Second Week of Ramadan

I’ve been thinking of doing the “What I Eat” type of video and I guess this is a perfect opportunity to start.

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Gorgeous Cambridge!

Four years ago, I applied to Cambridge University. I got through to the interview stage but did not secure a conditional offer. Right after the interview, I somehow knew I wouldn’t be accepted mainly because I could not produce a satisfactory answer to some of the questions. And no, I was not being too hard on myself for thinking that. My intuition is always right even though I might not know the reason or that I choose not to acknowledge it. Now, I understand myself better and I trust my intuition more than ever.

So going to Cambridge was like a suppressed desire to experience living in a city with a high reputation for academic success. Although this trip was only for a few days, I was glad to have at least visited the university that rejected me. I might have held grudges but I can now be sure that I have let them all go after seeing such beauty. I simply cannot feel negatively about something that makes me feel good.

Things happen for a reason; I believe that a hundred percent. Deep down I know I couldn’t have survived the demands of being a student in Cambridge considering my personality and mindset then. It would have been too much pressure living up to the expectations. I was and still am grateful to have been a student in Durham.

As a tourist in Cambridge, one full day was enough to cover the city. The University is basically the whole city so unless you’re a student, you can’t really get more out of it than necessary. Sure you can take pictures of the buildings but there is no real meaning attached to it.

After punting and admiring the colleges, Aliyyah and I had time to spare and so we decided to watch the movie ‘Me Before You’ at VUE cinemas. We sat back on the reclining chairs and let ourselves immersed in romance and heartbreak.

But of course we did not leave Cambridge with sadness, or at least not very much. Perhaps when I feel like studying something in-depth and that the area of study is available in Cambridge, I might apply as a postgraduate student. I believe Aliyyah might have already set her sight on a Masters degree there. She still has plenty of time to decide, as she will be going into her final year of undergraduate study. So we shall see what the future holds.

Vatican City

Technically, we were just at the edge of the city. No one is allowed beyond the tourist spots except for a valid reason. Nevertheless, it was nice visiting the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica. They were all so huge and quite overwhelming. Too many paintings and sculptures!

We queued for about an hour before going into the museum. This is so that we got the cheapest price – €8 with a student ID. It would have been €4 extra if we had bought online. Do not fall prey to the people nearby the area persuading you to skip the line by paying a hiked up price for a tour. Unless, of course, you don’t mind that. Think of waiting in line like waiting to ride a roller coaster.

Overall, Vatican City (or rather a part of it) was worth the visit. It was just amazing looking at all the Greek sculptures and decorated ceilings by artists like Michelangelo and Raphael. It made me realise how little I know of Renaissance art and that I should learn more to have a wider sense of appreciation.

But even without knowing the details, I can already appreciate the beauty and complexity, and the hours of work put into each masterpiece. I left feeling both amazed and inspired. Good work comes from hard work. There’s just no other way around it.

When In Rome

I didn’t do what the Romans do. I didn’t drink wine nor did I eat cheese, which seemed to be the staple food instead of pasta. The smell was honestly tantalising, and having an empty stomach didn’t help at all. But a rational part of my mind reminded me of the horrors of the dairy industry and I immediately shut down my olfactory system as best I could.

In a way it was simpler travelling while fasting because you don’t have to think about lunch. You could go through the day somewhat uninterrupted, wondering about the secrets of the underground section of the Colosseum or pondering on the vastness of the Roman Forum that might have been a shopping mall without the need to think of filling your belly and spending more money.

Fasting on a vegan diet this year for me has not been much of a difference compared to last year when I was not on said diet. The hunger and thirst are still as familiar. The appreciation of lack of nutrition and poverty is still cultivated, if not enhanced. The differences then and now have only been the type of food I choose to eat when breaking fast and the strength of my spiritual connection with the Universe, which has arguably augmented.

Because this diet encourages healthy eating, I know better now to make sure I eat foods with high carbohydrate content. Eating oats and fruits before dawn for example does satiate me longer. The trick is to avoid processed food and eat more produce. Substitute the biscuits or chocolates with bananas, dates and grapes and you’re good to go.

Ramadan hasn’t really been difficult for many years simply because I have always set a positive mindset. I dislike hearing people whine about their 10-hours-old hunger when there are people living below the line and hence in constant hunger for months. And so I tend to switch my thoughts to the things I’m grateful for such as the roof over my head, the books on my shelves and the people I call friends. I also busy myself by doing something be it reading, cleaning or exercising. It’s just a matter of taking your focus off of the emptiness in your stomach. 

So I guess travelling while fasting was not really so bad because I was constantly on the move and that I had friends to entertain me. When we were all exhausted, we took an hour nap or so on the ground under a shady tree somewhere at the Palatino. It doesn’t hurt to lie on the grass and give yourself a break when you need it. A nap certainly helps to quickly revive your energy like taking a shot of espresso.

In the end, it’s all about setting your intention straight and acting upon them. In terms of travelling, I simply wanted to tread on the soil that once held a great civilisation and gain more knowledge and experience thereby enriching my life. Sure I got tired and thirsty but at least I know I spent each day of the trip well.