random note

hey! just a random note to say that I’m still alive, just working like crazy and juggling several different priorities—two children’s classes and a study circle doing Book 6 of the Ruhi curriculum come to mind. It’s labor dabor day weekend in North America; tomorrow, Julie, my mom and I will be at the Ottawa Baha’i Centre doing some garden-planting with the kids (part 2). It’s supposed to be 21 degrees C tomorrow, which is just warm enough for comfort. We’ll be sure to take photos. Then on Sunday it’s a devotional gathering / BBQ / picnic to welcome everyone into a new year of children’s classes – we went an entire year without stopping during the summer, and that’s pretty cool! yay for us!

you want intense? i’ll give you intense

conversations of deep importlife is intense right now. For the past week I’ve been leaving home at 8 AM and getting in between 10 PM and midnight every night; my cat is super angry at me and has been staging regular protests. I guess it started with the reflection meeting; things have been super goofy since then. not long after that, I joined up with Marty and a bunch of friends in one of the two outreach/teaching teams active in Ottawa. Both of them basically hang around in different neighbourhoods, experimenting with the viability of offering the four core activities in each area. my current job on the team is offering children’s classes to kids from two neighbouring apartment complexes. It’s a big change from doing our usual weekly children’s class: this one is a daily class, and the classes are taken word-for-word from Book 3 of the Ruhi curriculum, with songs, games, stories, colouring, and memorization of prayers and passages from the Baha’i Writings. I’ll be posting more about these classes on my children’s classes blog once the 2-week pilot period is over. basically, we’re going totally nutbar for about two weeks, offering all the core activities at the same time in order to gauge the receptivity of the community, and if it works out, we’ll start offering them regularly over a longer period, perhaps weekly throughout the year. There’s been lots of intense consultation, reflection and tons of action. There are tons of photos ready to be posted—and I swear, as soon as I get a moment I’ll be posting them you-know-where.

intense week

well it’s been an intense week for sure. the Ottawa Baha’i community held another reflection meeting last Saturday, launching the eighth cycle of its intensive program of growth.

JARGON WATCH: basically what this means is that a bunch of people got together to reflect on and discuss the growth, vitality and vision of the Baha’i community, to share their best practices and to set goals. An “intensive program of growth”, which is composed of many “cycles” marked by these “reflection meetings”, is basically a way for Baha’is (and those who throw their lot in with them) to manage the growth of the Baha’i community and channel their efforts to bring the Message of Bahá’u’lláh to those who are out there waiting for it.

it was a blast, as usual; there were lots of young people there, junior youth (12-14 yrs) and youth (15+ yrs) alike. That was awesome and really encouraging. we put someone on a table and lifted them up with only our fingers. apart from that, of course, we had time to knock heads together and make plans for the next few months: how we would help the core activities grow and evolve, etc.

MORE JARGON WATCH: there are four generally recognized “core activities” of Baha’i community life, all of which are, in essence, open to all people no matter what their faith: (1) “devotional meetings”, which consist of shared prayer and readings that bring a group closer to God / a Higher Power; (2) “study circles”, in which groups use the study of principles found in the Baha’i Writings to understand how they apply in real-world situations of service; (3) “children’s classes”, which are classes for the moral and spiritual education of children; (4) “junior youth groups”, in which 12- to 14-year-old youth use spiritual principles to understand the world around them and to bridge the gap between childhood and adolescence.

I spent a bit of time sharing the plan for our children’s class… it’s a complicated animal. So far it looks like we will be moving towards splitting the class into two groups: one for older children (say, 9-11) and one for younger children (~5-8). We’ve also discussed holding a devotional meeting open to parents, family and friends – we’re looking for ways that parents and family can naturally become more involved in the children’s spiritual education, and sharing prayer time with them in the format of a devotional meeting may just be the thing. also on the map are home visits with parents and family to follow up on the parents’ meeting we had last October – they haven’t had much regular communication from us and it’d be about time to bring them each up to speed no?

hasta la pasta

quick update

hey peeps. just a quick note for the heck of it. the weekend was pretty phat. Pejman hosted an amazing housewarming party at his new place on Sunday, with an “African Flavour” theme. ZOMG awesome food. I died. And there were a lot of really interesting people there too, all of whom had some sort of connection to Africa – born there, lived there, visited, or (like me) have vague longings to go there some day.

hmm what else. ohhh children’s classes are really strongly on my mind right now. Julie and I are gearing up for the new year of Étoiles Brillantes (our francophone children’s class, based in Julie and Fanfan’s Manor Park home). The curriculum is set, parents are called, and so on; we’re meeting tonight to make plans of action to further develop the class organizationally and human resources-wise; spare a prayer or two, or three, for us – we’ll be needing all the prayers we can get.

That’s all for now, folks!

contemplating today

shrine of the Báb from afar. photo: Maurice & Marcelle TurgeonToday is (or was) Sunday, the 24th of September, 2006. Just a month plus a couple of days until Ottawa’s Baha’i community begins a new cycle of its program of growth; the same amount of time will pass before I leave for pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa. Both of these are preoccupying me at the moment. Before I leave for pilgrimage, I need to get quite a whack of documentation done up: renew my health card, renew my driver’s license (which will entail taking my G-level exam), get passport photos taken and signed by garantors, to name a few. I need to read up on safe travel guidelines for pilgrims coming to the World Centre, so that I’m not taken by surprise during my visit. Oh yeah: most people are surprised when I tell them that I’ve never been on an airplane. Never meaning “once, when I was one and a half years old and I don’t remember a thing about it”. So that’ll be an interesting experience. And beyond all the material preparations, there are the spiritual preparations for pilgrimage. I’m not sure that I’m fully ready to sit and pray in the Shrines and be able to take it all in. I’m afraid I’ll just be so overwhelmed, or worse, be left unaware of the full magnitude of the experience. I suppose everybody goes through that sort of self-questioning… like ‘Abdu’l-Baha said, when in doubt, pray for strength. It will be given to you, no matter how difficult the circumstances. More about this later.

