to know is WHO is responsible for the farce of shielding the people who fast from the people who don’t for the second year in a row?

  2. Wow, I would love to hear the story of how you came to the decision to convert. It sounds fascinating! 🙂

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