First Ramadan in America

by Adinda Aisyah Nindyani

Maybe, if I don’t get this opportunity, I will never know what it’s like to enjoy suhoor and breaking my fast tens of thousands of kilometers away from my family, without my mother’s voice or the echoes of takbeer that wake me up at dawn, or as simple as breaking my fast with rice and sweet iced tea that became such a special menu for me.

My name is Adinda Aisyah Nindyani, usually called Adinda. I come from the border area between Indonesia and Malaysia, Sanggau Regency, West Kalimantan. I am an awardee Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Study, a 10-month student exchange program for high school students/equivalent that is fully funded by the U.S. Department of State. During the program, I live with a host family who are local people. I also attended American public school as a senior (12th grade in high school) at Westfield High School, Westfield, Indiana.

Ramadan and celebrating Eid al-Fitr here was one of my main concerns before I finally officially leaving and living life as a Muslim student in America. The very small Muslim population plus no acquaintances here at all makes everything ‘look’ worrying. But, don’t we never know how’s it feels until we really feel it?

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I and host family have different religions and beliefs, almost all of my school friends are here too. They never knew what ‘Ramadan’ was before and this is what made me realize the beauty of tolerance. Slowly I explained about Ramadan, what needed to be done and why as a Muslim I had to do it, which was then greeted with great enthusiasm by them.

Especially my host family, they always try to make sure I get enough energy for suhoor and breaking the fast by helping me prepare food, vitamins, and so on. Because, as we all know, as a minority, the joy of Ramadan is certainly not felt here. I still go to school from 8.35 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, followed by sports practice after school which makes me come home at around 9 in the evening. Often I have to break my fast in the middle of practice and I’m very grateful because of my coaches really appreciate that. They even light up timer so if I’m still playing on the field and it’s time to break the fast, they will call me to the side of the field and take a short break to break the fast.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the duration of fasting in America. I can say that I’m quite lucky because this year’s fast falls in early spring, so the span of duration is only about 14 hours and a half, starting with imsak around 6 in the morning and maghrib at 8.30 in the evening. Even though it’s still longer than Indonesia, if fasting falls in the summer like in previous years, the duration of fasting here can be up to 15-16 hours or even more.

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At school, I have several other Muslim friends who are members of the Muslim Student Alliance. We try to educate residents in schools about matters related to Muslims through various kinds of fun and interesting activities such as celebrating the world hijab day, outreach about Ramadan, games, and many more. Having friends who are fighting the same path is always very helpful and I am grateful for that.

Another good thing that I’m grateful for is meeting fellow Indonesians here! Her name is Shinta, I accidentally met her while followingspeech competition. He lives 30 minutes from my town, we went to different schools. However, his family often picked me up and we spent a lot of time together. It’s enough for me to treat my longing for Indonesian food because Shinta and her family often cook it like rendang, curry, opor, meatballs and many more. They introduced me to the Indonesian community, which turned out to be quite a lot in Indiana. I have also broken my fast and sahur with them several times and we will celebrate Eid together.

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It felt challenging at first, but I’m actually very grateful because this will be an extraordinary story and experience for me in the future.

Written by

Syiar Islam dan Puasa

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