breaking the fast

Tonight at the Ottawa Baha’i Centre, there’s a community potluck organized by the east-end Baha’is (from “Sector 1” as it’s habitually called). The sun isn’t down yet and already the tantalizing smell of food wafts through the air—oven-baked pasta, casseroles, persian rice, curries and meat. Fasting heightens the senses, especially when it relates to eating—the smell and taste of food seem amplified, and so much fuller. People have been slowly trickling in with bowls and platters large and small. Now, a program is starting in the main hall as I sit and type these words in the bookstore; one of the youth is delivering a presentation about his first time fasting. “Today is the fourteenth day of fasting, and I’m still going strong,” he says. “Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual,” he says, quoting from the writings of the Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi. “The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting.” Prayers and devotions follow, as the Baha’is observe this “ideal fasting” in their hearts and spirits, sharing time as a community in worship of their loving Creator. One of the Persian friends, with a strong, solid, and melodious voice which reverberates in the reverent silence, chants a prayer in his native tongue, calling on God to accept our fast. Whether or not they understand the words, the friends—from every race and nationality understand the spirit of this call. He explains to me the gist of the chant once the program ends: “A lover suffers a great deal before he reaches his beloved, but in the process he teaches everyone patience.”

The time is 7:08 PM; the time of “sunset” has officially come, and my mother brings me a glass of water. Another day of fasting is done.

february update

rideau canal 2well it’s certainly been a while since the last update, hasn’t it? I blame the season. I love winter, but for some reason, every time it comes around, I just slow down like nobody’s business. sad. I guess it’s more of the winter blahs (I keep blogging about them every year… I sense a pattern developing). On a positive note, I got a chance to get out and visit ottawa’s winterlude festival—no skating that day, but got to admire the ice sculptures and have a taste of some maple taffy on snow:

this winter, I definitely want to go out and visit a sugar bush somewhere out in the country. I haven’t even taken a vacation this winter for crying out loud! last year at around this time, I had just come back from a week’s worth of travelling across Canada—visiting friends in Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg. …Actually, that’s not quite true. At this time last year, I was recovering from a sudden attack of kidney stones… well, more like a massacre, actually, but it did teach me some things.

pruned!

oh noes :(a few weeks back, we had a very intense windstorm which not only pruned branches off trees (leaving them strewn along the roads) but also pruned the sign off our beloved Baha’i centre 🙁 thankfully, nobody was hurt when it fell – it fell over into one of the parking spots, and no one was parked there at the time. in fact, no one was at the centre at all, and most of us only realized the change on the weekend. I went through an entire children’s class without having noticed that the sign was gone. and then I was sad 🙁

le pouvoir de la parole

[English below the first video.] Voilà une perle rare! Il s’agit d’un film documentaire archi passionnant qui montre le premier essai d’un projet collectif d’enseignement centré sur les pré-jeunes—c’est à dire les jeunes ayant de 11 à 14 ans—dans un groupement près de Paris, en France. Passionnant parce qu’il s’agit de l’apprentissage en temps réel—la première fois que les Baha’is de cette région ont tenté de prendre leur élan de façon tellement systématique. Passionnant aussi parce qu’il s’agit d’un projet très semblable aux projets collectifs lancés à Ottawa l’été passé—et en plus de ça, certaines personnes qu’on voit dans le vidéo avaient aussi participé dans les projets à Ottawa! Ils chantent même des chansons écrites durant le projet “Fire and Snow” à Toronto! Le monde est petit non? Allez voir les vidéos sur Youtube: Parties 1 et 2.

Now here’s a special treat: an amazing documentary about the first attempt at a collective teaching project centred around junior youth—youth from 11 to 14 years old—in an area near Paris, France. Amazing because it documents real-time learning—the first time the Baha’is of this region took on such a systematic project. Amazing also because the project is very similar to the projects launched in Ottawa last summer—and not only that; some of the folks seen in the video actually participated in the Ottawa projects! They even sing songs that were written for the Fire and Snow project in Toronto! Small world huh? Go check out the videos on Youtube: Parts 1 and 2.

baha’i-inspired theatre: yertle the turtle

yertle the turtleI remember blogging way back about this neat initiative spearheaded by a couple of Baha’is from New York City called the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC). It’s a theatre company that goes far beyond your average elementary school plays and instead promotes theatre as an active way of learning and building character qualities.

Ottawa now has a chapter of the CTC, which just ended its first run of Yertle the Turtle, a story about a turtle king whose greed and lust for power get the better of him—to the great detriment of his subjects. One of the children from our children’s class played Yertle, which made us all feel quite proud of her. All the actors were eight- to ten-year-old children from the area; for some, English was only a second (or third) language. All the same, the production was impressive, well presented and funny, and the children seemed to have gained insight into the themes explored in the play, and how said themes apply to their own lives.

I was lucky enough to be able to be present during a few of the company’s rehearsals, since they rehearsed at the Bahá’í Centre right after our children’s class finished. Each week, they would learn their lines and then alternate between games one week and character education the next. Apparently the character education part—during which Bahá’í teacher (and excellent storyteller) John Rager would join the kids for a session of discussing moral and character qualities and how they apply in our day-to-day lives and in the world of humanity—was the children’s favourite part.

The company presented several times at local elementary schools, and once at the Bahá’í Centre to conclude their well-received run. Children and parents alike eagerly await a new season—which, although there isn’t yet a firm starting date, will hopefully be soon!

Photo © Louis Brunet, elbi.smugmug.com.

awakening: the dawn of a new era

Here’s wishing all the fans and readers of doberman pizza a happy celebration of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh. 190 years ago, a new day dawned and a new sun rose from the horizon of Persia to illuminate the whole world. Last night’s celebration in Ottawa was pretty epic—over 700 people attended! Here’s a video presentation that was shared as part of the celebration.