Friday, November 26, 2010

A Thanksgiving Day

Ours was not a typical Thanksgiving this year. Instead of waking to the anticipation of seeing family members and indulging in the usual Thanksgiving lay out of turkey and stuffing and an array of dessert upon dessert; we awoke a bit earlier in the morning to prepare for a Thanksgiving outing to the beach. That is, it became a "Thanksgiving outing" once we remembered that it was Thanksgiving. And determined to feel that we too were celebrating something, we declared it a special day.

We packed a lunch consisting of whatever we happened to have in the fridge. This turned out to be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, two apples, and a bottle of tap water. Once our bags were fully packed with bathing suits, extra clothes, a camera, traveling money, towels, and of course our lunch we set out on our expedition.

It had been raining all week, and we encountered our first difficulty trying to catch a route taxi out of Las Lomas, while standing at our usual waiting spot on the corner of the road. What we didn't realize is that down the road from where we were waiting, it was completely flooded over and very few taxis were running that day. Fortunately after some time of waiting, we squeezed into the back seat of a taxi that was working. With four passengers in the back, three in the front and some extra fare given to the driver for the longer route around the floods, we arrived in St. Helena. From St. Helena we traveled to Arouca, then to Arima, then to Sande grande, and finally to our destination: Manzanilla beach. The whole trip took a little over two hours. Not bad at all.

Now, according to local Trinidadians, Manzanilla might not be worth a two hour trip traveling by taxis and maxis (mini buses). We were informed that the water was too rough for swimming, muddy, and that there was hardly any beach at all to lounge around on. Well, there descriptions were not far from the truth.

Our first glance, however, of that rough ocean filled us with exhilaration and bouts of joy. We saw its vastness, its rough waves crashing against the sand, the mountains towering along its sides, and its waters continuing on into the infinite space (probably, we speculated, to the end of the world, at that point where the waters fall off the earth). Our joy only increased to discover that the beach seemed to be pretty much deserted, and we had the feeling that maybe we actually were shipwrecked on a deserted island. We picked out a small cove to rest our belongings and to eat our humble lunch. Now previously, a pb&j, an apple, and a bag of chips we bought along the way, might have seemed like a pretty sad meal, especially on Thanksgiving! But a picnic on the beach can change quite anything, and we savored that lunch to its last bite. Even though our stomachs still felt a bit empty after, we had the excitement ahead of us of partaking of Manzanilla beach.

We spent our time lounging in the shallow waters and experiencing a small bit of ocean life. The sands were covered with little "chip chips" (small clam like creatures with beautiful colored shells). We watched the chip chips burrow into the sand and the mud skippers skip across the waters. Afterward, we spent quite a significant amount of time scrounging the sand for empty chip chips, collecting their shells for an upcoming junior youth mosaic art project. We even stopped for a moment to sing and chant a few prayers (though we were interrupted by several stray dogs for a few minutes in between).

Later that night, back at home and completely tired out, we continued the Thanksgiving feast with grapefruits (shared with a book 7 participant) and delicious melted cheese sandwiches. Finally, we ended the night with a dose of our new, favorite British comedy, Jeeves and Wooster. "What ho!"

All in all a good day, though we did think often of our families at home and missed them. As good as Thanksgiving food is, the family is much more delicious.


"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, October 1, 2010

Exercising Yourself: Body and Soul

Andy and I have recently added to our weekly routine a morning jog. This takes place Monday, Wednesday, and Friday starting at approximately 6 am on each of these days. This is along with our good friend, neighbor, and fellow Baha'i who was the one who suggested and encouraged us in the idea. After a long, I mean a very long, time of putting off exercising regularly, this morning jog has left us feeling energized, strengthened, and overall more "alive" physically and mentally. This got me thinking about a similarity between our physical and spiritual nature...

