Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr 2021: Still in the US amidst the Pandemic

I remember I wrote about Ramadan last year, so I guess I want to write one this year too πŸ™‚

This year I spent Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr still in the US and still amidst the pandemic. And there were things a bit different from last year. Covid is still there, but maybe things have got a bit better? I mean, especially because many people have been vaccinated here so we kinda could slowly go back to “normalcy”, e.g. having a little gathering with few people. And maybe this is one that is really different from last year. Last year I did tarawih completely alone at home because the Islamic Center of Tucson (ICT) couldn’t hold the event at the mosque since such gatherings were banned due to Covid. But this time we were allowed to pray Tarawih at the mosque under some conditions, e.g. we’ve got to keep social-distancing and mandatory mask-wearing.

I was so happy when I found out that this year I could do tarawih with others at the mosque because this would be my last year doing it in Tucson, AZ, USA, so I really wanted to savor this last experience doing tarawih together at the mosque. I guess I kinda romanticized about it? Walking alone to the mosque and often in a rush, praying together, and walking back alone to my apartment pretty late at night, feeling so serene and peaceful. I love those feelings because I don’t think I could do it later when I am back at home in Indonesia. Well, I know it would be a lie if I said I wasn’t concerned and afraid at all. I mean, while personally I think living in Tucson, AZ is very safe and convenient, but reading the news about Asian hate, shooting, etc. in other states has of course made me anxious. After all, I’m a triple minority here: Woman, Asian, Muslim. I should emphasize that thankfully I feel very safe and appreciated here in Tucson. But I couldn’t deny and invalidate what other minorities have experienced in other states in the USA. I mean, just because it doesn’t happen to me, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen at all, right? So, yeah, maybe you could kinda imagine how I am feeling about saying all of these?

I mean, I’ve just got this conversation with an acquaintance back in Indonesia. Muslims are the majority there, so I always try to ask people to be nice and kind to people that are parts of the minority. But this acquaintance of mine just turned defensive and said that those who were racists were just a few and that in general the minority could worship peacefully in a place where Muslims were the majority but when Muslims were the minority, they did not allow us to worship peacefully. They added that the incidents happening to the minority were just small cases but the media kinda blew it up. And somehow that upset me. I mean, of course I know that many, so very many Muslims are nice and kind, so many more than those who are mean, bad, or evil. But trivializing such bad incidents happening to our minority friends believing we are really tolerant and peaceful so we should not make a big deal of it was too mean and ignorant. There were cases where people were bombed while praying at the churches; there were cases where people could not worship even at their own houses, there were cases where it was made complicated for people of other religions to build their house of worship. But we the majority do not have to go through all that. So how can we turn a blind eye to those happening to the minority? Can’t you envision yourself as the one being persecuted? Do you think I am thinking the way I think now because I have experienced being a minority in other places? But I don’t think we have to be a minority to emphasize with others. I think it is just sad that these ignorant people can empathize with other Muslim minorities in other countries but failed to emphasize with the non-Muslim minority in our own country. I know it’s not nice to acknowledge that some people claiming to be Muslims did such horrible things. We don’t want to be lumped together with them. I get it. But to be completely in denial about their existence and just shrugging it off is just too much. I mean, won’t they be the same as those Islamophobic Americans who think that the incidents with Muslims were just a few and that there were many more Americans who were kind, and thus we should dismiss those threatening-to-Muslim incidents? I think they are equally bad and evil. They are just at a different end of the spectrum. Won’t it be better to just admit that there are the evil ones, that we resent them, and that we should do something about them? Am I making sense?

Well, okay, back to my Ramadan experience this year. So yeah, I was excited about doing tarawih at the mosque. I even did pre-registration for it because they said it would be a “first come first serve” thing so I thought I would not be allowed to join the prayers when it’s already full and I didn’t want that. But, well, I guess I anticipated too much. LoL I guess not everyone was too eager to pray tarawih at the mosque like I did, either due to Covid or other causes. But to put it simply, not many people actually showed up to pray at the mosque, especially not women.

On the first night of tarawih prayer, I thought ICT would send me an email about it or if there was some attendance list service to check if we have pre-registered or not and such, but there wasn’t any of that. When I came, some people were confused. The entry to the woman’s place was closed and it said that we had to use the main entrance. Someone seemed confused and thought that maybe we should use the back door so I just went along, but in the end we had to use the main entrance at the front. When I came in, there were really few people and very few women. It wasn’t even full as usual or the previous years. I saw that some people weren’t wearing masks properly. And even though there were marks or stickers that told us where to sit or stand to pray so we could keep the social/physical distance, some people actually didn’t really care about it. Well, basically I was fine and not worried about Covid especially because I had been vaccinated. But, ugh, I just kinda found it disturbing to think that they did not conform to the rules and just did as they pleased. I mean, it made it look kinda disorganized and that bothered me. I wished the imam would continuously remind the jamaah/the mass/followers to keep their distance and sit only at the designated rows with the sticker. Alas, I know that maybe I should tell them myself, but I was too lazy for that so maybe I didn’t have the right to complain. Oh, well…

