Catching Up (and a plea for your opinions at the end)

Life here seems to be settling into some sort of a routine.  On Mondays, we go to a Ruhi study circle.

*Sidenote* I started this blog post thinking I could get it done real quick before I went to sleep, but upon searching for a link for the Ruhi institute, I came across a Baha’i joke blog where I consequently spent more time than I had assumed writing this whole blog would take.  Oops.

Anyway, like I said we’re getting into a bit of a routine.  Wednesdays, I have my Danish class, so we have some sort of a salad for supper (lately it’s been Tuna Macaroni Slaw because it always reminds me of home).  Fridays, Andreas usually has badminton after work (how cute is that?!), and weekends have becoming less stressful, too!

We even managed to buy a TV last weekend, and although we live in a dead zone, so we can’t get any real channels, it came with Netflix and wi-fi, so it’s been really great to have a nice big screen to watch our movies on (as compared to my little laptop with the worst speakers ever).

My Danish class is still going well.  It’s still challenging, and even though my first assignment came back with a discouraging amount of red ink on it, I managed to not be too discouraged after all.  I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve never, ever learned this stuff (it’s review for most of the people in my class) and all I need is practice, practice, practice.  I’m already starting to get nervous for the Big Test coming up in May/June (the one I’m postponing my visit to the US for) but I’m trying to forget about it as much as possible.  I wouldn’t be nervous, but I have to get a B-equivalent to be able to move on to the next class which is preparation for the other Big Danish Test that I have to pass to get into university here.  I was told that if I pass, but don’t get a high enough score, I can retake it, but that I won’t be offered any more classes to prepare for the re-take and that I’ll have to pay for it myself (around $200-250) so I’m feeling a bit of pressure.  However, I’m trying to remind myself that I still have time to get better before May, and if my teacher at that point really doesn’t think I can do it, I can always back out and wait until November.  When I have a baby.  That sounds like a better time to take a Very Important Test, right?

Things have just been being good in general lately, and I’m trying to remember to be really grateful.  The Baha’i Fast is in full swing now, and although I obviously can’t fast because of my “delicate condition,”  I’m still getting up pre-dawn every day to make Andreas and myself a bowl of oatmeal and to say some prayers.  While I can’t physically fast, I’m trying to pay extra special attention to things I want to work on, and one of those is gratitude.  I actually think that I do very well with this normally.  All the work and waiting and stress that we had to go through to get to this point (married, settled (in Denmark), with a nice apartment and a baby on the way) makes a person really appreciate what they have.  But, I want to get better at remembering to be grateful when I go through my periodic bouts of the blues, when I get homesick, when I suddenly feel lonely and like I have no friends left, or when I run out of ice cream.

I’m also happy about being able to meet some of the Baha’is in Copenhagen.  This is becoming a little bit of a Baha’i-(and link-)heavy post, but bear with me!  It has been quite lonely here, and as probably most foreigners who have moved to Denmark can tell you, it’s not easy to make friends here.  Well, in my opinion, it’s not particularly easy to make friends anywhere, but especially when you don’t go to school or have a full-time job, the meeting-people thing is hard to do.  I’m really glad that the community has been so welcoming and I’ve met people that I feel genuinely connected to right away!  It’s exciting, and since a lot of the Baha’i community tends to be a bit international, I think there are a lot of sympathetic souls ready and waiting to lend an understanding ear.

So things aren’t particularly easy at the moment.  We’re still stressed about some things, I’m still a bit lonely, but I’m doing really well and I’m really happy about where we are.

Oh!  But one last thing…

We have our second (and probably last) ultrasound coming up next Friday.  The thing is, this is the one where one can normally tell if the baby is of the boy or girl persuasion.  We’re having the hardest time deciding whether or not to find out now, or to wait until it actually makes its entrance into the world.

I originally thought I would never find out, that it’s more exciting, and makes it easier to buy gender-neutral clothing, etc.  But the closer we get to the ultrasound, the more tempting it is to find out.  We’re also having a lot of trouble finding any boy-name possibilities we love, so we’d kind of like to be spared the trouble if it’s not even a boy after all (although I have a pretty good feeling that it is), and we’re going to mostly be using hand-me-downs as far as clothing goes, so we would be able to know ahead of time from whom we should borrow.

Thoughts?  Pros?  Cons?

I think we might end up flipping a coin…

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Photos, finally, and Ayyam-i-Ha! (and owls)

I know that it is about time  for a post with some pictures, and not just some pictures, lots!  And it’s finally here!

Now, to prepare you for this post, I have to tell you that I love owls.  I LOVE owls.  Anything owly and I like it.  Automatically.  And I’m incredibly thankful that they are “in” right now because they are everywhere!  So I am busy collecting as many owl things as possible, so I have enough so that when they’re not stylin’ anymore, I can still have my owls.

