"Do Indonesians brush their teeth?"
"What part of Europe is Indonesia in?"
"Does it ever snow in Indonesia?"
Since coming to this country, I've been asked some fairly shocking questions. The questions usually range from serious to hilarious. However, one question that I have been repeatedly asked is, "What's it like living with a Muslim host family?"Well. What's it like living with your American family? Do you feel safe? Do you talk to each other? Do you eat dinner together? Because I do all of the above with my Muslim host family.
My Muslim host parents both have PhDs. My host mom is a rehabilitation doctor and my host dad does some other crazy, smart things. My brother is very proud of his soccer abilities, and his favorite team is FC Barcelona. My host sister is an incredible student, and between all of her school work, she takes piano lessons and art classes. Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this sound bizarre? Don't get me wrong, my host family certainly isn't the same as my family in the US. But if you ask me, I think they share more similarities than they do differences.
People have also asked me about school here. "Do they like, want to like, convert you?" Monday through Saturday I spend seven hours a day with Muslim students, or as I like to call them, students. No, they do not hate Americans. No, they do not preach to me about converting to Islam. And no, men are not oppressing women. On that note, the hijab is not a sign of complete, male domination. Muslim women wear the hijab to feel empowered, to say, "I am not a sex object" On another note, teachers are also not telling students to go on suicide bombing missions. Sorry. I have digressed. My fellow classmates... Scratch that. The entire school, has been nothing but welcoming. All of these Muslims are making feel like I've lived here my whole life.
In the short time that I have lived here, I am quickly realizing the importance of the YES Abroad program. Not only are there misconceptions in America about Muslims, there are also Muslims with misconceptions about Americans. Just the other day I had a friend come up to me and say, "I thought all Americans were mean to Muslims. Why are you so nice?" That really shocked me. To think that we are currently living in a world where there are still tensions and miscommunications over something as beautifully simple as religion. So that's why I'm here, living with a Muslim family. Going to school with Muslim classmates. And doing things in an Islamic society. And you know what? I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Here is a lovely video for thought.
And this as well.