That is a frequently-asked question to me since I first stayed in this country.
Due to my attire preference, I am well-prepared that I will constantly receive other people’s stares, glares, and questions. Among other exercises and activities I enjoy, swimming is the exercise that I usually appear so outstandingly. However, other people’s questions, glares, and stares never stop me from doing the exercise that I feel most comfortable. Not to mention, I find that this attire selection is actually a space for me to open up a conversation about my faith.
Today, this question was asked by an elderly lady sharing a lap with me.
It was one hot day in this, supposedly rainy city, with temperature reaching out to 96 F or 36 C. I drove myself to the community pool to have my regular swimming.
Pool around 6:30 ish was not that bad. There were a number of private lessons going on so the regular swimmers could only use two laps in the big pool. Other pool was being used by the fitness swimmers, while jacuzzi was actually full- a little bit surprising for a hot weather like today.
I then brought myself to the left side lap, and shared with another swimmer. I enjoyed my swimming and my reflection for about twenty minutes, when I realized that I was all alone but another elderly came towards the pool I was using. She was using a walker and an aid to keep her float. I really admire her spirit and energy to keep swimming (or doing exercise) regardless some challenges she needed to overcome to be able to swim. This alone had put me into another reflection that I should keep exercising and dismiss all the excuses for not doing any exercise even with some challenges. And later I learned that she is 72 years old! I totally admire her energy and motivation!
After sharing the lap for about 30 minutes, I decided to stop for a while, still dipping myself in the pool. While catching up my breath, I was greeted by the lady which I politely replied. And the next question was as expected:
“Why are you wearing that? It’s because of your religion, right?” and her one question was leading to a rather long conversation. She has had some understanding about the concept of wearing hijab in Islam because she had a Malaysian friend who was also wearing hijab. I also explained to her that Muslimahs in Indonesia have a liberty to choose whether or not to wear hijab suggesting that it is not a matter of oppression. A simple question eventually led to a ten-minute conversation….
and I am glad that I could actually open up a conversation about the religion that I feel at home….
After exchanging some lines about here and there, we then decided to be back to swim and said goodbye about ten minutes later.
The clock stroke almost 7:15 ish as I walked out from the pool to the women’s locker leaving a number of swimmers and parents waiting for the children behind. As I walked, I knew I still could feel a little bit restless, but then I walked confidently despite people’s stares and glares.
“Throw me a question, and I’ll be happy to answer!” 🙂
Let’s get to know each other better and who knows we can be a good friend!
The moral of the story is that “just be yourself, don’t pretend to be someone else and stay faithful to what you believe. The positive energy and vibe will attract only good people, not otherwise” 🙂
PNW, Beginning of June, 2016