A Taste of Paradise

I was in Hawaii for a week recently. It was wonderful to see palm trees and smell the ocean. I got a chance to walk up Diamond Head Crater. On the walk back to Waikiki Beach, I stopped at Diamond Head Grill and shared an outdoor table with a fellow Canadian who is now a resident of Canada. We shared conversation over lunch and she drove me to my hotel.

Highlights of my trip:

  • Watching the sunrise from Waikiki Beach
  • Eating coconut macaroon ice-cream while watching the sunset from Waikiki Beach
  • Visiting Shangri La
  • The Tattoo exhibition at Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Learning the meaning of full body polynesian tattoos at the Hale Koa luau

Enjoy the gallery!

The Martyrdom of the Bab

Today marks the anniversary of the Martyrdom of The Bab. I was fortunate again this year, for the third year, to commemorate it with the Bahá’í community in the Kanata area.

Shine of The Bab visited during pilgrimage, July 2009

“Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall they be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention.” – The Bab

Source: Planet Baha’i

Kony 2012

Injustice exists in the world. Many of us feel the desire to do something about it, at the very least raise awareness. In this era of online sharing and the World Wide Web, the Internet can be a powerful tool for building support for causes. It is important to be critical in deciding what causes to join and support.

Right now, KONY 2012 is circulating through the web. I believe that Invisible Children has good intentions. I also believe that people should not (be allowed to) exploit children. However, just watching KONY 2012 does not tell the whole story. Go to http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/ and http://chrisblattman.com/2009/03/04/visible-children/ to determine the credibility of the organization and its practices. Lots of good work and activism is done through the Internet. Remember to use your critical lens in determining your position, and in deciding which causes to promote and support. It helps to get a variety of perspectives on a story.
Related links:

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Cross Posted at http://www.dpresident.net/personal/journeywithtechnology/?p=1385

Real Connections

ever watchful, even as a child

Nine years ago, I moved overseas. It was my first time living alone, the first time being more than an hour from family for more than a few days. Being an introvert by nature, with a tendency towards shyness, leaving alone was no hardship. All my life, I’ve had a few close friends, people who I trust and who trust me. As I’ve lived in each place, I’ve met lots of people. Some I’ve considered friends, and others family. Now I have family of my heart around the world: in India, China, Israel, Nepal, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, St. Lucia, Canada, Japan, Mozambique, Sudan, etc.

Last week, I made a TED Talks style presentation to my students about what matters. I talked about the importance of real connections, and the challenges of building them. I talked of choice, purpose and effort, dedication, caring and commitment and how all of those come into effect when the world is your “home” and your “family” is spread out. I showed screenshots of conversations in Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, iMessage, Skype and expressed the challenges of maintaining meaningful relationships despite long distances.

All the world continues to flatten, and as more and more of us develop a third culture, building real relationships that transcend time and distance is of even greater importance, yet more challenging. When I talk of real relationships, I mean those that stir the heart, engage the mind, affect your life. How do you do it?

Hammam in Tunisia

The lady at the hotel told me that there are no hammams in the medina. Being the skeptical cynic that I am, I decided to meander through the medina past where the women only hammam is supposed to be. First, I mapped the route on my iPhone and took screenshots  of each of the steps. I tried to keep as much of the surrounding streets as possible in the screenshot knowing my propensity for getting lost!! At some point, I went past the hammam that I’d read was for men only and it was open. That gave me hope. I continued on. Out of 7 steps, I could only follow the first three. However using the maps and ignoring my poor directional intuition, I finally found Rue des Juges (more or less by accident and persistence).

hammam doorway

The hammam was obvious because of the bright colors used for the doorway. I asked two men on the street if it was for women and they said yes. I entered. The presence of women confirmed that I’d found the correct place. I paid about 620 dinar for scrubbing, hair washing, and a new scrubbing mitt and was told to bring my things back to the lady, who I’d paid, for safekeeping. When ready, I was lead into the sauna and given my supplies. I scrubbed myself and then was bright to a marble top where I was scrubbed some more and my hair was quickly washed. Out of my three hammam experiences, the other two having been in Istanbul and Petra, this was the least vigorous!!

Exploring Tunis

Day 1:
My flight landed about 2:30 and I walked determinedly outside, ignoring all the taxi offers thrown my way. Upon locating the taxis, I was subjected to a North African Taxi Welcome, this is where the taxi driver tries to offer you a deal at least three times what it should cost to go to your location. (Memories of Sudan, Marrakech, Essaouiara.) I arrived at my hotel about 3:30. Given that it was Sunday afternoon, most shops in downtown Tunis seemed closed. I went walking through the Medina and down Avenue de France to get a feel for the city. After a few hours, I went back to the hotel and spent some time reading the articles that I’d downloading on Tunisia, surfing online, and reading. Jet lag finally wore me out and I took a nap before dinner at the hotel which was included in my reservation. Unfortunately, the weather forecast showed rain for the next two days.

Day 2:
I woke up later than I’d expected (9am). After a satisfying hotel breakfast, I took off exploring in the rain. I took a taxi to Carthage Hannibal and got dropped off at an obscure museum. I stayed a while talking to the guard before heading off in search of an umbrella. Found no umbrella but came across the Antonine baths. Although the baths are in ruins, the scale is incredible and gives you an idea of the grandeur of the civilization. Walking some more, I came across the Roman amphitheater. It was with pleasure that I learned that my 9 dinar ticket gave me access to all the Roman and Punic ruins. I walked some more hoping to discover the museum. Instead I saw a sign for Sidi bou said and headed off in that direction. None of this was as direct as it seemed as I had to frequently stop to shelter from the rain. One such occasion coincided with my hunger for lunch. I got a shrimp wrap at a roadside cafe where I sat and read my book for a while. As I continued to walk around Sidi bou said, I came across the train station and saw two other foreigners heading there. I heard them ask for a ticket for Tunis and decided to head there as well, having had enough of the rain.

