Saturday, January 12, 2008
Tour of the Mosque
Z continues to grow each day. She is a tough little girl. Today Davy tried stealing her interlocking play rings (let me remind you that Davy is not one of the other babies, he is a 31 year old grown man from Belguim – hehe) and Z held on for dear life, she had only 2 little fingers grasping her beloved toys and she held on until he gave up. I continue to be so proud! I also took a cute video of Davy trying to steal her stacking rings and she hangs on so tight that he starts to pull her along the floor, really it wasn’t mean, it was so cute! She was serious, those toys were hers!
Zahri is growing more and more in love with Bayan everyday. Bayan is so great with the babies and the other families, she gets down on our play blankets and interacts with the kids in such a real and loving manner and the babies respond. Z just adores anyone that speaks Russian, when she starts to hear someone talking in Russian she pauses and looks for them, you can tell that she is fond of her native language. Thus when Bayan speaks in Russian to the other translator in the room, Zahri pays close attention. Check out these sweet photos of Z and Bayan, they are some of the best photos yet. It is so nice to take photos of Z interacting with others, and it is nice to get photos of Z and I interacting as well, something that is tough to do when you are a one woman family.
Oh yeah, I am drinking Vodka and O’Juice right now and eating a piece of fresh Banana Cake that Laurie left me, and might I add that I am doing this while computing on my single bed. Hehe
Between visits today, Bayan, Davy, Evy and I went to the Mosque and were treated with a personal tour. When we entered the Mosque we were asked to take off our shoes before walking on any of the carpets, and then we (the 3 girls) needed to please take a scarf and cover our hair before entering the temple. The Kazak people are Muslim, so this is one of the 3 Mosques in Aqtobe and the only Mosque that is connected to a Mall in the world. This Mosque was built in 1999 and when under construction one very important building requirement was forgotten. Traditionally, all men and women are supposed to enter through separate doors and then worship on separate floors, but a mistake was made and this was ‘forgotten’ so men and women enter this Mosque through the same door but do essentially have separate worship areas. We were told that it is not that men are more important than women, just that when both men and women worship alongside each other, men have a harder time concentrating on the worship thus it is traditional for the men to worship on the main floor and the women have a separate room upstairs. Children are also allowed to worship here. True practicing Muslims are to take time to pray 5 times a day, thus you will hear a prayer broadcast from the Mosque 5 times each day. I can hear the broadcast from my Hotel room which is about 2-3 blocks away, it is a wonderful sound. The gentleman that showed us around the Mosque made sure that we understood that Muslims do not believe in terrorism, despite what has been said, he has read and re-read the Koran and done much research and nowhere does it ever say that killing people is okay. This is a group of disturbed people that do these things, not a religion. On another note, it was so cute, when Bayan, Davy, Evy and I went up the stairs to see where the women worship, Davy was stopped by a young man, no older than 12, that told him that he was not allowed upstairs, this is an area for women only. Bayan explained that we are only there to tour not to worship and he let Davy up to see. Then while we were up in the worship area, this same boy pointed out that you read the Koran, written in Arabic, from right to left not left to right as we typically read text. He was pointing to words in his Koran, and I believe that it was Evy or Bayan that said, “Oh, can we see your book?” And he shut the book and explained that we are not allowed to read the book. It was so great, this young boy was studying his religion and was very intent on following his religious customs by the book. Every Friday they have worship and about 2000 people show to worship at this Mosque alone, so many get there 2 hours early to get their place. There are no pews, no chairs, only carpet on the floor that has individual prayer areas that outline where each worshiper is to kneel. Another interesting tidbit we learned was that the head of the worship room in every Mosque faces Mecca, the holy city.
When we left our tour at the Mosque, Evy said, “You are so lucky, had we come to see the Mosque on our own, we would have just looked around and not been given the tour as we were today. You are so lucky that you have the translators that you do!!” It is true, not all in-country teams are equal. I know in another post I talked about this and someone (sorry can’t remember who this was) commented that they thought it was normal place to have a driver take you to supper and pick you up after words, have your translator take you to see the sights and go shopping, etc. I am not sure of other regions, but in Aqtobe this is not commonplace. Other in-country teams are told that they are to take the families to and from the baby house for scheduled visits and that is it. The translators are told that their job is to just sit at the baby house in the play room to be sure that the families are there and are bonding with their children; they do not need to take them out to see the sights, give them advice on places to eat better yet go with them to the restaurants, etc. I would have to imagine that those teams that tend to go above and beyond do so because they are being ‘taken care of’ by the adoption agencies in the States, not because they are just kind hearted people that know it is a nice thing to do despite their wages and relationships with the agencies. Some drivers have second jobs, so taking their families to supper or shopping, etc is not even an option for them. Some translators are taking care of multiple families from multiple agencies so they don’t have time to go the extra mile with individual families. I am not meaning to demean any other agency or the in-country teams here; I just write my posts to help educate those who have not yet traveled, I want to post the information that I couldn’t find on blogs before I traveled. These are only my experiences here, so please don’t take all that I post as fact that applies to all regions, all agencies, all in-country team set-ups and all family’s experiences.