Finding a Balance Between Keepsakes and Dreams
by Sirad Muhumed
I am from Somalia and I have lived in the United States for one year and
two months. When I am asked about the aspects of my culture that I want
to keep, I think of Ramadan.
Ramadan, which usually begins around the first of March, is a
very important time of the year for Muslims. During Ramadan When
I am fasting, I pray. Even when we are not taking part in Ramadan, Muslims
pray five times a day. But Ramadan is special. Even though I am
fasting for many hours in a row, I do not feel hungry or thirsty because
my mind is only on my God. My prayer helps me focus on my faith, and I
feel very happy, not distracted by anything.
There are many things that Muslims are not supposed to do during Ramadan.
Like, for example, if I saw a handsome man, I must not look at him. If
you look at people of the opposite sex in this way during Ramadan,
it breaks your connection with Ramadan. Another thing that we're not supposed
to do during Ramadan is gossip or say bad things about people behind their
backs. This would also be inappropriate during Ramadan.
The end of Ramadan is also a very special time for us. When it is finished
each year, every Muslim is very, very happy. Everyone buys a new outfit
of clothes. If you are poor and cannot afford new clothes for your whole
family, then you at least buy new things to wear for your children. We
break our fast with a big feast. Each family slaughters a sheep--sometimes
two or three, depending on what the family can afford.
We make lots of sweets to eat, including cookies (but we call them biscuits).
When I prepare these cookies, I make them all different colors and arrange
them carefully on a plate. I serve the plate to others and say, "Oh
happy day, eat!"
Also on that plate would be halwa. Halwa is a kind of sweet
that is usually only made by Somalis and Arab Yemenites. It is made with
sugar, water, some flour, and a bit of oil. We put the ingredients in
a big pot and cook it for an hour and a half, stirring it constantly.
When the halwa is ready, we color it bright yellow with saffron.
The day that Ramadan is finished everyone must make halwa,
even the poor and the millionaires make it!
When I lived in Somalia, I was a housewife. I didn't work or do anything.
In Somalia we had a house, two cars, and my husband's job paid enough
money to take care of us. When I came here, I discovered that it is not
an easy life in the United States. I hope that we can find a way to make
enough money in the United States so that we can buy some of the things
that we used to be able to afford in Somalia.
In Somalia, I only finished middle
school. I would like to return to school and learn how to be a hair stylist.
My sister had a beauty shop in Somalia. When I was little, I used to go
to her shop after school every day. I watched her work, and she could
really make her customers' hair look good. That is what I would like to
do in the future.
But my religion has a problem with this. In our faith, we call our spiritual
advisors shikh. These people are similar to pastors or priests
for us. I talked with our shikh about my dreams for the future,
because he knows the Koran very well and I believed that he could tell
me if becoming a beautician is a good idea. I said, "In the future,
I would like to make women beautiful." He said, "If you make
a woman's hair beautiful, you must also make her put a scarf over her
head when she goes outside. If she takes her scarf off at home, that is
no problem. But if you make her hair beautiful and she goes outside without
a scarf and is seen by another man, then that is wrong. You are responsible
for making sure that the women whose hair you style cover their heads
when they leave your shop and go out into the public." When the shikh
told me that, it made me have second thoughts. I don't want to do anything
that violates my faith.
I have other dreams. I do not want to always be a housewife because staying
around the house all day I don't get a chance to think very much. I feel
bored staying at home. So in the future I would like to finish school.
I believe that when I learn how to read and write, I will be able to finish
high school. And after high school, I want to go to the university. I
am concerned that by the time I get to the university, I will be very
old and I will be in classes with lots of young people. But that is my
dream and that is what I want to do.
Last Updated By Gail Matthews-DeNatale: 10/08/96