I got back to Tunis about 4. It started to hail as I walked to the hotel so I had to stop for shelter.

My last adventure for the day was to go shopping for boots. I went to Zara, United Colors of Benetton and Aldo but found nothing wonderful. I also bought some date gifts and dates for myself. I was tempted to get some tahini as well by decided to look for it in Mauritania.

Day 3

I woke up at 6 this morning to pack and do the final sightseeing. By 7, I was on my way to Tunis Marine to get the train to Sidi bou said. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the train terminated at Catharge Prinipale. A lady tried to tell me this but I saw other Tunisians stay on the train and decided to ignore her. Well, she was right. Since it was already 8 and the museum opened at 8:30, I decided to go back the one stop to Carthage Hannibal. I enjoyed the views of the stormy sunset and the views of Carthage. However the museum did nothing for me. Upon entry, the smell of cigarette smoke was strong and there were ceveral Tunisian hanging out and loudly chatting on the ground floor. Since I’m not much into history and know nothing of Roman history, I walked though the museum for 15 minutes because the guidebooks said it was worth a visit. I should have trusted my own interests.

The deconsecrated Cathedral of St. Louis, now called Acropolium, was interesting to visit with it’s splendid facade. I enjoyed going up to the first floor. I tried to go higher but the door at the end was closed. There was some renovation going in but no one paid me any mind and I had the run of the place to myself.

Return to Sidi bou said
The previous day, I’d stayed on the main drag and hadn’t found any of the cafes mentioned in the guide books so off I went again. After walking around the hill for some time, I was about to give up the search when I decided to go 200 more meters. Payoff!! There was the pedestrian only path that I’d read about. Insisting on taking the path less travelled (also called the longer path and sometimes the wrong path) off I went in the wrong direction of two possible options. It felt a bit like the road to nowhere but I gave myself 5 more minutes of walking. Payoff!! There were the (few brave) tourists. I followed the small group up the path and came across Cafe Nattes which I’d read about. Confirmation that I was on the right path. I continued on until I got to a high point wih good views of the marina. At that point, I was tired of traversing the slippery cobble street and headed back. There were people off to the side taking pics so went to see what the fuss was about . There was Cafe les Delices of the famous mint tea. Unfortunately thy were out of mint tea but the pigeon (pine) tea with a mint leaf inside and an almond croissant while watching the water, the blue and white scenery and writing this post were perfect. The tea was delicious with lots of sugar and lovely as an authentic experience although I will stick to less sugar at home. I almost don’t feel ripped of for the 8200 dinars that i was (over)charged. This is what happens when you visit cafes recommended in guide books ..

Now that this (mostly) wonderful interlude is over, it’s almost time to head back down the hill and to Tunis for my hammam adventure :d

 

A Visit to Tohoku

It’s been about a month now since fall break, during which about 40 students and staff from my school went up to Tohoku to Volunteer with Team Kobe.


Thanks to Mr. Ryan at NIS for most of the pictures here.

It took us about 12 hours to drive each way, with the bus stopping every two hours for the drivers to switch/break, and for us to use the facilities.

I spent the two days working with the students and my colleagues to dig muck from gutters. We removed lots of tiles, household dishes, mud, cinder blocks, broken glass and other debris from the gutters. Some students and teachers were also involved in cleaning a temple on the first day.

On our way back to Nagoya, we drove through areas that were devastated by the tsunami. You can tell how high the wave was by looking at the brown cedar trees that are dying as a result of the sea water. The sea line has changed in some areas. There are buildings on their side and a bus on the roof of a hospital. Apparently the community is discussing whether to keep some of the wreckage to show respect for the life lost and damage sustained. Although a lot of the rubble has been cleaned up or at least sorted into piles, one is struck by the intensity of the devastation and the continued desolation. Of course, it would be considered inauspicious to rebuild in many of those spots. The whole situation defies imagination. I am happy that I got a chance to help, even a little, but am overwhelmed by the amount of reconstruction that needs to be done, and by thoughts of the casualties suffered from the March 11 tragedy.

Friday Finds

A good friend of mine (who I’m looking forward to visiting in December in spite of the long list of tasks that she has for me to do while I visit :)) called me yesterday with the good news of the birth of her baby girl. Baby Anna is one of the children born around the 7 billionth mark. Time and National Geographic have both hosted videos considering the interaction the impact of 7 billion people in the world, and the history of the human population.


You can download the app 7 billion from National Geographic for free for a limited time

Korankei

A colleague told me about Korankei in Asuke, Toyota City after he’d been there with his family. He described it as a quiet, peaceful place with a river, and suitable for hiking. In my quest to spend more time outdoors each week, I decided to visit on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago.

The scene was anything but quiet because it was the weekend of the Asuke Matsuri. I still enjoyed the visit (despite the crowds) but look forward to going back to enjoy the fall colours. It took about an hour to get to Korankei there through a scenic route of curves and dips. It was a perfect day with blue skies, a light breeze , warm and sunny.