Random pieces of life in Haifa: #3

1.  I am eating a sandwich with an olive oil-based mayonnaise.  It tastes exactly the same as “regular” mayonnaise, except it has less fat and is slightly less thick.  Lovely.

2.  We watched a blue jellyfish float by at the beach on Friday.  This also means that going in the water is a risky endeavor.  I felt rather brave. 

3.  Everything here is a constant hello and goodbye.  Pilgrims, family visitors, and staff.  It makes my head spin sometimes.

 4.  We are going to see Harry Potter tonight.  By “we” I mean a group of 25 people or so.  This has become the “thing to do”.  One of the guys always organizes an expedition…and I do mean expedition.  We have instructions, synchronized times to meet at locations, ticket-buying, job titles, hiking through snow and over mountains, sacrificing members of the group to wolves howling outside the cave where we huddle for shelter…

So far we have seen Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Die Hard, and Transformers.  Other movies I’ve seen in the theatre have been Fantastic Four and Ocean’s 13.   Sometimes it feels like I haven’t left the USA at all.

 5.  It is official: I have begun spelling in the British style (the BWC uses British spelling for the most part).  I knew it would happen eventually, but now I do it in MSN conversations.  I’ve also begun developing a bit of the “BWC accent” (which is basically a generic mixture taken from dozens of languages).  I am amused: this is the 4th accent I will have acquired in my lifetime.

6.  Summer slows down my pace of reading, mostly because I do not want to be indoors when it is so wonderfully warm outside.  (Yes, I AM enjoying the heat.  I know I am crazy.)  I finally finished all of the Jane Austen books, as well as a few fantasy novels, and am working on a few books simultaneously.

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Try to summarize

I start writing, literally have paragraphs typed out and a subject line and something twists inside me and I stop. I keep trying to explain my life here, how much I love it, but I have the same words I did before, and a thesaurus does no good.

A weekend:
Friday is work-beachTransformers.
Start Saturday with a trip to Bahji, delight in an engagement (congrats!), wander Akka with girlfriends, go to a dinner party where I laugh so hard it hurts.

I watched the Shrine of the Báb from a rooftop as the sun went down and we said prayers for someone who had left this world for the next one. I watched the perfect color of Persian tea reflect torchlight, and I began to understand that these are the times that things matter. I sat in a café and thought about everything and nothing.

This is my life, after 7 months.

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More random pieces of life in Haifa

1. Junk mail is just as bad here as in the USA. Walking into my apartment building, it was like an advertising blizzard had struck the foyer.

2. I’ve never had a taxi driver try to cheat me here…until the last two weeks. I was at the hotel a lot with my family, and sometimes I would catch a taxi by the hotel. Never again. I got into AT LEAST 3 shouting matches with taxi drivers…to the point of making them pull over and getting out.

3. I love that the girls are wearing these flowers in their hair…it feels so tropical.

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I am a pilgrim.

It is strange to be a pilgrim AND a staff member.  Not as weird as I thought it would be, but still.  I really appreciate that my fellow BWC staff members are respecting the fact that I’m on pilgrimage and are not calling me and such.

If you haven’t already, you should check out my pictures that I’ve been putting up nearly every day on my flickr.

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Starting tomorrow

I start my Baha’i pilgrimage tomorrow. The last time we went was in 1997, so I was 14 at the time. A lot has changed in Haifa since then…the Terraces were finished, the Arc project was completed, etc. It is wonderful to be able to go while serving here, and to go with my family.

I got to spend time with my family (and some extended family) tonight, and it really makes me feel more centered to be around them. There is something about the family interaction that makes me feel like all is right with the world.

For 9 days I will spend time in the places Baha’is consider the holiest on earth. I really needed this right now.

Love and prayers to you all.

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Random pieces of life in Haifa

I saw a man washing his dog with a garden hose on Hamegenim Street last night.  I wish I had gotten a picture, because he had put the dog in a shopping cart so that it would not run away.

This country is a haven for those who love pickled veggies…cabbage, cucumbers, cauliflower, olives, beets…it really is done well here.  yum.

My interaction with Israelis is usually limited to taxi/sherut drivers and wait staff at restaurants.  Between work, social activities, programs at the BWC, and friends/family visiting from all over the world, I rarely have time to do anything else. 

