A different view

Our first work day of the Holy month of Ramazan started with a ceremony that included a long recitation from the Holy Qu’ran, followed by prayers to usher in this month of daytime fasting. I had forgotten about the event and had rushed down at the last minute. With such ceremonies I never know whether I should attend them, out of respect, or whether I should not be there. I asked one of my female colleagues whether I should quickly go to my office to get my chador to cover my head, to which she replied, “yes, it would be better.” And so I sat there with my head covered listening to the slow, long, nasal cadence of the recitation, wondering how long it took the young man to learn to do it so flawlessly.

Gifts were handed out at the end, a booklet, I presume with prayers, and boxes with dates – the food with which the fast is broken. And then everyone went to work. I had asked the kitchen to keep bringing me a thermos with boiled water so I could at least have my morning cup of Nescafe. For the rest of the day I made do with one hardboiled egg and a airplane peanut packet plus a can of V8 at lunch time. It was enough to keep me going and stop the rumblings in my stomach. Steve went home for lunch to have something more substantive.

Our workdays now end at 3 o’clock as the half hour for lunch is removed from the workday. the ministry is a bit more lenient, letting people go home at 1 PM. In this summer month with its very long days this means that there is still a long wait for it to get dark, about sixteen hours without food and water. But here people don’t see it like that – it is a collective experience of sacrifice and suffering, followed by, what I suspect, joyous family meals together at nightfall and before sunrise. I joined the crowd, eager to leave my hot and stuffy office, to sit for awhile in an air conditioned room and cool off. I suspect most of my colleagues probably laid down for a long nap.

I am preparing for a private MBTI session with one official in the ministry. Reading through all the materials I realized how much I miss this kind of contact with individuals, helping people to become more self aware and recognize their own and other people’s gifts. With all the criticism of the MBTI that I have encountered over the years, it still is one of the best and most compelling tools to help people look at their interactions with the world around them and the world of ideas and thoughts inside them. An new lens on interpersonal relations, whether with a spouse or with one’s nemesis, is always eagerly received in my experience. If, as a result of this looking, people stop wanting other people to be more like themselves the pay off will be grand.

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