Because my roommate Joann does not have a significant other, I was allowed to tag along with her on a field trip for her Cultural Outreach class. Many people assume that Utah is the land of the Mormons, well as that may be the majority of us there are also many a minority religion that thrive here in Zion and I had the opportunity last Saturday to go visit their places of worship and learn more about the different cultures that are hidden around us students.
1. Hari Krishna Temple
First we visited the Hari Krishna temple in SLC. It's not as grand as its sister temple in Spanish Fork but it was certainly a wonderful place to visit. Our host Brian (or Ramadan or something in Krishna) gave us the tour of the place, dreads and all. We had to remove our shoes and then he took us into the "temple room" and did a ceremony for us while we sat and watched. It involved a lot of bowing and waving things and ringing bells, but by the end of it we were cleansed with the holy fire and ready to take on the world renewed in Krishna. It was very interesting how practicing participants lived, for example: they don't taste their food while they are cooking, they have to say mantras on their prayer beads sometimes up to 16 times a day (1 mantra for every bead and there are like 116 of them- lots of mantras!) and my personal favorite is that they also do not drink coffee or alcohol and abstain from premarital intercourse and tobacco (pretty neat!). Then we went and did some yoga (they are very big on this and it is a part of their religion). We said some mantras and did a lot of breathing. We didn't know if it would be disrespectful if we took pictures so we avoided it just in case (sorry!)
Next we went to a Cathedral in downtown SLC. Joann was once a practicing Catholic so she pretty much gave me a tour (they just let you roam around by yourself there). Things I learned?
a. don't turn your back on the front of the cathedral because it is disrespectful- you don't turn your back to the cross
b. when mass is over you wait for the priest and then follow behind him when he passes your pew to leave
c. there are little things you pull out of the pew to kneel to pray on
d. when you leave you go to the water, dip your fingers in, and then cross yourself
I thought the Cathedral was beautiful and very ornate. I loved all the little details in everything and seeing the symbolism throughout the church. Can't wait to go to a Spanish mass with Joann and her aunts in NY.
3. Ethiopian Food
Then we took a break and went to have a traditional Ethiopian meal.
Joann with the table cover on her head.
So the food comes out looking like this (we got a vegetable and meat plater). Basically what you do is you tear off a piece of this spongey, bitter bread and use it to dip/pick up some of the meat and then you eat it. It was very different than anything I'd ever had and it wasn't my favorite but it was a cool thing to experience.
After that we decided to go to a Mosque and meet some Islamic people. To enter the Mosque we had to make sure our heads were covered with a scarf and that our sleeves covered our arms completely (only for women). When we entered we had to remove our shoes and then we went to the general floor (mainly for men to worship). It was very plain- nothing was on the walls. We asked the kind gentleman who was nice enough to take time out of his worship to explain thing to use why that was and he said because they didn't want to give an image to their worship- which I thought was very interesting. Visiting the mosque also gave me a better understanding of what these people are like- they are so devote and so sacrificing- almost to the point of some tension when we started discussing the way our prophet was chosen by God. We also went to the women and children's floor. It was pretty neat because kids there can attend a Sunday School and learn basic principles and learn to write and read Arabic ( this is not available to adults, they only go to pray). It was an amazing experience and I felt like we were almost filming a documentary when we spoke with this local that gave us the tour.
5. Belgium Waffles
I don't know how legit the waffles were, but oh well they were delicious! We all know I'm a softy when it comes to gourmet waffles!
And that folks, was our very cultured field trip!
Really though it's been a month of culture for me:
my first real passover, hari krishna temple, cathedral, mosque, holi...