2020 Reading Challenge

I probably started with a goal of 50 books but I kept reading and reading…and eventually ended up reading 113 books.

This doesn’t include any kids books. Just mine. Only 10 were non-fiction (mostly memoirs). I needed light, fun books to keep me occupied during so much time at home, and while nursing a newborn in the middle of the night. I read nearly all of them on my Kindle app on my phone.

I read fast and don’t retain everything, but I have always read like this and utilize the library for e-books. I rarely buy books.

I have set a goal of 75 books for 2021, and hope to include more non-fiction and Baha’i books this time. Looks like we will be stuck in the house for a while!

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Recent Photo Publications

Over the last year I was asked if I could provide some of my photos for the Baha’i Publishing Trust’s upcoming publications.

The Baha’i Datebook is a physical pocket calendar for 2016-2017 for the year 173 B.E. and my photo of the new Welcome Center at dusk is the cover photo. It was a challenging shot to get, as I didn’t want people, construction equipment, or cars in the shot, so Shea patiently helped me drag around my tripod and take many shots.Baha'i Wall Calendar (173 BE)

The Baha’i Wall Calendar also features the same photo.





The Dawning Place is a book about the building of the House of Worship that was originally published in 1984 and was an integral part of my life growing up in the area near the House of Worship. When I was guiding at the House of Worship as a kid, my parents encouraged me to read this book to be able to answer questions about the House of Worship and tell stories that people may not know. I was so excited when I was told that my photos would be included in the new edition. It is a gorgeous, display-worthy book that has loads of very interesting information about the House of Worship.

The cover photo is not mine (actually taken by a friend, Bobby), but the below photo shows some of the photo pages inside the book with photos I had taken over the last few years.

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Being Mortal

Through some source I can no longer remember, I added “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande to my Goodreads list, and snagged it from the library right after they purchased it. I’ve been telling a lot of people about it and thought that I’d share it with a wider audience.

I’m not fantastic with book reviews, but mostly this is an opportunity to encourage people to at least have conversations with their loved ones about how to handle end of life care. In many cultures, discussions of anything related to death and even illness can be very challenging for people.

As my generation has been losing grandparents for a few years now, and some of us are starting to be concerned about our parents aging, I feel that the conversations really need to happen. Even for husband and wife this topic can almost be taboo…and then, in the height of grief, we and those closest to us must make decisions about whether to continue care, go home for hospice, etc. The process of creating a will and having an advanced directive can be great conversation starters for this, and you may be surprised about what you discover about the wishes of your spouse and family members.

The thing is, we don’t know what our end will be, and human nature hopes for the best outcome, especially when there is terminal illness. We hold onto the miracle treatment and put ourselves and our loved ones through surgeries, treatments, and other painful operations. Some work, some don’t. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t try to dictate what we should do. It is an observation from a doctor who has been working with patients for decades and had to confront family illness before writing a book to address it. The stories can be heartbreaking, but the information in this book about options and current trends could save your family a lot of pain and heartache.

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Recent Books that you may want to read

Since I started riding the train 2 hours a day, I have had a lot more time to read. Sometimes I read fiction but I also love history (I even considered studying history for my degree at one point but then realized I wanted to have a steady income). If you really want to see books of substance that I read or am interested in reading, check out my Goodreads page.

One of my biggest problems has been finding the books that I want to read in the eLibrary has been difficult. Sometimes I get lucky, but many of the books that I want to read are simply unavailable through my Kindle. I rarely buy books because I read so quickly (exceptions are Baha’i books, references guides, and cookbooks). I’ll have to get hard copies through the local library, I guess!

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President – This book broke my heart a little. By all accounts, James A. Garfield was an incredible man and President, and I wish he had lived longer. The historical richness of the book, especially the descriptions of how early Presidents dealt with the daily work of the White House, kept me engaged.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption – by the author of Seabiscuit, this book kept me up until 1:30 am on a work night, and I was astounded by the amount of research and detail that went into it. Some of the book is hard to read because of the descriptions of the mistreatment of POWs during WWII, so if you’re sensitive, keep that in mind.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin – One of my favorite books is “The Devil in the White City”, and Erik Larson does it again with this meticulous, scary book about the years leading up to WWII. I’ve read a lot of books about the war, but very few about what pre-war Germany was like, and it was terrifying to see parallels in current events with the lack of empathy that people had for their fellow human beings.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Clearly written, especially helpful if you’re an extrovert like myself who wants to better understand the introverts in their lives. Lots of data combined with storytelling.

