December 12, 2013

Madiba ~ reflecting

this is the moment in history, billions of us are sharing Madiba's passing -- sharing emotions, sentiments, photos, speeches, videos and reflections.  most of all we are recounting his spirit, that magnetic force of his character that was so magnanimous and exemplary in the face of all that was oppressive and unjust..
sporting his prison # at a rugby game 2005
it is a moment when i feel like a drop of water in the ocean of humanity.  the waves of oneness are stirring.  Nelson Mandela's soul has permeated the world of existence and is pervading the depths of our hearts.  this shared consciousness enables the wave of his spirit to surge and penetrate deep into the ocean of our hearts.  it feels like all of us are now connected through his spirit and are regenerated to reach higher standards of conduct for ourselves in the face of injustice and oppression, difficulties and despair.

i am riding the wave of humility as i strive each day to live as a Baha'i which is none other than embodying all human perfections and dedicating my life as a servant of God to the betterment of the human race.  Madiba inspires me because he triumphed over anger and bitterness, hatred and revenge.  he embodied the necessary perfections of forgiveness and magnanimity after 27 years of experiencing a suffering in the face of ignorance and oppression i try to imagine but cannot.  he embodied ubuntu -- he was all that he was because he fully embodied the spiritual reality that we become fully ourselves through serving others rather than ourselves.

may Madiba's soul exert its powers from that realm beyond and contribute to the progress and well-being of the world throughout the ages to come.

"The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits."

    ~ Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 156

October 24, 2013

prayer ~ spiritual nourishment

"Indeed the chief reason for the evils now rampant in society is the lack of spirituality. The materialistic civilization of our age has so much absorbed the energy and interest of mankind that people in general do no longer feel the necessity of raising themselves above the forces and conditions of their daily material existence. There is not sufficient demand for things that we call spiritual to differentiate them from the needs and requirements of our physical existence.

"The universal crisis affecting mankind is, therefore, essentially spiritual in its causes. The spirit of the age, taken on the whole, is irreligious. Man's outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable him to elevate himself into the higher realms of the spirit.

"It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform. For the core of religious faith is that mystic feeling which unites Man with God. This state of spiritual communion can be brought about and maintained by means of meditation and prayer. And this is the reason why Bahá'u'lláh has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer merely to accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality which he can acquire chiefly by means of prayer. The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine Religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers.  It is the soul of man which has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide.

"Laws and institutions, as viewed by Bahá'u'lláh, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and becomes a dead thing. The believers, particularly the young ones, should therefore fully realize the necessity of praying. For prayer is absolutely indispensable to their inner spiritual development, and this, as already stated, is the very foundation and purpose of the religion of God."

    (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 86)

September 22, 2013

Jo'berg, South Africa -- Youth Conference

  these songs depict the spirit of oneness, true joy and universal brotherhood.  this is the Baha'i Faith offering humanity love, nobility of purpose and the light of unity in diversity..

Westgate attack

people coming together as one
the helicopters continue to fly above our home.  it's been 27 hours since the Westgate mall was attacked.  we live a couple of miles from the mall.  we were there that morning. 

we found our grocery receipt from that day -- it reads 12:03pm.  the gunmen were probably in the upper parking lot by that time.  shots were reported soon after we left.  we usually shop there on Saturday afternoons..but not yesterday.  by the grace of God and His Will we were inspired to leave our home earlier to avoid the crowds and have most of the day at home to unpack our shipment which had just arrived on Friday.

we keep pondering what would have happened if we were there..

"There has been a revival of religious fanaticism in all parts of the globe, and among people of varied faiths. It is a truly worldwide phenomenon and, in our view, a deeply disturbing one, for religious fanaticism breeds hatred and violence. We need not look far to find numerous examples in the world today of the civil strife, terror and human suffering that religious fanaticism has wreaked upon religious communities and entire nations. Its pernicious influence can be found at the root of all too many of the wars, conflicts and other ills undermining peace in the world, including the problem of terrorism.

