Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hair Update #7

Celebrate my two year anniversary with me 
(two years in the Corps heck ya!). 


Tell me what you think of my hair (two years after I sheared it all off in preparation for my Peace Corps service)!

Monday, September 27, 2010

blah. blah. blah.

So, if you've talked with me in the last few weeks, you know I am going through a, "blah." phase.

Uh. Why am I blogging about this? [I've the strong opinion that my blog is not the place to complain.]

Because, it all has to do with my year extension.

That is right. My extension is making me depressed. Follow me on this:

Extending is awesome.

  • You feel empowered because you know exactly what the stitch is for the next year. There are few surprises and your path is pretty well laid out in from of you.

On the other hand, extending hurts.

  • You miss your COS (Close of Service Conference). 
  • You suddenly realize there is no way your going to be able to say good-bye to everybody. 
  • The good-bye process isn't one day, but dragged out over months as all your fellow PCVs travel to say good-bye. 
  • Everybody is talking about their next step or "when they return to America" and you're still talking about finding aluminum foil in your bazaar. 
  • You realize your support network is peace-ing out. Nobody but nobody is in the same place as you are.

So. I am in a bit of a blah. phase. I am still going forward. I just feel like I am plowing through molasses to do it. I think it is pretty normal though. Any major life decision doesn't always go down smooth.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My 27th Birthday Adventure

(Disclaimer: I loved, loved the people I spent my birthday with...I just could have cared less for the circumstances of getting to where those people where...)

5:30 a.m.: Woke up to participate in my first RD 625 audio-correspondence course.
9:00 a.m.: Site mates arrived at my house bearing instant coffee and flowers.
12:15 p.m.: Departed from my house.
12:35 p.m.: Hit up a small market in front of the bus station. A local store owner bought me Pringles and a can of Pepsi. He also kissed me three times on the cheek. Uncomfortable.
12:44 p.m.: Learned that the buses going through Shamaxi were sold out.
12:52 p.m.: Talked into taking a bus to another location.
1:00 p.m.: Left Zaqatala.
3:15 p.m.: Was dropped off by a mini-bus at a fork-in-the-road. Made a futile search for a toilet.
3:17 p.m: Picked up by three guys going to Agdash.
3:17:10 - 4:00 p.m.: Propositioned by said men and experienced a death defying high-speed Lata chase to Agdash.
4:01 p.m.: Was dropped off in Agdash.
4:08 p.m.: Called Mathais and updated him on our progress.
4:12 p.m.: Caught a bus going through Shamaxi.
5:45 p.m.: Stopped right outside of Shamaxi for a tea break. Annoying.
6:12 p.m.: Arrived in Shamaxi and proceed to walk up a very steep hill. Was called some rather unpleasant (and uncreative) names.
6:34 p.m.: Met up with Emma and walked to her house (awesome accommodations).
8:30 p.m.: Ate some DELICIOUS pot pie.
10 p.m.: Ate some even more DELICIOUS apple crisp. Listened to the most beautiful birthday speech ever.
11:10 p.m.: Began to lose in a round of Trivial Pursuit.
12:30 p.m.: Lost in Trivial Pursuit.
1 ish: Went to bed.

(Since then, had an awesome birthday party as a result of a box the Team sent me! Thank you so much guys.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

CONTEST

Hey! Remember that contest [link]? Well, here are the questions! Please email me your answers, along with your address and get ready to win! <lokitobin@gmail.com>
  1. The holy book of Islam is called:
  2. The [blank] of Islam are the five obligations every Muslim must do in order to live a good and faithful life.
  3. These obligations are (paraphrasing is okay):
  4. The 9th month of the Islamic calendar is called:
  5. What does a Muslim do during this month?
  6. Breaking one’s fast at the end of the day during the holy month is called:
  7. What is greater Jihad and why do you think it is called the greater Jihad?
  8. What is one of the main differences between Sunni and Shi’a?
  9. Is Sufism a sect of Islam?
  10. What is hijab?
BONUS: Name 10 countries with majority Muslim populations.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Eid ul-Fitr

Pictures from our Eid ul-Fitr (the celebration at the end of Ramadan). Getting to the house was a bit of an...obstacle course (several over and unders of fences, walking through nut tree groves, and hoping over creeks).



Monday, September 13, 2010

And now, the rest of the story...

This is a hard blog post to write. A month ago, I thought it would be easy to write a witty and insightful post about Islam, especially after spending 29 days fasting. Yet, here I am struggling to put a couple sentences together.

Honestly, I am afraid I am going to lose some readers. I am afraid I am going to offend someone close to me. With the situation in the US, I feel like there isn’t a whole lot I can say without making someone upset.

So, what do I do? Do I say what I think? Do I forgo the entire post and just let the subject die? Do I pretend like I dislike Islam or make non-committal statements?

I’m really scared to say what I think or what happened to me or how much I feel like I have grown in the last month.

I did this fast to learn about myself and to learn about something I knew I held very little knowledge of.

What I found was something very beautiful. Something that helped me put many of my religious feelings into words and that helped me develop a stronger relationship with God.

Any faith that can help a person grow like that cannot be evil.

Now, I don’t agree with every Islamic tenant. To be honest, I don’t agree 100% with any faith. There are parts of Islam that I disagree with and even dislike, but I think that is normal. I don’t need to think Islam is the bees’ knees to know that it seeks to truly inspire good and beauty in the world.

Anything that has that goal is worth following to me.

