“Prayer time. Everything’s closed. It should be reopened soon, if you want to wait here.” There was an eerily calm about the place, the entire place was nearly vacated except for a few people sitting quietly on benches, waiting for the stores to reopen. “Over there is a supermarket, so you can get any food you need. Fruits and vegetables here are hit-and-miss, so if you don’t find something you need don’t stress, you can get it when the bus goes to Hyper Panda. This store is Centerpoint, it’s probably the best place to get sheets. Ask for help measuring because sheets here are measured by centimeters not bed size. They are usually really good about helping. Oh! And one more important thing- if you do want to buy fruits and vegetables don’t forget to weigh them and get them stamped BEFORE going to the register. Do you have any questions?” I shook my head. “Okay. The bus comes at 6, so be on time because he WILL leave you if you’re late, and you will have to call a cab. You have my number if you need anything.”
As she was explaining everything to me, some stores started to reopen, including Centerpoint, the one I needed to go to. There was a certain calmness about the store that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I browsed around for a bit longer when one of my coworkers announced “You know what I hate about shopping here? They never play music in any of the stores.” Suddenly it dawned on me that it was the lack of music that made the area feel much more relaxed and reserved than other malls I’ve been in. “Wait, hold up, they never play music?” I asked, not really surprised, but still somewhat culture shocked, “I thought it was just silent because the store just reopened…”
The mall started becoming crowded again now that the stores were open and prayer had ended. While there was no music, sounds of chatting, laughing, real conversation started filling the mall. And there is something really comforting about that. There just seemed to be a sense of mindfulness throughout the mall. Overall I won’t rate the silence as “better” or “worse” than the background music constantly playing everywhere back home, it’s just different. Then again, isn’t my main reason for being here to experience some change?