"Fanaticism represents a perversion of religion and is directly contrary to the humane teachings brought by the Founders of all the great religions of the world. We believe that the purpose of every religion has been to promote unity among all the peoples of the world, and to outlaw war and violence in human affairs. All the major religions have taught the "Golden Rule." The violence and disruption associated with religious fanaticism testifies to its spiritual emptiness. Fanaticism destroys the very foundations of human solidarity by dividing the world into contending factions, each believing itself to be superior to others and to have an exclusive claim on religious truth. These actions and attitudes negate the very purpose of religion."

~ Baha'i International Community, 1987 Mar 03, Eliminating Religious Intolerance
"From the seed of reality, religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequaled, its existence eternal.

The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken and a universal brotherhood in the reality itself will be established. Warfare and strife will cease among mankind; all will be reconciled as servants of God. For all are sheltered beneath the tree of His providence and mercy.

God is kind to all; He is the giver of bounty to all alike, even as His Holiness Jesus Christ has declared that God "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust"; that is to say, the mercy of God is universal. All humanity is under the protection of His love and favor, and unto all He has pointed the way of guidance and progress."

 ~ Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 226

September 06, 2013

parenting advice from kaaka Irene

'kaaka' means 'grandmother' in one of the Ugandan languages.  kaaka Irene is my dear friend, Osiria's, mother.  from the moment i met her, there was a spiritual connection of love that brought us close together.  her bright smile and warm heart were like a magnet for mine. 

one time i went to kaaka Irene's room to visit with her.  we sat on the bed together and talked like old friends.  we sorted dry beans, removing the rotten ones from the good ones as we talked about the spirit of life.  she was ready to answer the question i had first asked her upon meeting her:  'What advice would you give me to raise my daughter?"

kaaka Irene raised a daughter whose heart is overflowing with love for God in a genuinely spiritual way of living her life. her daughter is such a spiritual rock in my life that i had to ask kaaka Irene that question.  i wanted to know what she did or how she lived to convey that spirit and moral character into her daughter.

with a page full of notes written in her native tongue she began translating her answer into English (a language she taught herself as an adult while living in Uganda!) while i listened intently to every wise word she humbly offered.  briefly, this is the advice she gave:

  • Parents have to lead by example because kids are always observing to see if you are doing what you say or if its mere talk
  • Parents should speak into the lives of their kids...we have the power to create by the words we say...speak what you want to see happen in the lives of your children
  • Affirm your children and let them know they are very, very precious; let them know what can add or reduce the value of their lives
  • Choosing friends wisely and not following the path of the wrongdoers..this involves learning to say no even to peer pressure...even at the risk of being unpopular among peers....the good should always overcome the bad
  • Make devotion and prayer a dependence on the guidance of God
  • As mothers, we have a big role to play because we have the power to impact generations

listening to kaaka Irene that afternoon left an imprint on my soul.  she spoke as an elder with wisdom -- that blend of spiritual qualities which glows through silence and speech, through stillness and deeds.  her heartfelt words, spoken oftentimes with passion and emphasis, made my soul feel as if it was being nourished.  it felt as if my ancestors and holy souls orchestrated this moment in my life.  i was hungry for her knowledge and experience and she shared it so generously and thoughtfully with me as if i was her own daughter.  it was one of those gems of oneness in my life..

Elavanyo - things will turn right

this song/video by Wan-O, ft. Lil Shaker conveys the story of pain and struggle with the overall theme of having hope through one's love for God.

life is hard for so many people yet hope keeps people persevering.  hope is that deep conviction that things will turn out right.  the human spirit has a resilience that is so strong and humble through love for God.  i am inspired by how people manage to live as well as they do under the most trying of circumstances..

as i continue to listen to music from Ghana my heart continues to miss the souls that i met there and with whom we shared much joy and genuine friendships.  Ghana is full of souls that shine as a result of keeping their spirits strong amidst the hardships of life..

August 29, 2013

Javon Johnson - "cuz he's black" (NPS 2013)

"In the Bahá'í view, racism will be eliminated only when the peoples of the world are convinced of the oneness of humankind and proceed to reconstruct their lives and their societies on that basis."

