Couchsurfing in the city I live in

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what a wonderful world

children, women, men, Christians, Muslims, Bahá’í, veiled, unveiled, young old, been here a while or recently moved!  These descriptions apply to the group of Egyptians that gathered Sunday 4th of May at Long Bay Beach, north Auckland.

The gathering was full of laughter, love, fellowship and harmony. we had so much fun, talked, sang songs, took a walk by the beach and had a lot of yummy food, what more to ask for?

I have a number of friends who were cynical about the whole gathering and gave no logical reason to not wanting to join in and they didn’t. of course it was them who missed out on such a lovely event, yet it made me wonder, how many times do we build our own barriers and deprive ourselves of something potentially wonderful in exchange for cynicism.

at the end of the day I am glad I went. and I hope for everyone of you to recognize where greatness might be and not be held back by your own barriers 🙂

 

19 Days of Fasting

Fast Day 1:

the 2nd of March is the first day of the Baha’i Fast. there is a material aspect of the fast which is abstinence from food and water and bodily desires from sunrise to sunset and that material fast is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.

Fast Day 2: Please don’t feel sorry for me.

It is the first working day after the Bahai Fast started and of course the subject of food came up and I told my colleagues that I am fasting. though I talked about the topic with a wide smile on my face and explained the spiritual significance (for me at least) they couldn’t help but feel bad, stating how hard it must be and feeling apologetic if they had to eat in front of me.

I want to tell all of them, Please don’t feel sorry for me. I am happy to be fasting and the last thing I want to do is make you feel uncomfortable.

Fast Day 3:

Today was an interesting day, for some reason my brother was on my mind the whole day, while at work, or saying my prayers or even as I was putting my kids to sleep he was there. I miss you brother.

Fast day 4:

My 3 year old son woke up this morning at six thirty saying “Baba, I am also fasting so I have to eat breakfast before the sun comes out”

Fast day 5:

today was a beautiful sunny day, I had a “coffee meeting” with a co-worker who doesn’t like coffee, and when I mentioned I won’t be having coffee we ended up walking by the viaduct for an hour while we discussed.

“fast” day 6:

I gave my family food poisoning. Something I cooked and froze a few days ago wasn’t properly reheated before dinner last night and voila. my daughter instinctively refused to have dinner so she is the healthiest of us all while the rest of us have been vomiting and too weak to function.

it is a blessing that when ill Baha’is are exempt from fasting.

Fast Day 7

Still recovering from a bit of tummy discomfort but feeling hugely better. it was interesting to still be drinking (to take medication and hydrate) and at the same time be aware of the fast as it is not just about abstinence of food but also the state of mind and the prayerful attitude.

Fast day 8:

fully recovered and back to fasting, what a blessing. today ended up with a spontaneous group break of fast at our house, which was amazing. the highlight was the kids chanting prayers at sunset before we all broke the fast together. it is so heart warming to see a child sitting respectfully for prayers and chanting with a melodious voice the words of God.

Fast Day 9

after work today I had my shift as a volunteer phone counsellor I packed my dinner so I can eat it at ‪‎lifeline‬ immediately before my shift. as I was having dinner I met one of the supervisors at lifeline who was also on his dinner break. the gentleman is Maori and we got engaged in a conversation that started with his spiritual quest in India and drifted to oneness of mankind. it was a very interesting chat only cut short by my shift starting. I will certainly make time to chat more with him in the future.

Fast day 10

Worked from home today to be around family as one of the kids had a bit of fever. it was a very productive day and I am very tired. today I confirmed my trip on business next week and the thought that has been occupying me ever since is would I be able to observe the fast while travelling? the travelling are exempt from fasting and I have been enjoying the fast this year so much that I pity the fact that I might miss the days I am travelling.

Fast day 11

Today was a humbling reminder of how spiritual progress is a journey rather than a destination. I was just talking about how much I am enjoying the fast yesterday, yet today I was struggling to keep my thoughts in check. something that was bothering me tested my ability to remain aware of my fast and to focus on prayers. the good news is, being a journey, I can still keep going.

Fast day 12

Another productive and exhausting day at work. it is amazing how fast the time flew by, just one more week to go and the fast is over. it is also getting easier by the day, I am getting used to not having food or drink during the day, the sun rises a couple of minutes later every day (allowing me more sleep) and sets a minute or so earlier allowing me an earlier breaking of fast. the highlight of my day was a conversation I had about Junior Youth and their progress. I will pray to be able to contribute something in that field of service.

Fast day 13

On the drive back home I was listening to Dave and Guy on the radio and these guys are funny, they made me laugh, and while in slow traffic with a smiley face me eyes made contact with another driver who immediately smiled back at me while nodding his head, it made wonder how beautiful would it be if everywhere you turn you find someone smiling to you

Fast Day 14

The night before, my son insisted that I wake him up in the morning to have breakfast with me before sunrise. so the day started with just me and him having breakfast together at 7 am and I felt so lucky and happy to have such a joyful start of the day. at night we had a wonderful gathering of friends for a potluck break of fast, I love the community spirit and the fellowship present in such gatherings

Fast day 15

A really early start followed by a relatively short flight to Sydney. over there I met with my cousin and two families of my favourite Sydney dwellers the Zein’s and the Elsayed. we chitchat followed by a group break of fast by the beach in La Perouse then back home for a cup of tea and LOTS & LOTS OF LAUGHTER. Gosh I didn’t laugh like this for a while. Another Happy day

Fast day 16

Was another rough day in terms of keeping focused. I had so many meetings and talked a lot so I was very thirsty. that being said, there is a couple more days to go I will say my prayers and get on with the remaining days

Fast Day 17

A better day than the day before yet not free of distractions and interestingly enough one of the distractions was this daily post of mine. the thought in my head was almost like “I can’t have another day full of distractions and inability to focus, I need something new to write about” and as that thought passed my head I was amused by that being a driver for how I go about my day, I was not surprised at al cause I know myself (somewhat at least) yet being able to reflect and acknowledge image and appearance as a driver was certainly an interesting personal development moment.

