It's Pre-Service Training, it's Ramadan. This is how the days go.

You wake up at four AM stumbling out from underneath your mosquito net with a full bladder, flashlight in hand, wiggling into flip flops and pressing the door open, careful not to touch the crickets inside the door frame, who stopped chirping, for once goddammit, when your flashlight turns on, flickering between gripping fingertips. You walk outside where the host sisters have prepared breakfast. Maybe you walk to the nyegan (the Bambara word for latrine) to take care of business. Maybe you wait since it’s dark. Hell, it's basically nighttime because the dew hasn’t condensed, you can feel it, wet still in the air, but by the time you’re done eating it has fallen and the stars have faded. You go back to bed until seven AM when it’s time to take a bucket bath and go to class. Maybe you sleep. Maybe you just lie there.

In your waking hours, your walking around or sitting around hours, time slows down, settles into your chest, into your abdomen. And in this space you feel the act of fasting most sharply. With your thirst building and almost always present (unlike hunger, showing up for a few loud moments at a time then gone), your blood feels slippery between heartbeats, head light and eyelids heavy and everything is bright and slow and quiet save the rushing of your own breath in and out.

But the fatigue makes you calm, makes you mindful. You learn how to balance, or maybe more accurately, how to measure your life here based on energy, on the body’s imports and exports.

You break fast when the radio programme tells you to. The music starts and then your host mother pushes a cup of monni (Malian porridge) into your hands. It’s delicious.

But of course everyone’s experience of the fast is different. Of the three or four people I asked, each had a different response for which part of Ramadan is hardest. My Language and Cultural Facilitators said Not Eating. My host brother said Not Cursing While Chatting With Friends. For me, Not Drinking Water was by far the most challenging aspect, but I only tried fasting for three days. And, though difficult, it was manageable.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.