Thursday, May 5, 2011

Traveling Teaching, Part 2

Ok. One of the problems with going over all the old posts (editing them for a book) is that I see all the articles I've intended to write, but never gotten around to actually doing. One of them is this one. If you read Traveling Teaching, Part 1, you will see that it ends with the phrase "to be continued".

A year and a half later, I'm continuing it. Better late than never, as they say.

Before you read this, please go back and read that one. It sort of gives the context. I'll wait.

So there we were, in Martinique. On our second honeymoon. Having the time of our life serving the Faith to the best of our abilities (meager, in my case). It was truly one of the most memorable times of my life. And one of the most trying.

Oh, and here is a seeming aside that actually gets right into where I want to begin: the weather. Now that I think about it, many conversations seem to begin with the weather. It is the main topic of most small-talk.

As you may know by now, I grew up in Chicago, spent just as many years in Winnipeg, and am now in Victoria, BC. Everywhere I have lived people seem to think that their place is unique, and then proceed to describe it exactly as everyone else in the world describes their own home town. They talk about how bad the drivers are, and how awful the weather is. They also say that if you wait a few minutes, the weather, at least, will change.

In Chicago, I grew up near the lake, and was used to some pretty severe weather. The heat would melt your socks in the summer. The snow would pile up higher than my dad in the winter. And during that cold season, we would see a day or two of -30. If you wanted to see the weather change, you only had to wait a short time.

In Winnipeg, the extremes were similar to Chicago, but more extreme. We would be hotter than Chicago in the summer, and colder in the winter. Instead of a day or two of -30, it would be a month or two. But it was dry. Bone dry. The cold would freeze your face off given a half a chance, but at least it didn't chill you to the bone. As long as you were covered up, it was easy to handle that. And if you wanted to see the weather change, you could look at the horizon and watch the weather make its way slowly across the prairies.

In Victoria, there don't seem to be any extremes. It is always reasonably pleasant, with or without the rain. So far it has been either cold and sunny or warm and rainy. I can handle both of those easily. And when it rains, the rain itself has the feel of Victoria: it takes its time about it. It is usually a gentle sort of rain that likes to linger about all day, making sure that it does the job right. No rushing here.

But Martinique, what can I say about Martinique? First it was hot. Second, it was humid. Third, and most importantly, it was hot and humid. When you walked outside the sauna of your house, it was like walking right into a steam bath. It was, and I am not exaggerating, the first time in my life that I actually sweat while taking a shower. And I loved it. I seem to thrive in that type of environment, which truly makes me wonder why I ever fell in love with Canada.

And the rain? Well, you know, it was interesting. The very first day we were walking around the streets of Fort de France, it was picture perfect. It was hot and very sunny and we felt like the tourists we were. But then, all of a sudden, everyone on the streets disappeared into the stores and doorways, just as I felt a single raindrop on the back of my neck.

Word of advice: When the locals suddenly bolt for cover, don't waste time asking yourself why. Run. You can be certain they know something you don't, and you probably won't regret it.

In Martinique, when it rains, it doesn't mess around. It doesn't piddle about saying, "Oh maybe I'll toss a few drops here, and place a couple drops here, oh, and did I miss this little blade of grass?" No. It just gets everything all at once. Kersploosh.

By the time my wife and I looked at each other and asked ourselves what was going on, a major tropical downpour released itself upon the entire city, pressure washed all the buildings, scoured the streets clean, took care of all the watering needs of the entire flora system for the next few days and moved on. Just as we realized what was happening, and began to make a move towards some sort of shelter, the sky was clear and sunny again and the streets were filled with all the people, just as if nothing had happened.

But it did happen. Every day. Twice a day.

And we, too, learned to bolt at the first drop.

Right there, dear Reader, is a lesson to be learned. When you are someplace brand new, watch the local people carefully. They will teach you what you need to know.

Oh, and while we were there, the Baha'i community was wonderfully kind enough to allow us to sleep in the  Baha'i Centre. Even to this day I cannot express my gratitude enough for that supreme bounty.

Like all bounties, though, it was not obvious to us at first.

I'm really not sure what we were expecting, but we probably thought we would have a small bedroom, sort of like a closet. I don't know about Marielle, but when we saw the room in which we would be staying a month my face probably fell. Well, not fell, really. But I'm sure I had the same expression as that very courteous child who is looking forward to dinner and, when given his plate of liver and onions, maintains that eager smile with only his mouth and manages to squeak out a "thanks" that is anything but heartfelt.

Oh, I was grateful, to be sure, but it was not what I was expecting. And perhaps that is one of the many reasons why they say that expectations only lead to disappointment.

What was wrong with the room? Well, nothing really. It was actually very nice. And we loved every moment we were there.

It just happened to be a classroom that seemed to double as a storage room for a number of those thin beds that resemble cots more than beds.

Were we disappointed? No. Well, yes, but no. Disappointed is not quite the right term. We were a bit surprised, but still grateful, and we were determined to find the best in it. And so, without any further ado, we proceeded to list on a piece of paper all the benefits we find in this room.

We could have begun by mentioning that it needed a bit of a sweep, or that there were some cracks in the floor boards, or even that glass in the windows might have been a nice option, but we didn't. And in fact, all of that paled to complete insignificance as we discovered the hidden bounties within those walls that were soon to become our most favoured honeymoon suite.

I don't have the full list in front of me, but let me just say that it filled an entire sheet of paper, and my handwriting is not all that large.

We pointed out that we had 6 beds to choose from. We could sleep under the coconut trees. We could even sleep under the stars. There was a gentle tropical breeze that was so delightful on those warm evenings (which is really stretching it when you consider that the breeze was a "cool" 40 degrees Celsius, in comparison to the sweltering 42 degree air, but still, it was cooler and felt wonderful). There were many pictures of 'Abdu'l-Baha all over the room. There were multiple copies of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in the room, too. We had a live band across the street most evenings (and this is neither sarcastic nor an exaggeration as we were across from the botanical gardens and there was the Caribbean music festival going on at the time, so we were treated to some of the best music in the world). We also had a live choir of crickets, which turned out to be these little green lizards with a red sac under their mouth, who let out a single loud chirp that perfectly failed to be in either time or pitch with any of its neighbours, which was impressive because there were a lot of them. The caretaker of the Centre, Josie, was an absolute angel. We were around the corner from both a fruit and vegetable market, and just a block or two away from the fish market, so fresh food was abundant.

I really could go on and on, but let's just say that by the time we had compiled this list, we were head over heels in love with our situation. Baha'u'llah had been most bountiful with us, overwhelmingly bountiful, and we just had to take the time to see it.

That, my friend, was lesson number two: Take the time to recognize the hidden bounties that are there for you.

I'd love to go on more here, but I realize that this is getting long. Besides, my car is in the shop right now, and I think it's ready. I need to get home to meet the plumber, so I better end it here.

But don't worry. I'll continue this in the next few days. (God, and my memory, willing.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for completing this part 2 of travel teaching. I needed to read this at this moment. It's funny how something that can be seen as a test with one eye can look like a bounty with the other, so that you for reminding me of how to "close one eye and open the other".