Tuesday, 30 January 2007

:: On Campus ::

Here's a brief intro to what we have on NABI campus.

:: The Office ::
The office receives people everyday.

:: The Big Hogan ::
A hogan is a traditional Navajo building that has eight sides. The NABI Big Hogan has a large space and a big kitchen. On Thursdays the big hall is filled with tables and chairs and we serve dinner to everyone. There are playgrounds and a big pavilion near this building.

:: The Prayer Hogan ::
This is our own little House of Worship (Mashriq'u-Adqár). Bahá'ís have several big Houses of Worship around the globe, each serving the people of a certain continent or other wide area. However, even the smallest building can be a House of Worship, if it is dedicated to the praise of God. Bahá'u'lláh has said:

"The Mashriqu'l-Adhkar is each and every building which hath been erected in cities and villages for the celebration of My praise. Such is the name by which it hath been designated before the throne of glory, were ye of those who understand."
- Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, 115

The Prayer Hogan is very beautiful and it has a very special atmosphere. Inside, there is a fireplace and benches around the walls.

"O people of the world! Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions. Make them as perfect as is possible in the world of being, and adorn them with that which befitteth them, not with images and effigies. Then, with radiance and joy, celebrate therein the praise of your Lord, the Most Compassionate. Verily, by His remembrance the eye is cheered and the heart is filled with light."
- Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, 31

:: The Classrooms ::
The classroom building consists of two hogan-shaped rooms, one for children and one for adults/youth. The campus library is also inside this building, and you could spend hours just looking through the books in there. The classroom acoustics are wonderful, and that makes it a very nice place to clean! :D We always sing a lot in this building. There is a playground near the classrom.

:: The Caretakers Home ::
The caretakers home is going to be a beautiful building once its renovation is finished. It's located opposite the office and it will be the home of one or two of the staff members.

:: The Dorms ::
Sometimes NABI hosts Ruhi Intensive weeks (weeks when several Ruhi-courses are being held simultaneously) and we need to accomodate many people. That's when the dorms are being used. There are separate rooms for men and women.

:: The Trailers ::
There are five trailers that are used as staff homes. The trailers are very cosy inside, and they have nice bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms, as well as bedrooms for each staff member. Ruhiyyih's and Peggy's trailer is called the Highrise, the boys live in the Small Trailer and the Bathkes live in the New Trailer. There's one trailer empty, it's called the Juniper Trailer, and Amy's and mine is called the Big Trailer. But I renamed it! Amy and I both have Apple computers, so I started calling our trailer the Big Apple :P.

:: The Cars ::
NABI has a pickup truck, a minivan, a big van or a minibus and some other vehicles that are used every day.

:: The Golf Carts ::
NABI has two golf carts, which I like VERY MUCH. They are used for driving around the campus, which is spread on quite a wide area. Driving the carts is so much fun! One of my favorite pastimes ;).

Monday, 22 January 2007

:: Who am I working with? ::

:: Alice and Jerry Bathke ::

Alice is Navajo and Jerry was brought up in Minnesota. They are a wonderful couple and they take good care of NABI and its staff. They are very busy serving the Faith, so I haven't had too much time to talk with them individually yet, but already during the first night we had so much to talk about that the conversation wasn't about to end.

:: Amy, Administrative Secretary, my housemate ::

Amy is my housemate and she is employed by the NSA, as are the Bathkes. She works as a secretary, but being a secretary doesn't mean sitting behind a desk at NABI. She reaches out to the community every day. Amy had her mother visiting when I moved into the house, and I've seen pictures of Amy's lovely grand daughter. Amy and I get along really well, even though our sleeping rythms don't match ;). She's an early bird, I'm a night owl. She also makes good salmon cakes and takes good care of me! The picture was taken in a 19-day Feast we had on campus. In the picture you can also see Chester Kahn, a notable Bahá'í from the Houck community.

:: Peggy, Long Term Volunteer ::

Peggy is a wonderful woman with indescribable ability to make everyone feel like they are very special people. She keeps the thumbs up for everyone and is everybody's friend. Peggy often spends evenings with us youth, because hers and Ruhiyyih's trailer is our ultimate hangout place. Peggy has lived in the Navajo Nation for 35 years, in diffrent places, and now she works at NABI.

:: Ben, Youth Program Coordinator, 25 ::

Ben is the one who told me about NABI in the first place. He served in Haifa for two years and met Zoya and Ginger from Finland during his service, so when he saw at the Bahá'í Youth forum (www.bahaiyouth.com) that I was from Finland, he wrote me an email. Ben is also employed by the NSA and works as the Coordinator for Youth Programmes... he's our boss, but really the four of us are just a bunch of friends. He has done a great job helping us adjust and his attitude towards our ideas and initiatives is examplary. Ben can also do very long handstands.

