For those of you who don’t know, Kosovo has a predominantly Muslim population (approximately 95%) and is one of ten Muslim countries that the Peace Corps has a presence in, which means I am lucky enough to experience a uniquely different culture than my own every single day!
As you can probably guess from the title, today is Bajram, which marks the end of Ramadan. But what is Ramadan exactly? Well, in the simplest terms possible, Ramadan is a month long event where Muslims fast (yes, even water is included in that) from sun up to sun down as a means to remain humble and feel closer to god.
Yesterday, I told my host father and uncle that I would like to attend the mosque for Bajram—to which I was told “Okay, we are waking up at 5” and then given a demonstration on how to pray. It was nearly midnight at that point but I knew I probably wouldn’t have another chance to experience Bajram in this kind of setting, so I went to bed and woke up bright and early!
My host dad overslept a bit, so he told me to go on my own and he would catch up later. So, I made my way down the street to the xhami (mosque in Albanian), removed my shoes, and walked through the front doors. I couldn’t find my host uncle that I had talked to the night before, but I did see a different uncle and cousin and decided to sit with them. It didn’t take too long to realize that there were only men in the xhami—and it seemed like the whole village turned up because the inside was so packed that we had to sit in the entry way to the mosque! Still, I was excited to take part in an important religious and cultural tradition with my family. I think I was expecting (from my own upbringing) more of an hour long church service, but found that prayer only lasted about fifteen minutes and then we were all on our way out the doors and back to our homes.
I was told a little bit about what to expect during Bajram from staff, but it was still strange to find my family constantly moving from one house to another to give our congratulations before I could even finish my snack or drink. We started at our own house and then stopped by my uncle’s house—where again, only the men joined us—and we were off again to the next house! It was nice to meet new people and practice my shqip. (Plus, I’m always down for snacks!)
My family is more relaxed, so we didn’t travel outside of our road to visit people, but I was perfectly okay with that considering how little sleep I got the night before. And I’m happy that my fellow Peace Corps trainees Matt and Kelly (who are my cousins via host families) were able to come over and enjoy dinner and conversation with us! The two things that I think I love most about Kosovar culture are: 1) the food and how it brings us together and 2) how important family is and our bonds with one another after only one week.
Overall, I had a very nice experience during Bajram. I have only been in my village for one week, and yet I’ve learned so much about Kosovo, its culture, people, food, language, and religion. There is nothing in the world I would trade for this experience. Përhajr Bajram/Eid Mubarak!