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Merhaba, that's hello in Arabic one of the many things I've learnt this week. I was a little nervous when I met Hanan at the start of the week because of our massive cultural differences but when it comes down to it, we are both just 16 year old girls.
I was asked to explain her lifestyle but even with the hours that we have spoken, I'm still not confident enough to speak about all the details. Instead I'll just answer a few questions I've been asked this week.
The scarf around her head is called a hijab and she wears it as part of her religion. Men, she doesn't know, are not allowed to see her without it. However she can take it off in front of girls, so yes, I have seen her hair and it is just as gorgeous as the rest of her!
Dating isn't completely forbidden. But if she does want a boyfriend, he must first talk to her father and be approved by the rest of her family -a lot different to us, right?
She is Muslim. This means she prays five times a day and if this seems extravagant to some of us it is what she has always done. She actually thinks it strange that I don't pray at all.
I don't have time to tell you about her amazing culture so I'll just answer another question that I've been asked a lot. It's not at all awkward to be with her. We walked along the beach together, we listened to music on the bus, we laughed, we talked. Because, despite our differences we are both human and in the end we're just two girls who've spent the last week forming a friendship that will last a lifetime.
Natassja, student, Wollumbin High
I have been with Natassja and her family for one week. Actually, at first I felt shy but I found them very kind with me and I felt more comfortable while I was talking with Natassja. I had never been asked to talk about my religion before but one day Natassja wanted to know about it and that was my pleasure to explain it to her.
I really want to thank Natassja and her family for offering me all the food which was Halal. Finally, thank you very much Natassja for your welcoming me into your home this week. I appreciate everything you did for me.
Hanan, student, Beverly Hills IEC