September 25, 2010

Congolese rape


"Women must make the greatest effort to acquire spiritual power
and to increase in the virtue of wisdom and holiness 
until their enlightenment and striving succeeds in bringing about the unity of mankind."

 (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 163)

Women are being raped as casualties of war.  It is one of the most horrendous crimes against a woman.  I rely on prayer to help console their souls.  The injustice of rape, the indescribable pain of rape, and the long-lasting scars of rape can never be adequately portrayed. 

I keep thinking of how Baha'u'llah has given us insight into the reality of this life, that it is really a portal for our soul to gain the spiritual qualities which will be utilized in the worlds of God when we pass from this world.  It is these same qualities which we know will usher in the Most Great Peace.  Women have a most special role in this Day, like never before.  When i hear of atrocities against women, i am forced to remember that it must serve a greater purpose, strengthening them in a way i can only imagine, that once they are healed of infirmities of the body, their spirit is more powerful than any man's injustice against her.

It is as if a rape victim's life has become a sacrifice for humanity's advancement toward peace.  That sacrifice is her greatest gain if seen from a spiritual perspective.  Yet we cannot just accept the injustice.  We cannot sit idly and silently while she suffers.  We must strive to spread the divine Teachings and conquer the hatred and administer justice to those who violate a woman's dignity.

My breathing is consciously in a state of prayer for these women, for women everywhere...

August 25, 2010

early Babi women

i am hoping others will be awe-inspired and reflect on the post from a blog that wrote about early Babi women: strawberryface: footnotes.  my thoughts are centered on the unimaginable yet real story of what women in general, but specifically these first believers in the Bab, have endured at the hands of oppressors throughout history.

i am a woman who always wondered what life in general was like for women at different periods and places in time..even now. it is true, as the strawberry-face author explains, that women are not the ones writing history, and we are left out of history. it is written by men, for men. it rarely touches, if at all, on any reality of what women's lives experience in general, let alone in the face of war and tyranny.

thank you, strawberry-face, for touching my heart with the story of the early Babi women which was beautifully described by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith in God Passes By.   i am certain that the women of this Age will continue to arise to capture history from a woman's perspective.

August 10, 2010

Recipes: ALKALINE dishes for dinner

main ingredients: onion, garlic, ginger, hot peppers and lemon
I received some requests for recipes while posting about our alkaline diet on Facebook.  Our family has been enjoying a wide variety of meals that include no gluten, no sugar, and no dairy, as well as any other condiments that are considered acidic to the blood.  At the end of this post is a list of alkaline and acidic foods.

Here are a few recipes for those who are interested in a delicious meal that is abundant with nutrition and flavor:

SWISS CHARD/TUNA FISH STEW:
1/4 c. butter
1-2 onions, chopped finely
3-5 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 T. shredded ginger
1-2 tomatoes, chopped finely
1 big bunch of swiss chard, chopped finely
2 carrots, shredded
1-2 cans tuna fish (in oil preferably)
3-4 T. curry powder
2-3 T. coriander powder
1 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
salt/pepper to taste
1/2 t. hing (if you have it; if not, it's fine)

Saute onions, then garlic&ginger in butter.  Add tomatoes once soft.  Add spices then enough water to make a stew for the swiss chard, carrots and tuna fish.  Cook at low heat for about 15 minutes.  Do not overcook chard; let it stay bright green.  This is a beautiful, yummy dish!
** canned beans (drained) easily substitute for the tuna fish; we often eat it this way as well :)


BASMATI RICE -- Persian style:
3c. basmati rice
3 T. salt
2 medium potatoes, sliced
1 t. turmeric
1-2 cloves crushed garlic (optional)
1/3-1/2c. oil
2c. black-eyed peas or frozen peas

soak the rice in enough water that it is covered by 3cm for at least 1 hour.  boil for 4 minutes and then strain.  pour enough oil back in the pot to cover well.  lay the potato slices side by side on the bottom and sprinkle with salt and a little turmeric.

start piling the rice into the pot, a couple of big spoonfuls at a time, alternating with a big spoonful of the frozen peas or cooked black-eyed peas*.  with each layering, sprinkle salt and a little turmeric.  when finished, pour about a 1/4c. or so of oil on top and if you like garlic, add taht as well.  put the lid on and cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  turn the heat to low and cook for at least 5 minutes -- it may take up to 15 minutes, depending on how well the rice was cooked.

when finished cooking, stir the veggies and rice altogether and then dump it into a big bowl.  the bottom fried layer is called 'tadik' and is very yummy.  if it doesn't come out (non-stick pots are the best!), leave for a few minutes and then scrape it off and put on a side plate.

