August 18, 2010

Name: Major Dan
Posting date: 8/18/10
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog: AfghaniDan

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 1
Moon rising over Kabul, from the roof of the Interior Ministry.

It's the wee early morning of Day 5 of Ramazan here (the rest of the Islamic world says Ramadan, but Afghanistan does it her way).  And I'm here to tell ya, people -- it ain't easy.  Not that going without food and liquids of any sort (yes, water included) sounded easy, but a fast is a fast.  So a few colleagues and I figured that if our Afghan partners were observing, then we could too.  It really is a fascinating experience so far. By night, after iftar (the break-fast dinner after sundown) we feel quite alright.  But those hunger pains during the morning and all afternoon definitely make you see why you it's a pretty big deal when Eid finally rolls around at the end of 30 days.

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 2

These guys could JAM. Seriously. Lacking Ramazan photos, I chose scenes from an incredible dinner in Kabul
two months ago.

Why are we doing it?  Primarily for the aforementioned reason: Our hosts do it, and our mission is to work closely with them in order to help build their capacity.  We gain some newfound or maybe even enhanced respect from some of our dostaam (friends) by fasting along with them, and are looking to plan an iftar together here and there.  It really is a joyous occasion to eat and drink finally each evening (Ah, Gatorade! Ah, mystery meat!), and the communal feel of doing it with others is very rewarding.  Even the sudden and unexpected calling to a meeting with a general -- right when you're heading to iftar! -- can't dampen the spirits too much when you know that food sweet food, and quenching liquid goodness, await eventually.

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 3

Now THAT is eating well, Afghan style. Six separate meat dishes represent, on one plate.

Each of us has our priorities and rationale for taking part, I suppose.  Just among the few Americans known to be observing the fast here, there is at least Christian, Buddhist and agnostic representation.  But it presents a spiritual opportunity for those who choose to see it that way -- and one rewarding result is the chance to learn a whole lot more about the practice and traditions of a religion adhered to by a quarter of the world's population.  In addition to fasting and abstinence, there is emphasis upon refraining from gossip, swearing, fighting, lusting (yeah, no problems here), and holding grudges.  Encouraged are charity, charity, and more charity -- and seeking of forgiveness.  So, not bad things to strive for over a month of cleansing.  In these and other ways, there are of course striking similarities to traditions of other religions.

Alright, I'm sounding preachy, so it's time to sign this one off.  But I hope to, at the very least, keep things interesting for you always, readers.  At least as interesting as a Kabul-based assignment can be!

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 4

My dining companions that night: Spokesman/celeb Bashary, Shamshad TV, police protection, and my peeps from NTM-A. More from the Serena:

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 5

Pretty unreal that a true 5-star luxury hotel lies beyond the blast walls of a traffic circle.

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 6

My main man Joe classin' up the joint...

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 8

Marble everything; again, I walked around stunned at the opulence that I didn't think possible anywhere in Afghanistan today.

Framed AFGHANIDAN Ramazan 9

His hair, as always, was perfect. (Bashary's, that is, not the maniacs flanking him.)


Hi Major Dan,
I've been trying to fast too, on bread and water, but haven't been successful. I think the bread available in the U.S. isn't substantial enough. I admire your discipline, but I guess that comes fairly easy to you guys (and gals)over there.

Great blog. Sounds like a great experience, especially when it is shared by so many people at the same time.

Greetings from Fargo, ND

Fascinating adventure. Please let us know how it goes - easier or harder? My Yemeni news vendor says it gets easier, but I'm not sure.

Hi Major Dan,

It's hard to imagine going without water all day! Food - yes, water - no. It's good to know there are people there willing to learn from someone else's point of view. Love the pictures, too. Now I understand the mystery meat reference... :)

A college student from Bangladesh told me that it was common to beginning training for the fast at age six. He was very dedicated and scheduled to play soccer with a visiting team during the fasting time. I knew that it is permissable to take a day away from fasting and asked him to please keep that in mind.

Student trainers were on hand for the match with liquids and information. All went well.

Thank you for this post. You are indeed strengthening the bonds. Thank you for your openness as well.

I have always wanted to try fasting but never been able to fully complete the task. I can't imagine not eating for that long and on top of that no water. I dont think i would have made it, but I definately think it is great to experience other cultures views and beliefs.

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