 ~ Baha'i International Community, 1989 Feb 08, Eliminating Racism 

being a black man in America.  this speech conveys the reality.  no rhetoric.  just a gem of oneness that connects us with the unjust reality of what it is like to grow up as a black boy in America.

August 23, 2013

'Africa to America' - Walter Heath

i came across this song/slideshow presentation today.  it depicts the agonizing story of slavery and ends with the birth of emancipation through the healing Message of Baha'u'llah.

"To know this is not enough. All knowledge is good, but it can bear no fruit except by action. It is well to know that riches are good, but that knowledge will not make a man rich; he must work, he must put his knowledge into practice. We hope the people realize and know that unity is good, and we also hope that they will not be content to stand still in that knowledge. Do not only say that Unity, Love and Brotherhood are good; you must work for their realization."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 59

August 22, 2013

the spirit of subduing self-love

"..self-love is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good. That individual, however, who puts his faith in God and believes in the words of God -- because he is promised and certain of a plentiful reward in the next life, and because worldly benefits as compared to the abiding joy and glory of future planes of existence are nothing to him -- will for the sake of God abandon his own peace and profit and will freely consecrate his heart and soul to the common good."

 ~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 96
we are all gems, unique and precious.  we are all full of spiritual, gem-like qualities.  we are all born with the potential to shine with the light of godly qualities and make this world a better place. if this potential is not continually cultivated and enabled to flourish, we easily succumb to the gravity of self which pulls us down into the darkness of material traits, extinguishing that light and bringing harm to ourselves and the human race.  the Teachings from God provide the spiritual energy to ultimately overcome our selves, to subdue that lower nature molded within us..

as much as each of us is on a never-ending, ever-evolving, inter-generational progression of spiritual progress -- not merely material progress -- it is made inexplicably difficult to transform our lives unless we exert conscious, tireless effort toward overcoming our ego.
"..the spirit is the bounty of God, the water is knowledge and life, and the fire is the love of God. For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body. But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure -- that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.

Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit.

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 92
our ego is that self-love which can overtake our sense of humility before God as His servant.  we begin to glorify ourselves and basically fall in love with ourselves.  our talents, achievements, opinions, physical beauty, wealth, class, status, etc. all become aspects of our ego that we worship.  we neglect to be truly humble and carry ourselves in a dignified, selfless manner before God.

if we are not making a conscious effort toward subduing our ego, we adorn ourselves with layers and layers of self-conceit, pride, and vanity.  godliness and purity are soiled or nowhere to be seen or felt.  daily life becomes all about one's image or attention received from others.

it is in this place of self-love that a soul never finds inner peace -- there is always a desire for more from the material world, more things, more attention, more physical adornments, more degrees, more money..  at its worst, self-love is a place where addiction, obsession and suicide reside.

this very materialistic world feeds the ego instead of nourishing the soul.  as we strive to raise our children to be spiritual human beings, we are bombarded by the excesses of self-love that pervade most areas of life.  this is especially true in the world of music and entertainment to which children are much attracted.  these industries bombard us with vulgarity and indiscretions of all kinds. it is a very difficult task to help them find anything worthy of their spirit.  they are easily enticed, also, by what they see people wearing, saying and doing in public, on advertisements and at school, most of which, even in sheltered environments, give them messages of loving themselves.

parenting plays a crucial role in influencing how their children develop and strengthen their spiritual capacity while learning how to subdue their material nature:

"The forces at work on the hearts and minds of the young...are pernicious indeed. Exhortations to remain pure and chaste will only succeed to a limited degree in helping them to resist these forces. What needs to be appreciated in this respect is the extent to which young minds are affected by the choices parents make for their own lives, when, no matter how unintentionally, no matter how innocently, such choices condone the passions of the world—its admiration for power, its adoration of status, its love of luxuries, its attachment to frivolous pursuits, its glorification of violence, and its obsession with self-gratification."   (December 28, 2010 Universal House of Justice)

we are constantly striving, through our own example, to bring out the light of a good character in our children.  through counsel, we are helping them develop their capacity to attain moral and spiritual excellence which subdues this self-love.  as they make progress in their efforts, we remind them that their abilities and talents are gifts from God, not from themselves; they are to be developed and used to serve humanity in ways that are conducive to the spiritual advancement of civilization.

we encourage them to utilize all of their God-given potential and capacity with humility before God to protect their egos from swelling with pride and vanity.  we also encourage them to discern the destructive nature and emptiness of how self-love affects people in this life.  educating a soul to know itself as a noble human being is the most significant job we have in this life if we care to bring about a spiritual civilization.

