Day 106 - Kelly (1st person I approached)
April 16, 2014 - Kelly was sitting alone when I approached her. She told me she was waiting to meet someone, but was happy to talk with me. I was unsure about having this conversation, because I didn’t want to cut the conversation short. But I knew I wanted to make this work! As I offered my hand to shake with Kelly, she smiled and said
“I’m sorry, I don’t shake hands.”
Thus began an open and interesting conversation. Kelly was upfront about being comfortable with me asking questions of her faith and beliefs. We had immediately established a mutual respect. She told me that as a Muslim woman, she doesn’t shake hands or make any physical contact with a man that she doesn’t know, or isn’t related to.
She was born in Buffalo, New York. Her parents are from Taiwan. They were attending the State University of New York (SUNY), both working on their Masters degrees. Her mother studied English as a Second Language, and her father studied Special Needs Education. Kelly is an only child. When she was five years old, the family moved to Burnaby, British Columbia (BC). They now live in Surrey, BC.
After graduating from high school, Kelly went to Kwantlen College for a year, studying business. “I didn’t like it,” she told me.
“I didn’t like it at all. Business just wasn’t interesting to me. I left after a year.”
In 2009, after much consideration, Kelly converted to the Muslim faith.
“I was looking for peace. The word Islam relates to peace and to submit. I did a lot of research and investigation. I ended up making an equation of it for myself. I will find peace, through Islam and by submitting,” Kelly said.
I wondered if it presented any challenges for her friends when she undertook this journey.
“No, as a matter of fact, one of my best friends was also exploring converting to Islam. And if anything, my circle of friends has grown. Through people that I’ve met and the sharing of this journey,” she said.
Kelly got married and has an 18 month old son.
“I met my husband at a movie,” she tells me with a great burst of laughter.
“I was there with another friend. The movie was ‘The Road’ with that guy from ‘Lord of the Rings.’ It was so bad. Anyway, the friend I was with is also Muslim and (my husband to be) approached us. He is also a muslim convert, and is a white guy too! He greeted us “As-salamu alaykum,” which is Arabic for ‘peace be upon you.’ My friend pretty much ignored him, but that's because he’s a jerk. But I responded in kind and we started talking. We exchanged contact information. For about the next month or so, we talked via MSN Messenger,” Kelly said, laughing the whole time.
For one reason or another, things didn’t go much further, and Kelly didn’t hear from him again for two years.
“Then I got a message on LinkedIn from him. I replied to the effect of ’You must have sent this in error.’ But he sent another message telling me that he wanted to get together and talk. We went out for Sushi and things worked out this time.” Their Muslim faith is different for both of them. Kelly's interests are in Sharia, the wearing of a hijab, regular prayer, fasting, and a commitment to making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
“It’s stricter, and is about rules and discipline,” Kelly said.
“My husband's interest is in Sufism. That could be described as a more spiritual and mystical approach to the Muslim faith. It’s looking inward. When I first converted I definitely adhered to the stricter, guided by rules aspect of my faith. Now I am coming around a bit more to the Sufism approach. It’s about finding that balance that keeps me in my faith, while seeking and finding peace.”
Kelly went back to school and is reaching the end of getting her certification as a registered nurse.
“I’ve alway been drawn to doing work that helps others. I still have to decide whether it will be medical or surgical nursing that I pursue. We get two years to work in both areas. Medical nursing is more about the science of nursing. Surgical nursing is the practical application, cleaning wounds, applying dressings, performing tasks,” Kelly said.
She will write her final exams in October of this year.
I asked Kelly what her parents felt about her choice to convert to the Muslim faith.
“My parents were fine with it. In my research I discovered that about 7% of the Taiwan population are Muslim. My mother is Buddhist and my father isn’t really anything. It’s brought my mother and I closer. Buddhism and the islamic faith share quite a lot of similarities. We respect each other.” #notastranger