So, it’s Ayyam-i-Ha!  I know that doesn’t mean much to a lot of people, but for the Baha’is, it’s party time!  It’s sort of our version of Christmas, although there’s nothing specifically religious to observe or celebrate.  In the Baha’i calendar, there are nineteen months, with nineteen days in each.  This leaves four “leftover” days in the year (five in leap years!) that fall on Feb. 26th through March 1st which are earmarked for Ayyam-i-Ha, a time of celebration, being with loved ones, doing service, helping others and anything else nice you want to celebrate.

This year, I hadn’t had much planned.  To be honest, I got a bit caught up in Valentine’s Day, and the end of February really snuck up on me.  My family did a “Secret Camel” (it’s a long story, but it’s basically the same as secret santa) exchange, but I sent my gift off weeks ago, to make sure it got there in time, and kind of forgot about it after that.  To help out our camel-partners, we each made a list of things we’re interested in/would like to get as gifts and sent it to my mom who was doing the coordinating.  Somewhere in my list was, of course “anything with owls.”

My parents have had a box of some things I left behind when I moved that I’ve been wanting recently, mostly because my laptop battery was all but dead, and I ordered a new one to their place to send to me (because even with the shipping, it’s less than half of what a laptop battery would cost me over here).  So I was really excited when the box came, and it also had Ayyam-i-Ha goodies in it!

Now that I had some little gifts, I wanted to make sure Andreas had something to open, too, so I whipped up a quick little surprise…Let’s start with that one.  To preface this, I made this, for Andreas’s sister and her husband when they were expecting their little girl:

owl

It was big and bouncy and…well, big.  Andreas loved it.  So, for Ayyam-i-Ha, he got:

baby owl 2

This little guy!  He’s maybe eight inches tall, very round, and bounces off of everything Andreas throws him at.  The most impressive part is that I knitted him up from start to finish in less than four hours.  You can just call me Speedy Needles.

Anyways, this was only the beginning of the owly goodness!  The package included this lovely lady (which Andreas also loves):

baby owl 3

So sweet!  And her eyes have cellophane in them, so they crinkle.  I have a feeling the baby will enjoy this one.

But that’s just the beginning!  What the package mostly consisted of was the afghan I crocheted after Andreas and I got engaged, which we are now using to cover the couch, since the couch is not a particularly pretty color…

Catan blanket on couch

If you don’t want to cuddle up onto that couch with those owls and all the pillows, I think there’s something wrong with you.  But wait!  The owls aren’t finished yet!

Owl calendar

We’re pretty excited about our new calendar!  Especially now that we actually have social engagements and have things to write on it!  Another gift consisted of this, and Skittles (YAY! Skittles!):

Owl candy dish

I’ve been looking for a good candy dish for a long time now, but haven’t really found the “perfect one.”  Luckily, my mom did!  It’s owly AND green.  That gives anything double-score in our eyes!  We also got some candles which was wonderful!  We’ve been candle-fiends recently, partly because we don’t have any little lamps in the living room yet, and partly because we just love them.  We got some nice simple candle-holders from IKEA (where else?) and I’m falling in love!

And last, but definitely not least was my present from my secret camel!  The day before we opened the presents, we went to visit Andreas’s sister because she had cake leftover, and what better reason is there to get together for an evening than cake?  Anyway, she gave us the lovely gift of a baby-book!  It’s something we both wanted to do, and knew we wouldn’t keep keepsakes or write mementos if we didn’t have a structured book to put them into, so we were so happy!  And my secret camel (my little sister!) included the following in her gift! (along with a generous skein of green baby yarn!)

First Baby Gifts

Baby’s first presents!  I keep cuddling the sleeper.  I can’t help it!  And finally, there was also two more big skeins of wool from my mom, which I already have plans for!  But first, I have to finish this little number:

baby clothes

Everything is so exciting right now!  Happy Ayyam-i-Ha!

A Favorite Place: Louhelen Baha’i School

Since I’m blogging every day in November, I thought I’d make use of the prompts given here to help me a bit, since housewifing around sometimes doesn’t generate that much blogging material (though I could take hourly progress photos of the cushion-cover I’m knitting…).  Anyway, today’s prompt was to justify the existence of one of my favorite places, things, or people.  Since I’m not the biggest fan of persuasive writing, I’m choosing to merely sing praises instead of justify existences, and one of my favorite places on the planet is Louhelen Baha’i School.

Now, the first time I went to Louhelen, I was 15.  I went there to do a few months of service (volunteer work) over the summer.  The summer had its ups and its downs, but it left a big impression on me.  Before I’d gone, I’d never had really any contact with another Baha’i my age (siblings not included), and realizing that there were other youth going through the exact same things as me really helped to solidify me as a Baha’i.  The support of the wonderful people I met helped me get through times when I might’ve veered away from the Faith, mostly in an attempt to feel like a normal teenager, and for that, I am really thankful.  I still keep in touch with most of the youth I met that summer, and am so glad I did.

I’m on the left, the other two were my “next-door neighbors.”

I didn’t end up going back to Louhelen for four years, but returned after my freshman year of college.  I was really excited to be back, but was also really shy upon my return, since the group of people serving changes every summer, and I didn’t know anyone.  I needn’t have been worried, however.  That summer got me through a bit of heart-ache that was still hanging on from back at school.  I met more of my now-best friends, and near the end of the summer, met Andreas.  So basically, Louhelen changed the course of my life (quite literally, veering it off into Europe isntead of the midwest, where it was headed).