Well, at first we started the prayers at 8.30 pm so I left my apt for the mosque around 8.10ish. But later as Maghrib came later, the prayers were also started later at 8.45 pm. We usually finished around 10 pm or 10.30 pm, which I thought was much faster than the previous years, when we finished around 12 pm because we had aimed to finish reading the Quran in one month. But this year they said that we would not finish reading the Quran for the one-month tarawih because they had to finish faster. Perhaps because of Covid, we were not allowed to gather (in a big crowd) for a long time. But, of course, I had no problems with that. The faster the better. Hahahaha

But, well, I didn’t always do tarawih at the mosque this year, though. There were times when I did tarawih at home because I wanted to focus on my dissertation and I felt like it was too time-consuming to prepare to go and walk to the mosque so I just stayed home to save some time. But, well, I actually preferred doing tarawih together because it just happened once in a year. Besides, I could not tell if I did tarawih correctly or if it would be accepted if doing it alone. Hahaha Also, maybe because it has been a bit since when I was at home in Indonesia, I always had tarawih together with my family or my other Muslim friends. So it has become something I looked forward to every year πŸ™‚

But I guess, I wasn’t the only one who skipped doing tarawih at the mosque. I noticed that the people who came were not always the same people. I could tell even though everyone was actually wearing a mask. I guess that’s because there were not so many people this time? ^^

And then, something else that was different this year was that nobody gave me Indonesian food for Iftar like last year so I had to cook my own meal most of the time. Haha Well, only one Indonesian family, one that I thought of mother here, gave me some food at the beginning of Ramadan. And then, I had iftar together with the Indonesian Muslim community once. I didn’t remember having it last year. So I was happy because I got to eat healthy, nutritious, and various delicious Indonesian food and bring the leftovers home for the next iftar and suhoor. Xixi Also, we had this group of 4-5women where we agreed to do video-call every day to read the Quran together. Everyone was so enthusiastic at the beginning and I was anxious because I was worried that I would make a mistake reading the Quran. However, I guess I was doing fine πŸ˜‰ But, anyway, near the end, everyone got busier that someone or two people could not join and so we stopped midway. Haha I love their enthusiasm in trying to read the Quran and be a better Muslim, though. God bless them πŸ˜‰

Another difference, well, I kinda took a break from Instagram. I still opened it once in a while but I didn’t really post any. I could finally finish my whole dissertation draft, though. But then I got busy with other things like manga and anime. LOL, me :p

And then Eid al-Fitr. My parents and my sister video-called me on the last day of Ramadan. Because of the time difference, it was already Eid in Indonesia when I still had to wait for my last iftar even though Eid happened on the same day: Thursday.

On the last day of Ramadan, I attended a class I was sitting in (my Chair’s class). It was the last meeting of the semester. I had to take a some-minute break during the class to do my prayers and ate my iftar because the class started at 7 but maghrib was not until 7.15 pm, so yeah, it was kinda hard. And, well, actually I skipped the previous meetings because I just wanted to focus on finishing my whole dissertation draft. I was just sitting in, anyway… But someone wished us a Happy Eid during their presentation and it made me happy πŸ™‚

But to be honest, I felt so bad in general. I was sleep-deprived. I skipped suhoor a few times too because somehow I woke up late so I had to fast without eating suhoor. I went to bed past midnight and somehow it got more difficult to wake up early. And after the dawn prayers, I went back to sleep and didn’t wake up till noon. I didn’t feel good about it. I couldn’t say I was depressed since we are not allowed to self-diagnose but my study and the thought of the future was really stressing me out, making me feel anxious… But well, let’s not talk too much about it, though.

So Eid a-Fitr. Thankfully this year we were allowed to gather and have the mass prayer at Reid Park. Last year there wasn’t any so I joined the prayer of an Indonesian Muslim family here πŸ™‚ So I guess we kinda really and gradually went back to normalcy?

