Call for prayer

It was still 30 minutes left until the prayer time, when I entered the mosque. I took a seat at the warm corner of the mosque, decided to use that 30-minute window to prepare for my Math exam. So, I fished my tablet out of my bag, opened the University system, downloaded the needed lecture, and started reading. When 10 minutes left for the prayer, I moved closer to the mosque microphone. In this way, I showed the other several guys sitting in the hall that I want to make the Adhan (a call for a prayer).
Traditionally, if you are in a muslim country, there is a person in each mosque responsible for making a “call”, which is called “Adhan”, for each of five daily prayers. Since I am in Czech Republic, where the muslim population constitutes only around 5000 people, poorly financed mosques over here cannot afford to employ such “Adhan worker”. But you know what, that is even great.
Before each prayer there is always someone who volunteers to make a call. I consider making the call as an honor. Sometimes there is even a sort of a “friendly competition” between brothers: “I will make the call” a brother would claim. “You made the call last time. It’s my turn now” another brother would mess with his pell.
I was sitting under the microphone, reading Math lecture slides. I look at the digital clock hanging on the wall: 2 minutes left. I could hear people entering the mosque behind me. I look at the clock again: 1 minute left. It’s almost the time for a making the call.
At this moment a brother passes by me and stands just in front of the microphone. He looks at me. I look at him. I smile and say “Will you let me make the Adhan?”. He smiles back to me and says “Of course I will. You were the first to come into the mosque”. Anis, who was sitting next to me, started laughing after these words. I stood up and made the call. Anis led the prayer of 15 people. After 5 minutes we finished the prayer and everyone went out of the mosque: some to work, some to university, some home.
I am just in love with the friendly atmosphere in a mosque. And I feel so bad about its negative reputation brainwashed by mass media.

“Abdullani uylantiramiz!” or My beloved son, I’d like to introduce your wife to you

I am 20 years old. Because I went to school at an unusually early age, most of my schoolmates are now 21 or 22.
In my motherland, Uzbekistan, it is “inappropriate” not to be married after the age of 25. If you are still not married when you are 24, when you see someone in the street, the first thing they ask is “Qachon endi?!”, which means “When will you eventually get married?“. On one hand, it can be incredibly pleasant to be asked that question. On the other hand, sometimes it is really irritating.
Sabine, a nice german lady who lived in Uzbekistan for 6 years straight, could never make sense of this peculiar culture when one of the guys (at our regular German Speaking Club events at Goethe Institut) claimed confidently “I plan to get married when I am 23”. Sabine was always confused: “How can you PLAN to get married? You are not even in a relationship with anyone!”.
Several month ago, one of my close friends in Tashkent messaged me saying “O’rto, uylantiramiz diyishvotti”, which means “Dude, they are saying they will marry me soon”. Yesterday, another true friend of mine, who is studying in Malaysia, told me that he is going back to Uzbekistan for a couple of months, justifying his trip by saying “To’y boshlab quyishibdi!!!”, which means “They started my wedding!!!”.
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. Chances are, one day my beloved grandma will state at a family dinner “Abdullani uylantiramiz!”, which means “We are going to marry Abdullah”. 
Don’t get me wrong, though. I am proud to be Uzbek. I love Uzbek culture entirely. But no culture is perfect, isn’t it?

Why would you admire a student?

The last two months I have been doing my studies only at coffeshops. It’s so peaceful and great “learning” atmosphere in there. Since I have been visiting predominantly only a couple of places, people started recognizing me in those cafés.
For instance, earlier this week as I was doing my online GMAT course with my iPad, a notepad and a pen, and a cup of tea in a coffeeshop in the downtown, Umar enters the café. He notices me and comes up to say hello with a smiling face. After some time he offers to buy me a lunch. I respectfully refuse. Yet, he insists and brings Turkish dessert Baklava onto my table.
Another day, Ribah – a worker at the café – gave me a cup of fresh banana juice for free. Another day, though, a guy, whom I barely know, put a few banknotes into my pocket regardless to my hostility, saying “For your lunch, brother”. They are all working people with families, being old enough to be my father. One of them, who seems to be freaking rich, once told me with such a happy face “I admire you when I look at you studying”. “Why would you admire a student?”, I asked. “Because I’ve never had a chance to be one”, he replied.
On one hand, I feel so good when people care about me. On the other hand, sometimes I have a feeling that they look at me like a “hungry student”, who is in sore financial need. I don’t enjoy the latter feeling of accepting a “charity”.
And if anything, I myself would be willing to help students financially if I am well off in the future.

Can a punctuality be exgegerated?

Last week a lady called me and invited me to a so-called “Success Seminar”, which is going to take place on Friday at 15:30 in Hotel International. She told me to write down her number, time and place of appointment. “I can get your number later from a friend of mine, that’s no problem”, I said. “It’s better if you write it down right now”, she insisted. It took me a few moments to fish a piece of paper out of my bag. “We will meet at 14:55 outside the hotel”, the lady repeated, “At 14:55. At the Hotel International on Friday at 14:55”. Okay-okay… Today she called me again and told me there are changes in plans, and we are not meeting at 14:55, but at 15:00.