But forget the big stuff, Louhelen is the place where I learned to fold fitted sheets, make enormous amounts of hummus, and clean public bathrooms (whoohoo!)  I loved working full-time in the industrial kitchen.  When I came back for the third time, I assumed the roll of resident baker and with my baking partner, would bake batches of 100 cupcakes, and make trifles when all else failed.  However, I have mysteriously few pictures of us working….but we did, I swear!

The above is the first picture I ever took of Andreas, shortly after meeting him.

We worked hard at Louhelen, but we also formed deep freindships, had sleepovers with a ridiculous amount of candy (I mean it)…

and we fell in love.  I’ll forever be indebted to Louhelen for introducing me to my husband and so many of the kindred spirits in my life.  I’ll never forget my three summers serving there, and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t!  I have a very handsome souvenier coming home to me every day.

We visited Louhelen again last summer, as my camera was on its very last legs

I love Louhelen.

The Religification of Atheism

This post is going to be a bit different from my usual feeble wonderings, observations, and (let’s face it) whining.  My husband brought something to mind the other day that I’ve been noticing a lot lately as well.  He spends a lot of time on Reddit, a wondrous magical place filled with serious news, silly gifs, and the occasional crude reference.  Okay, it’s filled with crude references.  Anyway, he noticed that posts from the Atheism section were reaching the main page quite often, posts glorifying atheism as the logical path, the unprejudiced path, the only intelligent path.

This post is not an attack on atheism.  I know a fair few atheists who I think are wonderful people, and I think freedom from dogmas can lead to freedom from prejudices and clearer, kinder thinking.  That being said, I feel that as the atheistic community grows and ages, it’s forming its own “religion” of sorts.  A religion complete with prejudices and pride.

I feel that atheism or agnosticism is just as valid of a choice in belief as any other established religion.  However, one of the downsides to this (and again, other established religions) is that within a community of similar beliefs, we grow prideful.  Surrounding ourselves with sameness, we grow complacent in our belief that we have chosen the Right Path, that everyone else is, indeed, an idiot for believing what they choose to believe.  A number of my friends in college were either atheists or agnostics, and I sat through many a conversation about how ridiculous, dumb, and narrow-minded religious people are, with the occasional “I mean, not all of them, obviously, but come on…” thrown in, perhaps for my sake.  But mostly the comments were similar to: “Look how dumb and ignorant these religious people are being.  They can’t see the merits in any belief other than their own.  Good thing we don’t belong to a religion that has these prejudices.”

The most positive thing about atheism, I thought, was that it could free you from the preached scorn for and fear of other religious beliefs.  However, the more I listen to atheists speak, the more often I hear this scorn, and even this fear.

Living in Scandinavia right now (Sweden at the moment, where apparently the rate of atheism is about 85%), I’ve been feeling a bit meek about my own religiousness.  Andreas has mentioned that he’s a bit nervous to bring it up at job interviews, not that he normally would, but the conversation goes something like this:

B (for boss): So why are you living in Malmo?
A (for Andreas): My wife and I moved here because Denmark has stricter immigration rules and she can’t live there with me
B: Oh, where is your wife from?
A: The US.
B: How did you meet her?
A: We were volunteering together at Louhelen Baha’i School
B: What’s Louhelen Baha’i School?

Anyway, as a member of the Baha’i Faith, I feel it’s a bit unfair.  The Baha’i Faith promotes independent investigation, which means  we’re supposed to look into the writings (of the Baha’i leaders as well as the holy books of other religions), and think deeply about what we truly believe.  The Faith also asserts the coexistence of science and religion.  While this may seem impossible to most, and is difficult to sort out, I think the basis for this teaching is to be open-minded.  To find balance between the spiritual world (religion) and the physical world (science).  I think what has attracted me the most to the Baha’i Faith is how heavily it demands thought. I realize that this is what we are supposed to do, in theory, as perfect Baha’is, and because we’re individuals, not theoretically perfect spiritual beings, we fail (probably quite often).  But this teaching has always comforted me, knowing it’s fine to have doubts, ask questions, and look deeply into issues instead of just accepting everything we’ve been taught since we were children.

I feel sometimes that atheists and agnostics believe that religion is a school of dogma, where our beliefs are ingrained in us at an early age and we are taught to stop considering, and stop thinking.  I know that sometimes it can be, but I just feel that that judgment is more than a little unfair.  By discounting all religions on this ground, I feel that they are being just as narrow-minded as they often accuse other groups of being.

I don’t hope that they turn back to the religions they abandoned in the first place.  I’m not saying “Look, my religion doesn’t do that.  Come, join MY religion, it’s the best!”  I guess I just hope that the free thought and open-mindedness that helped them choose atheism or agnosticism as their path sticks with them.  I just hope that they don’t become a solid, compacted group with just as little vision and thoughtfulness as the groups they can so easily criticize.