Saudi woman goes viral after volunteering at Buddhist temple in New York

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Time: September 15, 2018   

A female Saudi writer has taken Twitter by storm when she shared her experience in volunteering at a Buddhist temple in New York last month.

The story of Seham al-Duhaim, who currently studies and works in the United States, has garnered the interest of more than 32,000 people on Twitter, prompting 7,200 retweets and more than 1500 direct messages.

Her interest in volunteering at the temple stemmed from wanting to go somewhere secluded, embark on a unique experience, where she would explore new things and help herself and others find true happiness.

The Muslim girl has been accepted to join a Buddhist Temple dedicated for meditation, where volunteers can take those classes for free.

On Twitter, a long thread of tweets was filled with pictures and posts by al-Duhaim telling her experience to her followers, who were taken by surprise, and had lots of questions to ask her.

“We were all volunteers and tourists from all the world’ religions, Muslims, Christians, Jews, no one was there to say who’s religion is right or wrong, neither the Buddhists have tried to preach their religion to us. There weren’t any religious classes, it was all focused on meditation and finding inner peace.”

The temple was fully built by volunteers, she said. Most of the monks serving at the temple where women whose ages are 40 and above. Every month, the monks would share a schedule of their meditation classes on their website for those interested in applying, al-Duhaim explained.

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سهام الدهيم@seham_d_d

برلني قضت ٧ شهور تسافر لوحدها، وتنام في ارجوحتها المعلقة بين الاشجار والا خيمتها المتنقلة، واحيانا تستعمل مواقع فيها ناس يعرضون استضافة المسافرين ببلاش والا تتطوع في مزارع. برلني من مبادئها”الفلوس مو أهي اللي توفر لك حياة، بسبب ايمانها باحسان البشر” فضولها للحياة والثقافات مجنون.

Her thread is full of stories about the volunteers she met, and their stories. Her being a Muslim Saudi girl volunteering at the temple made her stand out. She said an American Jewish volunteer came up to her one day after dinner to introduce himself.

“They told me there’s a Saudi girl at the dorm,” she quoted him as saying. “I felt like I had become a landmark in this place!” she tweeted laughingly.

Among her most challenging aspects in this journey was food, as there were no grocery stores near where was staying, adding that she hadn’t brought with her any snacks.

“I had faith I would accept this trip, with all its outcomes and details, as well as learn new things, and challenge all my traditional things. I managed to adapt to what was available, but as soon as I departed the place, I headed for a meal of ‘Kabsa’.”

سهام الدهيم@seham_d_d

الآن بحكي لكم عن ريكاردو” المكسيكي”:
هو دارس علاقات دولية و كان موظف في شركة HP في المكسيك. استقال من شغله لأن الجلوس وراء مكتب وكمبيوتر ماكان حلم حياته. حلمه السفر حول العالم والتعرف على ثقافات أخرى. هو في امريكا من أكثر من اربع شهور زار مدن وتطوع في مزارع كثيرة قبل يبدأ الماستر

سهام الدهيم@seham_d_d

ريكاردو هو المكسيكي الوحيد اللي قابلته في حياتي ويبي يرجع المكسيك بدون ما يفكر يستقر في امريكا ويعيش الحلم الامريكي. إنسان اجتماعي بشكل مجنون من أول يوم يحسسك إنه صديق قديم وانكم الآن تكملون سوالفكم اللي من سنوات!
يحب السهر والرقص والطبخ..هذه كاساديا مكسيكية سواه لنا كفطور pic.twitter.com/TsF08GwNIy

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Given her bedouin background, many were wondering how her parents let her travel in the first place, and to that al-Duhaim said: “Yes I am a bedouin and my father still owns goats, but yet has allowed to me to join a scholarship program and I later started working in the States. I went on this trip to give myself a vacation after being pressured with my studies and work.”

Before volunteering al-Duhaim said they received an email about things are are prohibited at the place, such as smoking or bringing any musical instruments. If someone wants to bring their own music instruments, they would have to play with it a bit far from the temple, she noted.

This article was first published in Saudi Gazette

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