*there are many other possibilities for this style of cooking rice, with other veggies, beans and seasonings.  you can be very creative.  the rice always tastes delicious and goes well with stews, salads, yogurt, meat and fish.


TRADITIONAL GHANAIAN TOMATO SAUCE:
after years of making sauces, i wondered what the process was for creating the ghanaian tomato sauce because whatever i was trying wasn't tasting anything like how it's been prepared for me. the ingredients aren't unusual but the end result is spectacularly unique to this region and is incomparable to any other tomato sauce i've made.  it tastes great with pasta as well as all the traditional grains here that are eaten with one's hand, as well as rice dishes as an accompaniment.  hope you give some feedback once you've tried to make it..

[all amounts are estimates and can be adapted to your own taste]

handful of small chili peppers (green or red), including seeds
1 lg. red onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. chopped (not grated) ginger root
BLEND ALL IN BLENDER WITH LITTLE WATER & SET ASIDE IN BOWL

5 medium tomatoes, quartered
BLEND IN BLENDER UNTIL LIQUIFIED, SET ASIDE

1 lg. red onion, finely sliced lengthwise
at least 1c. oil (any vegetable oil)
at least 1/3c. tomato paste
1/2 cube of vegetable boullion (here it's a brand called Maggi), optional
cayenne or chili powder to taste
salt to taste

anything that you like to be in the sauce: typically it's fish already pan fried or cooked white beans..we used a can of tuna fish -- and it's delicious with green pepper and some thinly sliced carrots
Place all of the oil in a medium sauce pan.. add slivered onions & fry 5 minutes on medium heat.. add blended tomatoes & fry 5 minutes.. add tomato paste & fry 5 minutes..add cayenne or chili powder (we used 1/2 t.) & 1/2 of the cubed seasoning..stir then add SOME of the garlic/ginger paste: test to see the color of the sauce -- this seems to be a key part of the success of the sauce: if you put too much it will take away from the dark red color.. keep adding if the color stays dark.. save any unused paste in the freezer for the next batch.. now add some salt (about 1t.)
choose what you would like in the sauce to simmer in it for at least 10 minutes, on med-low heat.  shredded tuna is really my favorite out of all the times i've had it.


SIMPLE VEGETABLE CURRY:
the other day i created a simple coconut milk curry by putting together a can of chick peas with some fresh vegetables and the basic ingredients.

1 T. butter
1 onion
1 tomato, diced
several cloves of garlic, minced
1 t. ginger, minced
1 t. curry powder
salt, to taste
1 can chick peas, drained
bunch of chopped veggies: carrots, potatoes, celery, etc., with a few greens if possible
1 can coconut milk
optional: add cooked fish or a can of tuna

saute the onions in the butter.  add the tomato.  stir and cook a few minutes before adding the garlic and ginger.  then add the curry powder, salt and mix well.  add the remaining ingredients and cook covered until the vegetables are tender.  i often add some water if there are too many vegetables.



our typical dinner plate
to the right is an example of an alkaline meal, mostly African style:  it consists of rice (which i mixed with a little tomato paste, oil, salt, cinnamon and turmeric), lentil stew (Ethiopian version but can be varied to any other seasonings), baked plantain, gari (which is cassava flour mixed with boiled water), Ghanaian red sauce, and a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, green pepper and onion with a vinaigrette..



ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH or PUMPKIN:
butternut squash or fresh pumpkin
6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt to taste
olive oil and/or butter

Use as much squash or pumpkin as you like.  Peel and chop as you would for roasted potatoes.  Put into a baking dish with a generous amount of oil &/or butter.  Mix in the garlic and salt.  Bake 1 hour or until soft at 200/400 degrees.  Broil at the end to make it crispy on the top edges, about 3 minutes.