Some of you who read my blog may not understand how it is that I can know people from all over the world, and why it is such a constant thing.  Every two weeks a new pilgrim group arrives in Haifa, and their pilgrimage lasts for 9 days.  Now, the “Baha’i world” is rather small, communicates openly, and moves around quite a lot.  So you end up seeing a lot of Baha’is, and 1 or 2 degrees of separation between people who know each other.

I’ve gotten so used to the rather patchwork style of buildings and homes that it is strange to me when I see things that are newer/well maintained.  There are buildings here that haven’t been fixed since last summer’s war.

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Chores, Family, and Pilgrimage

It has been a busy week. Friends & family in town on pilgrimage, a consultant in the office, and social engagements. Whew! Today started another work week (remember, we work Sunday-Friday noon here), and I must say it was one of the busiest days I can remember in our office.

Now I am home, looking longingly at a little art project I’d been wanting to finish, and a Harry Potter movie I bought for $4. Also, bed is looking really great (it is only 6:45 pm!). But the flat needs to be deep-cleaned, I need to cook food…

My mom and little sister get to Haifa tonight, they’ve already landed in Israel. It has been 6 months since I’ve seen them, so I am pretty excited. Dad gets here Thursday, and we are all on pilgrimage starting June 25th, through July 4th. It has been 10 years since our last pilgrimage, and I’m not sure I’m even ready for it. But is anyone ever really ready?

So now I start this week with a new focus on work, family, friends, and my relationship with the Baha’i Faith. I couldn’t be happier.

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Addiction maintained

Yesterday (June 8th) was the 6 month anniversary of my arrival in Israel. I celebrated by getting internet at home, which I’ve been resisting for quite a while.

This weekend has been one of rest, movies (Ocean’s 13!!), and the beach. I’m pretty happy with it.

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Another in a series

I am here, I think. I am sitting in this chair and the sun followed me inside today.

There are a few things I must share…

bare feet on silk carpets and cold stone, one after another

jazz music on a lazy summer afternoon

babies holding each others hands

funny quotes out of context

walking at night under trees heavy with flowers

smiles across tables covered with food and coffee

a café at 3 am

(“I Like…”, “I Like #2”)

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A dinner of epic proportions

Last night our friend Daniel B. invited me, my flatmate Sahar, and a few other friends to a dinner at his new apartment to celebrate his move from our building. We arrived at 6 pm and started helping prepare the food. We tried turning on the stove to start frying veggies…

and it wouldn’t light. No gas was coming out.

Sahar and I trooped around to the back of the building to see if the gas balloon had run out. As we turned the corner, we encountered a large dog chained on the hill above us. After consultation we decided to walk past him calmly and ignore the barking.

As I checked each of the gas ballons, Sahar chatted with the dog. It was impossible to tell which one was for Daniel’s apartment. We threw up our hands in despair and went back inside. Daniel called a few other Baha’is on that street and Adam C. kindly offered his stove. Sahar and Jayce took some of the food over to start the process.

As Daniel and I were preparing the rest of the food, the fuse blew. Twice. We couldn’t find the fuse box at first, finally locating it in the hallway outside his door.

Sahar called when she got to Adam’s house. “Um…the stove here isn’t working, the guys are trying to figure it out.” I started laughing. They eventually got it lit (someone had turned off their gas line!) and we ate dinner at 9 pm.

It was a wonderful adventure, and we ate a ridiculous amount of food when it was all over.

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Misplaced Nostalgia

I saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie last night. I really only enjoyed it for nostalgia’s sake, quite frankly. It was not as good as I’d hoped based on the trailer.

I now realize how disconnected I truly am from popular American culture….mostly the entertainment side of things. On one hand, it is easy to access a lot of these things (I even saw Spiderman 3 on opening weekend). But while Israel has all of these things, the culture at the Baha’i World Centre just isn’t focused on those things. Sure, we go to movies, and the mall, and are on the internet (probably too much!). But if you don’t seek it out there is no reason why you would know what is going on.

The first few months I still had my “fingers on the pulse”, but as I spend more time here I become more content with a life less consumed with these things. One thing I found lacking was my access to news/science/business. Back home I would read BusinessWeek, Forbes, National Geographic, Discover, and a few other random magazines…and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore.

I recently discovered the news feeds on my blog aggregator, so I have a feeling I’ll be getting back into my geekiness soon enough.

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The King of Samoa

From Baha’i World News Service:

“….His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II…passed away on the evening of 11 May…A follower of the Baha’i Faith, he was one of the longest reigning monarchs in the world. ”

He was the first ruling monarch to accept the Baha’i Faith (Queen Marie of Romania was not a ruling monarch when she accepted the Faith), and there is a Baha’i House of Worship in Samoa.
Please keep him in your prayers.

