We arrived at Detroit Airport at around 4 pm after experienced some delay because of the storm. However, Alhamdulilllah we arrived safely. Kharis, a person who work for SouthEast Asean Study Center in University of Michigan, picked us up and drove us to Courtyard where we stay nearby the north campuss. University of Michigan is a public university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had a campuss tour guided by Kate. She is the head of SouthEast Asean Study Center who had been staying in Indonesia and became a lecturer in UGM from 2002 to 2004. Thus, she is really good at speaking Bahasa Indonesia. University of Michigan has a huge campuss with some classic-style libraries. Basically, their student diverse from many different races. They also have a pretty big number of Moslem students and they even have a student association for Moslems. Later on, I will elaborate our refreshing discussion with them.
Ann Arbor itself is simply lovable. It’s a relatively small and peaceful city which offers hospitality and myth. Yes, myth. Haha. But it doesn’t necessarily to be true, just for fun. They also have some old-style buildings and a vintage store. Well, at the first day, we had an activity to find what people called “The Fairy Doors”. These doors located in several places around the downtown. We were divided into 4 groups which each group must consists of American and Indonesian. I paired up with Angela. It was fun to explore the city with only map in our hand. I and Angela were bad at reading map yet good at asking people. Hahaha. And thanks to them, we finally found the public library mentioned in the paper given by Kate. It wasn’t easy to find the fairy door because it sticks on the book shelf in Folklores and Fairytales section. Thereafter, we had much time to walked around and found some interesting stuffs. I saw a shop with “everything $15” sign on its window which surprisingly sells many Indonesian’s stuff such as batik bracelet, Balinese bag, crafts made in Indonesia, and many other ethnic’s thingy.
Next, we went to a vintage store which I and Angela fond of. They have a bunch of cool vintage stuffs with (mostly) creepy story behind it. We talked to the shop lady and she told us many interesting stories, such as:
We like the story of the mourning bross the most. I personally love it because the story gave us a picture of what kind of custom or life Americans had in the past back to the early 1990s. On the way back to the meeting point, we had an interesting conversation about history and its influences in today’s life. We both agree that to some extents, history plays a significant role on building the society today. Angela told me that people who live in coastal areas are generally more religious than the central part of America. Then I asked whether any particular historical reason why it occurs. However, we haven’t concluded on that yet.
In the meeting point (inside a cafe), Kate and the 1st group had come. After waiting for a while, we kind of presented what we had found in our short journey. And I gladly announced that our group (I and Angela) got the prize. It’s a lovely UM’s teddy bear doll.
Our next destination was Moslem’s Students Association (MSA). We met them at UM’s campuss. It felt like an oase for me, to meet another moslems in somewhere far away from home. I felt sister/brotherhood connected us all J
We had a light and refreshing discussion on how Moslem’s life in America which predominantly non-muslim area. Some of us were wondering how they do the prayer 5 times a day, the Friday prayer for males, or how they find halal foods. I totally agree with their explanation which said that the (small) difficulties they found required them to be creative, for example to find a space for praying. Actually, I had same experience when I was in Hiroshima. It did strengthen my faith and identity, kind of a wake up call as a moslem who grew up in predominantly Moslem’s country (which most of the time take everything for granted) to understand my religion better and become a true moslem.