LENTIL SOUP (Italian style)
:
1 bag of brown lentils
1-2 onions, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 t. crushed red peppers (optional)
1-2 tomatoes
1/2 c. or more of finely shredded carrots
1/2 c. or more of finely chopped celery AND leaves
2 T. oregano (dried)
1 t. basil (dried)
1-2 bay leaves
salt/pepper
1 packet or small can of tomato paste

Soak lentils at least 1 hour.  Saute onions, then garlic, in olive oil.  Add oregano, basil, bay leaves, then tomatoes.  Once tomatoes are soft, stir in carrots and tomatoes.  Pour in water and lentils.  Add generous amount of salt and some pepper.  Boil until very tender, about an hour.  The longer it simmers after boiling, the better the flavor will be.  Add the tomato paste near the end.

Enjoy with any kind of rice or other gluten-free grains.  Bon Appetit! :)


RICE and SESAME PANCAKESrecipe from 101 Cookbooks

IDEAS FOR A WEEK'S WORTH OF ALKALINE MEALS:
felafel salad with yogurt dressing (and french fries on the side!)
  • bean chili with corn chips
  • fried rice with egg and vegetables
  • bean soup, rye bread and salad
  • mexican style beans and cheese with salsa, guacamole and corn chips
  • couscous with pan-fried fish and salad
  • roasted potatoes, carrots, onion and garlic with baked fish
  • curried vegetables with rice 
  • hummus and felafels with yogurt and salad
A LIST OF ALKALINE and ACIDIC FOODS:


...ALKALINE FOODS...

...ACIDIC FOODS...
ALKALIZING VEGETABLES
Alfalfa
Barley Grass
Beet Greens
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrot
Cauliflower
Celery
Chard Greens
Chlorella
Collard Greens
Cucumber
Dandelions
Dulce
Edible Flowers
Eggplant
Fermented Veggies
Garlic
Green Beans
Green Peas
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Mustard Greens
Nightshade Veggies
Onions
Parsnips (high glycemic)
Peas
Peppers
Pumpkin
Radishes
Rutabaga
Sea Veggies
Spinach, green
Spirulina
Sprouts
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Watercress
Wheat Grass
Wild Greens

ALKALIZING ORIENTAL VEGETABLES
Daikon
Dandelion Root
Kombu
Maitake
Nori
Reishi
Shitake
Umeboshi
Wakame

ALKALIZING FRUITS
Apple
Apricot
Avocado
Banana (high glycemic)
Berries
Blackberries
Cantaloupe
Cherries, sour
Coconut, fresh
Currants
Dates, dried
Figs, dried
Grapes
Grapefruit
Honeydew Melon
Lemon
Lime
Muskmelons
Nectarine
Orange
Peach
Pear
Pineapple
Raisins
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Strawberries
Tangerine
Tomato
Tropical Fruits
Umeboshi Plums
Watermelon

ALKALIZING PROTEIN
Almonds
Chestnuts
Millet
Tempeh (fermented)
Tofu (fermented)
Whey Protein Powder

ALKALIZING SWEETENERS
Stevia

ALKALIZING SPICES & SEASONINGS
Chili Pepper
Cinnamon
Curry
Ginger
Herbs (all)
Miso
Mustard
Sea Salt
Tamari

ALKALIZING OTHER
Alkaline Antioxidant Water
Apple Cider Vinegar
Bee Pollen
Fresh Fruit Juice
Green Juices
Lecithin Granules
Mineral Water
Molasses, blackstrap
Probiotic Cultures
Soured Dairy Products
Veggie Juices

ALKALIZING MINERALS
Calcium: pH 12
Cesium: pH 14
Magnesium: pH 9
Potassium: pH 14
Sodium: pH 14


Although it might seem that citrus fruits would have an acidifying effect on the body, the citric acid they contain actually has an alkalinizing effect in the system.

Note that a food's acid or alkaline forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so, lemons are alkaline forming in the body. Likewise, meat will test alkaline before digestion, but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid forming.

ACIDIFYING VEGETABLES
Corn
Lentils
Olives
Winter Squash

ACIDIFYING FRUITS
Blueberries
Canned or Glazed Fruits
Cranberries
Currants
Plums**
Prunes**

ACIDIFYING GRAINS, GRAIN PRODUCTS
Amaranth
Barley
Bran, oat
Bran, wheat
Bread
Corn
Cornstarch
Crackers, soda
Flour, wheat
Flour, white
Hemp Seed Flour
Kamut
Macaroni
Noodles
Oatmeal
Oats (rolled)
Quinoa
Rice (all)
Rice Cakes
Rye
Spaghetti
Spelt
Wheat Germ
Wheat

