14 August 2010

Top 10: Reasons I am going to Ecuador next year.

10. I needed a break from school. I could definitely feel it towards the end of the year: School can be exhausting, and I'm coming of 13 years of it! As my friends are leaving/getting ready to go back to school, I can see: This is not for me, not now. I want to go to college, and I will go to college; I just need a chance for all that learning to sink in before I fill my brain up with all that scholastic stuff again at Lewis and Clark.

9. Inspiration/Guidance for the Future: I don't know what I want to do with my life. I mean, I know parts of it. I want to go to college. I want to support my self. I want to give back to the world, and be of service to humanity. Its the particulars that get me. How, exactly, will I be of service? How will I support myself? What do I want to study in college? I've given it considerable thought, and I still draw a blank. So I'm hoping that my year abroad, during which I will spend time praying for guidance, will give me some direction in how best I can use my life to serve the Baha'i Faith and humanity.

8. Adventure! Ecuador is an amazing place, and I've only started researching it. I love traveling, and am so excited to meet new people and gain a different perspective on the world.

7. More specifically, I am eager to see a different Baha'i community and learn the way their teaching efforts function; maybe I can bring some learning back to Alaska (and Portland!). I cannot wait to assist in teaching efforts and see how this part of the world approaches Teaching.

6. A new language will be so exhilarating, and challenging. I am so lucky to have taken Spanish in school, and I hope I will be able to speak and understand it when I leave! I also am (somewhat) looking forward to the immersion I will undoubtedly be exposed to. I have heard that immersion is the best way to learn. I have never really had to struggle with something as simple as speaking, which brings us to reason number...

5. Tests. Baha'u'llah says:

"O SON OF BEING! Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants."*

Tests and difficulties are what help us to grow. I understand that learning a new language, living without my family, and fully devoting myself to service, full time, will be ferociously difficult. But I feel that the potential for the growth that will come from overcoming these tests will be great and rewarding.

4. Shogi Effendi says:

"Reliance on God is indeed the strongest and safest weapon which the Bahá’í teacher can carry. For by its means no earthly power can remain unconquered, and no obstacle become insuperable."**

In my period of service, I want to develop a reliance on God that hasn't really been tested yet. I mean, it's all very well for me to say I rely on God while I live in a comfortable home, surrounded by people that love me and with relatively few worries. Moving to Ecuador has already created a lot of unknowns, which has already caused me to rely on God. For instance, I need to rely on God that my finances will work out, and that taking this time away from school will give me an experience of more value that going straight into college. This kind of detachment is difficult, but it is a skill that I want to learn.

"And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world's multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight."***

This is pretty self-explanatory, and the words of 'Abdul-Bahá are much more eloquent than my own. I want to become a source of social good.

2. This speaks mostly to why I chose to teach. Actually, the decision to teach at the school was not a very definitive one on my part, it kind of just fell into place. But I was reading quotes on service, and this one, by 'Abdul-Bahá, embodies exactly the reason I want to teach:
"God has given us eyes, that we may look about us at the world, and lay hold of whatsoever will further civilization and the arts of living. He has given us ears, that we may hear and profit by the wisdom of scholars and philosophers and arise to promote and practice it. Senses and facilities have been bestowed upon us, to be devoted to the service of the general good; so that we, distinguished above all other forms of life from perceptiveness and reason, should labor at all times and along all lines, whether the occasion be great or small, ordinary or extraordinary, until all mankind are safely gathered into the impregnable stronghold of knowledge."****

Some of you have thought it ironic that I, who have never really enjoyed being around children, would choose to teach a bunch of children at this school. I sometimes find it ironic myself. And one of my goals in Ecuador is to learn to like children (I've already progressed! I compliment and interact with children that come to the ice cream booth, and I cooed at a 2-day-old baby yesterday!) and enjoy being around them. But.

