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    Hello, Holland!

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    Ok, this time around I am going to try something different. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves and summarise my entire Holland trip in one blog post.

    Bismillah.

    If you have been following us, you’d already know that currently we are living in Frankfurt, and this means travelling around Europe is much easier when you are based in Europe.

    Last month, during our Autumn break, we headed out to Amsterdam together with our good friend, Clara, who came to visit us all the way from Singapore. We began our journey boarding the ICE train from Frankfurt Hauptbanhof to Amsterdam Centraal. A four hour train ride that’s not really that long in my honest opinion. Besides, there’s a bistro on board the train if you are feeling a little peckish during your travel. But, I’d suggest packing your own drinks and snacks. The bordbistro can be quite expensive!

    Amsterdam the city is a little confusing. Maybe cause we thought that Amsterdam is big and our Airbnb booking claimed that it was within the city. But in reality, Amsterdam is actually quite small and our Airbnb booking was completely outside of Amsterdam, in Haarlem! Haarlem is about 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal itself, and we only found out that it is not a part of Amsterdam when we asked how to get to Haarlem at the train station.

    Transport in Holland is also really expensive. No wonder everyone has a bicycle! Despite staying 20 minutes out of Amsterdam and taking the expensive train every single day into the city, we had a blast!

    Holland in essence is a gorgeous city. Everywhere you go is picture perfect!

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    Ramblings

    Coaching the Girls Varsity Football

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    Once again I had to leave Nurul all alone in cold Frankfurt over the weekend. Honestly, I didn’t know that I would be sent all around Europe when I became a teacher with ISF International School Frankfurt Rhein-Main. I wish I could have brought my wife along as it tends to get lonely and I always want Nurul to be by my side to share all these moments with me. But sadly, she had to work.

    This time around, I was sent to bring a group of passionate boisterous teenage girls to the Eastern German city called Leipzig. Leipzig is a beautiful city with historical buildings, a spanking new Hauptbanhof (their main train station), and it is also the place where the devil and Dr Faust visited in Goethe’s Faust. But when you enter the suburbs, you can see the remnants of the old Communist East German with abandoned buildings and broken windows.

    Anyway, I was down for the German International Schools’ Sports Tournament (GISST) 2016 with my Varsity Football Girls. I am their coach you see! And we have been preparing for this tournament every Monday and Friday evenings in the cold! Seriously, I did not know what to expect as it was my first time and never had the opportunity to scout the opposing teams. But in the end, I am proud of my girls and even though we did not win, my team did pretty well.

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    Faith

    Am I doing enough as a Muslim?

    bismillahirrahmanirrahim

    In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

    This is going to be my first faith-related post and I hope I can express in words my feelings. InsyaAllah.

    On my way home from work today, I was accompanied by a colleague from Spain. We were talking about our daily lives and what we were doing before we came to Frankfurt when he expressed his interest in learning about Islam.

    He told me that he became interested in Islam when he visited Morocco. He fell in love with the people, culture, and religion. He also shared with me that he took a Qur’an that was given out along Zeil (a shopping district in Frankfurt). My immediate thoughts were, first, Morocco isn’t the best example of a Muslim nation nor are its people, and secondly, I hoped that the Qur’an he took while at Zeil wasn’t from the Ahmadiyya sect.

    Now that I am sitting at home, having completed my Isya’ prayers, I am able to reflect on my thoughts and feelings. Who I am to judge our fellow Muslims – especially the Moroccans. Yes, they may not be the best Muslim but I am far from it either. In fact, I don’t think I am living up to my name, Nurulhuda – the guiding light.

    Islam is supposed to be easy and yet we make it difficult. As Muslims we are supposed to be proud of our religion, yet we practise it only behind closed doors.

    Coming from Singapore, we are taught to be mindful of practising our religion. Hoping to not offend other people and accommodate to their needs. But seriously, what is wrong in requesting Halal meat for a staff party? To keep a beard or wear a headscarf at work? Asking for prayer breaks? Letting the Azan (call to prayers) be heard by others? A friend from UK commented that if a call to prayers can’t be heard, what is the use of it then? In the international school here, people of other faiths admire and even state there is no harm in expressing one’s faith.

