by
on May 23, 2014 on 5/23/14 from ,

The Realization That It’s Almost Time To Go Home & An Intercultural Experience At A Mosque

With there only being a few weeks left, I’m feeling kind of down. I’ve just begun to really settle in and establish friendships and soon it will be time to say goodbye. I’m also feeling the push to get in everything I’ve wanted to see while I still have the chance.

This week I spent most of my spare time and some class time in the museums. Which is great! It’s one of the things I love most about being here. I’ve spent many hours in museums and I still have only seen a fraction of what’s available. For class, we went to the Victoria & Albert museum to see artifacts of modern historical youth culture of the 60s-90s. There were all sorts of posters, clothes, and performance costumes. Nothing makes you feel older than seeing your generation’s stuff in a museum. On my own, I went to the British Museum and looked at the Anglo-Saxon, Egyptian, and Parthenon exhibits. There was so much more I wanted to see (the building is massive) but I just ran out of time.

In my Black and Brown London class, we went to a mosque in central London for a tour. At first, we were all really nervous that we wouldn’t be let in because none of us really had clothing that fit the dress code for women and some of us had forgotten scarves. Thankfully, the rules weren’t as strict as stated and they had extra scarves for tourists. The inside of the mosque was really beautiful. Everything was decorated in very relaxing blue colors and there were very beautiful patterns everywhere. The tour guide told us all about the basics of their religious beliefs and showed us displays that explain certain points in further detail. I took pictures of all of them so that I could read them in closer detail later. One of them was explaining the rights that Muslim women have. I was glad to see that there was an attempt to incorporate and adapt to feminist perspectives. I haven’t seen that in other places of worship that I’ve visited here. There were some really concerning points embedded in the material that I didn’t understand and there wasn’t any outreach to LGBTQ people, but I still appreciated the effort. After the guided tour, we were directed to the women’s area of the mosque. This was significant to our visit because it is a setting for one of the novels that we read for class. It was nice and peaceful and the women there were engaging. I envy the fact that they have respected, separate, feminine space. In the Western world, women’s desires to have separate (trans-inclusive) spaces to meet and support one another are greeted with suspicion and concern. I could see how women would not see the separation in the mosque during worship as a negative thing. The required clothing was really uncomfortable. By the time we were done, I couldn’t wait to get all that stuff off. It was so impractical in the heat. But, while I won’t be converting to Islam any time soon, I do feel like I have a better understanding of the religious cultural perspective and I’m grateful to this experience for that.

In my internship, we had a researcher, who is working for a newly forming LGBTQ organization, come and ask our young people to discuss what they want and need out of services and how they want to receive those services or what they look like. It was interesting to see her engaging them and to hear their responses. She was very good at drawing them out by being affirming and respectful in how she interacted. I feel like I learned a ton from her and the insight she got out of the young people. After the session and our staff debriefing, I bonded more with my team. I haven’t laughed that much in a while. The next day, we set up a booth at an LGBTQ informational fair. It ended up not being well attended. So we joked around with each other and networked with folks in other service organizations. It’s going to be really hard to leave these folks behind. I love this job and my coworkers and I’m going to miss them all very much.