ACIDIFYING BEANS & LEGUMES
Almond Milk
Black Beans
Chick Peas
Green Peas
Kidney Beans
Lentils
Pinto Beans
Red Beans
Rice Milk
Soy Beans
Soy Milk
White Beans

ACIDIFYING DAIRY
Butter
Cheese
Cheese, Processed
Ice Cream
Ice Milk

ACIDIFYING NUTS & BUTTERS
Cashews
Legumes
Peanut Butter
Peanuts
Pecans
Tahini
Walnuts

ACIDIFYING ANIMAL PROTEIN
Bacon
Beef
Carp
Clams
Cod
Corned Beef
Fish
Haddock
Lamb
Lobster
Mussels
Organ Meats
Oyster
Pike
Pork
Rabbit
Salmon
Sardines
Sausage
Scallops
Shellfish
Shrimp
Tuna
Turkey
Veal
Venison

ACIDIFYING FATS & OILS
Avacado Oil
Butter
Canola Oil
Corn Oil
Flax Oil
Hemp Seed Oil
Lard
Olive Oil
Safflower Oil
Sesame Oil
Sunflower Oil

ACIDIFYING SWEETENERS
Carob
Corn Syrup
Sugar

ACIDIFYING ALCOHOL
Beer
Hard Liquor
Spirits
Wine

ACIDIFYING OTHER FOODS
Catsup
Cocoa
Coffee
Mustard
Pepper
Soft Drinks
Vinegar

ACIDIFYING DRUGS & CHEMICALS
Aspirin
Chemicals
Drugs, Medicinal
Drugs, Psychedelic
Herbicides
Pesticides
Tobacco

ACIDIFYING JUNK FOOD
Beer: pH 2.5
Coca-Cola: pH 2
Coffee: pH 4


** These foods leave an alkaline ash but have an acidifying effect on the body.
UNKNOWN:
There are several versions of the Acidic and Alkaline Food chart to be found in different books and on the Internet.  The following foods are sometimes attributed to the Acidic side of the chart and sometimes to the Alkaline side.  Remember, you don't need to adhere strictly to the Alkaline side of the chart, just make sure a good percentage of the foods you eat come from that side.
Brazil Nuts
Brussel Sprouts
Buckwheat
Cashews
Chicken
Corn
Cottage Cheese
Eggs
Flax Seeds
Green Tea
Herbal Tea
Honey
Kombucha
Lima Beans

Maple Syrup
Milk
Nuts
Organic Milk (unpasteurized)
Potatoes, white
Pumpkin Seeds
Quinoa
Sauerkraut
Soy Products
Sprouted Seeds
Squashes
Sunflower Seeds
Tomatoes
Yogurt

August 04, 2010

Etchings

Baha'i House of Worship
Wilmette, Illinois
This is a sample of my mom's etching work. Her pieces of Baha'i art are exquisite. I admire her ability to create such beauty!

If anyone would like to place an order, her email address is:
citizen1852@yahoo.com

August 03, 2010

Food for Thought

Food nourishes our bodies.  It gives us energy.  If we eat too much, our bodies cannot manage all the effort which goes into breaking down the food into nutrients and energy, so we become tired instead of energized.

All whole foods from Mother Earth are nutritious.  The more we eat of them, the healthiest we can be.  Once we start processing them and overcooking them, the less we nourish our bodies and the more our bodies become diseased, or not in balance with the nutrients needed in our blood to nourish all the organs and parts of our bodies.

For thousands of years humanity evolved as it discovered the science of agriculture, the medicinal properties of the plant kingdom, and the amazing diversity of spices and seasonings.  Food was primarily a means by which we grew strong, and whenever we were sick, we created medicine from the plant kingdom to heal us.

This is a new Day.  Humanity entered the industrial revolution and discovered innumerable ways to develop the food industry....but without a spiritual balance with regard to food, we are likely to become gluttens for punishment.  Both our health and our illness is directly connected to food.  Abdu'l-Baha explains, "...the incursion of disease is due to a disturbance in the relative amounts of the body's component substances, and that treatment consisteth in adjusting these relative amounts, and that this can be apprehended and made possible by means of foods."  (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 15)
 
As a whole, the food industry has succeeded in destroying all that is sacred in terms of the spirit or energy that food brings to our well-being.  It is only in recent decades that the industry is responding with a sense of concern and is adopting a more healthy approach to fast foods, processed foods, and all that is decadent and convenient.
"The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat is no longer eaten. Medical science is yet only in its infancy, but it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of taking only this natural food. " (Baha'i Scriptures, p. 453)

Since our bodies are like thrones for our inner temple -- the soul -- we should strive to consume food that is beneficial to our bodies, as our bodies affect our soul.  We should remember that the purpose of food is to give life, not to deteriorate it.  If we remember the key to most things in life is moderation, we will find ourselves with a lot of energy & good health for both our bodies and our souls.