I guess the reason I chose to teach is that, even if I don't personally enjoy teaching, that doesn't lessen the worldwide need for education. And it is incredibly hypocritical for me to say "Oh, I think every child deserves an education" and then decline to put forth an effort to teach them. And I want to be able to "like" kids, and I think the more you get to know something (generally) the more you like it. So I am going to get to know these children, and hopefully learn to love them.


"The day of service is now come. Countless Tablets bear the testimony of the bounties vouchsafed unto thee...Thou must show forth that which will ensure the peace and well-being of the miserable and the downtrodden. Gird up the loins of endeavour, that perchance thou mayest release the captive from his chains, and enable him to attain unto true liberty."*****

"With the utmost friendliness and in a spirit of perfect fellowship take ye counsel together, and dedicate the precious days of your lives to the betterment of the world and the promotion of the Cause of Him Who is the Ancient and Sovereign Lord of all."******

"We must now highly resolve to arise and lay hold of all those instrumentalities that promote the peace and well-being and happiness, the knowledge, culture and industry, the dignity, value and station, of the entire human race."*******

This is probably the most important reason. The Writings of Baha'u'llah ask us to serve humanity. I want to follow the Writings, and promote the Cause of God, and aid the progression of peace and well-being and happiness. I hope my year of service will enable me to do this.

Thank you for reading! (If you stuck through to the end, I don't blame you if you stopped. Its long. I will probably put something lighter, and shorter, in tomorrow to balance out the length and depth of this post! I was just feeling pensive at 2:30 in the morning!)


* Bahá’u’lláh: Arabic Hidden Words, Page: 55
** Shogi Effendi: The Power of Divine Assistance, Page 221
***'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 2-3
****'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 3.
*****Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of, p .92-94.
******Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of, p. 184
******* 'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 4.

13 August 2010

What I'll actually be doing next year.

In looking back on my posts, I've discovered that the majority (well, all of them, really) are not about my trip to Ecuador. Which was the main purpose of this blog to begin with! So, to give all 6 of my wonderful readers a summary of what exactly I'll be doing next year, and why I chose to do it:

Next month, I will be flying to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time in my life! I will pack two suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse or other small object* and fly to ECUADOR!

Ecuador is a coastal South American country that straddles the equator (hence the name, Ecuador=Equator in Spanish) It gained its independence in 1822 and has since been part of Simón Bolivar's "Republica de Gran Colombia" and later its own Republic. Its history in the last century has generally been characterized by instability: Unstable leadership in the early 1900s, a war with Peru in the 40s, and a succession of military leaders throughout the 70s. The first constitutionally elected president was in '79. Recently, things have settled down, and the legislative body of Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly, has rewritten the constitution (2007-2008) which now includes the world's first to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights, to help protect the wide diversity of endemic species both on the Galápagos and the mainland.

Ecuador is split into 4 sections: La Costa (The coast), La Sierra (The mountains), El Oriente (the Amazon jungles) and El Región Insular (The Galápagos). Its capitol is Quito, which lies in the Sierra, and the region I will be staying in, a city called Otavalo, is also in the Sierra.

Otavalo, population 25,000, is two hours north of Quito, at an elevation of 8,600 feet, and surrounded by mountains (hence, the Sierra region.) It is famous for its market, which has been around since pre-Incan times, and for its textiles.

I will be teaching at a Bahai-inspired school in Otavalo. Bahai-inspired means that the school was created with some of the Bahai ideals in mind. Here is a link to the school's website (its in Spanish, but you can translate it online fairly easily): http://www.bahaiecuador.org/raulpavon/index.html (If you're going to translate a part, click on the "Misión", it describes the mission, vision, and philosophy of the school beautifully!)  The school is preschool to high school aged children and youth, and has about 200 students. I will be teaching (!) younger students English classes, and assisting with the classes for older students. In the afternoons and during times when I'm not teaching, I will be able to help with the Bahai activities in the very active Otavalo cluster, which include Children's spiritual education classes, Junior Youth Empowerment Groups, and teaching projects.  I will be living in an apartment with another lovely youth doing service, Maryam, who is from Arizona.

