Friday, July 20, 2012

From Ramadan to a Pool Party

Today was definitely one of the best days at VSA for me. It was a non-stop, productive day.
Anna in her hijab
The first couple of hours of class was in preperation ourselves for our site visit to the Islamic Center of Nashville. We watched a short movie called Wam, Bam, Islam. It was basically about a man who wished to publish comic book hero magazines in the Muslim world. The controversy about this, however, was the fact that the comic series was called The 99; the "99" represents all the 99 characteristics of Allah (God) to Muslims. Muslims are very strict about saying anybody except for God is a divine being. This video made me learn that there are people for a change in the Muslim culture, and there are people who aren't. Whatever the case, The 99 is becoming more well-known around the world, and I hope it keeps growing for the childrens' sake. 
Me in my hijab
We also wrote a mini-reflection to help us more in preparation for our site visit to the mosque. I was feeling very curious and excited to see what was in store for me there. I knew it was going to be a very different experience for me, because I've never set foot in a mosque, nor have I ever seen one.
Outside the Islamic Center of Nashville

Well, my curiosity and excitement definitely did not go to waste. I'm not sure where to start about my visit there. To be honest, probably 3/4 of the service had me clueless on what was going on. Most of the service was in Arabic, and even the sermon wasn't fully in English, which made it a bit difficult to understand.

It was so interesting to have no seats and to take off one's shoes. I felt like I was in a Sikh temple--just smaller and more modest-looking. There was also something very different about who were and who weren't in the room. Only men were in my area of the mosque. One reason for this is so that the men don't get distracted, and I actually can understand that, because women can be pretty distracting--even if they're being so modest still in public.

But there was something odd I was feeling inside after the service. It's very hard to describe, but it's as if I felt really close to God. It was a great feeling, yet I felt weird but calm all at the same time. I just can't explain what I felt. I believe I felt this because of the communal prayers that they do after the sermon. I never prayed in such unison with so many others before--bowing, kneeling, standing, and etc. I felt this personal connection with God, yet I felt one with the community as well. There was also something about just being with males that made it a more powerful service, too. After experiencing an Islamic service, I'd like to define their way of praying as a mixture of Catholicism and Judaism. People pray individually, before and after mass in Catholic churches; people pray together aloud in Jewish services.

The best part, however, about our site visit was meeting Imam (the Muslim form of a pastor, rabbi, etc.) Mohamed. He's definitely one of the most friendliest people I've ever met. There's something about him that gives him so much charisma, and he is, by far, the "coolest" and friendliest religious leader I've ever met. I could tell he wanted to talk with us so much more, and he even asked if we should have dinner. Of course, we couldn't because we had things to do at VSA. He also mentioned something very interesting about prayer. Muslims believe praying and submitting yourself to God is talking to God, and reading the Koran is when God is talking to you. I found this to be an interesting concept.
The Lived Religion Class and a few of our helpful "presenters"

Today was also Arete Showcase! Since I visited the synagogue last week, I wasn't able to perform nor see the showcase, so I was very excited--and slightly nervous (a good nervous of course). I performed my stage combat scene, and it seemed that everyone really liked it and thought it was very "realistic". That made me happy, and I felt accomplished. The other classes' showcases were amazing too. I couldn't believe that the Glee class was able to make a whole music video in four days; I was impressed.
Oh, by the way, I ate a tasty dinner.

Good vibes and good food

Later in the evening, VSA held a pool party at the Recreation Center! I honestly thought it was going to be outside and earlier, but this was still very nice. I had a blast hanging and partying with all my lovely VSA friends. Sadly, the pouring rain and bright lightning brought the pool party to an earlier close (just 30 minutes). Still, it was alright, because I was pretty tired anyway, and I also had the chance to take a lot of pictures with my friends!
Alexa and Anna
Avery, Elizabeth, and Alexa

The One and Only, Will--my roommate

All the Chinese people at VSA--no, seriously

I'm making so many memories at VSA. I can't imagine myself saying goodbye to all my new friends in just a week. It seems that the good things always end so fast. Well, let's make it worthwhile!
A wet end to a bright day

Growing Everyday

I remember being in middle school, staring out the window at the fog covered hills with the rain pattering lightly on the glass. I would sit there at my desk, surrounded by scattered books and papers, with my hand planted on my forehead in frustration as I looked at the complex problem on my homework. Every now and then, I would give up and drink from my steaming glass of tea. I would feel a bizarre sense of relaxation come over me as the hot liquid voyaged down my throat. Suddenly, I would feel rejuvenated; it would give me the energy to go on and complete my assignments. 

For the past five years of my life, I have been repeating this process religiously. As a result, I became somewhat of a recluse because I was always so preoccupied with my books. I never had the opportunity to go out and socialize and discover who I was. The older I grew, the more socially awkward I became, therefore I never established a balanced work to play ratio; I always worked more than I played. However, all that has changed since I have come to Vanderbilt.

I am well-known here. Everyone here either knows me personally, or knows of me. I have many friends who genuinely enjoy my company, and I actually enjoy theirs as well. There is no secrecy or competition between anyone here, and everyone is so kind. I will almost always see a familiar face whenever I walk around campus. 

I have discovered that my ability to retain information in class has increased substantially. It is also much easier for me to pay attention than it was before. I accredit all these improvements to my demeanor; I am much happier now than I have ever been in my entire life. I feel as though I have finally achieved the freedom I have for so long yearned for. 