:: Ruhiyyih, Year of Service Volunteer, 18 ::

Ryhiyyih is a close friend of mine already after 9 days. We've been singing a lot with her, and teaching each other Bahá'í songs that we know. Our favorite place to clean are the classrooms, because the acoustics there are wonderful. We have many similarities, and Amy said we are too similar for others to handle (jokingly, of course ;P). Ryhiyyih has been here for seven months, so she's most experienced of us youth. Ruhiyyih is an advanced ballet dancer and she plays the viola, too! A specially nice moment with Ruhiyyih was, when I went to her place one morning and we talked for hours, just sitting in the kitchen, drinking tea and chatting. I loved that.

:: Phil, Short Term Volunteer, 19 ::

Phil is from UK and already during first night we noticed that we know a lot of the same people from UK. Phil has served here for about three weeks, so he has been a great source for me about how to adjust, because he's gone through the same things very recently. He's a fantastic guitar player and we enjoy learning music from him. He helps us improve the songs we practice in the classrooms and he has also taught us new songs. We are the European invasion to America: we'll reclaim USA and give it back to Europe. Phil also enjoys photography so we've planned on making some trips to the surroundings with our cameras. We climb trees.

:: Carol and Harrison George ::

Carol and Harrison are wonderful Navajo people who belong to NABI staff. Harrison is the repairman and he takes such good care of the campus buildings. We provide clean water to the surrounding families, so it is important that he keeps the water running even on cold weather's like we've recently had. Harrison has a great sense of humour and is a joy to his surroundings! Carol, his wife, is our chef, and she makes the Thursday Community Dinners that we offer. I worked with Carol in the kitchen last Thursday and it was the most enjoyable job I've had here so far! I loved it! I hope to work with her also the following Thursdays.

:: Sugar ::

Sugar is the dog of Barbara Tong, a Bahá'í woman who lives next door to us. She hangs around at the NABI a lot, and she has 3 dog friends: Blaze (who reminds me of Max, my own dog, a lot), the Mysterious Tailless (who has had bad experiences with humanbeings and doesn't wanna come close to us however hard we try), and Jackal a.k.a Old Man Jack (who is huuuuge, and has charisma).

Sunday, 21 January 2007

:: First Day ::

Written 21.1.2007, my bedroom, 3:14 local time.

It's finally the time to review the past week. I've been at NABI for 9 days now. I'll start from the beginning.

1st night, Thursday:

Ben picked me up at the busstation. It was comforting to finally meet a Bahá'í. The trip to NABI campus took about 45 minutes. We used mostly Interstate 40, which passes very close to the legendary Route 66. It was very dark so I couldn't see anything but the signs. We arrived at NABI and my first impression on the campus was, that the buildings were very sparsely located, but the campus seemed very cosy and friendly.

We drove straight to the Bathke's house. Bathkes are the people who are mainly repsonsible for NABI. They live in a lovely, welcoming trailer. I stepped out of the car, and before I got to the door, I saw a dog approaching. Ben told me it was Sugar, one of the two dogs that sometimes are allowed to hang around in the campus area. Sugar is a very friendly dog, and she was the first new friend I got at NABI.

After meeting Sugar, it was the time to take my first step into a trailer. A trailer is mostly like any other house, except that it's movable and it's made of lighter materials. The Bathkes were there at the door to meet me. They were going to a meeting of LSAs the following day, so this was my only chance to meet them before they left for their 4-day trip to central Arizona. The visit to Alice's and Jerry's (Bathkes) house was a confirmation to me. It was a confirmation that I would catch up on things pretty fast and I would learn many things during the following days, weeks and months. Visiting the Bathkes, I also met Peggy, who you will get to know later reading this blog!

The time came for Ben to take me to my trailer and help me drop off my things. I met Amy, my housemate, and her mother who was visiting, very briefly, because Ben got a call from Ruhiyyih and Phil, the other youth volunteers, who were in Ruhiyyihs trailer and invited us over. I had the first glance over the room that would me my home for the next 2,5 months, dropped off my things and went to Ruhiyyih's and Peggy's house.

I saw Ruhiyyih sitting on the sofa. There was a guitar and a viola in the room, and I figured the youth were playing some music. Ruhiyyih and I greeted each other and shortly the door was opened and Phil came in.

We listened to music, got to know each other, found out that we have similar music tastes and talked about most anything! It was an amazing night. Nothing special happened, and that made it so special; being with Bahá'í youth was similar all over the world. Many other things connected all the four of us together. When I went to bed I already felt like I had known these people for weeks! Thank you NABI staff for such a great reception!

Checking out at 4:00 NABI time.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

:: Arizona, stereotypes! ::

Confirmed stereotypes about America:
(These stereotypes should not be taken seriously. They are jokingly written.)