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The Baha’i World Centre Choir

At Naw Ruz (the Baha’i New Year), the choir sang in the Seat of the Universal House of Justice for the Holy Day observance. If you look closely, you can see me in there. This video was put together by one of our choir members, Glenn, and it really gives you a good idea of how Holy Days are observed at the World Centre. Thanks to Glenn for uploading it and allowing the rest of us to embed it.

And for Ridvan, the choir sang in the Auditorium of the International Teaching Center building. Unfortunately I was unable to join them, since I’d had pneumonia while they had been practicing, but they did a wonderful job. The music on this one isn’t the choir’s actual performance (it is a professional recording), but about halfway through you can see the choir getting ready for the performance.

Finally, today marks 5 months that I have been serving in Haifa, Israel. Hard to believe.

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The child

I am seeing the same things, so why would my words be different?

Today the air was dust and rain at the same time,
my bare feet on marble,
my soul bared to Heaven,
My eyes searching for change.

I’ll walk in squares, in one direction, and end up at the corner again.

Each moment I wrap in brightly colored paper,
gently placed in the box under my bed in my heart.
One day there will be a child with my smile, words will be spoken,
a picture drawn, a lifetime in days and months simplified.

I will look into innocence.

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The Roses

There is a richness in the colors and textures of roses that are unlike anything else. I see a bed of roses and my tired eyes are soothed. I want to play tag amidst the rich petals and thorns hiding under leaves…my clothes would snag and I would float on discarded petals. If I was the size of a bird, I would spend days with the roses above my head and the sun-warmed dirt under my bare feet.

Spring is here, it is getting warm and people think I’m a little crazy when I get excited about the heat. Recent themes have been holy days, the Shrines, excitement about the play tonight (which some of my friends are in!), good food, flowers, meeting a lot of great people (having lots of trouble trying to keep track of everyone and be a good friend by staying in touch, both to people here and back home), busy days in the office (whew!), and laughter.

Oh, and did I mention that my family is awesome?

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Look up

when I tasted the rain
there was salt on my tongue,
and I knew the sea was in the sky today.

there is dust on my hands
and I wait.

Tomorrow is the first day of Ridvan, one of the “Most Great Festivals” in the Baha’i Faith, and which lasts for 12 days. At the Baha’i World Centre, we will celebrate this day at Bahji, where Baha’u’llah was laid to rest. I hope everyone has a wonderful Ridvan.

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Aware of the world

Today I am finally back at work. I can’t express in words how happy this makes me. Truly. It has been an eventful day, since I’m branching out in terms of the service I’m doing (I’m working for 2 different offices for a little while, as well as helping plan an event). There is so much work to do, and I’m glad to be able to contribute in any small way I can.

I had come to the realization while I was sick that I needed to take a more active role in how I was serving, to do more diverse things. Not that I was unhappy in my job, quite the contrary. There was just a feeling that I needed to shuffle things about until I got it right. Today has been a confirmation of that.

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today I was alone in the Shrine for 30 minutes
and I let the rare tears fall
today I realized that the jasmine flowers are opening up
and I chased the faint scent around the gardens
today I thanked God for allowing me to be here
and asked for the strength to be of service
today I felt the sun on my face
and realized how alone I have been.

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Home sick

I’d like to say, for the record, that while I love being lazy and staying home once in a while, a couple of weeks worth of being trapped in your flat can do weird things to your brain. I’ve started talking to my new food processor (seriously, ask my flatmates). A week ago, while on some random medication, I hallucinated a bit. The doctor figured out what is wrong with me: pneumonia! Fun times!

I’ve watched more movies than I can count, and need to get ahold of some books, just for variety. I may start baking out of sheer boredom. One problem is that I am really too sick to do anything more strenous than hit buttons on the microwave and put DVDs in the player…so dishes pile up and my room looks like a tornado hit it. And don’t get me started on the laundry issue.

Ah well, so it goes. I stopped into the office to get groceries and check my email (I don’t have internet access at home).

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I am a little disconnected from myself right now. This is because I am taking cold medicine. I hate medication but in this case it is necessary. I’ve been coughing so hard the last few days that my stomach muscles are protesting…I knew I should have started doing situps again! In any case, I have that odd floaty feeling in my head and I am not sure I like it.