    But still I will sneak out of my office for my prayers when it is time to perform solat Zuhr and Asr’. Other times it is on the pretext of having lunch – and during those times, I am usually fasting. I guess coming from a non-Muslim nation and currently living in one, it made me the person that I am.

    The only time I  felt that I could do my solat leisurely and openly was when I worked at Berita Harian (BH) in Singapore. Almost all of us, – there was a Chinese Malaysian working at BH during the time I was there, – in that newsroom are Muslims, cause by default, most Malays in Singapore are Muslims. So it was easy and less awkward for me to perform my duties. But it isn’t the same when I am out of a Muslim environment.

    Here in Frankfurt, whenever I do my prayers, my mind is half hoping that no one opens the door. And I try to finish my prayers in under 10 minutes so that my boss doesn’t notice that I am away from my desk.

    Muslims from Islamic nations have it easy. They can just stop whatever they are doing when it is time for prayers and perform their obligatory solat. I seriously envy them. And as Muslims, we all should be doing just that but we aren’t. I guess this is one of our challenges in this world. Learning how to prioritise between our duty with Allah and work. And most of us have it wrong. I, myself included.

    I guess it is about time that we shouldn’t be shy of our religion. I am already wearing my faith on my head. Why not be proud of it as well, and start practising openly? InsyaAllah by watching us pray openly in the public, someone passing-by might be interested to know more about Islam.

    We have to overcome our awkwardness and insecurities. Slowly but surely we can be better ambassadors for Islam. We also have to be prepared to answer tough questions like – do I have to convert if I want to marry a Muslim woman? Errrr… tough question brought up by my Spanish colleague. How does one answer that question without putting him off? All I could muster was:

    “There is no compulsion in religion.” لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ – [Al-Baqarah 2:256]

    And proceeded to tell him that whatever it is, he should learn more about the religion first before making any decision. Honestly, I was too afraid of telling him that a Muslim woman can’t marry a non-Muslim man. May Allah guide him to the correct path and this question will not be an issue anymore. 🙂

    For now, I am looking forward to giving him my Qur’an with English tafseer. InsyaAllah.

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    Travel

    A week in Rome (Part 7)

    So, this is the final entry to our Roman adventure. It took me over two months to finish blogging this series. Lol. It is finally coming to an end. I am feeling conflicted. My Roman adventures are finally a distant memory. And if you haven’t read the previous parts go check it out – part one, two, threefourfive, and six.

    Day 7 (7 Aug 2016)

    We initially planned this day to visit the Colosseum and its surrounding but ended up shopping instead. Lol! My poor legs couldn’t take it so we took it slow instead.

    Day 8 (8 Aug 2016)

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    So, we saved the best for last. We headed to the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum a day before our flight back home and here are the pictures. And if you only have a few days in Rome, this is definitely not to be missed. Remember to book your tickets online as the queue at the Colosseum is very long and you do not want a heat stroke.

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    Travel

    A week in Rome (Part 6)

    You know the drill, check out our previous Rome blogs over at parts one, two, threefour, and five.

    Day 6 (6 Aug 2016)

    Day six of our trip is a special one. Before we left for Rome, Fai and I looked around for an affordable photographer to follow us around – we like to do this sometimes, so that we can get those perfect photos that look like it came with the frame. Lol. Also, this was supposed to be a commemoration of our sixth wedding anniversary.

    We first contacted Photoshooting Rome, but they weren’t available on the dates we were in Rome. I then looked out for the next cheapest photographer available. But Fai did not like any of his photos. So in the end we settled with, Girolamo Monteleone from Made in Italy. And he did not disappoint! He was constantly available via email and he even planned the best walking route for us.

    Initially we wanted head to Trevi Fountain for our photoshoot, but after our walking tour earlier in the week, we decided to scrap it out totally. We just walked around the Colosseum area and the photos turned out beautiful!

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