Sunday, August 06, 2006

Khatems, Clinics and Koreans

I’m sick. And it’s not fun. I think it’s the flu plus food poisoning or just one of the two. I started to feel sick on Wednesday night but went to work anyway. I left work early on Thursday and went straight to my cousin’s house. My Khala (Aunt), my cousin’s mom, is in town and I knew that she would make sure I was taken care of.

I went straight to the room designated to as ‘my’ room and threw myself on the bed. I spent the rest of the day sleeping and being fussed over. My Khala checked my temperature and my pulse, gave me medicine, put cold compresses on my forehead, prepared soup and generally just made me feel better. I love my Khala.

Friday, we went ahead with the khatem for my friend’s daughter. A khatem is prayer round and is usually done as thanks to Allah or pleas for help. Generally, a khatem is a reading of the Quran Sharif by a group of people. Other types of khatems may be repeating a verse or a prayer from the Quran Sharif a number of times.

We did the latter. It took a long time, as two of the participants (myself and Y) were sick, and our khatem had a repetition of over 100,000 times. I had to stop an hour into it as I thought I was going to throw up, but I started back up again in about half an hour. It was a good thing that I did, because my other cousin A, was outside and we couldn’t hear the doorbell over the loud hum of the generator. He called me, I opened the door and we both joined the khatem.

We kept track of the numbers with raw kidney beans. It is the way our grandmothers did their khatems, which is a nice thought. My cousin counted 1,000 beans and put it in the middle of the table. Each person would recite a verse and then put it to the side. Once we all finished 1,000, my cousin or my Khala would take a bean (from a completely separate pile) and put it in another bowl, to keep track of our 1,000s.

It was a happy khatem and made us feel that helpful to our friend and his family – which is what we needed also.

We finished and my Khala dedicated it to my friend’s daughter and rain for my beautiful but dry Afghanistan. As we all prayed, together but praying separately, I felt my little group’s deep prayers that our friend’s daughter is restored to health. I hope it works.

I was also going to write about the clinic that I went to on Saturday, and how they only let me in because my driver yelled out, “She’s a Kharijee (foreigner), Let her in,” but I’m pretty exhausted. I guess there is a free health clinic for locals, and because of demand, they can only let in 100 people a day but foreigners, who pay, can go in anytime.

And I haven’t seen any of the fabled Koreans yet but my friends who have recently gone to the airport have seen them, and I guess lots of children and teenagers? Really, why? Why would you put your children in danger? It’s been so hyped in the Western media and the security emails that I get everyday, that I’m afraid that I’m going to see one of the Korean evangelists and scream, “Aahh, Koreans!” and sprint out of the room. Dude, cuz they’re targets and I don’t want to be sitting next to them when fanatics come by.

But I do want to know why they’re here in Afghanistan. The summer is not the safest time to be here, and why here? We’re Muslim and happy with our religion. If you want to help, come help but don’t come for this. This isn’t helping.

I have no problems with Christians, having spent most of my life in the Bible Belt of the U.S. and have plenty of friends who are staunch, conservative, Christians…but I don’t appreciate evangelists. When I worked on an American Indian Reservation for a summer, I remember a Church group coming to the Rez and telling the kids that they would go to hell if they weren’t saved. And then the Church group wouldn’t or couldn’t break up a fight between two 8-year old boys. Is that supposed to help them?

We need practical help. Rebuild some sewage tanks, fix up our water supply or plant some trees…but this? An evangelical rally, do they think this is going to get people to convert? We’re trying to rebuild this country here and frankly, we just can’t handle it. Security is iffy for Afghans, how are we supposed to guarantee it for evangelists?

Oy, this has become a rant, I’ll stop now.

I’ve also been thinking about how Koreans, who are trying to convert the Afghans, converted once they were in contact with Anglo/European Christian missionaries, but I can’t articulate it properly. And I’m not quite sure how Koreans became Christians so maybe I’ll shut up now.


omg said...

_____ jan,
(I've been reading The Kite Runner, and it's rubbing off on me.) Sorry to hear you've been sick; glad to hear you have people to look after you, and hope you get better soon.

Enjoyed reading the details of the khatem. Last week I tried to explain the concept of the rosary to hubby, so it was interesting to read about your khatem.

Today's blog also prompted me to read up on Christianity in Korea. Your blog is informative and entertaining; you rock my socks. Not that that's news.