#1: Officials are in general more friendly than in many European countries. Just like in C.O.P.S!
#2: Many restaurants serve bacon and eggs in different forms for breakfast. And it's not only the cowboys who eat that.
#3: Food, specially fast food, is a lot cheaper!
#4: There is still the traditional Wild West -city type, at least in Arizona and New Mexico. (See photo.)
#5: People talk to each other more openly on the streets and their attitude seems more open. They dare to smile at you, walking in the streets.
#6: The road-side advertisements are exactly as you imagined in movies.
#7: Everything is drive in... even the ATM's!
#8: All the trademarks and store chains you know from TV and movies but you've never seen yourself, really exist! Such as Wal-Mart, Sonic, Blockbusters, Midas. And they really are as popular as you thought!
#9: Food items are bigger.. Everything is what we call "family size" in Europe.
#10: The landscapes in Arizona are really just like in Lucky Luke! I'm a lonesome poor cowboy, and a long long way from home..

Monday, 15 January 2007

:: Arizona, Rio Grande Zoo ::

After having my breakfast I went to the Rio Grande Zoo. It was a 20 minute walk, but it was worth it! The Zoo was beautiful, and most animals had quite good environments. The hyeenas and the tigers made me sad tho, cos their cages were not suitable for such mobile animals and they were a bit frustrated. But everything else was wonderful! I took a lot of photos, I hope you'll enjoy them. The wolves and the polar bears were my favorites, and the giraffe was posing to my camera. There were also free-fly cages where you were inside the cage with the birds. It was weird to see all those tropical animals in a snowy environment. See for yourself :).

The last picture is a photo of the two wonderful Zoo-ladies who helped me get a taxi to the train station. They were so friendly! I can't believe how well everything turned out in this trip!

I sat in the train and the train was SO different from European trains! It was two-storey and it had a lovely lounge above the restaurant coach. The seats in the lounge were facing the windows and they were cozily organised, so that you could easily chat with people and watch the beautiful sunset over the Arizona deserts.

I arrived to the small city of Gallup at about seven o'clock and noticed that I was at the train station, where as I SHOULD have been in the Grey Hound bus-station where we agreed to meet with Ben. I walked outside the station with my HUGE backpacks, and was a bit worried about how to get to the bus station. I saw there was one shop open, so I walked there with all my baggage and stepped in. I asked where the bus station was, and they told me it's quite a walk. But again, I was so lucky! The only customer in the shop was a taxi driver and his taxi was waiting right outside the shop, and he offered to take me to the bus station. Everything has worked out amazingly well during this trip!

I met Ben at the bus station in about 20 minutes, and he took me to NABI, which is about 30 miles from Gallup. i will write about my first moments at NABI later, as I take more pictures of this wonderful place. I just want to let you know right now, that I couldn't have nicer people to serve with. Both the youth and the adults are amazingly committed to their service and on the same time they are hilarious people to work with!

Checking out at 18:45 NABI time.

:: Arizona, first day in America ::

Written 14.1.2007, NABI Office, 17:50 local time.


Wow.. I don't know where to start. Since last time I wrote, so much has happened! I flew to Albuquerque and spent the night in a hotel. I have never been so happy to get to bed in my life. I was so tired after the trip. I woke up the next morning and took my luggage to the train station and bought a ticket to go to Gallup at 4:45. I had a lot of time and I was hungry, so I went to see Albuquerque and have a breakfast. Albuquerque is a very funny city! The buildings remind me of a mixture of Mexican and American Wild West building styles. Here are some pics of the buildings.

I found a lovely chocolaterie! I went inside and there were tons of beautiful chocolates all around the counters and walls. There was no-one inside. After a while a dark man came behind the counter and smilingly started chatting with me. I told him it was my first day in America and that I was going to NABI. We talked:

"Oh, you are a Bahá'í? That's wonderful! I have had some Bahá'í friends, they are such sweet people!"
"Oh, you know the Bahá´ís?"
"Yes, yes! Bahá'í Faith is very good.. I couldnt' imagine any Bahá'í saying 'I'm right and you're wrong!' It's a very friendly Faith."

And we talked about how he knew about Bahá'ís for a while, and he was so friendly that I felt really welcomed to America! It's amazing.. the first shop I stepped in while in America, and I get this kind of a reception!

I bought some chocolate and went to get some breakfast. There was a cosy, traditionally American style restaurant where I bought an even more traditional bacon and eggs -sandwhich with french fries and a drink, and it was DELICIOUS. By now, I was feeling so happy I just had to call some people to tell them how great everything was! Even the weather was perfect. There were little patches of snow here and there, and the sun was shining bright and warm.

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