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Abdu’l-Baha in America

by Sholeh Loehle

(originally posted at Nineteen Months)

Over the last few months I read Abdu’l-Baha in America by Robert Stockman. I enjoyed the little details that were obviously meticulously researched, as well as the focus on historical context around `Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit. This is a good book for those who may not be familiar with the Bahá’í Faith, as the author has attempted to write to a wide range of audiences to make the subject matter more accessible.

I have also been using the book as a reference guide, to see where `Abdu’l-Bahá was on certain dates, and which cities He visited. There are excerpts from the talks, to give some perspective, but there is a nice balance of talks and information about His travels. I liked having more information about the types of people that attended talks, why He may have spoken on certain subjects, and His experiences in different cities.

Reading it straight through was a bit challenging for me, but it has been nice to go back here and there to read highlights. As the author himself states, there will be more research and information in the coming years regarding `Abdu’l-Bahá’s travels, but this is a good addition to the existing material that is already out there. A good companion book would be Promulgation of Universal Peace.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Baha’i Publishing Trust through its Bloggers Network book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Hidden Gem

I started reading the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude) again this week.  It is one of Baha’u’llah’s most important books, and I realized that I hadn’t spent enough time with it, especially in light of questions that have been coming my way recently. I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Hooper Dunbar’s A Companion to the Study of the Kitab-i-Iqan if you really want to get into it.

“A model of Persian prose, of a style at once original, chaste and vigorous, and remarkably lucid, both cogent in argument and matchless in its irresistible eloquence, this Book, setting forth in outline the Grand Redemptive Scheme of God, occupies a position unequalled by any work in the entire range of Bahá’í literature, except the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh’s Most Holy Book.” -Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By

“The significance and essential purpose underlying these words is to reveal and demonstrate unto the pure in heart and the sanctified in spirit that they Who are the Luminaries of truth and the Mirrors reflecting the light of divine Unity, in whatever age and cycle they are sent down from their invisible habitations of ancient glory unto this world, to educate the souls of men and endue with grace all created things, are invariably endowed with an all-compelling power, and invested with invincible sovereignty. For these hidden Gems, these concealed and invisible Treasures, in themselves manifest and vindicate the reality of these holy words: “Verily God doeth whatsoever He willeth, and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.” -Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan

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Arts and music

I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 4th Annual Baha’i Choral Music Festival in May. It was wonderful to see so many people at the House of Worship. I was manning the main entrance for both performances, so I got to see everyone.

A number of my dear friends went on the Voices of Baha tour in India in June. Imagine 120 singers from around the world, traveling around India in the heat of summer just to sing! Seeing the photos and video made me wish I was with them.

I purchased my copy of The Baha’i Gardens by my friend Marco Abrar a few weeks ago, and received a copy of this gorgeous book soon after. It is a coffee table book that I think everyone should have. It has beautiful photos of the Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa & Akka, Israel, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes as I looked through the pages and remembered my time there.

Speaking of photobooks, you should definitely pre-order Hasten Forth, a photobook that takes you on a journey of Haifa and Akka, by my Haifa companions (and lovely friends) Ginous Alford and Anis Mungapen.  I can’t WAIT until my copy arrives!

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“Waiting for the Sunrise” book review

This book “is the personal account of an interracial family’s struggle against pervasive racism in the U.S. and the horrors of the civil war that plagued Rwanda in 1994. Raised in the American Midwest, author Elizabeth Gatorano, who is White, had no idea of the trials she would face after marrying Phanuel, who is Black and an immigrant to the U.S. from Rwanda.” (from Baha’i Distribution Service)

“They’re dead.  I know they are dead.” Phanuel stated without looking up.

“Phanuel, we don’t know.  Please don’t let go of the hope that some are still alive.  They need you to keep the hope,” I pleaded.

“What can I do, Liz?  What can I do?  I can’t do anything.  I don’t think you understand how it feels to not be able to do anything.  On top of that, I am watching every day as my classmates, my teachers, my neighbors are being killed.  It is not just my family.  My history is being murdered,” Phanuel said as tears began to form in his eyes.

(excerpt from the book)

Reading Waiting for the Sunrise helped me gain insights into the difficulties that an interracial/intercultural marriage can face, informed me about the impact of the Rwandan civil war and Rwandan culture, and often brought me to tears.  I found myself getting so engrossed in the book that I would look up and realize that it was several hours later than I thought it was.  Their story is a compelling one, and necessary in a world that has more porous borders than before, but still struggles to learn how to accept the reality and necessity of the oneness of humanity.  There are not enough accounts of the transforming power of love, service, and faith, and the author writes in an engaging and personable way that made me wish the book would never end.

You can buy this book at Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble.

