Sunday, November 13, 2011

Four in One

This morning I woke up to a partially flooded dorm room. The drain in the bathroom has been slow all along, but I guess it's been getting worse. Luckily none of my stuff got wet. Astrid was using the rubber water pushing device to get it back into the bathroom.

I pulled myself out of bed around 7:30. We had to be up at the bus stop at 8:30, so I pulled on some clothes and ate breakfast. They had this vegetable casserole thing that was pretty yummy, although I think it was left over from yesterday, so it was a bit stale. Still good though.

We bussed out towards 'Akka again. Today we were visiting the Ridvan Garden, which was designed by 'Abdu'l-Baha as a replica of the Garden of Ridvan outside of Baghdad, in Iraq. That garden is on an island in the Tigris River; this one has a manmade stream around it, to sort of give the impression of an island. It was nice, and one of the original mulberry trees was still there. Baha'u'llah used to sit under that tree.

When we left, we got oranges and pomegranates. It's orange season. The last group of pilgrims got a lot of pomegranates, because it was pomegranate season. Which reminds me. I have a pomegranate to eat.

Then we went to the House of Abdullah Pasha, where 'Abdu'l-Baha lived with his family and where his grandson Shoghi Effendi was born. We got to go to the room where that happened, and our guide set the scene: "Just imagine being in 'Abdu'l-Baha's presence, and imagine Shoghi Effendi being born here."

That's not really something I want to imagine, but if you insist...

It's a big house, with a huge courtyard. The places we've visited have been in chronological order, except for the shrines, of course. Baha'u'llah never lived in this one, because he had already passed away.

This is where they hid the remains of the Bab for years before they were able to find his final burial spot on Mt. Carmel. It was in 'Abdu'l-Baha's sister's room, and nobody knew except the two of them. Imagine sleeping with someone's remains in your room!

We also saw the place where 'Abdu'l-Baha met with the first Western pilgrims, and the dining room where they all sat together to eat. I guess there weren't as many pilgrims in those days. There's a book called Some Answered Questions which is a compilation of 'Abdu'l-Baha's answers to pilgrims' questions. These discussions also took place in that dining room.

I took pictures with my phone all day, because my camera's broken. I figured out the problem: one of the three prongs that are supposed to connect to the battery is missing.

The house is right beside the prison, and from one of the windows you can see the two windows of Baha'u'llah's cell, framed between two buildings. 'Abdu'l-Baha lived in that prison too, so it must've been strange to view it out the window, thirty years later.

One of the guys in our group was telling me about his motorcycle escapades, both as a kid in Tehran, Iran and as an adult in the US. He used to ride around on a dirtbike at age sixteen, before he could legally have a license, and he'd taunt the police who were on foot. He also gets a lot of speeding tickets, apparently. In the US, his riding group has nicknamed him "Quick Nick". They call him Nick because, like many North Americans, they refuse to even try to learn his actual name, which is Nadjmi. Pretty hard, eh. Or not.

He gave me all his contact information, and if I ever go to Atlanta, he said he'll teach me how to ride well. He gave me a bunch of advice about motorcycle types and the best ways to learn to ride. Harleys are to be avoided; on a tour with about thirty people, only the Harleys needed to go to the shop.

He and another man in our group from the southern or midwestern States somewhere, judging by his accent, decided to walk to Bahji (about forty minutes), because 'Abdu'l-Baha did it when he was in his seventies. The rest of us hopped back on the bus.

I sat in the library in the Visitors Center and read A Traveller's Narrative, which is 'Abdu'l-Baha's account of the life of the Bab, though the translator didn't know he had written it at the time. Hence the obscure title, I guess.

I didn't go to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, because yesterday I thought it was our last visit, so I sort of already said my goodbyes to the whole place.

Normally the bus lets people out close to the Port Inn, but I decided to go up to the PRC to get the key to the Monument Gardens. This is where Baha'u'llah's mother, daughter, son, and daughter-in-law are buried. The son is the one who fell through the skylight at the prison when he was twenty-two, if you remember from my earlier post.

They were doing some work on the garden, so it was a bit noisy, but still enjoyable. I got some cool views (and pictures) of the buildings on the arc, which we're going to see tomorrow, by the way. That's the Seat of the House of Justice, the Archives Building, the Center for the Study of the Texts, and the International Teaching Center. They're in an arc. On the mountain. Beside the terraces. You'll see what I mean when I put pictures up.

I slipped into the upper terraces because a guy was coming through the gate. Normally you can't go in on the side without a key. I walked up to the top, and I've gotta say, the upper terraces are much more breathtaking than the lower ones, at least for me. Maybe because you have a view of all the terraces, or because every time you look behind you, you see the glittering golden dome of the Shrine of the Bab, with the city of Haifa panned out around you until it reaches the sea.

There's also more variation from terrace to terrace. The fountains weren't running today, but a lot of birds were flying and walking around. I have no idea what kind of bird they are, but they were interesting.

At the top, I met up with Astrid and Glennys who were on their way down. I wanted to hang out for a few minutes, so they went on ahead. But I caught up with them farther down and we took some pictures. Glennys left her camera on the bus yesterday, so we were in the same boat, both resorting to taking photos with our phones.

The terraces close at five, because it gets dark then. It's a safety precaution, because some of the paths are a bit steep. It was getting dark and the lights were coming on as we descended, and the guard who let us in to the lower terraces told us to take our time. He was taking a few photos himself and then making his way down to the bottom gate, so he could let us out once we got there. He was nice. Young guy from Nebraska.

It's so international around here. Everyone's from somewhere else. I love it.

Malena, the little girl from Greenland, was hanging around me a lot today. I don't know why she likes me so much. I can't even speak to her! But then again, no one else even tries, so maybe that's it.

We grabbed supper at the seafood restaurant where we ate before, but I got a kebab this time. The cat we'd been feeding was back, with another cat. The little one sat on my backpack under the table for most of the meal. Must've been the most comfortable seat it has had in a long time.

I got home and climbed onto my bed. I'm on the top bunk, in case you were wondering. I chatted with our new dorm mates; there's people in and out every day. One is a girl named Apple, born in the Philippines, but grown up in Florida. The other I spoke to more briefly, but she's from Russia. They both seem very considerate, so that's good. It's nice to have considerate people sharing a room with you.

Tomorrow's not quite as early, but we do have to go up the mountain to the International Teaching Center to start our tour of all the buildings. That's going to be really interesting. The architecture alone is astounding, so learning about the things that go on in each building will just be an added plus. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, too, so it'll be good to be inside.

Our afternoon schedule is indoors as well, at the Master's ('Abdu'l-Baha's) house, where Shoghi Effendi's wife Ruhiyyuh Khanum lived until she died about ten years ago. It's close to the Port Inn, so it'll be nice to walk home after. Unless it's raining, of course. But either way, it'll be close.

I finally bought some postcards. No point in sending them now. I'm just going to deliver them when I get back home. Sorry to those who wanted one. If you really want one with a stamp, let me know.

I also bought some wooden nine-pointed stars. I'm going to ask a friend of mine who makes jewelry to make them in to earrings. You know who you are.

The store also sold decorative plates with what Baha'is call the Greatest Name on it, a calligraphic representation of the name of God in Arabic. Baha'is often put this symbol somewhere high in their house, to show its importance. I was wondering if people who don't know what it means come into the store, buy six plates, and use them to eat off of. "Oh, look at the cool Arabic writing!"


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