In a smaller group discussion, we raised questions regarding their daily life as a moslem in America which somehow gain a negative image in its relation with Islamic countries. Some questions that emerged such as: Is there any differences on how American’s society perceiving Islam before and after 9/11 tragedy? Have they experienced any difficulty or discrimination? How they view Islamic movement in general since one of them grew in US? So how she, as a moslem-American, view the negative perception of Islam by (a partial) society? Does she feel to be on duty to educate or show people what Islam really is? And also some questions about the student association itself. Generally, the answer would go like this: Personally, both of them never have any experience of discrimination or difficulties caused by the legal laws. However, sometimes they have difficulty in case of entering the US especially through the airport. One of them is a Turkey-American who grew up in a rural place in the US. She said that in her village, her family is the only moslem family. People had never exposed to any knowledge about Islam before they came and settled there. Thus, people had no prejudice and they accepted Islam. We might say, her family represented Islam in the village. Therefore, my favorite quote was “In a non-moslem country, you not only represent you as an individual but also represent your religion”. She didn’t mention it clearly, but she mentioned that when she was a kid, some kids would make fun of her different religion (mengejek). Yet she didn’t take it as a barrier to practice Islam as her religion. Asked on how she perceived Islam in general in American stance, she told us that she took religion as the first stance before it goes to the nationality. In other word, she feel connected with moslems all over the world, and as a moslem who live in America for a long time, she does believe that it is become her duty to show what Islam is or to become a good agent for Islam. She admitted that it needs more efforts ranging from the smallest one such as keep smiling and friendly to everyone.
There was also an interesting debate regarding why Judism doesn’t develop and why Holocaust doesn’t become an significant issue in Indonesia. Well, I think the answered had been elaborated clearly. In the time when the Holocaust happened, Indonesia were facing a severe war against Japan in order to reach its independence. Therefore, the struggle for independence has been highlighted in the history curriculum at schools. Indonesian students do not know much about the Holocaust itself, it’s just kind of thing happened in the past that we need to know yet we didn’t put much attention on it.
The next discussion would be with the Harvest Mission Christian Church. It’s a group of college girls who learn bible and share experience or thoughts together. They are mostly Asian decendants who go to the same church (the pastor is Asian, so maybe that explains). Despite of the stomachache I had, I really enjoyed the discussion. I wish it would be more about learning the Christianity’s teachings rather than comparing Islam to Christianity. However, it deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars over all. Hehehe. This group consist of 10 girls more or less. The thing that I like from this activity was, they didn’t try to give a preach or teach us but more into involving us in their routine activities. It took informal setting and seems quite natural.
The first activity was singing together with one of them as a guitar player. They sang for God, it was more into vertical relationship between man and God. It was turned out to be a really nice song and I could feel the devout (khusyuk) atmosphere, continued with praying together. Their group has a motto “LIFE” stands for “Love I Faith Enjoyment” which means they would like to share all those things to others. We then grouped into 2 to study more about Bible. Today we studied 2 Samuel: 11 and another verse (dont remember). Verse 11 told us a story about how David who was known as a great King made a mistake and then punished by God. And another verse is about the (cambuk) and (rajam) punishment for who conducted adultery. Btw, I need to mention that their theme for today was “Mistake and Repentances”. So these verses would like to show that even David, the Great King, made a mistake. He was just a human like us all.
Verse 11 told a story when David attracted to a woman named Bets(something) and made love with her. This woman actually had a husband called Uriah the Hittite (if not mistaken) who in that time was in the battle. The lady then came to David and said that she was pregnant. David then asked the husband to draw back from war and came back home, so that people would think the baby was Uriah’s child. However, Uriah rejected these order and he stayed. The King didn’t run out of way, he commanded him to be in the front line of troops and he set the troops to withdraw themselves so that Uriah would be died. What a cunning man!
But then, Nathan (a prophet) came to David and conveyed what God had told him. He basically said that God had forgiven David for what he had done and he would not die. However, David’s child would bear the consequences. David’s son then died. This was became an interesting issue to discuss. The question raised was, “Why this innocent child should bear his father’s sins? What did he do wrong?”. If we see it from the child’s perspective, it seems so unfair. Shannah (a member) replied that if we do understand and believe in God’s justice, then we will see it as a fair consequence somehow. May be God did that in order to ensure David remembers his sin forever and not committed to do that ever again. That’s the essential of repentance, right?
Anyway, I feel like I need more adaptation to the American’s foods. We had lunch in a cafe today and I ordered a roasted beef sandwich which turned out to be a real big portion. Kate had warned us bout that though. However, I didn’t think it’s gonna be that big. I could only finish a half :3
Btw, American’s foods portion are really really big including for the salad and they tasted different (for sure) from Asian taste.
Ann Arbor, June 19th, 2012