And then there’s life in Ottawa, and my service goals for the year. I just came back from a tutor meeting tonight (Sunday night—had to skip choir 🙁 ). We went over the latest guidance from the Universal House of Justice, looking at it from the perspective of our roles as tutors.

Note: In this case, for those who may not know, “tutor” is just shorthand for someone who facilitates the sequence of courses offered by the Ruhi Institute, a community development program that focuses on the development of skills of service through the application of spiritual insights that are gained through profound study of the Baha’i Writings. Anyone who has completed said sequence of courses can act as a tutor; most commonly, we say that such a person “acts as a tutor” rather than bestowing a title of “Tutor” upon them. —dj

Much of our discussion focused on how we could be more effective in our service as tutors; for example, focusing on implementing the practice component of institute courses—which transforms the course from a mere academic exercise to a skill-building experience. Lots of food for thought. It should help me a lot in planning how I want to serve in the near future. So far, I plan to put a sizable chunk of my effort into our neighbourhood francophone children’s class. That’s going well so far; I already have an outline of the curriculum done up for the entire school year, up to August, all based on the modified Furutan curriculum provided by the Canadian Spiritual Assembly. That’s mental! And it’s already way past what we were able to do last year. I really feel like I’ve gained a lot of confidence and know-how from the past year’s experience of co-teaching this class—and that makes me feel quite optimistic about the challenge of the new year ahead.

One last note, relating to my own personal development: Certain things have been happening lately that have made me look back at the past few years of my life. Right now, I see how far my life has come in the past ten years and I’m almost brought to tears, tears of joy and of gratitude. Fact is, I barely recognize myself now. I feel like my life has done a complete volte-face, or about-face. When I was 16, I never would have thought that one day I would be confidently teaching children’s classes, establishing a successful career doing something I really enjoy, developing healthy, nourishing friendships and relationships with people I love and care about. Whereas I was quietly depressed as a teenager, now I feel like bursting with joy at the prospect of really living a rich and fulfilling life. There’s so much to tell about this that I don’t have the time to share right now, but God willing, I’ll be able to share some of these things with you. Have a good day at work or at school and keep the comments (and emails) coming.

Photo: Maurice & Marcelle Turgeon.

this is the august update

youth triohey all you wonderful people. it’s been a long week and an even longer month, filled with lots of busymaking, vacationing, and picture-taking – and even some singing. you’ve probably noticed, but just in case, do pop by my flickr site to check out the latest photos and leave a comment or two. Along with updated vacation photos – mostly landscapes so far, more people shots coming soon – I’ve also posted some photos of the Super Ex, taken on the day I performed at the Joy of Faith concert with a musical group of Baha’i youth (well, mostly youth, with one youthful gentleman along for the ride).

It’s that time again. What time, you ask? Why, the time to get children’s classes in gear for the upcoming year. Our local coordinators have been kind enough to forward me copies of a pilot curriculum for Baha’i children’s classes, developed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, based on the “Baha’i Education for Children” series by A. A. Furutan. I’ll be using the pilot curriculum as a framework for our children’s class (“our” because I’m not the only teacher, and because the class is starting to feel a little like a family to me), which will entail translating it into French and finding corresponding French-language activities to replace those that don’t survive translation. See baha’i children’s class ideas to follow the progress of the class this year.

Those of you who have been following the situation in the Middle East and who have wondered about the state and condition of the Baha’i World Centre and Holy Places in Haifa and surroundings will be pleased to know that, according to the most recent communication from the Universal House of Justice, “no damage was done to the Holy Places and that the friends here remained in safety, pursuing their tasks with steadiness of purpose and exemplary perseverance”. Of course, as has been noted by many people since this most recent outbreak of violence began, we must remember to keep in our prayers not only our friends at the World Centre, but also our many fellow human beings who find themselves innocent victims of this conflict. Perhaps now, more than ever, is the time to rededicate ourselves to championing the Cause of world unity and to teach peace all the world around (to borrow a turn of phrase from Red Grammer). Part of my efforts in this wise include my participation in the core activities of the Baha’i Faith, most notably the above-mentioned children’s classes. I’ve also had a strong desire to start a study circle that would allow friends, family and acquaintances to get together and exchange on some of these topics. If you’re in the Ottawa area and you’d like to get involved, please do let me know.

On a side note, I’m seriously considering returning to my earlier vegetarian diet, after a hiatus of a few years (induced by a knock on the head). I was originally a pesco-ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I would eat fish, eggs and dairy products – I’m thinking I may become pesco-pollo-ovo vegetarian, adding chicken but cutting out dairy (since I definitely have lactose intolerance issues). Basically, that would make me semi-vegetarian, or “wishy-washy” as some might put it. Any feedback, comments, and encouragement you may have would be greatly appreciated – via email or comment on this post. And Martin, I already know what you think.