"O God! Enable us to conquer self and overcome desire. O Lord! Deliver us from the bondage of the material world. O Lord! Quicken us through the breath of the Holy Spirit in order that we may arise to serve Thee, engage in worshiping Thee and exert ourselves in Thy Kingdom with the utmost sincerity. O Lord, Thou art powerful. O God, Thou art forgiving. O Lord, Thou art compassionate."

 ~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 458

August 18, 2013

the magic of love

"Happiness consists of two kinds; physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one's soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou art able in order to illuminate the lamp of thy heart by the light of love."
~ Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha v3, p. 673 

each day we have the capacity to be a channel of divine spirit in this life.  it depends on seeing everything that is happening with a spiritual eye, and looking at all people with the beauty of God in them.

as i settle into Nairobi i find myself having a unique experience already.  despite the diversity and long associations of different peoples living here, there is still surprise amongst the people here who are not white that i am being genuinely friendly and caring toward them.   i am able to love people simply for the sake of them being loved by God.  this love is expressed through smiling, thumbs up in appreciation for someone's deed, sharing chocolates and other things we have as a way of thanks, and a lighthearted, genuine exchange of joyful greetings (mostly in Swahili).  the world is longing for the love of God to be exchanged and received without any conditional self-interest involved.  to me, this is the magic of love..

while being stuck in traffic, or rolling up my car window to block out the black fumes coming out of tailpipes, i have been smiling at people when i connect with them in their car or on the side of the road.  as i meet guards and house cleaners, i treat them with dignity and high regard as i appreciate the work they do.  i am looking for the beauty of God in all things and creating my own reality of beauty and joy throughout the day.  it is truly like a magnet which attracts the heart of another human being.

here in Nairobi there is an overall sense of fear and lack of trust, which of course go hand in hand with one another.  i practice wisdom by keeping my purse close at all times and locking everything; i don't walk around at night or keep my car window open in the evenings as a protection from criminal attempts on my life.  but aside from being wise in my affairs, and staying out of areas that are known for crime, i feel that most people are hard-working and goodhearted, just like in South Africa, and there is no reason to hold fear so present in one's heart on a daily basis -- unless you break a traffic law and a police officer with a big gun comes up to your window and starts telling you how high the fees are for obstructing the law.. yes, that happened to us, but we didn't give in to his insinuating bribery.  we remained calm and prayerful and called a Baha'i lawyer friend (who we just met!) -- by the grace of God her son is a police officer who is a friend of this officer so he pardoned us!

love is the simple answer to the world's problems.  its replenishing fountain is the Word of God which is endowed with the creative spirit to transform our hearts, subdue our egos, and ennoble our lives.  for me it is the pulse of oneness which magically connects me to God in all circumstances, with all people, all of the time.

"When love is realized and the ideal spiritual bonds unite the hearts of men, the whole human race will be uplifted, the world will continually grow more spiritual and radiant and the happiness and tranquility of mankind be immeasurably increased. Warfare and strife will be uprooted, disagreement and dissension pass away and Universal Peace unite the nations and peoples of the world. All mankind will dwell together as one family, blend as the waves of one sea, shine as stars of one firmament and appear as fruits of the same tree. This is the happiness and felicity of humankind. This is the illumination of man, the glory eternal and life everlasting; this is the divine bestowal."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 229

August 08, 2013

the art of African words

i like this impressive demonstration of how the art of words communicated throughout the African continent for hundreds of years is significant today for the progress of art and design technology. 