I am not on a path of conversion, nor do I advocate we all go out an hug a Muslim. What I do think is that we can all practice a little more tolerance and focus on learning the true tenants of Islam before we make any judgement. Better yet, we can remember there are planks in our own eyes and leave the judging to someone else.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The End is Near

The end of Ramadan is quickly approaching and I realize there is so much I haven’t been able to tell you. I want to write all the things I have learned, but I feel like I may lose some of your interest if I drone on and on about Islam. I know I have lost some Volunteers interest with my constant, “Hey! Guess what I learned today?!” comments.

So, here are the cliff notes, but I whole heartedly recommend you go out and learn more about Islam.

Mohammad (peace be upon him) is considered the final prophet of Islam. In 610, while mediating, Jibreel (Gabriel) visited him and told him to begin to recite. This is when Muhammad began to recite the Qur'an and knew they were the words of Allah.

The Qur’an is the holy book of Islam and was given to Mohammad during the holy month of Ramadan. It outlines Allah’s word to his people and was first only verbally transmitted to Arabic people. Later, it was written (first without and then with short vowels) for non-Arabic speaking people to understand how the words should be pronounced.

Sunni vs. Shi’a: The fundamentals of their faith are mostly the same with most major differences stemming from the question: who was the successor of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). Sunnis believe Abu Bakr was initially chosen while Shi’as believe it was Mohammad’s cousin Ali. Eventually, Ali pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr.

Sunni Muslims is the larger Islamic sect.

Jihad describes 3 types of struggle within Islam:

  1. A believer’s inner struggle to live a life centered around Islam;
  2. The struggle to build a good Muslim community; and, 
  3. The struggle to defend Islam.

Most scholars agree that the first definition is the main meaning of Jihad and is often called the greater Jihad.

Sufism is Islamic mysticism (like Kabbalah to Judaism). It is not a sect, but an aspect of Islam.

Abraham or Ibrahim is considered the father of Muslims as well as Jewish people. He had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael (or Ismille).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sharia Law - Part 2

A part of me feels weird writing about Islam in light of what is happening in the US, but (and from my perspective) more [accurate] information is needed, so here I go.

Qur'an, 5:48

For Muslims, life did not begin at birth, but a long time before that. Before even the creation of the first man. It began when God created the souls of everyone who would ever exist and asked them, "Am I not your Lord?" They all replied, "Yea."
God decreed for each soul a time on earth so that He might try them. Then, after the completion of their appointed terms, He would judge them and send them to their eternal destinations: either one of endless bliss, or one of everlasting grief.
This life, then, is a journey that presents to its wayfarers many paths. Only one of these paths is clear and straight. This path is the Sharia.*

When I read this quote, something inside of me says, “Yes.” Now, I am not saying I’m on a path to conversion, but I am beginning to see what millions of Muslims see - the tranquility of knowing exactly what God wants.

When I was fasting, it was really simple. I woke up. I ate. I drank water. I observed my own religious rituals. I read about Islam. I went back to sleep. I woke up again, washed my hands and went to work.

When I returned home, my actions were similar. It was all so easy. Everything was laid out in front of me.

I think that’s what Sharia is: if you want to be in the presence of Allah, follow the carefully laid path. Don’t steal or cheat or lie or treat others poorly. Invite your neighbors to your house. Pray with your children. If you deviate from the path, you know exactly what to expect because it’s all stated in Sharia. There are no surprises.

Of course, in the west, we aren’t all about our religious lives intermingling with our secular. I’m not entirely sure why that is, I just know it is. Maybe that’s why when we hear the word, “Sharia,” we all freak out. It’s inconceivable to us.

I am not sure if this is one of those cultural relativistic moments, but something inside of me says, “olsun.” (lit. let it be). So maybe it is.

*BBC - Religions: Islam [link]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Have I Arrived?

To Whom It May Concern;

This is Löki Gale Tobin (student ID 301*****). My Alternate Proctor application is attached to this email as a jpeg file.

After speaking with Emil K., the Director of our local IREX Center, he as agreed to proctor the exams with Könül A. assisting in English translation (she is his assistant and will be acting as Alternate Director during his upcoming vacation).

Könül speaks and writes in English; however, I would suggest using basic English as complicated words do not translate well into Azerbaijani.

Additionally, as the IREX Center does not have a fax machine and it is expensive to fax internationally, Emil plans to submit tests and any required documentation through scan/ email.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I plan to apply to take my first exam by September 15 (September 14 in Alaska).

lgt

Hörmətcili,

Bu Lüki Qal Tobındır (tələbənin nömrəsi 301*****). Mənin başqa test götürən tərəfdaşımın ərizəsi jpeg qovluq kimi bu email ilədir.

Emillə danışdıqdan sonra, yerli İREX Mərkəzi Direktor onunkıdır, mənə o Könüllə test vermək razı olubdur. Könül İngilis dilinə təccrümə edəcək və o Emillə kömək edəcək (Könül Emilin köməkcisidir. Emil istrahətə gedəcək).

Könül İngilis dilində təmiz yazır və danışır amma cətin sözləri istifadə etməyin cünki İngilis dilinə təmiz teccrümə olmur.

Bundan əlavə, İREX Mərkəzinin fax maşını yoxdur və fax etmək benalxalq bahadır, Emildən test və dokumetları skan və email ilə göndərəcək.

Xahış edirəm ki, problemlər və suallarınız varsa, mənə sörüşün, Sentyabr 15-də (Alyeskada Sentyabr 14-də) birinici testimi verməyə planlaşıdırırram.

lgt

Mən rok ulduzam (mənin email teccrüməsim əladir!). I am a rock star. (My email translation is awesome)!