Today, for example, I was able to do so many things that were both educational and fun. I went to class and learned how to implement a locked room murder in my mystery story, I laughed until tears blurred my eyes with my friends, I preformed a standard fencing routine with Hannah at a showcase, and I went to a pool party. I have done so much ( and learned so much) in just a single day. I am learning new facts about religion, science, and other topics from my peers everyday, and I am growing everyday. 

Stranded In The Rec Center

We really do live in a strange world; a world where it is legal to smoke cigarettes that can kill you and not use other drugs like marijuana for medical uses. I am not completely pro marijuana - it has its faults, but I really do believe that the world is a corrupted place when the federal government lets you kill yourself with cigarettes but not allow marijuana to help cancer patients with the terrible symptoms of chemotherapy.

As you can tell, we discussed about controversial drugs like marijuana today. Marijuana has been a huge concern for our country since the 1930’s and has become a bigger problem ever since. For example, marijuana causes a lot of the amount of violence in the United States, and many people in prison are there for marijuana related reasons. Overall, there has been a long debate over legalizing marijuana, and what it could mean for our country as a whole. Personally, I am not sure what would happen if we did legalize it, but I think that if we keep doing what we are doing, it won’t help the situation at all.
After class, we all went to the Rotunda to have yet another Arête showcase. This also meant we had to show the glee video we made this week. I hadn’t seen the final product, so I was exceptionally nervous when our turn came around. To my relief, the music video turned out fine and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. All the other groups, including the Broadway Dance class was great and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance of one of my favorite songs from Chicago. The Improv group wasn’t too bad either. They all had to come up with crazy, spontaneous stories that made everyone giggle in their seats. This is definitely my favorite showcase so far.

Once the showcase was over, it was time for the Luau at the Rec Center about 15-20 minutes away on foot. I wasn’t too excited since I wasn’t going to swim, but surprisingly, I still had a blast with my friends playing a beach ball game. After an hour or so, it started to rain, and we all went inside to hear what would happen.

Unfortunately, the swim time was cut short and we all were forced to go inside until the heavy downpour finished. I believe we were in there for a whole hour, just sitting around, which totally sucked. Regardless, I decided to make the best of it, and hung out with my friends until we were finally allowed to go back. The walk back wasn’t too bad, and went by in a flash. I have always wondered why it feels like it takes longer to go somewhere for the first time than to come back.

At the Luau

It's ok Hannah, we will leave soon...
Anyway, the minute we arrived back at the dorms (at 10:45) all the girls made a bee-line to the shower. Fortunately, I didn’t have to be a part of this chaos since I showered before we came and avoided the pool throughout the Luau. Although the night didn’t turn out exactly as planned, I am sure everyone had a great time. I am sure, tomorrow night will be even better since we are going to see The Dark Knight Rises in theatres tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Health And Safety First!

Today was one of the few days where we didn’t have a lecture in Pharmacology class. During our morning session, we began writing the first few steps when creating a grant for a research project. The most important parts when trying to get funding for your research project is to state your affiliations and the significance of your project. If there is no purpose to your project, there will be no reason for someone to fund it. Our professor found my group’s introductions really good, and it was a crazy feeling to know that a Vanderbilt professor was impressed enough with our paragraphs, that she had us read it to the class as an example. I’m really proud of the progress my group has made.

 We then walked over to the research building across campus to listen to another seminar. There were four organic chemists who shared their experiences in the science career and industry. The room was also filled with many graduate students who asked many questions concerning their life as they enter in the science industry. The seminar content wasn’t really for me, considering it was for those chemists who want to actually work in a science lab, creating molecules and drugs. But one thing that I did get out of it is: choose a career path that you have the drive for and do something that you are happy doing. 

After the seminar, we went back to our classroom and watched a movie on marijuana. The movie really interested me, because it talked mainly about California, and how it has taken a big part in society. Living in this state, I have witnessed how this drug has influenced everyday life. There is much controversy over why recreational use of marijuana is illegal, because alcohol and tobacco have far worse effects and yet they are legal. If it is less dangerous, then you may ask why is marijuana still illegal? The government sees it as a gateway drug to heavier drugs, such as cocaine. It is said to be the most harmful Schedule 1 drug. Marijuana has become so mainstream that there are 758 delivery services for marijuana in California. Technically it is only for medical use, but people have taken advantage of it. The dispensaries in charge of medical marijuana are not controlled, so the question arises, how do they regulate the marijuana patients? One marijuana user is arrested every 37 seconds, resulting in hundreds and thousands of people in jail for marijuana use. I would like to know more about the health effects of marijuana, and grow a deeper understanding. Tomorrow we will have a debate on whether or not we should legalize it, and while I still believe it shouldn’t be legalized, I will be more educated.
Narges and I fencing!

The Arête performance in the Rotunda was great. I did a simple act of fencing on the stage with Narges, and it was awesome watching all the other performances. I especially enjoyed the Glee music video and the dance performances. Unfortunately, this was our last Arête here at VSA.
Broadway dance!

Eating popsicles!
We ended our night with a luau party at the pool! I decided not to swim, but instead watch the guys play basketball and I also played some volleyball with a beach ball. Unfortunately, a storm came in, so since there was lightening, everyone had to get out of the pool. Water does conduct electricity, so we definitely did not want to get electrocuted. We headed indoors in the recreational center and waited until the storm stopped. We all arrived at the dorms safely and I am thankful for another day here at VSA.
Watching the guys play basketball!
Luau party with the girls!