Just as exercise gives life to our physical bodies, perhaps in a similar way, Service gives life to our souls. Or in other words, service is the exercise for our soul, just as Prayer is food for the soul. Service strengthens and builds the attributes of God within us, creates flexibility in our actions, and allows for the Life Source to flow through us more effectively and reach all parts of our being.
Beforehand, we feel sluggish and lazy, but afterward, though tired or even exhausted, we feel content and awakened. Difficulties are an inherent part of this process and so sometimes the task seems much more like a struggle than a joy. Our weaknesses are laid bare before us, but even this is a blessing. How can we improve if we do not have an awareness of our faults?

A most important aspect in this process is support (and accompaniment) from others, realizing that we all seriously need this from time to time. It helps to keep us focused and ready to continue on toward reaching our goals, to not give up hope, and to remind us that the stones that we face on our path can be overcome through determination and reliance on God. Another point is that though we have different capacities (a longer run time or a shorter run time; a faster speed or a slower speed), the important thing is that we are all moving. There are those marathon runners (maybe a Martha Root or a Dr. Muhajir) who have attained such heights of servitude, that they will always be an inspiration for us to keep going on our path and to make a mighty effort.

For the past couple of days we have been struggling to see how to make the best use out of our last two remaining months here in Trinidad. We have had all of these worries in our head: "If we do this, will it be sustainable?", "Should we not do this unless a local is with us?", "Do we have enough time if we start this?" that in some ways have been limiting our action. After this we had a consultation with the beloved resource person, and she told us what seemed obvious to us right after she said it: that we need to teach to the last minute, that doing something will always be better than nothing, and that it is action that brings confirmation. So, while still trying to use wisdom in our endeavors, we feel a new sense of possibility for this final stretch ahead of us...
(That is, until we have to start again :) )

"Now is the time to serve, now is the time to be on fire." ~ 'Abdu'l-Bahá

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Move to Las Lomas

A Few Notes about Las Lomas:
1) Las Lomas is located in a more rural part of Trinidad, but is still relatively close to shopping areas and other businesses (this means there are more bugs, more greenery, and less houses)
2) Rúhíyyíh Khanum once visited this area of Trinidad and specifically to the village that we are currently focusing some attention on.
3) We Love Las Lomas.

Since our last post, several new activities have begun in the community in Las Lomas that we are very thankful for - thankful for the ability to participate in them and thankful simply for the sense that something very positive is happening in the Cluster. Some of these new developments include: Two new neighborhood children's classes, a new Junior Youth Group, and a new youth study circle (plus all the exciting joys that spring from these activities). Oh, and also many new friends and contacts. Yet the most exciting part by far for us is not just that these activities are happening, but that we are not the ones doing them (or not alone at least)! And the knowledge that, God willing, long after we are gone these important activities will continue. Our role in these activities has been that of the assistant, the co-tutor, or even just the encourager. The more others are leading these activities, the happier we are.

Now let's tell a little bit about some of the cool things we have seen coming out of these activities and what we have been learning about them.

Book 1 Study Circle

This study circle is composed of 5 youth - 4 young ladies, all of whom are 16 yrs old, and one young man who is 18 yrs old. Andy, Cheryl, and another young adult in our cluster cotutor the study circle. All of the participants are very sweet and majority of them very shy at the beginning. Now, after several weeks of meeting together each Saturday afternoon, we are becoming closer to the participants and builder stronger friendships each week. Even though the participants are pretty close to our own ages, I think we sometimes feel as if they are our children and we are there watching them grow and develop. Just this past weekend we reached the end of the unit on Prayer. It was now time to go on our first outing to do the practice - Prayer Visits. Thankfully, most of the participants who were able to come that day had forgotten that we were doing prayer visits that day, or I don't think they would have come at all. As soon as I mentioned, to one participant, what we were doing that day; a look of horror suddenly appeared on her face. However, I linked arms with her and we continued on our way to the meeting spot. During prayers, after everyone had gathered together, one participant mentioned the idea about praying for rain so that we would be forced to cancel the visits for the day. It didn't rain.
We decided to split up in to two groups of three and each group would plan how they would help each other carry out the prayer visit. In one of the groups, we decided that one person would introduce why we were there and how we had been learning about prayer, the next person would read the prayer, someone would initiate the study/discussion of the prayer, and then we would leave the prayer card (which were made in the group the previous weekend) as a gift for the family in that home.
I could tell that by the end of the visit, the participant in my group felt that it had been well accomplished and when we saw the other group approaching from their visit one of the girls was smiling and started doing an "I did it" dance. The next visit for each group was then carried out, with everyone feeling more confident in their ability to share and study the prayer with others. The joy and sense of accomplishment felt by everyone in the end was such a complete turn around from their initial fears and lack of confidence. We were able to see that capacity was being developed by role playing and carrying out the practice and realized that we are all at different stages in our ability to serve and that we all need help from each other.
Another success in this area is that previous to this group, all of our study circles were actually "study points" or one on ones and not the real study circle envisioned by the Ruhi institute. We were very glad to make this step to a more dynamic experience. One thing we learned in starting this group was that it is good to set a goal for the number of participants and not be satisfied with just starting with one or two. Our goal was to have 10 participants, we talked to over ten people, and ended up with a group of 5. This helped us to see that like any activity you have to talk to a lot of people to end up with a good sized group. Also, that when starting a group it is important to tell potential participants of the need to have a larger group and in that way, they will lead you to their friends and neighbors.

