Monday, November 14, 2011

Nearing The End

Group H disbanded today, as the last of the organized stops came to an end at the original Western Pilgrim House, which was actually quite close to our hotel. Astrid and I got lost on the way there though.

But first we went to the buildings on the ark. This is an arc shape beside the terraces, where the administrative buildings are. It's a metaphor that comes from Baha'u'llah's Tablet of Carmel, where it says, "Ere long will God sail His Ark upon thee." Metaphorical writing.

These buildings include the International Teaching Center, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, and the Archives Building, that I mentioned in some of my earlier posts. The fourth one is the Center for the Study of the Texts, and not yet built is the International Library. They mark the rounded border of the Monument Gardens, where I went yesterday.

I was able to sleep in a bit today, because ours was the last group to go see the buildings. I forgot my phone, but I got pictures from Astrid, so I'll be putting those up alongside my own from the past two days and tomorrow, once I get home. 

I learned that to build the Ancient Greek style buildings, they had to call up retired marble carvers, because it's a disappearing art. I'm glad they did, because the buildings are amazing, and they will last forever. They're pretty cool inside too, very elegant and beautiful, but not overdone at all. And most of the contents were donated or even bought from second-hand stores, and yet it fits together so well.

One cool thing that happened today is that I saw an original painting (not a replica) done by Marion Jack, the person I was named after. I got Astrid to take a picture of me with it. It depicted the Mansion of Bahji and was done in 1914. That was a long time ago. In case you didn't know.

I also learned, yesterday actually, that she taught English to the kids that lived at the House of 'Abdullah Pasha in 'Akka, where we went yesterday. That means she probably taught English to Shoghi Effendi, which is kind of cool. She's Canadian, so I wonder if he spoke with a Canadian accent.

I also wonder if there are any recordings of him speaking. You'd think there would be, with all the speaking tours he did, and yet I've never heard of any audio or video recording. He died in 1963, so they had the technology for it. Hmm...

It rained today, which is great for the people of Israel since they've been suffering from a drought, as I mentioned before. We had some wind yesterday, but not so much today, until this evening. 

In the morning, we were mostly inside, looking at the buildings and then visiting the Public Information Center, or somesuch, where scholars and others can pre-arrange visits if they want to learn specifically about the Baha'i Faith. Remember, Baha'is aren't allowed to teach their religion in Israel, unless asked direct questions.

In a circular room, they had some quotes from Baha'u'llah up on the walls, and each one was decorated with a border that ressembled the artistic style of various cultures and regions. They were all done by the same artist, and whoever it was did a good job.

After that, we went back to the hotel for lunch, and we had almost four hours before we had to be at our next and final stop. I took a nap, because I'm cool like that. When it came time to leave, I set out with Astrid. Glennys was nowhere to be found, so we figured she'd make her own way there, which she did.

On the way to the house, which is literally five minutes from the Port Inn, Astrid and I walked around the area for much longer than necessary. Finally we asked a guy who spoke barely any English, and he pointed the way. We arrived five minutes late and our group was involved in some sort of impromptu prayer session. Some people sang and one guy read a prayer off his iPhone, which I found amusing for some reason.

The Western Pilgrim House was built to house the early pilgrims from the West, because the original pilgrim house was too small to fit everybody from everywhere. There are a lot of photographs from people's visits, so when you go outside, you can see exactly where they were taken. That's different from most of the other places we've visited, and it gave me a weird feeling as I walked around.

We didn't get to go into 'Abdu'l-Baha's house, because it's being renovated, but we were still pretty lucky overall, compared to some pilgrim groups. We got to see every single other place in the region that is owned by the Baha'is.

In the garden next to the Western Pilgrim House sits the grave of Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, originally Mary Maxwell. She was the wife of Shoghi Effendi who died in 2000. It was dark by the time I gpt out to see it, so I couldn't read the script on it very well. I took picture though, so maybe I'll be able to make it out. I think it just said her name and date of birth and date of death.

Back at the Port Inn, we'd arranged to meet the others and have supper together, since it's our last night as a full group. Erik, Julie, and Glennys aren't leaving until Wednesday, but Astrid and I have to head out tomorrow night. Teddy, another person staying here who I've hardly spoken to, partly because she's gone a lot and partly because she seems to think I'm too young to converse with, wasn't around when we got back, so it was just the five of us.

Teddy actually had a nasty fall in 'Akka yesterday. Some people do this thing where they count forty waves coming in and each time one comes in, they say "Praised be God". I've never heard of this tradition before (and it's not a Baha'i tradition, at least not an officially condoned one). Apparently, after forty waves, you're absolved of all your sins, past, present, and future. Seems a bit odd to me, but I guess if some people believe it, then that's their prerogative.

So she was rushing up the steps of the seawall to do the forty waves, when she slipped on the uneven steps and fell on her knees. She sprained her wrist and finished her pilgrimage in a wheelchair, but she claims to have had a miraculous recovery. Also, one of the people working here at the World Center just happens to be a bone surgeon, so he had a look at it. 

She was already having some health issues and was praying for healing during her pilgrimage. So much for that.

I'm not sure where she was, but the five of us headed out to this Chinese restaurant. I had pat thai noodles and they were delicious. There was some sort of badly acted Chinese historical drama on the tv, so that was a little distracting, but overall it was really enjoyable. We ended up with a good group at the Port Inn.

Everyone except Erik then cabbed to the ITC for tonight's presentation. It was pouring out at this point. We had the best cab driver ever. He fed us almonds and dried apricots. Julie started singing and he said if she sang, our trip would be free, but only if she sang in Arabic. I sang something in Farsi, but it wasn't good enough.

He had us laughing the whole way there, and I don't think he took us a very roundabout way, unlike some of the other drivers. I'm not sure. It could've all been a grand scheme to trick us into not paying attention to how long it was taking.

After the talk, I met a guy from Tanzania who's been working here since July. He's on a twelve-month service contract, or whatever it's called. I also chatted with a couple other people I've met here, since I may not be seeing them again.

Tomorrow night there's a farewell to the pilgrims, but I might be on the train at that time, which sucks. I imagined that the last day would end relatively early, when I booked my ticket. Shows how much I know.

It's thunder and lightning out now, and the rain is really coming down. The window's open in the dorm because it gets stuffy otherwise, but it's a bit chilly tonight. Good thing the blankets are made of fleece. 

Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend for lunch, who I haven't seen since I was thirteen. We were Baha'i pioneer (sort of like missionary) kids together in Benin in the late nineties. I'm looking forward to that!

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