My flatmates have been taking care of me, but mostly I have been lying on the couch wrapped in a blanket, sipping oregano tea (ugh), and praying that I live to see tomorrow. I am in the office briefly to take care of some urgent matters. I had 60 blog entries to catch up on, over 100 emails, and 2 weeks worth of laundry. oh my!

There really is not much new…3 days in the house doesn’t make for stories or adventures. I really do not even have the energy to respond to emails or make phone calls, so if you’re on the list of people I have sorely neglected, please forgive me.

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Last night I walked down the long gravel path arm in arm with my flatmate. We looked at the sky with scattered stars over an empty field, and the lights shining behind and in front of us. Saturday evenings at Bahji are priceless. I will look back on these short days with longing, and I am so glad that I know this now.

In the winter it smells like roses in the Shrines, and in the summer I remember the smell of jasmine. At sunset the trees are aflame and the shadows grow slowly when I circle the gardens. At night there are the shimmering globes that give off a cool illumination, isolated spots of focus in the darkness.

I gazed at the ceiling, my knees pressed against the thick carpets and my hands folded in my lap. The vines, stones, flowers, and metal intertwine, the softness of the silence contrasts with the brightly lit room.

“Let thy soul glow with the flame of this undying Fire that burneth in the midmost heart of the world, in such wise that the waters of the universe shall be powerless to cool down its ardor.”

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p. 38)

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Naw Ruz

I decided that for a new year, a new design was needed. I spent hours staring at CSS code, ensuring that I will need a new prescription for my glasses in the next 6 months. Explore the site, there are more pages and information. Thanks must go out to Jordan for designing such a beautiful banner…with no input from me! And to my webmaster and friend Paul for helping with the switch.

Tomorrow is the Baha’i New Year, which is one of my favorites. Holy Days in Haifa are beyond description.

I wonder if maybe you would know me better if you read my words,
or if I tell you all of my stories (in chronological order),
or if I sat quietly with you in the silence of a sunny day in the car.
I think that it has probably been years since I last ate cottage cheese
or peanut butter straight off the spoon.
I think it has been years since time moved so slowly.

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the Madness of March

Ok, so I can’t claim to be a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, but this weekend I have been heeding the siren call of the NCAA college basketball…and last night the Xavier vs Ohio State game was so intense I was actually shouting. hah.

So I took a little break from the basketball craziness to visit some of the Holy Places on Saturday…I didn’t take a lot of pictures because it felt good to just watch, listen, and participate in the visit. The sun came out and the sea air was crashing against my senses…what a wonderful day.

(House of Abdu’llah Pasha, Saturday)

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Last night the storm took over my sleep, and I only wish I could have been awake to enjoy it. Instead I drifted in and out of sleep, imagining it was an earthquake (the thunder was so powerful it shook my bed…at least I think it did).

An hour ago the skies were blue with white clouds, and now again the rain is drenching the trees outside my window into a dark dark green color. And now again the sun is struggling behind the white/gray fluff to shine through my window.

But sometimes I think that thunderstorms are better appreciated when asleep. It makes dreams so much more interesting.

(the view out of my office window this morning)
O ye beloved of God! When the winds blow severely, rains fall fiercely, the lightning flashes, the thunder roars, the bolt descends and storms of trial become severe, grieve not; for after this storm, verily, the divine spring will arrive, the hills and fields will become verdant, the expanses of grain will joyfully wave, the earth will become covered with blossoms, the trees will be clothed with green garments and adorned with blossoms and fruits.


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I’ve been feeling rather like this animal recently:
(On the Terraces, Thursday night)

At this moment, I am working my way through a container of hummus (with tortilla chips instead of pita bread, of course). Last night I read about 450 pages of a fantasy book I borrowed because of extreme boredom. And my flatmates and I rearranged the flat in a heroic effort of furniture shifting and dust bunny battles. So perhaps I am not as slow-moving as I think in my own head.

It is starting to be spring here in Haifa, with the accompanying crazy weather patterns. Yesterday there was hamsin, today torrential downpours.

I think people think that I’m a rather busy person. Perhaps I am…my Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are usually quite booked with classes. I guess I just don’t see things as busy here…maybe that will change.

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The whole issue of Shabbat is one that is quite perplexing. Namely, the shops are closed during our weekend.

Ah well, it isn’t too much of an issue. We can still buy stuff when we need to.