Beyond that, there are a lot of unknowns. So until I get there, I am just going to pray, learn all I can about the area, pack, and trust in God that I am doing something that will truly help humanity, and give me some insight as well.

Thank you for reading! And stay tuned for the next post: Top 10: Reasons I am going to Ecuador.

*Namely, a ukulele

09 August 2010

Top 10 Reasons Random Gift-Giving Is Worthwhile

Giving a gift to someone for no apparent reason is an amazing thing.  Here's why:

10. The Golden Rule. Who doesn't like to receive random gifts? So give them.

9.  Random gifts are so much more spontaneous. Instead of searching through a box store or online to find the perfect gift for a perfect occasion, it can be whatever, whenever. Case in point: I am working at the Alaska Original Gourmet Hand-Dipped Ice Cream booth in Fairbanks, Alaska, at the Tanana Valley State Fair. Today, someone won a prize at the bottle toss or duck catch or whatever. They must not have cared for it that much, because they left it on the counter, probably intoxicated by the delicious smells of warm chocolate and the anticipation only vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in oreos can create. Anyways, that little prize became a random gift for my sister, Cori.

Surprise, Cori!
So, maybe Cori does not exactly need a stuffed, melancholy octopus. But giving it to her is thoughtful, which brings us to...

8. Random gifts say you are thinking of a person not only at their birthday, or their anniversary, or when your iPhone says "calendar announcement!" It shows that you thought of them when you didn't really need to think of them based on societal standards of good friendship (or, in this case, sisterhood).

7. Random gifts allow you to attach meaning to an otherwise meaningless object, and relate a meaningless object to an event as a memory. Case in Point: Mr. Octopus is sad, which reminds Cori of her sadness at me leaving for Ecuador. However, me giving it to her can change the meaningless "sad octopus" to a reminder that I think of her even when I am not in living in the same house as her, so when I go to Ecuador I will still be thinking of her, and so sad octopus is a reminder that I'm thinking of her!

6. Random gifts are cheap, or free. The point of a random gift is making up some meaning or worth. It is not about the value of the object itself. Getting an ipod is great (and, in some cases, getting an ipod, especially a retro green ipod mini loaded with Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac is a random gift of the best kind) but generally the value is in the resale price or the capacity to store music. On the other hand, Case in Point #2, a random gift for Elika Roohi (another amazing blogger, follow her at: www.elikaa.blogspot.com) can be found free at Fairbanks' entrance:

Surprise, Elika!
 Yes, it is a plastic hat which says "Mining rocks Alaska!"* Not a perfect fit for my friend Elika, who, as far as I know, neither supports nor opposes Mining Rocks Alaska! But, it will work out because...

5. Random gifts can be easily altered (Case in Point #2: Placing a sticker of mutual appreciation in place of the "Mining Rocks Alaska!") to create a personalized gift.

4. Random gifts create good inside jokes. And I don't mean inside jokes as a way to exclude people. But having random gifts gives rise to creativity, which gives rise to memories (such as breaking down a snow fort while wearing  a plastic "hard" hat and nerd glasses at 2 am). Case in Point #3: I was given a random gift which has given me countless hours of entertainment, a creative outlet, and a surefire way to annoy my sister:

Best gift, EVER!
This photo would be received very differently if you haven't ever taken photos using the ukulele as a prop (for instance, on top of a mountain with the aforementioned "hard" hat and a folding shovel.)

3. Random gifts are like Willy Wonka's chocolate: as Charlie says "Candy doesn't need a point." Perhaps there isn't a point to giving someone a roll of CAUTION DO NOT ENTER tape, but I still loved getting it.

2. Random gifts can be given at any time. I know this is somewhat obvious, but its a freedom: you can make someone smile at any time. And sometimes, it will make them smile more than a mere birthday present or christmas gift because of...

1. The element of SURPRISE! (Except in this post, because Elika and Cori, you already know what you're getting.)

-1. Zayn, this reason  is for you.

Thanks for reading!

*Please do not mistake my (albeit backward) photo as an endorsement for mining in Alaska. Truly, I just liked the hat.