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Something that has never happened before

I read books like they are the last pieces of driftwood and I am drowning.  They are my lifeline, inspiration, education, and friends.  I learned to read before I went to school, my parents forming letters and words, using the Baha’i Writings and endless books to teach me.  I learned to write much more sloppily.  But this is not about writing, it is about reading.

I have read so many books that I forget if I’ve read something before, sometimes.  Half of my high school library collection was devoured in the four years that I was there.  I think I was voted “Most likely to become a librarian” in an informal class poll.

One of my favorite passages from a fictional book comes from The History of Love:

“Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist.  There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination.  From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world.  And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.”

Everyone needs to read beautiful things.

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Blueprint for a New World

Last year I posted a little blurb about how my father, Craig Loehle, wrote a new book. I decided to promote it a little bit more, because I think a lot of people still haven’t heard about it.

Description from the web site:
Using the Power of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh to Revitalize the Individual and Society.

What does it mean to build the ‘Kingdom of God on earth’? Why a building process and not a miraculous process, a snap of God’s fingers? Is there a model for the future society? And if so, is it something we would want?

Craig Loehle suggests that a new world view is needed for society to take the next steps of social and material progress. Such a world view, he proposes, can only be provided by a new revelation of guidance from God. He thus explores the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith, as this new divine revelation and examines the role Bahá’ís play as inventors in the development of the new social and economic systems that will form the pattern for a peaceful, united and just future society.

You can buy it at the George Ronald Publisher web site, or at the Baha’i Distribution Service site. Pass the word on to your friends, buy the book!

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Some things to read

I’ve had time to read a few books. I think that it has been nine months since I last wrote about my reading list, so it has had time to pile up a bit. In addition to the books listed here, I’ve read a number of fictional books, but there are too many to list. 🙂

Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures-and Yours, by Tarun Khanna
-Less about entrepreneurship, more about comparing, contrasting, explaining the cultures, politics, business strategies, and infrastructures of China and India, using case studies and personal experience.

What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, by Francis Crick
-More of a commentary on the scientific process, it can be a slow read but it is a small book.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
-Written in 1948, I immediately thought that this book could have been set in the modern day. I loved the style of writing, which was descriptive. Written as the personal journal of a 17 year old girl, it was made into a movie (which I have not seen).

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson
-If you love Chicago, this is a book you will want to read. It is the story of the creation of the 1893 World’s Fair, as well as a serial killer who lived in Chicago at the same time as the Fair.

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
-Beautiful, poetic writing, with a great plot twist at the end.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
-A heartbreaking work of fiction about betrayal and forgiveness.

Gluten-free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…and How You Can Too, by Shauna James Ahern
-This book actually made me want to cook more. I got into Shauna’s writing by reading her blog, and her descriptions of food are amazing. Even if you can eat food with gluten in it, this is a valuable book to read in order to understand how people with gluten intolerance have to deal with food in American society.

Eat, Pray, Love One: Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert
-Kind of an interesting story, but the author is self-absorbed. I know that this book was a best-seller, but I’ve never been the “find yourself” type, and so books like this generally annoy me.

Baha’i books:

Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb, by Nader Saiedi (still reading)
(from Baha’i Bookstore) “Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the author examines the Báb’s major works in multifaceted context, explaining the unique theological system, mystical worldview, and interpretive principles they embody as well as the rhetorical and symbolic uses of language through which the Báb radically transforms traditional concepts and at times reverses their meanings.”
I have always loved the Writings of the Báb and stories associated with Him, so when I heard about this book while serving in Haifa, I knew I had to read it.  I can’t wait to finish it.

Zikrullah Khadem, Itinerant Hand of the Cause of God With Love, by Javidukht Khadem
-I had the blessing of growing up near Mrs. Khadem (who passed away over a year ago), and to read this book was a wonderful glimpse into their lives together, and allowed me to know a little bit more about Mr. Khadem, Hand of the Cause of God. Their children also include some stories and thoughts at the end of the book.

The Advent of Divine Justice, by Shoghi Effendi
-The Guardian wrote this letter to the American Baha’is to discuss its challenges and opportunities.  A must read, especially for Baha’is living in the USA.

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Dusty old books

There were boxes of old books in the parking garage today, marked “FREE!”, with that musty smell and slick dust feeling. We dug through them, hugging the discoveries to our chests. The tip of my nose starting twitching, the usual reaction to things that have been sitting forgotten on a shelf for too long.

One of my most treasured memories is standing in Uncle C.E.’s office about 2 months before he passed away in 2005. He had a fantastic library of books, especially first editions of Baha’i books that I’d never seen before. He showed me pictures of his family from 50 years ago, told me about his childhood, and watched me as I carefully pulled one book off a shelf, then another.