July 01, 2010

"Sincerity and love will conquer hate" ~Abdu'l-Baha

Nothing is more inspiring than reading the words of Abdu'l-Baha. i find myself speechless and unable to write any commentary because there is no comparison to His words. Yet i find myself constantly wanting to read His speeches and Tablets in order to have them in my heart, preferably by memory, because they are the elixir to touch the hearts of men. When i find prejudice creeping into my heart, and estrangement settling into its crevices, I know it's time to immerse myself in the warmth and radiance of Abdu'l-Baha's words.

We live in a time of such opposite extremes, of injustice and corruption..yet we also live in a world of splendour and beauty, of joy and love. Without the power of the holy spirit permeating our lives, we are subject to be affected by the former, in one way or another. For me, I tend to become critical of those who hearts are cold, or whose actions are selfish. But when I am reminded of Abdu'l-Baha's blessed counsels, I feel inspired as a channel for God's love again, and a little drop of the ocean striving toward peace:
   "I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.
   "Thoughts of love are constructive of brotherhood, peace, friendship, and happiness.
   "When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other's hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!
   "Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God.
   "If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.
   "Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate. How many seemingly impossible events are coming to pass in these days! Set your faces steadily towards the Light of the World. Show love to all; 'Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Man'. Take courage! God never forsakes His children who strive and work and pray! Let your hearts be filled with the strenuous desire that tranquillity and harmony may encircle all this warring world. So will success crown your efforts, and with the universal brotherhood will come the Kingdom of God in peace and goodwill."  (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 27)

June 11, 2010

prisoner of luxury

i am not really feeling much like writing, but this Selection from the Baha'i Writings captured my attention while remembering our complex ties with the oil industry at this present time in civilization's development.  it feels like humanity as a whole is a prisoner of luxury and has not yet been willing to adapt to ecologically beneficial technologies which will protect us from disaster...

"Luxuries cut off the freedom of communication. One who is imprisoned by desires is always unhappy; the children of the Kingdom have unchained themselves from their desires. Break all fetters and seek for spiritual joy and enlightenment; then, though you walk on this earth, you will perceive yourselves to be within the divine horizon. To man alone is this possible. When we look about us we see every other creature captive to his environment.
"The bird is a captive in the air and the fish a captive in the sea. Man alone stands apart and says to the elements, I will make you my servants! I can govern you! He takes electricity, and through his ingenuity imprisons it and makes of it a wonderful power for lighting, and a means of communication to a distance of thousands of miles. But man himself may become a captive to the things he has invented. His true second birth occurs when he is freed from all material things:  for he only is free who is not a captive to his desires. He has then as Jesus has said, become captive to the Holy Spirit."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 87)

May 11, 2010

Xolani, the gardener

Xolani is the gardener who lives in our complex. He's a middle-aged humble soul who quietly works and emits a humility that is seen in his eyes. I have known him since October 2009. We started talking as soon as we moved in because of my interest in gardening. He have a very small yard area that doesn't belong to us but we've managed to plant seeds along the edge of the grass in front of some shrubs. Xolani cares for our additions to the yard even though it's not specifically his responsibility. A couple months ago i planted a rotten tomato in the earth. A cluster of little tomato plants sprouted. Recently he separated them into a row and is enabling them to grow well now.


Xolani wakes up before 6am each day. He has no electricity in his home. He works in candlelight when the sky is dark. [ For six months out of the year it is dark until around 7am] Without electricity there is no warm or hot water. He also is without indoor plumbing so he fills a basin up from a public faucet outside somewhere nearby. This is how he, his wife and 3 children bathe each day. It is common for hundreds of thousands of our African brothers and sisters in this wealthy land to collect water from an outside faucet, and keep big buckets of water inside for rinsing, cooking, etc.

Once he leaves his home to come to work each day, he takes a walk to the train station. Sometimes he has to wait a long time for the train; sometimes the train is too crowded to find a space to stand; sometimes the train gets stuck somewhere along the route; sometimes the train workers are on strike and he can't get to work. Once the train arrives at the closest station to where we live, it's almost an hour walk until he arrives. So each day, morning and late afternoon, he walks about an hour to/from the train station.