Next post: Junior Youth Group and Learnings

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Because we are short on writing motivation... is the really, very shortened summary of the past two months. : )

1. Andy's B-day
2. Holly's visit to Trinidad - bringing with her a rekindlement of our own commitment and enthusiasm...Thank-you Holly.
3. Some of the family's visit to Trinidad! woohoo!
4. Progress in some ongoing study circles.
5. A new Baha'i in our community (our neighbor :))
6. More teaching.
7. Disappointments and cancellations. (It's ok though...crisis and victory, right!)
8. Really good food and learning to cook really good food.
9. An unexpected trip to the States.
10. NEW CYCLE AND EXPANSION WEEKEND! (Can you tell we are excited about that?)
11. Some animator training.
12. Getting more adept at living without running water.
13. Two great weekends of collective teaching, with this past weekend ending in some great set-ups of study circles, one with a group of youth specifically for the purpose of starting a children's class and junior youth group with the idea that they will be leading them after the training.
14. Anticipation for the two-week long Inter-Institutional Gathering! With all the pioneers from the different islands, a new set of pioneers, Counselors and coordinators of the Initiative coming together and two special guests from the World Centre. (And definitely there will be a lot of studying of the Ridván Message).

Love to everyone.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Be like the farmer.

As I sign in to our blog, and look straight away to the title "Caribbean Breezes of Confirmation", I am constantly reminded of all the confirmations that we have experienced in this great task set before us in the Central Cluster in Trinidad. We know and are aware that these confirmations come through the effort that we put forth, but at times it seems to me that confirmations come in mysterious ways - where we find opportunities given to us that seem to come with little or no effort put forth to receive them. I feel that this is due to many interrelated forces - some that we know of (like the rise in receptivity in the world) and others that are not so clear, like the power of prayer for example. One thing we can be certain of is that if we only arise to serve the Cause of Baha'u'llah, things will start to fall in to place.

A couple weeks ago, Andy and I had been discussing something that we had heard the Counselor comment on during the initial training for the Caribbean Initiatve - that we should really try to look for educated youth to help carry on the work of the Cause and that they would prove a source of great growth for the community. We were really noticing that the youth that we had talked to so far seemed to be heading right in this direction. One thing we really hoped for was to be able to work with more of these youth and see where they would lead the community.

A little later on, we received an email from one of the Baha'is that there was someone interested in learning more about the Faith that lived in our area and who we should contact. Andy called him up and it turned out that he was a youth in the university here and lived only a couple driving minutes away from where we are living. He came over to our house the next week and we were able to have a really nice conversation together about the Faith. We could tell he was very interested. After he left, we laughed about how we didn't even need to go out and look for these youth anymore - they were coming to us! (Previously the guy who now helps out with the Jr. Youth group, actually brought up the subject to us, rather than us bringing it up to him!)

The following week this youth, Steve, came again and we were able to start Book 1 that day. Afterward he told us that he had just found out something that was surprising to both us and him...He had been talking to his mother about learning of the Faith, when she told him that he used to go to a Baha'i children's class when he was a child. The seeds that must have been planted in his heart during that time...have now led him back to the faith again.

