Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Field Trip of World Religions!

Craig's school really makes learning fun! The Year 1 classes (Year 1 is the American equivalent of kindergarten, but on some serious steroids!!) at St. Christopher's have been learning about Festivals and Religions of the world. It's the perfect place to learn about world cultures, here in Malaysia! Malaysians are divided pretty equally into three distinct groups of people: Malay Malaysians, Chinese Malaysians, and Indian Malaysians. Malay Malaysians are Muslim. Malaysia is actually a Muslim Nation; something I didn't know before moving here. Chinese Malaysians are largely Buddhist, although our congregration is largely comprised of Chinese Malaysians. Indian Malaysians are largely Hindu or Muslim. I say largely with the Chinese and Indian populations because they are able to choose their religion. Part of Muslim teaching makes it hard to switch religions, and it is actually against the law in Malaysia. These three groups live side by side but maintain a strong sense of their heritage. Their food, holidays, and manner of dress are all dictated by their heritage. Even their government ID's will clarify which group an individual belongs to, so in addition to national pride there is an even stronger sense of pride of one's heritage. With such a diverse population living together, Craig is really able to learn a lot about the different religions and cultures around him! His school, very ambitiously, planned a field trip for the 1st year students to visit a Muslim Mosque, a Hindu Temple and a Christian Church. They haven't studied Buddhism yet, but will soon! I was very lucky to get to accompany the class on the field trip! Here is Craig on the bus! This is Sarah Kelly and I. Sarah was able to accompany her son's class as well. We met the children at the first stop, the Floating Mosque.

Here is the group of children I got to take the tour with! They are all in their yellow house shirts (just like Harry Potter!) the children were divided into their houses so that we could keep better eyes on them.
Inside the Mosque it was very beautiful and serene. They showed us the ritual cleansing a person must do before they pray. They cleanse themselves 3 times. I was suprised to find out that Craig already knew that. He also knew that there would be no images of people or animals. There were patterns and flowers instead.
After the cleansing, the children were invited to sit in the main area of the mosque. Usually the women will sit on a balcony above where the men sit, but they let the class stay together. The children watched as the clergyman showed them a typical Muslim Prayer. We actually hear the Call to Prayer several times a day since we live quite close to a mosque. It's a very beautiful chant that they do from the Mosque towers.
This is the podium, which the Mullah gives lectures from every Friday. He will only use the podium on Fridays at lunch time. All other times people gather to pray (5 times a day!) without the additional sermon. Our next stop was a Hindu Temple! It was just a short, 5 minute drive from the Mosque.
Here is Craig and one of his classmates at the entrance of the Temple. They are standing in front of the Gods Rama and Sita. Craig knows the whole story behind these two, but I don't!
Here is the inside of the temple, with different statues of the Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu Faith.
Here is the altar for Ganesha, a Hindu God with the Head of an elephant and body of a human.
The priest at the temple showed the children how the Hindu people pray and gave blessings, in the form of a red dot on their forehead to anyone child who wanted one.
The final stop of the tour was to a Catholic Cathedral here in Penang. This was the representative of the Christian Denominations of the world. They showed the video of the Christmas story and then took the children through the Cathedral.
I was pretty impressed that 75 5 and 6-year-olds were able to sit quite still in three different houses of worship!
The priest invited the children up to the altar, and showed them some of the rituals that go on during a typical service.
Finally, the Priest opened the floor to questions, and there were quite a few! Here is one of Craig's favorite classmates, Kai Ru (Chinese Malaysian) full of questions for the priest!
After a quick snack is was back on the bus, and off to school! We feel really lucky that Craig is exposed to so many new and different things! And he's picking up a few local customs, as well!
Isn't Malaysia a wonderfully diverse country? We have enjoyed learning about the different cultures and religions of the people here. As it's the Christmas Season I thought I'd also show you our Christmas Stockings! In our rush the get to Malaysia I forgot to pack them and so I had to make some new ones to hang. The top on is Brent's and it represents the Indian culture here in Malaysia, the middle one is mine, and it represents the Malay people and the bottom one is Craig's, it represents the Chinese culture. I know we didn't visit a Chinese Temple on the field trip, but Penang is largely Chinese and he will study the Buddhist religion after Christmas. Now someone asked why Christianity wasn't represented on the stockings. First of all, we are a family of 3!! Second of all, the stockings themselves represent Christianity - we are the only ones who celebrate Christmas!!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the stockings! What a fun memory for you guys and how fun that they each represent a different culture. Very clever! You are so talented!

    I also like the picture of craigy doing the "peace" sign. All of my Asian friends from grad school do that in their pictures ... they told me it means "victory".

    One more thing --- can you change the comment settings so that someone can post anonymously or just provide their name? Mom is having a hard time posting comments because she doesn't have a google account.