Xolani earns R50/day. He begins work around 8am and ends work around 4pm, leaving his home about 2 hours or more before work begins and arriving home about 2 hours or more when the day has ended. He spends R25/day on transport. If he spends money to buy lunch, he's left with R20/day earned, but he's only been able to afford a loaf of bread for lunch.

Xolani doesn't complain but does wish he was able to find work as a gardener for individuals rather than work for this company. He knows that if he worked for 3 different homes 3 days a week, he could earn about R600. But he has no connections with wealthy people and there are many more waiting to take his job, so he works hard and doesn't complain to management about the very low wage that he is earning.

April 22, 2010

Samkele

this is Samkele.  everyone calls him Sami.  he is 11 years old.  he is one of the first children i met in Delft.  

on my very first visit, he came to the home of Pamela Tobi -- the woman who first invited the Baha'is to come and begin children's classes.  he was very happy to show me some of his Xhosa dancing with his friend Yolanda.  two years later he has shown us he's the best boy dancer in the neighborhood.  watching him dance traditional Xhosa style is quite impressive and amazing.  i am always intrigued at how dance and song are passed down in more traditional or tribal communities.  the kids are born into and surrounded by song & dance which have layers and layers of meaning.  they tell stories, express praise to the Creator, demonstrate struggle and the beauty of life.  Sami goes into a different space when he is dancing.  he's very serious and focused, as well as radiant and energized.  this is one of the many aspects of Xhosa life that is full of richness and quality, holding the people together with joy and unity in a way i haven't experienced in European-based cultures.

Sami's life is very challenging.  his parents have been separated from before we met.  he was living in the neighborhood these past 2 years with his older sisters; his mom only visited once in a while.  i arrived one day and watched him peel a potato and fry it for his dinner.  he was 10 years old and so alone, so independent, so quiet and outwardly content with his life condition.  his home consisted of an old, small couch and arm chair in the living room/kitchen area; the kitchen had a 2 burner stove top but no oven or refrigerator.  the bathroom was really a toilet room; the window to the toilet room was broken and this small space was used to store the ironing board and few tools that the family owned.  a tv/bookshelf unit became a wall that separated the living room area from the bedroom, which consisted of a bed and some boxes..

no refrigerator; no oven.. no storing milk, veggies, or frozen foods... no baked potatoes, casseroles or cookies... Xhosa people do make a steam bread on the burner which is delicious, but their lives are accustomed to a hardship that is typical of most places in the world that live traditionally or in poverty.  now that i have close friendships with people who don't own an oven or refrigerator, i have grown to appreciate their way of life more than i appreciate having the modern convenience itself.  i really appreciate seeing how strong people are in how they survive and make do with the simplicities of life, like water, fire, blankets, basins for washing, cornmeal, etc.

a couple of months ago Sami's dad came and took everything out of the house, forcing he and his sisters to move in with their mom.  she lives in an area of shacks about 15 minutes away by car -- a world away in their eyes.  i went to visit them right after they moved.  they met me on a main road and then took me on the dirt and rocky roads (which were more like wide footpaths).  as i was driving, the rocks kept scraping underneath the car; i was full of fear -- not that anything would happen to me, but that something would damage my car and i'd be stuck where no tow truck could ever come and take it away.  it was a new experience for me to drive through an 'informal settlement' -- we were stared at like never before because white people just don't go off the beaten track, let alone into a township in general.  the moment i smile and spread love to all those who are curiously looking at us, it's as if the light just eliminated all the darkness of suspicion and mistrust, a light in which only souls are communicating.  this is how i like to live my life: soul to soul.  i do realize i am white, and am often called 'umlungu' in the townships, but i realize even more that i am a soul, and that most people are wanting to connect at that level of our shared humanity.  i don't live in fear but in awe of the human race, especially in terms of its perseverance against oppression and injustice.

