Route J-1

Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Ramadan in America

Posted on Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017 at 4:33 pm.

By Caroline Dewi, J-1 Trainee from Indonesia

I’m a program assistant at the Ohio State University. I was excited when I was offered the opportunity to travel to New York City to meet other J-1 trainees placed at Summerhill Landscape, Glover Perennials, and Old Westbury Garden in Long Island who are studying greenhouse and landscape management. It was a life changing experience.

Left: Atmosphere during Eid prayer at Al-Hikmah Mosque, New York| Right: Bagus, David, and Dara in front of the Mosque

The J-1 program is allowing me to explore worldwide knowledge and share my passion for horticulture. It also has given me the opportunity to experience Ramadan outside my home country, Indonesia. Even though I am not Muslim, many of my family members are. That’s why I celebrate Ramadan. Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam or a core ritual of the faith, and takes place during the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Throughout the duration of the month, Muslims abstain from food, water and sexual relations from dawn until sunset. It’s not just about abstaining from food and drink, but about learning to be a better and more patient person.

Left: David, Intan, Grace Bagus, Gusto, Caroline and Dara at the Indonesia Consulate gate
Right: Crowd and queue in front of the Indonesia Consulate

Ramadan this year occurred during the summer. Summer days are very long in the Northern hemisphere. This makes fasting challenging for Muslim students in the USA. In Indonesia, people are accustomed to fasting for approximately 14 hours (from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m.); however, while in the In the United States, they have to abstain from food and drink for 18 hours, four additional hours.

On July 25th, I celebrated Eid-al Fir, a happy and blissful day marking the end of Ramadan and the arrival of the new Islamic month (Syawal month). In Indonesia, all Muslim go to the Al-Hikmah Mosque in the morning to do the Eid prayer and listen to the khutbah (a term for Islamic preaching). The atmosphere is calm and sacred.

Left: The guests having meal and socializing| Right: Picture with Indonesia Ambassador and family

For Eid al-Fir, the Indonesia Embassy hosted an open house at the Indonesia Consulate in New York to celebrate Ramadan. I attended the event with a group of other Indonesian trainees because I wanted to experience Ramadan in America. The open house tradition in the United States is not much different than in Indonesia. The rituals and festivities were similar: people wear their nicest clothes while eating and dancing. I was impressed to see how big and ethnically diverse the Muslim community is in New York. It was so wonderful to see guest from various countries, with their cultural varieties, gather at the Consulate showing their interest and respect for this Muslim holiday. There was even a long queue to get inside the Consulate.

I really enjoyed seeing what everyone wore on that special day from beautiful veils to colorful clothes and scarves. Everyone looked nice. They also wore Indonesia traditional fabric called “Batik.” You could see the unity in diversity at this event.

Left: Varieties of Indonesian dishes| Right: Authentic Potato sambal, chicken opor, pumpkin soup and Indonesia crackers

Guests were delighted with a wide variety of authentic Indonesian dishes such as bakso, nasi, ketupat, Chicken opor, potato sambal, pumpkin soup, uli ketan, tape ketan and Indonesian crackers along with beverage such as lemon tea, orange juice, blewah ice. Those delicacies cured my longing for my mother’s cooking, which I’ve had for almost one year. My friends and I left the Consulate with unbelievably full stomachs. After the event, we visited the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. It was a perfect way to end the day. Ramadan in the United States was a memorable and most exciting experience.


Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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