August 04, 2013

arriving in Nairobi

"Striving means this: Ye must live and move according to the divine commands and behests, be united in loving with ecstasy and joy; do not take any rest but engage continually in the service of the Cause of God."
~ Abdu'l-Baha

we have arrived in Nairobi, Kenya!  the air is cool and fresh.  the greenery is lush and beautiful.  the landscape is full of rolling hills, tile roofs, old vans that serve as transport for most people, and roadside markets.  we haven't driven around too much but what we saw was a mixture of South Africa and Ghana -- a mixture of material development and underdevelopment combined with layers of African culture.  i love it!

i have already begun to connect with the people we are meeting -- it's as if the invisible magnetic force of love is operating between our souls through the warm and friendly greetings, smiles and helpfulness being shared.

it feels great to be back in Africa again after a wonderful holiday with family in America.  holiday is always the best time to enjoy family and rejuvenate myself with rest and recreation, but when it ends i become eager again to serve humanity in as many ways as i can each day, striving to put myself aside and be concerned with the needs of others.

like most places in this beautiful world, Kenya has its extremes of wealth and poverty, its prejudices of religion, class and race, and its battle against crime, injustice and terrorism.  i can feel the presence of security (where our car was examined with a machine that looked underneath for a bomb before entering the parking lot to a mall) which is both comforting and disconcerting.  i have seen the density of slums that sprawl far too long into the distance while driving to the kids' new school.  most houses and flats have bars on the windows, high walls along the perimeter and electric wires secured on top of the walls.  trucks and vans pollute the air with noxious fumes.  trees and flowering plants decorate most areas of the city with natural beauty and color, and serious facial expressions beam with radiance whenever i direct my genuine smile at them..

i can feel my heart being drawn to all of the possibilities that are to come in time as i begin arising to make new friendships and serve the community here.  good relationships and deeds that benefit other people are the gems that permeate the spirit of oneness in this world.  the joy and beauty of life is derived from this aspect of our oneness.  it is in this way that i feel most happy and grateful to be here..

"Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."

July 23, 2013

visiting Negril, Jamaica - the spirit of life

"It is clear and evident that the body of mankind in this day stands in dire need of such members and organs as are capable, useful and active, so that their movements and activities, their bearing and behavior, their tender feelings, lofty sentiments and noble intentions may at all times reflect heavenly virtues and perfections and become the expressions of divine attributes and saintly characteristics, thus breathing a new life and spirit into all the dwellers of the world and causing the inner ties and spiritual relationships to be fostered and fortified in all fields of human endeavor."

while the Zimmerman trial was in its final days, our family was enjoying a vacation at a Sandals resort in Negril, Jamaica, making friends with the workers and spreading that Baha'i spirit of genuine love to all of them.

we were there with my husband's father who had arranged the trip.  he is a Jamaican who left when he was a youth to make a better life for himself.  his entire life has been dedicated to working long and hard to ensure that his children were able to grow up with opportunities he never had.  at the age of 87 he wanted to make one last trip to see his aunt of 92 years and bring her along with us to a resort for a week of holiday together.  when it was too hot for him to be outside he was lounging in his room watching the trial.  we heard the latest updates from him each day, discussing the intricacies and history of race and justice in America.  our children were soon drawn into the discussion with many questions whether we were by the poolside or wading in the ocean.  on the final day, we all laid on our bed together anxiously waiting for the verdict.  when we returned from dinner that night we had missed the live coverage of Zimmerman's acquittal, but we watched CNN's coverage for the next hour with shock and disappointment.  we felt the legal system failed to protect yet another African American from a crime that happened because of racial profiling..

the trial served as a constant reminder of reality while we were served and catered to in a beautiful environment of harmony, safety, luxury and abundance..where people from all racial backgrounds were enjoying the trimmings of an upper middle-class vacation.  what made it special for me was being able to have my love received by so many of the hard-working people at the resort.  i felt that warm African heart in every face, with smiles beaming even when tired and over-worked.  there was never a problem for them -- 'evryting was alright' and 'no worries' for any request we made or trouble we created (like spilling a drink or breaking a dish).  i often felt myself on vacation to make other people's lives better or happier.  my consciousness of other people's lives is what fills my heart -- it is very hard for me to think of only myself.  i truly am striving to live only to serve others, even if it is just treating them with dignity, respect and conveying the love of God to their souls.  in this way, my time at the resort became very meaningful and significant beyond the joyful memories we were sharing together as a family.