I just remember looking around at him, sitting in his leather chair, smiling at me. His health at that point was not good, but we did not know that he would die of cancer so soon after. No one did. As Carmen and I drove away from the house, we started crying…something told me I would not see him in this world again.

We were family, even though there was no blood relation. He took a few pictures of Carmen and I in the garden: “Stand there…smile!” I got those pictures later from Aunt G., and cried when I saw them. He loved us so much…asking questions: “What are you doing next? Are you looking for jobs? Ten years from now?”; and telling us that he was proud of us. Telling us kids to take care of each other…sometimes I feel like I’ve failed at that one. The 5 of us are scattered across the globe.

Every time I stopped by his office while I was in school, he would ask me how my schooling was going, if I was studying enough (probably not!), and he would just look at me and I would want to try harder, do better.

I miss him. If this was a piece of paper, the ink would be running off the page right now.

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It has been a while

The last “Books” post was in July…and I have read a few books since then. 🙂 I am pretty sure that I’ve forgotten a few.

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, Stephen J Dubner

Tablets of the Divine Plan: revealed by Abdu’l-Baha to the North American Bahais

One People One Planet: The Adventures of a World Citizen by Andre Brugiroux
Amazing story of the journey of one man who hitchhiked around the world.

Summon up Remembrance and Arches of the Years Marzieh Gail
These two books have become some of my favorites…it is about the first Persian-American Baha’i family, and gives a glimpse into the life of the early believers, as well as a fascinating perspective on Persian culture.

Still reading:
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
Shoutout to Bill O. for sending me this book…It is about the Lost Boys of Sudan. Incredible book, although sometimes painful to read.

The Great Adventure by Florence Mayberry
heartwarming, sweet, and amusing.

Shoghi Effendi: The Range and Power of His Pen by Ali Nakhjavani

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The first news is that my father’s newest book, Blueprint for a New World, has just been published from George Ronald, and I am reading it right now.  I helped type and proofread, but in random chapters, so it is nice to read all the way through.  His first book, On the Shoulders of Giants, is about the harmony of science and religion, and his second book, Thinking Strategically is about…well, the title is pretty self evident.


The European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF) has an excellent blog.  Resources, news, and networking, covering a wide range of subjects and fields.  Check it out!  Also, their annual conference is coming up at the end of September in the Netherlands.


This article from the Jerusalem Post caught my eye:

“The site is part of diplomatic efforts to educate the Iranian people about the Jewish state, “who have been purposely distanced from information about Israel, and fed lies and hatred by the Iranian regime.” The site, called Hamdami (“clarity” in Persian), can be found at https://hamdami.com. “

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Secret Door

there are secrets in the way
eyelashes touch skin
in the way we sidestep battlefields
burying our smiles in murmurs
we are perfect strangers.

This weekend, the first two days of the Fast (our weekend is Friday & Saturday, remember!)…was exactly what I needed. A delightful breakfast with my flatmates the first morning, shopping in the sunlight (I’ve invested in a DVD player & perused an art store), movies, breakfast on the Saturday morning with most of the people in my apartment building, Saturday afternoon at Bahji, and finally dinner at my apartment to break the Fast with friends.

It makes up for an Ayyam-i-Ha that was a bit less than stellar. 🙂

I finished reading Muhammad and the Course of Islam, am almost done with The World Order of Baha’u’llah, and read Tuesdays with Morrie, which I highly recommend. This weekend I started Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, but I am also looking for some lighter reading to supplement.

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A Book Update

I am still reading Muhammad and the Course of Islam, but since it is such dense material I am taking my time.

I finished Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Tipping Point and I just finished reading Blink, Gladwell’s more recent book on the power of snap judgements. It is fascinating.

I borrowed Years of Silence: Baha’is in the USSR 1938-1946 last week, and finished it over the weekend.

Years of Silence presents the dramatic and harrowing story of the imprisonment, torture, and exile to Siberia of Russian Baha’is during the Second World War who refused to leave their pioneering posts regardless of the consequences.

Excerpt from the book:

“Indeed, when the human heart is bereft of the fear of God, it changes into a frightening and dangerous monster; for one who believes in the might and omniscience of the God who watches over us all and is aware of all of our doings, would never perpetrate such brutality and inequity towards other human beings and would never subject the servants of God, all of whom are the signs of divinity, to tyranny or maltreatment.”

My great-grandfather likely knew some of those Baha’is, since most of them were from Iran, and he had a import-export business. It was a very difficult book to read because it was so heart-rending, but I think it is important to read and understand these things about the history of the Faith, the things that normal human beings suffered.

