Muslim for a Day

Trip Start Aug 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Today was by far the most eventful day of the orientation so far. First, we did an activity on poverty and how to deal with the shock and such. We went to the welcome for the inbound students in the morning. Over 400 students from Saudi Arabia, India, Chana, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Kenya, Mozambique, Turkey, Egypt, and Thailand had arrived the night before and this whole grand ballroom was packed full of people. We took the bus to go to the State Department and some of the inbound Thai girls taught us how to count 1-10 in Thai, some of it is similar to Korean. The session was pretty chill, besides me falling asleep in the chair and another boy taking a picture of me. That was funny.
We went to lunch at the Thai embassy.. which was interesting. I sat at a table with all the people from the embassy and 3 thai students, so it was pretty awkward. I learned how to eat with a fork in the left hand and a spoon in the right hand, how Thai people eat. Easier than chopsticks at least. We got back on the bus to go to the Union Station to get on another bus to go to the Islamic Center. We played Egyptian Ratscrew a lot on the bus, and my roommate Casey kept beating Kefele at it and he started pouting. The Islamci Center was unlike anything I've ever seen. Since I still had on my dress from the luncheon, all of us girls had to wrap extra scarves around our legs before we could go into the mosque, and we wore head scarves. Walking into the mosque, my sight and senses were bombarded by exquisite, sacred beauty. There wasn't a single inch of space that wasn't ornately decorated with exotic patterns or meant to evoke sensations I didn't een know existed. Everywhere I looked, there was a new detail that jumped out at me in pure brilliance. I'm not exactly sure what happened in the two hours we were there. I was enraptured by not only the beauty of the mosque, but by Islam. This religion has so many negative perceptions, especially by Americans, but it really instills a sort of mystical feeling. We sat in the mosque, leaving our shoes outside and listened to a man talk about the mosque and Islam. I didn't catch a whole lot, it was just a bit of a refresaher from what I had learned of Islam in my world history class. Now though, it wasn't just some foreign religion that we read about on paper. It was there, with us. By the end of it, I had even gotten used to the head scarf that all the girls had to wear. We listened to the man sing a prayer. It's hard to decrie it other than to say it was intense.
One of my favorite parts of the whole D.C. orientation was probably socializing on the bus. There were some good laughs, and I made quite a few friends. I went to Johnny Rocket's for my last American dinner with Casey and Gabrielle. We played more Egyptian Ratscrew on the bus, everyone loves my Cuss Cards. They're a great icebreaker.
We went to the ice cream social/talent show that the inbound students had and Egypt did this incredible dance. This Indian guy I met that night said that he'd email it to me, so I'll put it up if he does. There was so much energy, with the whole ballroom filled up with so much noise and laughter. Casey and I met this super effeminate Filipino guy with probably the highest voice I've ever heard coming from a guy. Casey taught me this new energizer about bananas, and we met some Turkish guys.
Casey is my roommate who is also going to Thailand, and she's become a pretty good friend to me. We stay up late talking or I'll just jump on the bed when she's on the phone with her boyfriend, also named Casey. Funny. So orientation is almost over, and tomorrow we fly out to Thailand! I'll write from Bangkok.
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