‘It all brought me home’

For an exchange student in Brattleboro, her first Ramadan away from home turned from melancholy to memorable

BRATTLEBORO — Until this year, I'd never spent even a month away from my mother. Now I had flown across the seven seas to an adventure I could never have imagined.

It would have been sufficient to experience a new family, a new school, new friends. But I never imagined that I would have an experience of Ramadan here in Brattleboro that would be so memorable.

Ramadan is a month of blessings for Muslims and a time during which we try as best we can to help those in need. In that spirit, a friend and I decided that we wanted to reach out and help prepare a special meal on the first night of Ramadan, an iftar meal particularly for the refugees from Afghanistan who have settled in our area.

One thing quickly led to another: interactions with interested teenagers from Putney, then meetings at The Works. And then - it happened!

I have to admit that when Ramadan actually began, I found myself with mixed feelings. It was my first suhoor - the meal eaten before dawn and before the fast - without my family.

With the help of technology, however, I made some short video clips of the food I was cooking, and sent them to my mother, so we would be connected again.

And then I went off to school to share the blessings of the holiday with teachers and friends and to wish them all “Happy Ramadan.”

* * *

After school, I was picked up by the woman who had taken responsibility for the event, held at St. Michael Catholic School. I jumped right in, helping set up the tables, welcoming the guests, and bringing out the food from St. Bridgid's Kitchen for the iftar meal.

Once again, I experienced a moment of melancholy - an iftar meal without my family. And yet there I was, surrounded by friends, hearing the adhan, the call to prayer, by one of our new Afghan neighbors, as I savored the heavenly taste of the first date I put in my mouth.

It all brought me home.

Before we knew it, the event was over, and it was time to clean up. That was also fun.

We put the chairs and tables back, returned the food to the kitchen, and then used trash bags to clear up the area. After everyone left, I stayed behind with a group of new friends and we dried dishes together.

I smile now when I think about the effort made by so many, and the genuine expressions of appreciation offered by those partaking. It was Ramadan at its very best.

I returned with a full stomach and a big smile to share the experience with my wonderful second family.

Who could have imagined?

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates