latest busymaking

There’s a lot of stuff going on this weekend. At home, Zea (my niece) is coming over for a sleepover at our place; I’ve been away from the house all day, helping out with a neighbourhood project in Ottawa’s Chinatown. check out my children’s class blog, which I’ve just updated with a few wrap-up emails that journal our efforts to start up an outreach class.

warmth

back in Ottawa. the wind is colder here, and I have to bundle up in layers of clothes instead of spending all my time in t-shirts and shorts. it’s cloudy today, but the drab grey of the sky is set against vivid reds, oranges and yellows on the trees. Vietnam is more colourful, hands down, but it’s nice to see that Canada still puts up a fight in the beauty department. “like flowers of one garden”.

i’m seeing what’s around me with different eyes, hearing with different ears. now I can tell when someone around me is speaking Vietnamese, and I can actually understand some of what they say. I can read the signs in Chinatown (even some of the Chinese ones). I’ve taken to picking up dinner at the Thai place at the mall, because Subway just seems unappealing now. plus, of course, it reminds me of the real thing. my favourite Vietnamese restaurant (next to the Baha’i centre, no less) closed up shop, which annoyed me to no end. but there’s a new Thai place there now, so I figure I’ll go check it out next time I’m in the neighbourhood.

still adapting to being back in Canada, and more than just because of the cold weather. it’s about being plunged back into the culture of the West, a very palpably immoderate culture, a culture shaken loose of its moral basis and bereft of direction. a “lost” culture, I suppose. I fear it, because I fear becoming lost in it. being in Vietnam did me a lot of good, i think; especially in helping me discover my limitations and rely on my strengths to compensate for my weaknesses. Canada’s cool and detached (albeit friendly) social climate hasn’t done me much good, I think. despite my sociable manners in everyday life, I find I have trouble opening up to social relationships, so, left to my own, I tend not to seek out the company of others. Family-centred Vietnam, with its deeply and strongly woven fabric of social support networks, seems to have helped me stay on the outside of that self-centred bubble that the individualist Westerner blows up for himself.

sitting at home in front of a gas fire now. thank goodness it’s not cold in Vietnam. they don’t have to close their doors to stay warm.

baha’i fasting times for 2009

hey—just in time for the Fast, I’ve calculated and posted Ottawa’s Baha’i fasting times for 2009, along with links to print out fasting calendars for other major Canadian cities. Hope you find them useful, and here’s wishing you and yours a joyous and spiritually transformative Fast.

Read more about the Baha’i Fast, here and on bahai.org.

toronto regional conference: first reflections

IMG_1783“Wow—just wow.” was my first reflection upon entering the conference hall on Saturday morning at the Toronto Regional Baha’i Conference. Wordless reflection, of course, since I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor to put together a sentence. Over 4,000 people attended, according to official reports; I’d never seen that many Baha’is in one place before—and I live in Ottawa, where we’re used to getting upwards of 700 people at Naw-Rúz celebrations. With the Toronto and Guadalajara conferences, over 50,000 people have come to the conferences across the world so far. The atmosphere was joyful, exciting, electrifying, full of energy. Imagining all those people gathering together as beloved guests of the Universal House of Justice, conversing together, studying and planning their future together is one thing, but seeing it in action is another.

IMG_1620 Parts of the conference were like an immense reflection meeting; more powerful and flexible, though, as many people workshop-hopped from their own clusters to devote their attentions to neighbouring clusters in need of assistance in meeting their goals before Ridván 2009. In all, eight clusters were identified in Eastern and Central Canada as priority clusters—among them our neighbouring Outaouais cluster, which includes the city of Gatineau—that were in line to establish their first intensive programs of growth in the coming months. I was able to hop over to join the Southeast New Brunswick cluster during a break to share some good conversation with Baha’i friends from the Moncton area. It was very clearly illustrated how closely the Universal House of Justice was monitoring the progress of the Faith in our areas, and how directly our efforts during the weekend would reach them. The support and love from the Institutions of the Faith was evident at all levels.

