It's the holy month of Ramadan, and, for Muslims, that means fasting all day: from dusk 'til dawn, no food, not even any water. One of the teachers is Muslim: this means teaching four hours of classes with nothing to fuel her, and yet she bears it without complaint; indeed, I had no idea until I see her running back from the market as night falls with some lumpia and a green coconut cake, staring into the black plastic market bag as if it held a million dollars in gold. She tears into it, and before she can fully get down her first mouthful, Wade interrupts. "Ani, what tastes better, the food or the water?"
"Oh, the water," she mumbles indistinctly, her mouth full.
Everywhere, outside and in, people are sinking down in chairs or on curbs or on the ground and closing their eyes, this time not out of exhaustion, but out of ecstasy. Their mouths and their minds are full of the special food that is on sale only for Buka Puasa; the chicken and vegetable egg rolls, the mochi with coconut and molasses, the burnt sugar green coconut rolls, the samosa-like pastries with potatoes and chilies. If they were me and the food were mashed potatoes, the streets would be awash with tears. It is close, though. It gets quieter. People are too overwhelmed to make conversation. As the moon becomes visible over the farthest mountain, Angkasa, the shouts of the market die down and the whistles of the parking attendants seem outrageous, out of place. Motorcycles spit and rumble in the distance. The women and men who spread their blankets in the street to sell their chilies, tomatoes, bananas, papayas, tofu, eggs, chickens, coconuts, lychees, sambal kacang paste, grilled fish, leeks, oranges ,and salaks, their knit Papuan independence purses and mats and bags, their woven flip flops, all start gesturing silently to their wares instead of shouting about them, feeling awkward all of a sudden about disturbing the immediate quiet. Expectant lines curl up behind the Buka Puasa food stands - silent not because of sensations, but because of the anticipation. Soon, they too will be part of the overwhelmed silent periphery.