the one aspect of the resort that we really didn't like was the inappropriate way in which many Americans dressed, danced and spoke.  it was a family resort geared for children yet many adults acted in such degrading ways that we all felt invaded with too much immorality at times.  it served as an opportunity to discuss what is respectful for us as human beings who want to grow nearer to God in this life..

these pictures tell the rest of the story:
enjoying time on the flight, Ayana and Gichan
Miss C, our great aunt, who touched everyone's heart with her bright smile & loving kindness

ackee on the side of the road while we were driving from Kingston after picking up Miss C

Dashiel, Ayana & Dyami para sailing for the first time in their lives..and lovin' it!

relaxing after eating at one of the restaurants, our favorite being the buffet where we ate exactly what we liked best

Gichan full of joy to be with his grandchildren

Domani and Dyami building sand castles in the rain :)

Dashiel and the kids having the best time laughing and playing in the rain while i sat with Gichan under a thatched roof area

Dyami waving to me when he saw i was taking photos

life vests for the water sports -- we used them for snorkeling, jet skiing, kayaking & paddle boarding

my beautiful family -- playful and joyful

they swam to the edge of the water for me to capture a close up shot of them

Dashiel and the boys shootin' hoops while we had some down time from the pool and ocean

the water slides were a lot of fun!

Ayana coming out of the tube slide which goes very fast

Mr. Douglas and Dashiel enjoying the pool while sharing some good talks together

Gichan and Dyami waiting for a performance to begin

Vennesia, the most vivacious server at the Cafe de Paris - she was full of that radiant spirit from joy within

Asha and Vennesia at the cafe where we hung out every day for ice cream, crepes, pastries and good coffee

Domani Biko with his snorkeling gear on :)

Ayana paddle boarding

Domani waiting for his turn to ride the jet ski

Dashiel taking Dyami for a ride

the boys played basketball in the pool everyday

being by the beach in the late afternoon before sunset was full of beauty and calm for our family

building castles and wading in the water while we sit together with gratitude for our family and the blessings of life

we had a lot of fun laughing with Gichan whenever we were together -- it was the best of times!

Ayana relaxing - happy to be hangin' with her parents :)

hangin' out in the room - this is where a LOT of silliness occurred, thanks to Dashiel :)

Dyami and Domani enjoying a game of basketball in the pool

one of the kids' favorite things to do was order sweet drinks for themselves..whenever they wanted!

the boys met a very nice boy, Brendan, and played with him most of the week.  this evening was karaoke; Ayana sang Breakaway & gave another stunning performance :)

Dashiel and the kids before para sailing

Miss C - Gichan's aunt who can no longer walk, enjoying the ocean on a portable wheelchair for water and sand

Vennesia, Stacy & Asha bringing us much delight one evening

Domani eating a pastry while Vennesia poses :)

eating dinner with Vennesia one evening

Stacy and Dashiel - she left the cafe to come visit us at the restaurant

we were so happy to share moments like this with some of the lovely people who work there

our family's footprints in the sand -- we've done this wherever we've visited a beach :)

saying goodbye to Simone, the children's crafts person -- she embodied the Jamaican spirit fully!

last family photo by the ocean before leaving

Sanjay - one of the restaurant servers; he started calling Dash's special drink order 'the Dash'

on our drive back to Kingston there was a long avenue of bamboo trees along both sides of the road

meeting with Gichan's nephew and niece in Kingston back at the hotel

Gichan and Dyami were buddies by the end of the trip, sharing a lot of laughter together :)

saying goodbye to Jamaica

waiting to be picked up at the airport in the US, Gichan and Dyami kept patting each other's shoulders
Junior Reid's song, One Blood