Note: This will be my last Pre-Shahada post. All the posts after this one will focus mostly on my experiences with Islam. You will see me occasionally look at Buddhism/Shintoism since this is the religion that has affected my Japanese cultural upbringing (on my Japanese half).
For most of my Muslims, the next post is when I will start to share to them about my experiences as a Muslim.
Almaty, Kazakhstan (1997)
I arrived in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in May, 1997. This was my first trip overseas without my parents. I was heading to Kazakhstan with the US Peace Corps where I was to serve as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language, or TEFL. While in Almaty, I got to visit two of the popular Russian Orthodox Churches both which were being renovated.
Karatau, Kazakhstan (1997)
After my training I headed to Karatau in southern Kazakhstan. I got sick early on so I had to head back to Almaty which meant I got to walk by the St. Nicholas Cathedral on several occasions. Once returning to Karatau, I had decided I wanted to visit the Russian Orthodox community in the town.
I remember it was Winter when I asked my Kazakh host sister to take me to the Russian Church in Karatau. She did. I was still wearing my St. Nicholas cross at this time and seriously thinking about converting while in Kazakhstan.
It never happened, obviously.
We walked there and got to the entrance of the small church which was located on the outskirts of the town. I knew she would not walk in but oddly enough, I did not either. I could not explain it.
My gut feeling told me not to enter. So I did not.
We went back to my host families house. I never converted. I knew I would never be a Christian.
By next Spring, I would hear the Call to Prayer for the first time. A year later, I became a Muslim.