An Indonesian acquaintance picked me up (you know I don’t have a car, right? So I often rely on others for a ride πŸ™ˆβœŒ). A Malaysian friend also tagged along. My Indonesian acquaintance was late though. They said they’d pick us up around 7.30 am but they came at 7.50 am. And of course I have showered and all before that. Wohoo Well, the prayer itself would start at 9 am, as said in the flyer. The takbeer would start at 8.30 am. So it didn’t really matter that they weren’t on time since we wouldn’t be late. (Plus, it’s an “Indonesian timing system”. LoL) But, well, we kinda went around as they only said it would be held at Reid Park. But Reid Park was so huge it really took us some time before we finally found the exact location. We even called an acquaintance who was part of the Eid prayer committee so they could guide us to the exact place. LoL

When we arrived, we parked the car. We were kinda early, though, because from my apartment to Reid Park, it actually takes less than 15 minutes. And when we went to the park, my, it looked like a mess. Gosh, this is one of the things that I don’t really like about being a Muslim in a foreign country because it’s just unorganized. I mean, in Indonesia, our prayers, especially when it comes to big mass prayers like this one, it’s usually organized. People would gather in very neat rows. (Not sure how it is now that we’ve got Covid, though). But here it was a mess. The rows were not neat at all. People just took a spot randomly. And the committee didn’t even provide a tarpaulin or something when the grass was still wet! Gosh. And the committee (on the last night of tarawih prayer at the mosque) actually said that they were going to provide masks for those who didn’t bring one. But guess what? Some people, especially children, were not wearing masks and they just let them be. Gosh, ain’t that dangerous? Well, I am fully vaccinated, so I wasn’t really concerned. Still, … Gosh, I’m feeling bad for writing and complaining about all these. It feels like badmouthing behind their back, but let me just continue a bit more ✌ I mean, they said they’d start the prayers at 9 am. But nope, they started it late. And it was so noisy because some kids were crying and it’s hard to hear the Imam. So maybe my Eid prayers were in vain since I couldn’t really concentrate. But what’s more, littering! Some kids were littering! Some people gave away some candies and chocolates, which I also got. But some kids just ate them and littered. They didn’t keep the wraps and throw them into the trash bin properly. So it became so dirty. Gosh, this is so wrong.

I just resented all of these. I mean, Islam teaches a lot of good things, but we Muslims often do not practice them. Islam asks us to keep each other healthy, but many of us do not seem to care about this pandemic. Islam teaches us to value time, but a lot of us are often late and not on time. Islam forbids us to litter and damage the environment, but many of us litter nonchalantly and have no care for nature, not only here, but also back at home in Indonesia. So, I really don’t know what’s wrong. “Don’t judge the book by the cover”, I know. But sometimes people can only afford to look at the cover. And we Muslims are the covers of Islam, right? We should set a good example! So why? But, ugh, I’m not saying I’m better than them other Muslims, no. Because, well, look, I might be wrong too. For example, instead of telling them to pick up their trash or picking it and throwing it into the trashbin myself, instead of helping to clean the place, I wrote about it here. So I’m sorry. But hey, there were too many! And I’ve got another thing to attend to! So my apologiesπŸ™

Well, after the prayers finished, we got some snacks for free. I guess the committee provided them? There were various kinds of things: Toys for children, snacks for adults, etc. And by the way, we took lots of pictures πŸ˜€ Well, I did. Haha

Then, we went to the fun part: Open House, i.e. gathering with few Indonesian Muslims and eating Indonesian Eid food! Yaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy! Usually, the host invited all Indonesians in town, Muslims or not, but because of the pandemic, they kinda wanted to keep the gathering small, so they invited only the Indonesian (and Malaysian and Singaporean) Muslims. Well, there were just a few of us. Hhe But well, we really had fun! We ate various kinds of delicious food, cakes, and drink. We did karaoke, singing tons of songs, from Dangdut, pop, Indonesian, English, Batakese, Malay, Javanese, etc. It was fun. And I sang some songs too! And perhaps it was the first time we gathered and had fun like this since the pandemic started. I stayed till afternoon. We went back home around 4.30 pm because my Malaysian friend had to attend their virtual graduation. But, again, it was fun πŸ™‚

On my way back home, my parents video-called me through WhatsApp. I told them I was still on my way back home and then I showed them the road we were passing. They looked so happy saying it felt like they were going to the US too! Then when I arrived back at my apartment, I called them back. I apologized and all. Well, the Eid tradition, you see. (Even though we actually did a video call the day before because it’s already Eid at home. Time difference!πŸ™ˆ) They asked bout who gave me a ride, how kind they were, etc. I also showed them how much food I brought back home (the leftovers from the Eid celebration!) and they laughed. But well, I can be awkward with people, but I kinda feel that I can always have something to talk about with my family^^

Well, I guess that’s all for this year’s Ramadan’s and Eid’s story? Now I have to finish revising my last chapter. Hiks Please wish me luck so I can finish it asap πŸ™

Last but not least: Happy Eid to everyone who celebrates. Pardon me for any posts that have hurt or inconvenienced you in any way. Hopefully, we can be a better and happier person onward till we meet the next Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Also, don’t forget to forgive ourselves too^^ Eid Mubarak!

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