So now we must be like the farmer and try to irrigate the fields where previous seeds have been planted and nurture the plants that are now growing.


I am, O my God, but a tiny seed which Thou hast sown in the soil of Thy love, and caused to spring forth by the hand of Thy bounty. This seed craveth, therefore, in its inmost being, for the waters of Thy mercy and the living fountain of Thy grace. Send down upon it, from the heaven of Thy loving-kindness, that which will enable it to flourish beneath Thy shadow and within the borders of Thy court. Thou art He Who watereth the hearts of all that have recognized Thee from Thy plenteous stream and the fountain of Thy living waters.

~ Baha'u'llah

Friday, February 12, 2010


Friday, February 12th, 2010: Second Junior Youth Group Meeting in Our Home

One of the activities that makes us so happy here is animating the Jr. Youth group in our neighborhood. For a while, previous to the start of the group, we had been trying to talk to different Jr. youth and their parents in the neighborhood and get a group started here. We met with a lot of enthusiasm from the families, but when the time came that we had set to have our first meeting, only one Jr. Youth was actually home and ready to come. It was a little disappointing but we got to chat with him (Muhammad) and re-plan to have the group the next Friday, in the mean time talking to more Jr. youth and the ones we had already talked to. The next meeting we had three jr. youth come, and even though it was small, it was a really successful meeting. We talked about service, excellence, our interests and all that group jazz and the group came up with a lot of ideas for service projects and recreation ideas.

This meeting, we had four junior youth! So we are slowly adding on to the group. We had also a couple weeks back talked with a young 23 year old guy in the neighborhood (our next door neighbor) about the group and this time he came to help out! We were so happy about this because one of our main goals here is to train animators to work with the Junior Youth program. He really participated in the group discussions and brought out some great points that, cool enough, were very close to the ideas presented in Book 5! We got to talk to him a little at the end about the program happening all around the world and little bit of the vision of the program. Hopefully later on we can bring up the idea of him studying to become an animator!

Let's take a look at what one of our animators of the group has to say about his experience.

Andrew Cornwell, 21 yrs:

"Junior Youth Group has been an awesome experience so far. There have been a number of times when we have gone out with the intention to share Anna's Presentation with people in our neighborhood, only to end up meeting junior youth interested in coming to the group instead. Sometimes it seems like the junior youth are not overly excited about the group when we first introduce the program to them. Later though we find out they go home and tell their parents about it or were waiting to come to the meeting! Already one of the parents gave us food and drink for the group, and group has had some really cool ideas for service and activities they want to do. I am impressed!"

Invitation Made by one of the Jr. Youth to invite others to join the group

The three aspects of the group - service, study and social - and ideas that the group had for service and other activities.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

94 Heron Crescent

Hello everyone! Yes, Andy and I have decided to start a blog to share our thoughts and pictures with you of our life and service here in Trinidad - but don't get too excited yet - it is yet to be determined whether there will be any posts after this one :P

Below are some pictures of our humble dwelling at 94 Heron Crescent, Couva, Trinidad. It has been about three weeks since we moved in and already we are getting attached to it I think. One of the special memories so far attached to our apartment relates back to one of our first nights here. Andy had invited our landlord and his family (who live above us) to come over to say prayers together. We thought it was likely that he wouldn't come, but to our lovely surprise he did! And brought his two daughters with him. He read some of the Baha'i prayers and pointed out ones that he liked in particular. After we had recited some aloud, he spent a lot of time in silence just reading the prayers on his own and took the prayer book home when he left. This is just one of the breezes of confirmation ; ) we have felt since our arrival!

We also have been doing most of the teaching in our neighborhood, so our house is also a base for reflection and getting our spirits pumped each day!

Kitchen area (and Andy!)

Living room area




"Blessed is the spot and the house and the place and the city and the heart and the mountain and the refuge and the cave and the valley and the land and the sea and the island and the meadow where mention of God hath been made and His praise glorified."

~ Baha'u'llah