Sami's outward living conditions are just one level of complexity that defines his life.  another is his family life which i don't know too much about.  the greatest contribution to the complexity of his life is his personality and unique expression of his soul.  he is a boy who loves dancing more than soccer, singing more than drumming, writing more than drawing.  he brings a radiance and energy to our gatherings in such a way that when he's not there we all miss him, we notice he isn't there.  whenever we come, though, we never can predict if Sami will be joyful or withdrawn.  If withdrawn, i will take him aside and give him a space that he seems to need -- a couple of those times he has given me a letter the following visit, expressing his gratitude for me being in his life yet it seemed like nothing significant occurred in that moment of space.  He reminds me of how precious children's lives are -- how utterly important it is for us to pay them attention, to listen, to offer guidance, or to purely and simply smile and show them love.
 

April 20, 2010

sharing gems

This is Zetu. She is 7 years old and lives in Delft where we have a Baha'i School. She is smiling widely to show me her new 2 front teeth that seemed to take more than a year to come in. She is the first 'gem' that i have decided to begin sharing on this blog. It entered my heart the other day that Gems Of Oneness must feature individuals whose hearts have touched mine.  Children are easily the biggest group of people who touch my heart.  They are simply irresistable in so many ways..

Zetu loves plants and flowers.  She was one of the youngest who showed interest last year when we were having a gardening project.  She began taking me around the neighborhood to show me various weeds that were so stunning in their adaptability and perseverance amidst sandy soil and blustery winds.  One day i came from Sea Point Primary School with a bucketful of native ground-covering plants.  She eagerly anticipated receiving some to plant in front of her home.  You can imagine how joyful it was to share some with her!  The next week she proudly showed me how they were still standing (or surviving, depending on how you look at it).  New plants require a LOT of protection in a neighborhood where homes are small and children spend most of their time playing and exploring outside.  The plants didn't make it but her heart was all the much happier from trying to nurture them. :-)

She is one of the students in my class of 7-8 year olds at Baha'i School.  She comes very often and despite being one of the younger ones and missing many classes at a time, her overall attendance these past 2 years enables her to demonstrate an ability to answer most of the questions and recite from memory a few of the prayers.

April 07, 2010

drops of One ocean

it's been quite a while since i have shared any gems of oneness from my life. instead, writing has ebbed and flowed mostly to individual friends and family, or as drops of thoughts on facebook's NewsFeed. after recently watching the movie, "Julie and Julia" (julie julia movie - Google Search), i felt inspired to integrate GemsofOneness back into my life as an expression of creative spirit out into the world of humanity. it feels essential that this little drop of my life experience be offered, even if it's just as a journal which someday our children will look upon to catch a glimpse of what life was like growing up from their mama's perspective. perhaps the web can be seen as an ocean of drops, and all of us who write and share information are part of that ocean of oneness.

this past year was focused primarily on developing the Baha'i School program in Delft, one of the townships in Cape Town. In January, 2009, Dash started to come every Saturday -- in the course of that year he developed a Delft American Football league which played 3 seasons and enjoyed 3 championships. we became complementary partners invested in the lives of many souls there. we have been going every Tuesday night to offer and share Devotions with the children and jr. youth -- these moments are beyond measure in terms of the spirit of joy we have all experienced! now in 2010 we are entering a new stage of development with the Baha'i School and it is quite exciting.

in addition, the past 6 months has been spent developing PJSweets with Dash, our carrot cake business. We now have more than a handful of loyal clients who order at least one cake each week. :)

thinking of drops of water which collect magnetically to one another, i am feeling intrinsically connected with our human family and it's many struggles and triumphs, it's pain and joy. i desire to share what inspires and moves me along a wide range of emotions and thoughts in response to this ever-changing, ever-advancing world civilization.

i am immersed in a sea of thoughts about what i have observed and experienced of African culture, specifically the Xhosa people. i have come to feel that my soul is especially uplifted and full of joy while spending time or interacting in some way with the Xhosa people. i am the happiest when our family is together in Delft, serving in various capacities to offer spiritual education and develop bonds of trust and love with all the cultures living there. striving to be an example of servitude while upholding and sharing the Teachings of Baha'u'llah is the dominating passion of our lives..there is so much to share as we continue to learn and grow.

more to share soon.. :)

February 07, 2010

Trinity doctor goes to Haiti to help earthquake victims - St. Petersburg Times

Trinity doctor goes to Haiti to help earthquake victims - St. Petersburg Times

My sister just sent me this article. it's great to read something real from an individual who has arisen to serve his fellow man. it's hard to find an article on the internet now that is covering the daily reality of life in Haiti. the US news has moved on to other non-significant headlines for the most part. i know there is a lot of people who care and who are doing pure and goodly deeds to assist our brothers and sisters in dire need...