These are Czech drivers

“Stop the car on a side of the road for a minute, please.”, said my driving instructor yesterday when the car was going at the speed of 40 kilometers per hour on the third gear, “I have to make a phone call. Check the right mirror. Don’t forget to turn on the left blinker when the car is parked on a two-line way”. I stopped the car and turned on the left blinker.
10 meters away from us was a traffic sign that prohibitted parking by the road, which qualified for the distance between the sign and the first intersection after it. In other words, it was prohibitted to park within that part of the road. Yet right after that sign there was a greyish BMW parked. “Why is that car parked over there? I thought it is not allowed to do that after this sign”, I told Petr pointing at the prohibition sign, when he finished his call. I assumed I missed some other traffic sign that allowed the car to park in there. “Well… These are Czech drivers”, he said blushing, “You know, some folks in this country just don’t care about the rules”. I could see him feeling bad for his people. “It’s the same problem in Uzbkistan, where I come from”, I replied smiling. He looked tremendously relieved. Some day he should really visit Tashkent and watch the crazy Uzbek drivers. I bet he will never feel bad for the Czech after that.

Trip to Deloitte

As a finalist of the Start-up contest, last month I won a voucher worth of 1000 euros for the services of Deloitte – the multinational business consultancy company. I emailed one of the Deloitte directors and set up an appointment for Thursday at 15:30 at Deloitte premises.
At 15:15 I was at the entrance to the office building, on the 6th floor of which are Deloitte offices. “Hello! Who do you have an appointment with?”, asked me a nice receptionist. “Mr Joerg Wiederhold at Deloitte”, I replied. She asked me to fill in the form and showed me the way to the elavator. As I was going up in the transparent elavator, I could see office blocks of other companies on each floor. It really felt like I was about to enter the heart of business world, like in American movies.
“Come with me!”, said a very polite lady in the lobby of the 6th floor and I followed her to a meeting room. “Mr Wiederhold will be with you in a minute. Do you want something to drink?”, she asked when we stepped in the meeting room. “A glass of water, please”, I said.
The room was smallish and pleasantly pragmatic: 6 comfortable chairs at the small round table, a cabin with stationaries at the corner of the room, and tall flower in a flower pot (with some leafs on the carpet) at the other corner of the room. The color of the walls, the table, and the cabin was the same – white.
I took a seat, set the iPad with my meeting plan in Evernote in front of my eyes, prepared a small notepad and a pen with WHU symbol on it. I was ready for the meeting with a person, who had over 20 years of experience in business consultancy.
“Hi, Abdullah! It’s good to see you”, he said with the typical german accent, when he entered the room after 4 minutes. He was a tall man with modern black round glasses, like John Lennon’s ones from the Beetles. Before even taking a seat, “Where did you get this pen?!”, he proclaimed, “You can’t have it, unless…”. He didn’t finish his sentence. “This business school is my dream”, I said pointing at the text “WHU” on the pen (WHU – #1 Business school in Germany).
It was a nice start of the meeting. And the rest of it flowed beautifully too. I didn’t have enough time to ask all of my questions, though. But I managed to ask the most important one: “can an extensive work-experience at Deloitte give me all the skills needed to run a successful business of my own?”. And the answer was a confident “Yes!”.

Pleasant surprise from a good friend

Last week I went to a shopping center to buy a pair of snickers. I found cool snickers, which I fell in love with, and was about to get them. At the moment my trousers were torn and, so, I had to purchase jeans for the money I assigned for my lovely snickers. When I told this story to a friend of mine, he said “I want to give those snickers as a gift to you”. The next day I received money via Western Union from Canada. Now I got both trousers and snickers. I am blessed to have true friends, who are always ready to help me out, even though I never ask them to and even though there is the Atlantic Ocean between us.

How a beggar stole my phone today.

We were sitting comfortably with Doniyor in a Costa Coffee chatting. My phone rang, I fished it out of my jeans pocket, and after finishing the call, I put it on the table. After a while a beggar entered the coffee-shop. It was a short and young girl with old tatty clothes on. She didn`t seem to be from Czech Republic, and I bet she was not older than me. She slowly approached one table after the other, saying something with a super low voice. She passed our table, and after 20 seconds came back again to our table. Doniyor and I stopped talking and looked at her, trying to figure out what she wants. Her voice was so low that we couldn`t even hear her properly. Then, a big map or flyer (not sure what it was) appeared in her hands and she started showing it to me on the table. We thought she was asking for money. Don gave her a few coins. She turned around, made several steps towards the exit. I said “Wait!”. She stopped immediately, stood for a few seconds with her back to us, as though she was in a state of small shock. I was surprised (but now I understand why she was scared at that moment). She turned around, came up to us, I took a few coins out of my wallet and gave her, she went out of the coffee-shop. After 15 minutes I realized the phone was gone.

Help from Heavens.

I was googling around yesterday trying to find an IELTS course and was feeling bad since the courses were so expensive that I couldn’t afford them. At the very moment, someone knocks my door. I went out and met my new neighbor. He happened to get 9 on IELTS last year and he promised to help me out for free. Is it fair enough if I say it’s a gift from God to me?