Last night I started reading The World Order of Baha’u’llah, which are letters from Shoghi Effendi. Some people have a hard time reading Shoghi Effendi’s writing because he manages to put so much information in, but it is really great so far.

I am really enjoying having so few distractions that allow me to read so much. Also, thanks to all of those people who have been lending me books!

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Little did I know…

I thought I was prepared. I had the box of cereal ready, and I remembered that I had strawberries in the fridge. I casually open the fridge to get the milk…

horrors! NO MILK!

So instead I feasted on some hummus and cheese with chips. For breakfast. haha.

Interesting topic at lunch today: What motivates people in the workplace? Some would say money, but of course we know that it is so much more than that. And then you take a unique place like the Baha’i World Centre (where I am serving), where people come to serve, not to climb the corporate ladder or start a company.How do we motivate the people around us in the workplace? People usually think of motivation in a “top-down” approach: that is, the upper levels of an organization use incentives of some kind to coax employees to work at a certain level. But what happens when employees take an active role in managing the people they report to? When they explain to their managers how they work best? When working on a team, do we take the time to figure out each other’s styles of project management or personal interaction?
I am now halfway through The Tipping Point, started Reading Lolita in Tehran, and about 1/3 of the way through Muhammad and the Course of Islam. I am having so much fun reading these books. I think I will want to read the last one a second time, since I feel like I’m getting the story, but not enough to explain to people.

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I know, I’m crazy.

One thing they don’t tell you about Haifa is its lack of good Mexican food. You can find decent Thai food, which is a relief.

But after having lived near Pilsen and the amazing little taquerias that are scattered around Chicago, it is nearly heartbreaking to realize that you can barely find a restaurant that serves such delicious menu items that cause you to sweat grease for days. mmm.

My friends back home in the States (yeah, I call it “the States”. I also call my apartment “my flat” and am switching over to “flatmates” from “roomies”) think I’m crazy to be missing Taco Bell, but really I miss everything on the range from that to Nuevo Leon.

I actually don’t eat out much here. It is relaxing to cook at home, and I have so much more control over what I eat that way.

So I picked out my next book to read: Muhammad and the Course of Islam by Hasan Balyuzi.

Also, I still can’t believe this is where I work every day:

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Another list of books

I was feeling rather scattered about the books I’ve been reading while I’ve been in Haifa, and wanted it all in one place. I feel like it is easier to read here…I don’t have the distraction of tv & internet at home, especially. I was shocked to realize that I’d read 80 pages last night over the course of a few hours.

Any suggestions for my next book? I’m trying to think ahead…I’m getting a copy of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (thanks Leila!), but I need a Baha’i book to read at the same time.

Currently reading:

Barron Harper: Lights of Fortitude (First Edition)
Read in the last 1-1/2 months:

Ugo Giachery: Shoghi Effendi: Recollections

Shoghi Effendi: God Passes By

David Ruhe: Door of Hope

Larry Niven: N-Space, Destiny’s Road

Marion Zimmer Bradley: The Fall of Atlantis

Philippa Gregory: The Other Boleyn Girl

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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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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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2 weeks.

I leave in exactly 2 weeks. To go here. To work in this building:


It has been an interesting process, the last few weeks of packing and saying goodbyes. I am trying to not become a hermit (which is very easy for me to do, actually, and surprises my friends quite a bit when I do it, since I am naturally a social human being). I am trying to spend time with my family.

I’ve seen some pretty good movies in the last week…Stranger Than Fiction (loved it), Flushed Away (cute), Casino Royale (liked it muchly), and The Departed (liked it, but was tired at the end).

A highly recommended book to read: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. Absolutely fascinating, and definitely worth your time.

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Finished in the last 48 hours:
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress : A Novel, by Dai Sejie

Funny in Farsi : A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas

Currently Reading:
Memories of Nine Years in Akka, by Youness Afroukhteh
I highly recommend this book. Here is an excerpt that I enjoyed…

“White tea, fragrant and delicious, was made ready and within minutes other friends began to gather until the renowned Zaynu’l-Muquarrabin and Mishkin Qalam arrived.
Each introduced himself and Mishkin Qalam, as part of his introduction, gave me a few strands of his own hair, both white ones and yellowed ones. He said: ‘It’s my thin beard and crooked body that are my passport to fame!’ To which I responded in jest: ‘I too have helped, for I have always said that Mishkin Qalam does not need to tell jokes to get laughs – his face and body serve the purpose all by themselves!’ Everyone broke out in hearty laughter and this opened the door to more light-hearted comments and merry-making.” -P. 19

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