The day ended with a wonderful dinner with my sister from other parents Prema and we talked and talked though it was never enough. I am so blessed to have such a close friend that I could be totally my self with.
Fast Day 18

Second last day of the fast of the fasting month. it was not free of distractions (I guess it is to do with being alone away from my family) yet it was a really good day at work and ended with another wonderful gathering with my Egyptian friends in Sydney. tomorrow I head back to New Zealand to be with my family for the Bahai New year. I can barely wait.

Fast Day 19
Today I took advantage of the exemption given to those who are travelling and I didn’t observe the physical fast. I slept in, had a wonderful catch up over breakfast with my friend Judy, said my goodbye’s to my wonderful friends El-Sayed and the Zein’s and head to the airport.
On the plane I sat next to an elderly couple and it was cute to observe how they looked out for each other and discretely held hands during the flight.
When I met my son at home he was so excited to show me the decoration he had put up with his mom’s help in preparation for Naw-Ruz (the Bahá’í New Year) he was so proud of his work and so happy, and I felt so blessed to be his father.

Naw Ruz

Falls on the 21st of March, it is the first day of the Baha’i new year and the festival following the Baha’i fast. The day started early with My son and I whipping some icing for the cupcakes he had backed with his mom the night before. after carefully icing and sprinkling colourful sprinkles along with chocolate chips and blueberries, we took some of the cupcakes to Ziad’s Day care and some to his preschool and he cheerfully wished all his teachers a Happy Naw Ruz.

we did a number of activities today as a family, and it was such a great day. and just as the day ended Maram, my sister, posted about some of our memories growing up with this day and it brought all sorts of happy memories and flashbacks and I felt so warm, happy and contented.

this will be the last of this daily memoir series. I will consolidate them as one blog post in a day or so. mostly for my reference. Thanks to everyone who followed these memoirs, from a distance, liked them or commented on them. you guys all kept me company during these special days.

Day one in Aotearoa

After living five and a half years in Singapore (almost to the day) the time came to say goodbye and embark on a new adventure in a new home, New Zealand.

So my family and I arrived in New Zealand almost exactly a week ago and I do want to make sure i share some of my first experiences before they blend in with other experiences along the way. I was planning to type a one week worth of update but apparently I too much to say. so will do randome day update starting with Day One.

We arrived a bit past 11 am on a Thursday after a night flight that wasn’t bad at all. My son slept most of the way and despite the fact that My wife and I didn’t quite sleep but a few hours we still were kind of okay energy wise as we arrived. Customs and Immigration were very pleasant and fast and we are in New Zealand. While on the plane it hit me for the first time that i am on a One Way ticket. In my whole life the only one way ticket i got was from China to Singapore in December 2005 when i moved there. At the time i had never been to Singapore before but this move is different as i had visited New Zealand on multiple occasions for work reasons. It was a bit funny to think of the one way ticket and also a bit strange to have my family with me cause they normally don’t join my business trips.

As we arrive there is a gentleman waiting for us at the arrival hall with my last name misspelled, letter added and letter missing but overall looked close enough to know that he is our driver. We had lots of luggage, but the driver managed to fit them all in the car and still have enough room for us to sit. 20 minutes later we are in our temporary housing.

We are putting up in a 2 bedroom apartment in Auckland city, walking distance away from a park a couple of food places and supermarkets. when we arrived with all our stuff i was expecting a warm welcome (something like i get when i go to Asian hotels on business where there are five people around one opening the door the other is loading the luggage on a trolley and a third is ushering me to the reception while another is offering me a glass of welcome drink) okay i am exaggerating cause that only happened a few times in India. But well i expected some attention at least a help with the luggage. NONE. there was a receptionist there (she looks after the hotel guests not the apartments but i didn’t know that yet) so i asked if anyone could help is with the luggage, she looked at me puzzled and she said we have a trolley, so i said yes that would be helpful, (thinking of a luggage trolley) then i got a supermarket trolley. Anyway not too bad, still helped.

Got home got showered and everyone went to nap, but i decided to stay up to figure out how to get online and start coordinating some logistics. The first thing i tried to coordinate was getting my rental car ready picked up. Other than the complications associated with payments and credit card etc. i showed up at the Avis counter and I had to wait there for one and a half for my car. It appears as if the man that welcomed me in and looked at my license and passport is the same guy that had to wash the car, get it from the garage and drive it out, fit the baby car seat and swipe my credit card for payment. ONE MAN no wonder it took so long, but why wasn’t the car washed and ready to go when they already knew i am picking it up today as per the booking? Beats me.

More happened that day but i will spare you the details and just say that the highlight of the day was going to Nineteen day feast at my cousin’s place.