PS staying cool in the capital said...

dear plucky friend,

thanks for posting your last blog. as omg said, it was very cool to read about the khatem. sounds like such an amazing practice. also, i hope you're feeling better and that your family (and allah) continue to look after you well. all of us here state-side are sending our wellwishes, too.

as for me, i started my day with my sitting practice. it's been such a necessary part of my life lately. when times are hard, i find a spiritual practice forces your eyes open a bit - to look beyond the stresses of the moment and to see the beauty and "rightness" that lies beyond - the beautiful nature our world.

but i've sinced moved on to the backyard -- sitting in my bikini in the baby pool as i attempt to do work while also staying cool. and then my neighbor just had to come over and embarass me - brought me a Corona, claiming i couldn't sit in the backyard in the babypool w/o a beer in hand. how could i refuse???

ok. back to work. take care of yourself. love to you and all the ex-P.H. chicas who happen to read this...

imperial sugar land said...

I understandeth the Kaddo Gul (wait, is that your nickname or our friend's in FL?) regarding Korea, conversion, evangelicals, etc. And, I, too, would yell "Koreans" and run out of the room, for the same reason :)

Loved reading about the Khatem, i pray all is well for you, for your friend's daughter, and for dry Afghanistan. May Allah keep you safe and healthy and bless dear Khala for taking care of you.

The post reminded me of khatems at my parents' house. the large "Chandni" rolled out (a VERY large white sheet rolled out to cover the carpet). all of us sitting cross-legged and trying not to laugh at whatever silly non-joke our fellow cousin or sibling had just made. all the while trying not to get caught being anything but somber by the grown ups.

yes, i'm recalling khatems from when I was a kiddie, and yes, i may act that way still, but not confirming it.

we used almonds. and afterwards we ate them, yum. we also used a variety of other bean-type things - whatever was at hand.

and yes, our parents, from whom we were trying to hide our silly kid giggling, were also trying to hide their own giggles from each other and from us kids. which made the kids choke on their attempts to not laugh out loud.

laughter is a way of dealing with stress for old and young, apparently, and apparently, genetically inherited in my family.

The Houston Reader said...

OMG: I also read the Kite Runner recently. I was swept into the story and, at the end, came out in a daze. I don't think I know you, but still, I'm excited that you're in that story, now, because reading about it reminded me how I felt inside that story a few months ago.

homeinkabul said...

Ladies, I really liked Kiterunner also and had the same experience, got so into it that I felt disoriented when I finished the book. And thanks for the compliments, checking the blog and commenting - it makes me feel in the loop also.

Yes, Kadul gul was my nickname. Our Fl friend is Burfi jan. We didnt have a white tablecloth but used a white sheet with big polka dots that reminded everyone of twister. Which truly made me giggle.

homeinkabul said...

Koreans & Christianity:

Quite interesting, esp. the stuff about lay leadership and S. Korea sending the most missionaries (after the U.S.)

mother-in-law said...

I think your points about the rally are very valid and you should send your comments to them. (This is the email for the Institute of Asian Culture and Development, the group that organzied the rally) Really, who was the genius that came up with this idea???

Baking Hot in Houston said...

oh good, glad to know you ARE Kuddu Gul - I thought the heat was melting me.

Did you know you could bake cookies on the dash of your car? check out:

Mmm, now i'm hungry for some pumpkin and some cookies....

moi said...

Hope you feel better soon. My thoughts are with your friend's daughter and family.

Roohafza Junkie said...

Kadu Gul, so sorry to hear that you aren't feeling well; thankfully you have family who can help you feel better. I sent duas to my friend who is going on umrah...i asked for many things for you, among them was good health :)

Aah, so imperial sugar land is the nickname of our friend who we could not find a nickname for! Wunderbar.

Our family uses the pits of dates in khatems. My grandfather (mother's father) used to save them and on his passing, we used those very ones. Like imperial's family, we also use white sheets and everyone tries to dress up in all white.

So, have you seen any Koreans?

batgirl (gotham city) said...

maybe the koreans will open a korean bar b que restaurant! hallal of course.

and the khatem sounds so interesting...i cant imagine saying soemthign 100,000 times.

imperial sugar land said...

Dear Rooh Afzan Jan,

You know who I am? I checked out your link and left you a message.


yum, Korean BBQ. Let's go to Woomi's for dinner tonight.

Elizabeth said...

Missionaries have been working in Afghanistan for decades (centuries, actually) and there is an underground church there. Not everyone in Afghanistan is Muslim- some just pretend to be. I've met plenty of athiests there... they would never admit this to a Muslim, though, because they fear death and don't think it would make any difference.

I don't really get what the Koreans are trying to accomplish, though, either, since going in that way is hardly going to win them any converts.

K-Oh said...

Perhaps the Koreans seek (sought?) holy martyrdom? That's the only thing that makes much sense to me, not that it does.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading about the khatem. reading that reminds me how joyful and peaceful praying the rosary is for me. Thank you for teaching me and sharing that. What a beautiful world it would be if everyone would just sit down and acknowledge how similar our traditions across all boundaries. Instead of trying to change people, see the beauty and be respectful.
ps. sounds like i need to read kite runner.