Sunday, September 12, 2010

God-Sanctioned Month of Laziness

Fasting Ramadan would be awful if I had to wake up before noon and leave my house before 5pm and had actual important things to do. But since I don't, I've been accomplishing a lot of lying around and watching TV shows and movies. (Or, "reintroducing myself to American life and culture...") This year's Ramadan accomplishments include:
Season 3 of 30 Rock
Season 3 of How I Met Your Mother
Seasons 5 and 6 of West Wing
The past eight months of Infomania
2 books (making my book-to-tv-episode ratio is about 1:50, embarrassingly low)
At least fifteen hours of Spades, the card game, in its two-, three-, and four-person forms
Seven feature-length movies

In my defense, I start every day at noon, (or one or two pm) by stepping outside and contemplating leaving my house to go do something more useful, but invariably the super hot sun drives me back indoors and back into my nice soft bed. I attempt this venture several times throughout the afternoon, always retreating defeated, to more TV show watching, until 5, my official jogging time (which, in the lazy spirit of the month has turned into a casual walk/jog).

Learning to Pray Well with Others

The big event of this year's month of Ramadan was the opening of a women's prayer room in the mosque. Previously, the men would pray five times a day in the mosque while the women would have to pray in their own homes because they can't pray with men. So this room was a big deal, and for the past few months, all the women have been looking forward to finally being able to pray together in the mosque, and listen to the (equivalent of a) priest give the sermons. No one had any idea how much drama this room would create, however. Basically, a whole village of women have to figure out a set of norms for how to comport themselves in the mosque. Some women have never prayed in a mosque before, some have only when they've traveled to visit relatives living in cities, and everyone has a different idea for how one should act.

Questions that need to be resolved soon because they're making people upset:
• What should one wear to the mosque? When they pray in their own houses, women usually just wrap a sheet around themselves, but is that appropriate for a mosque or should women dress up in their fanciest jalabas?
• What's the appropriate pace for the prayer? Should everyone pray at the same speed since they're all together, or should everyone follow their own pace?
• Is it appropriate to leave once you're done, or do you have to wait until everyone finishes?
• Is it appropriate to bring your young children with you?
• Is it appropriate to answer your cell phone in the middle of the prayer?
• If you come late, should you just jump into the middle of the prayer or start from the beginning by yourself? Should you greet everyone or try to sneak in inconspicuously?
• Is it appropriate to talk amongst yourselves before/after the prayer, or should everyone leave in silence and not talk until they're outside?
• Are there "assigned seats?" Should you give up your place in the front row if one of the old and prominent ladies of the village comes in and wants it?
• Is it appropriate to correct an old lady who isn't following all the right prayer steps in the right order, or should you let her keep making the same mistakes?

As do most dramatic situations in this village, the mosque drama amuses me, as every single night after the evening prayer, the women come home and then spend the next hour ranting and gossiping about who was wearing what, or saying what, or doing what during the prayer, who greeted or didn't greet whom, who knelt next to whom, who came late or brought naughty children or did other shameful things. I've heard a couple of women swear they're never praying in the mosque ever again because of XYZ that so-and-so did. I suppose any big change requires some time to work out the norms, and for everyone to adjust the way they've been praying privately their whole lives to fit the new norms. This is an interesting time, and would be a fun study for some psychologist, because I'm sure that in a few weeks everyone will be following the new unwritten rules of prayer in the mosque as if they'd been praying there forever.