Ramadan Day 6 Fast-ish

Dear Saimo,

It feels easier if I just write to you directly.

I didn’t fast yesterday because I was traveling to California. A hectic day. My flight from JFK was cancelled, so I hoofed it to Newark via Manhattan bus. There I purchased a few chocolate munchkins from Dunkin Donuts and got to Boston uneventfully. At the Boston terminal I realized my wallet was missing. Good news, I’d secreted away my ID for easy access.

In Boston, we were grounded for four hours, and save for a half hour, they kept us on the plane. I was so hungry that I started to get cold. I’m not fasting, so this is silly, I thought. I guess Allah had other plans. One fast can teach us about another.

I had two munchkins remaining, and a copy of the Qur’an. I parceled out the little donuts just like Sebastian from The Neverending Story. After we finally flew, the flight attendant kindly brought me a blanket and some chips. The story has a happy ending. My FB friends were cheerful and encouraging. The friends I texted asked me how they could help.

I landed around 1AM, Pacific Standard Time. I was looking for my sister and had just dialed her.  At the bottom of the escalator, I happened to turn, still scanning the crowd for my sister.  I saw an elderly Asian woman spiral sideways into the air. I thought she was going off to the railing and fall at least 10 feet, but instead she flew down a few steps, twisting her body until she was falling backwards. She landed on her back a few steps from the end, then seemed to fall again, down a few more steps to the bottom. Her head cracked like a shot on the metal floorboard.

She was right at my feet, her eyes closed. I yelled to everybody not to move her. So many people surrounded us. Somebody call 911!

Please don’t let her be dead, I thought. I saw my sister standing at the edge, holding a burger bag. It seemed a long time, and even though I kept asking for a doctor, nobody was.  The flights was so late that no airport personnel were around either.

Minutes later, she finally fluttered her eyelids.  Her eyes were glazed and milky. She had cracked her skull or maybe had a concussion. But people are always telling me not to move somebody suddenly who’s taken a spill. She tried to get up for a second, but just gave up when I pressed gently down on her shoulder. She groaned.

I tried speaking to her in Chinese, but she didn’t understand me. For a moment, I thought it was because my Chinese was so bad. I held her hand and smoothed back her hair. I asked her if she could speak English, but she spoke in a language I didn’t understand.  I asked the man with her if he spoke English, but he didn’t respond. He was looking around frantically.

When she fell, he just stood frozen at the mid-point of the escalator where she had lost her balance. He didn’t run to her or hold her or touch her. After some time, he walked slowly down.  When I said to maybe let her lie there while we waited for help, he went up and retrieved his suitcase.  He was so out of it, he almost hit her with the suitcase as he lugged it over her body.

Finally! A woman came forward and said she was a nurse. She said that the elderly lady could sit up if she felt she could, but not to let her stand. Of course she stood. A few members of the crowd helped her to the seat. By that point, the nurse seemed a way better person to help this woman.

I walked over in a daze to my sister who had a paper bag.  I brought you a chicken sandwich for your fast, she said.  That was so loud.  I thought somebody had thrown a piece of luggage down from the escalator.  I saw you standing there, and when you gestured toward me I realized you had forgotten that I’m not that kind of doctor.

The paramedics came, and I gave a statement about what I’d seen.  As I walked away, I said to the gentleman that I hoped the woman was okay. Thank you for staying with her, he said in perfect English.  Thank you she said, waving at me.

I think, or pray, that the woman will be okay.

When I got home and finally went to sleep, it felt great to be at home.

My mom started steaming some pork and leek dumplings.  Mom! I don’t eat pork during Ramadan!

I thought you weren’t fasting while you’re traveling, she said

My sister said, Well, are you Muslim or not? Don’t eat it. The nuttiness of the situation made me laugh. I felt so happy that my mom was cooking for me.

At 3AM in the morning, listening to my sister and my mother discussing the commonalities of kosher eating and eating halal, I felt loved. Back when they made a lot of these food bans, my sister lectured (she’s good at research), those rules were made because people thought pigs were unclean. Do you really think they apply anymore? My mom said, I’m taking you to Fatima tomorrow – they’re so delicious.

Oh yes, the Ti’s always used to fast, my mom said.

Yeah, isn’t he a Huigar? my sister asked.

I’ll buy you some chicken dumplings tomorrow, my mom said.

No, I didn’t eat the pork dumplings.

Instead, I ate the second burger my sister bought me, and she ate the dumplings with my mom.

I was home, safe and sound.



Think of Others



As you prepare your breakfast, think of others.

Don’t forget to feed the pigeons.

As you conduct your wars, think of others.

Don’t forget those who want peace.

As you pay your water bill, think of others.

Think of those who only have clouds to drink from.

As you go home, your own home, think of others

don’t forget those who live in tents.

As you sleep and count the planets, think of others

there are people who have no place to sleep.

As you liberate yourself with metaphors think of others

those who have lost their right to speak.

And as you think of distant others

think of yourself and say

“I wish I were a candle in the darkness.”















قُلْ: ليتنيشمعةُفيالظلام



– Mahmoud Darwish (*translator unknown)




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