The trip down to Toronto was a little over five hours. Before leaving the city, we said a prayer for a safe voyage — very nice. Since everyone in the car (except me) was Persian, I asked everyone to teach me some Persian vocabulary. No, not the bad words.
Vargha allowed us many stops along the way, to
let us fish things out of our bags and… get dressed.
I told them to look bored.
This was the best they could do!
Vargha: “Look mom, no hands!”
Finally, after some brief consultation, we made our way to Highway 403 and found the exit to Hurontario St., where we quickly spied our destination.
Welcome to the Novotel Mississauga!
There was little time to waste once people checked into their rooms. The program had already started, with a devotional program and addresses from members of various Baha’i institutions: the Spiritual Assembly of Mississauga, the Ontario Baha’i Council, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, and Continental Counsellor Rebequa Murphy.
Counsellor Rebequa Murphy takes the stage.
Payam Pakravan’s engaging presentation on
“Spiritual Forces and Social Transformation”.
After the talk, there was a hefty period of socializing as long-lost friends greeted each other, and new friends networked and got to know one another. I didn’t take a whole lot of pics here (don’t worry, they’re coming after). We all ended up in bed at around 2:30 AM (I think).
The view outside our window, Saturday morning.
Saturday morning began with a calm, meditative, and unique devotional program using music and visual arts, and continued with a super uber awesome presentation on Mysticism by Ashkan Monfared. He drew from the Seven Valleys and described (in more or less detail) the stages a soul goes through in its journey towards God. Afterwards, several friends and I were treated to an excellent workshop by Hoda Ghadirian on “Growth through Suffering”.
This was painted during the devotional program,
a little bit like a buddhist mandala. they sold it
for the Baha’i Fund at the end.
A mystical experience!
Hoda busts out a quote from C.S. Lewis.
Hoda’s talk was quite illuminating. I think it runs in the family. She related her experience of suffering to the writings of the Faith, and to her work with the Authenticity Project. All in all her presentation carried a lot of insight into how and why we suffer, and what we can learn from it.
After lunch, it was back to the hotel for another workshop, this time given by Tahirih Naylor – recently transplanted from Stratford(?) to Ottawa, to the delight of all of us. Tahirih’s talk, “A Spiritual Impetus to Global Forces”, touched on her experience working with the external affairs branch of the Canadian Baha’i community that deals with government, as well as giving an overview of Baha’i collaboration with the various institutions of civil society.
The one and only Tahirih Naylor.
Once the afternoon’s talks were finished, we gathered together again and decided to have dinner at a restaurant called Alice Fazooli’s, about five minutes from the hotel. Apparently fish and seafood are their calling. Just as apparently, alcohol is another one of their callings—their wine rack was enormous. We called ahead for a reservation (albeit less than an hour ahead) for a table of around 22 people. We were mostly Ottawa crew with a small Edmonton contingent; the Montreal crew followed along with us. We ended up with an entire section of the restaurant all to ourselves.
A mystical experience!
What’s that ring of Ottawa people doing there
in the back? Trying to decide which restaurant
to go to for dinner, that’s what.
It’s all about the group photos.
Everybody say Fazooli’s!
What’s wrong with this picture?
Finally, Arash’s pager went off, and we mobbed into the restaurant. Things went at a fairly good pace, considering the size of our group. The weird thing was what they gave us to put on our bread… oil and vinegar??? Jeez… gimme some butter.
Enjoying the dinner ambience.