IMG_1700One of the very inspiring parts of the workshops was seeing how the junior youth stood up and made their voices heard in consultation. Some of them who we may never have heard before raising their voice in great assemblies showed little or no trepidation in offering their ideas and making their points of view known. Their contributions made the experience dynamic and bolstered the confidence of all present. One of the participants commented, “imagine if all reflection meetings were like this conference—we would get all of our planning done in minutes!”

That’s it for now, but you can expect further posts on the regional conference here—I took pages and pages of notes on my trusty Macbook and I’m expecting to take time to synthesize them and share them here with you all. Mad love to those who are gathering in Vancouver this weekend for the second Canadian conference, and to the rest of the friends throughout the world who are engaged in this world-shaping process.

toronto conference: registration evening

my most profuse apologies for the paucity of posts this past while. fear not though, because this weekend is the fabled regional conference in Toronto. I’m sitting here in a hotel room, typing away on my trusty macbook, after getting all registered at the Doubletree Hotel just across from the Congress Centre. I’ve been looking forward to this historic event for months and hope to blog it and post updates to Twitter whenever I have free moments. I’ve already asked the Montreal Baha’i Choir if I could join in on their musical performance Saturday night (which means bang goes my lunch hour tomorrow, for practice).

I was fully expecting to be able to blog profusely during this conference, taking photos and video everywhere, but once I got here and saw the sheer ocean of people—many of whom are friends I haven’t seen in years—I realized that keeping up the task of blogging nonstop will be a very tall order. The urge to hug everyone I see is catastrophically great. All evening I literally wanted to do nothing but greet people. Everyone I see has this huge smile on their face, because they’re like me and can’t believe that they’re actually here, at this conference, as guests of the Universal House of Justice. They’re greeting their friends and grinning widely at strangers, knowing that practically everyone they pass in the hallway is there for exactly the same purpose as them. There are Baha’is here from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario (north and south), Quebec, Nunavut, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Bermuda, and even some American states too. All are here for the same purpose, at the behest of the Universal House of Justice: to share with each other, reflect on each others’ achievements, and plan ahead for the next step in the process of carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization.

For years now we’ve been receiving guidance from the Universal House of Justice in the form of letters each year to the Baha’is of the World, to different conferences and gatherings, explaining how the crying needs of a beleaguered humanity can be met through our efforts (however humble) to build better communities via the grassroots. we’ve always bumbled through and done the best we can. but now, right here at this conference, we get to have friends coming to meet us as representatives of the Universal House of Justice to confirm to us—in living flesh and blood, not just as black letters on white paper—that yes, this is how it’s supposed to work and here’s how to do it better. That’s why I’m here, all things considered. the greater the love and the closer connection we have with the Universal House of Justice, the more energy we have and the more inspired we become.

OK, bedtime now. expect tweets from me tomorrow, and watch this space for blog posts, photos and sundry.

oh wow

conf2009 been a while hasn’t it? well apart from all the usual trouble I get up to in between blog posts, I finished up some work implementing the design of the official website of the Toronto and Vancouver Baha’i regional conferences—which, coincidentally, are coming up in just a few short weeks. (There should still be time to register if you haven’t yet.) After plenty of civilized discussion (lol) with friend and fellow webservant Martin (warning: link is hopelessly out of date), we ended up putting up a simple little WordPress installation to house the whole thing, and adapted an existing theme to use an already-developed and -approved visual design; the bulk of the work happened in about 24 hours after a few frantic phone calls. Maybe not the most rewarding thing I’ve done in the last while (the recent redesign of the Conference Board of Canada’s home page takes that cake), but I can assure that the adrenaline rush of meeting the challenge and ensuing success did in fact kick it high up onto the list. not that I make a policy of working on extremely short-notice web projects, but something else has been flung my way just tonight that I expect to be working on in the next week, before I head off with family for a (well-deserved?) Christmas vacation visiting my extended family in the Maritime provinces (Moncton and area, mostly). Sounds fun huh?

oh and look at me using all these parentheses!