My first Ramadan overseas
It was in 2013 when I received my Letter of Offer from Murdoch University in Perth. While it was an exciting moment for me, part of me was sad as I would be spending half of Ramadhan on my own followed by Eid all by myself in a foreign country. I did not know anyone when I first arrived. Thankfully, my parents came along and spent the whole week with me.
Credit: @upandgoaus on Instagram
Things started hitting me hard after their departure. I literally had no one, I ended up drinking a breakfast nutrition drink for Sahur every day. (Up & Go, my lifesaver!) After which, I ended up breaking my fast with instant noodles.
However, during the orientation week, I joined the Murdoch University Mulism Student Association (MUMSA). I met a couple of friendly Muslim students who told me that the worship centre on campus provides free iftar every day. For the remaining of Ramadhan, I went to the worship centre almost every day. I made new friends over iftar. After iftar, we would do the Maghrib prayer, followed by Isya and Terawih.
Fasting during the (Australian) winter
Winter generally means that days are shorter. The sun rises at around 5.30 in the morning and sets by 5.30 in the evening. This means that in the Southern hemisphere, we fast for an average of 12 hours a day. That’s MUCH shorter than in Singapore or Malaysia (where it can go up to 14 hours a day). Generally, if you are working in an office, it is time to break your fast by the time work ends. Hence you don’t have to wait at the dinner table for the azan, which is something we do a lot in Singapore or Malaysia where the food is already on the table by 6.30pm but the azan only sounds after 7pm.
The photo above was taken at around 6pm during Autumn. Just imagine how much darker it would be when it gets to winter!
Although the hours of daylight are shorter, the cold weather makes you feel hungry a lot faster than usual. But isn't that the whole purpose of Ramadan, to feel for the less fortunate? I would say that the challenges of fasting here definitely cannot be compared to the everyday experiences of those who are less fortunate.
Overall, fasting during winter is definitely not as challenging as fasting in hot and humid Southeast Asia.
The Muslim community in Perth (during Ramadan)
Generally, Ramadhan is just like a normal day in Australia. While most non-Muslims are aware of Ramadhan, they might not be as reminded that it is currently ongoing compared to our fellow non-muslims in Singapore. This is due to a very small amount of Muslims fasting within the community.
Credit: @fauz16 on Instagram
The mosques do organise iftar potluck during the weekends, but this varies depending on the mosque. However, terawih prayers are definitely performed at the mosques on every single day of the holy month.
A meal shared by Wirnida and her friends for Iftar.
Just like anywhere else, people generally love to gather during iftar with their families. Since some of us abroad do not have our families around, we do organise iftar with friends instead. Coming together and bringing food to someone’s place creates an ambience close enough to what we grew up with. It may not be exactly like how we experience Ramadhan in Singapore but we try to recreate those memories over here.
Since Ramadhan bazaars don’t exist in Australia, we also learn (google!) to make different sorts of food ourselves. Food that we generally buy at the Singapore bazaars such as Ramly Burgers and Dendeng are things we try to learn and make. These are invaluable experiences and a great learning journey for all of us to not take things for granted.
Tips for anybody planning to fast in winter
- I like to eat food that keeps me full. Although fasting hours are shorter, the cold makes you hungry faster. I like eating food such as yoghurt and muesli. It might seem light compared to rice dishes that we are used to, however, it does its job of keeping me full.
- Drink lots of water. Winter may seem cold but the dry weather will need you to stay hydrated as much as possible.
- Try to layer up and keep warm. I feel that shivering in the cold makes the hunger come faster.
I hope you enjoyed reading my Ramadan experience in Australia. While it may sound easy fasting during winter, I miss the Ramadan experience in Singapore and Malaysia at times. I miss how easily we can get food from bazaars that we take for granted until you lose them. The inability to gather with family and friends is definitely something I miss a lot too. I've learned to cherish the times I get to do it when I fly back to Singapore. As the saying goes, you do not appreciate something until it is gone.