23.04.2015 - 02.05.2015
Last Friday, I got out of Chinese class and took a taxi to the Mosque with my Muslim friend Aasim. He insisted that the best representation of the religion and of the Islamic community is in their Friday Worship. He was correct. The street was packed with Muslim vendors selling naan bread, halal meat, and various shish kebabs or mutton. Every person I met was above and beyond in terms of their friendliness. Asalamu Alaikum (Peace be upon you) they would say in Arabic as they shook a fellow Muslims hand. At one point, Aasim bought us lunch from one vendor who couldn’t give him change for his fifty kuai bill. In Chinese he said, “I will return your money after the worship,” and we walked away. “Are you sure that he’ll pay you back” I asked, “what if he just keeps your money?” “We are all Muslim,” he replied before turning and heading up the stairs to the Mosque. After the worship, in the midst of a sea of people, the vendor tapped on Aasim’s shoulder handing him his promised change. I couldn’t believe it. We got in a taxi to head back and I offered to pay. Aasim refused saying that I can pay when he comes to my place of worship. What a pleasant experience. Our media in America gives such a negative depiction of Islam. With the rise of terrorism and general ignorance of eastern cultures, many people have a preconceived notion of what Islam is and of what Muslims stand for. Perhaps if everybody was able to have an experience similar to the one that I had there would be a greater understanding of the world’s various religions and cultures.
On Sunday, I went to Tianfu Square, a major shopping area, in search of some adventure. Alone, I took the subway four stations up and got off in the wrong section of town. I asked some local shop keepers for directions and made my way to my desired destination. I approached a food stand selling food that I could not identify. “What is this,” I asked. Although they explained that it was some sort of meat from some small, fury animal, I could not determine exactly what it was. “I’ll take it,” I said. I took one bite and almost vomited. Whatever it was, it was something that I could not eat. Locals were eating two or three with smiles on their faces! I suppose I’m not fully adjusted to the food yet.
A few days later, I met a few friends of mine for lunch at the campus cafeteria. I met one student from Nepal who was very nice and eager to learn about American culture. I talked for a bit and asked him if his family was affected by the massive earthquake that struck only a few days earlier. Luckily, he said that all of his family was safe but that he knew plenty of people who lost their lives. Later that day, I saw him and three other Nepali students sitting in the lobby of one of the dormitories raising money for the earthquake relief. I gave them all of the money that I had in my pocket and wished them luck on their trip home. I couldn’t even imagine what a natural disaster of that magnitude must be like.
This weekend, I decided to have some fun before my big tests this week and go to the club with a few Chinese friends of mine. It is expected that you dress up extremely well, bring lots of money with you and sit around a table with your fellow Chinese friends and drink whatever is on the table until it’s gone. This night in particular was whiskey and we completed our mission. However, because these Chinese men are significantly smaller than I am, they get drunk a lot faster than me. Thus, six shots in, I was feeling good and loose while everybody else was slurring their words, stumbling, and so on. I took the opportunity to meet some other Chinese people and practice my Mandarin with peers who were not students. They told me that they work by week and go out to party almost every night. I could not believe it! How does one function in a busy, loud, business environment with a raging hangover every day? I’ll stick to the occasional weekend. I enjoyed my night with my local friends and spent the rest of my weekend studying new vocabulary and sentence structures. Another great week!