My intention is to explore, but the weather is a deterrent. Either rain or “cold” (nowhere near Chicago’s bone-chilling weather, but still…). I also prefer to have exploring companions. I’m still getting used to calling people here and asking if they want to do something. Part of me feels like I may be bothering people because everyone is so busy…classes, study circles, etc. I’ve deliberately kept my schedule relatively clear because I know how easy it is to get burned out.

Culture shock is not yet an issue for me. Everyone at work and home speak English, as do most of the taxi drivers. I am in a different place, but it felt like home after the first day. I want to explore because I dislike feeling like a tourist in the place I live.

One month down, 17 to go, and I am loving my job every day. Even things that used to bore me at other jobs are now exciting.

Being in the Holy Land really inspires me to read. I go through phases where I want to read a whole lot, and then times when reading any non-fiction makes me tired. I’ll be finishing “God Passes By” by Shoghi Effendi this weekend and moving on to “Shoghi Effendi: Recollections” by Ugo Giachery (which I’ve already started, about 30 pages in). I haven’t decided what book will be after that.

I walked into the glass doors of the cafeteria last week. To be fair, the whole wall is practically glass, and I had turned to see if the group was following. *bang* Luckily, I didn’t get hurt, I just started laughing.

And now, the weekend.

“Morning comes in the dream before we rise…” – Sunny Day Real Estate

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Haifa & the bay on New Year’s Eve

I hate to see you cry
Lying there in that position
There’s things you need to hear
So turn off your tears
And listen
Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
No it won’t all go the way it should
But I know the heart of life is good

You know, it’s nothing new
Bad news never had good timing
But, then your circle of friends
Will defend the silver lining…

-John Mayer, “Heart of Life”

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A few anecdotes…

– I injured my hand a little bit doing a cartwheel last night. I haven’t done one since this summer (on the soccer field) and since I did it in a living room…well, I was nervous about hitting the TV or chairs, so I messed up my left hand. Which also happens to be my dominant hand. Ah well. I really wanted to do a cartwheel, and now it is out of my system. 🙂

– It rained for the first time today since I’ve been here. The view outside my office is dark green with a tiny bit of gray sky. I feel like I’m in a jungle.

– On Christmas Eve I heard a loud boom, followed by more loud booms. I looked out the window, and down by Ben Gurion Avenue were fireworks going off. My first stray thought upon hearing the sounds was “Gunshots?”.

– I’m looking forward to running into pilgrims here and there…their shiny happy faces upon their arrival in the Holy Land makes me smile.

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Things I love in Haifa (so far)

I’ve been here for over two weeks now, so I decided to make a list (in no real order). This stems partly out of a lunchtime conversation today.

1. The warm weather. Need I say more? I read about my friends back home struggling through 30 degree F weather…and I left the office at lunch and did not even need a sweater.

2. Olive trees. I think they’re gorgeous.

3. More avocados and oranges than I could ever possibly eat.

4. Inspiration to read Baha’i books. When you’re living in a place where so much Baha’i history occurred, you can’t help but read. So far I’ve read Door of Hope (David Ruhe) and am now working on God Passes By (Shoghi Effendi).

5. Cats. Ok so I’m not a huge fan of cats, and the cats here are feral and gross, BUT they are amusing. I don’t know why cats strike me as funny creatures, but they are.

6. The sunlight. I think that is one of the reasons I’m so happy, honestly.

7. Blackout shutters. These things kill light, and it makes me sleep through the night (which is pretty rare). YAY!

8. Food. I’ve only eaten out 4 times, but each time it was delicious.

9. Everyone knows what gluten intolerance is!!! This is a huge deal for me, because explaining it to waiters (not to mention friends!) is tiring and frustrating.

10. I live by the sea. I’ve been missing a real beach for years, and now I have one. yay!

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After a week

Check out this bee on a flower…I got chased by that bee soon afterward!

I had fun on Friday…we packed our lunches to eat at Bahji. Well, I made this potato and carrot dish, fried in olive oil and tumeric. Unfortunately, it spilled a bit in my purse, and my prayer book got some yellow spots on it. Yet another instance of food + Sholeh + purse = BAD NEWS. You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now.

Luckily, I don’t have a cell phone yet, so nothing electronic was damaged.

Have you read the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice yet? It is very short, but gives a wonderful idea of how the Administrative Order of the Baha’i Faith functions and the responsibilities of the Institutions. Read it.

A flower is a flower.

Paths at Bahji

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