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A Mystical Moment in the Middle East

Dear Rudy,

This summer after graduating from medical school, I took a trip to the Middle East to visit my mother, a Peace Corps volunteer in Jordan. Keep in mind that (1) I was decompressing after four years of 24/7 studying, and (2) the furthest I had been outside the Midwest was New Orleans. But during my trip, I was definitely "bit by the travel bug," as they say. I kept a travel journal, and I think I caught the precise moment when the travel bug struck. It occurred on my first morning in Jordan. Here's what I wrote:

"I awoke early, at 4 a.m., thanks to jet lag. The sun had not yet come up, and I was surrounded by silence as I sat in the kitchen. I had begun washing some of my mom's dishes to pass the time, when I heard, 'Alllllaaaah im akbar' (a purely phonetic spelling). It was a grainy tenor voice, booming through a megaphone. I could hear the static from the wind blowing past the microphone, sounding a bit like an LP. What was this voice, and more importantly, why were they up at four in the morning? Then it hit me: This was my first call to prayer!

What a strange and mystical thing this moment was. The call went on for seven to eight minutes. I stepped out onto the deck to hear it better.There seemed to be other voices joining in, surrounding me. I assumed these were other mosques putting out their own calls. Did people pray in their homes, or would there be a line of men heading to the mosque? Which way is Mecca from here?

Less than two days ago I was in America. Now I am in the Middle East, in a completely different culture and environment. I can't entirely express what I am experiencing. The Middle East is more than visual. You hear, smell and taste it, too. I can't quite believe I'm here, and I really can't believe how exciting it is to be somewhere totally different from your home."




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