Thursday, April 14, 2011

Words of Advice (Part 2)

What are some of the tests I might face?

You are the biggest test you will face. What?! That’s right, you are your own biggest test!

Other youth might tell you that “other people” or “other youth” are the biggest test, but remember that when we feel hurt or offended by others, it is often because our ego is in the way. If you come to Banani, you will grapple with that ego. Be humble and never give up on seeing the beauty in others. So they have faults or annoying habits, well so do you! I don’t claim to have mastered my own advice. I grapple with my nasty ego everyday.

One youth here told me if she found herself disliking someone or having feelings of enmity, she would make a list of ten things she admired about that person.

Banani is also very isolated and trips to town are few and far between. The school is surrounded by bush and wildlife, and bursting the seams with insects. If you love wildlife, you will be at home. If you are a city girl you might experience some frustration. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come. Service is all about being willing to undergo the pain of transformation.

Above: a giant moth found outside the ablutions. After I picked it up of the floor, the girls told me it would make my skin itch. Later one of the girls told me it wasn't true, they were just telling me that.

Can I serve for less than a year?

As I understand it, you can serve for 6 months. However, the longer you stay the more service you can offer as a long term dorm mother. The girls develop relationships with the dorm mother which are hard to establish if you are here short term. In my opinion, you will make more of a difference in the lives of these girls if you can stay for at least a year.

Some youth stay for 10 or 11 months because they have just graduated high school and are entering college. You might have orientations to attend or school might start early for you. Just depends on the individual. Do what you can, your service is between you and God and if your intentions are pure and the will is there, then you shouldn’t think twice about coming.

You can even serve for more than a year. Past dorm mothers have served for 2-3 years.

What are some cultural differences (if I am coming from the US)?
In general, there is more courtesy and formality here. You should always shake hands and smile and greet, even people who are just passing by deserve a wave and a smile. The boundary between what’s rude and what’s not is sometimes fuzzy. For example, one youth told me her girls think she’s rude when she says “what?” Alternatively, you might say “can you repeat that?” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear.” There will be somewhat of a language barrier between you and adults. The girls speak good English for the most part, while some of the adults have thick accents or English is their second language. Whatever you do, don’t become frustrated with others. They are undoubtedly equally frustrated with you. Speak clearly and don’t speak fast or mumble (as so many of us are wont to do!) You might repeat instructions adults have given you in order to make sure you understand completely.

You will be a minority if you are Caucasian and you will get called “muzungu”, which means a rich white person. Even if you’re not rich, people will assume your rich. Just stand up for yourself, politely of course. Be patient and remember all the trials of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the people who treated him poorly or with hate and to whom he showed nothing but kindness. Overtime he transformed the hearts of others through his unrelenting kindness. Sounds hard, I know, and we can never be ‘Abdu’l-Baha. But we can strive to follow his example. There are many prejudices against white skin color here, especially if you are from America, so just work to change their minds through your actions. In time they will see.

What better way to end a post then with a picture of monkeys!


  1. I love reading your blog! You have some really great information for others interested in this venue for their year of service, and for service in general. Life is full of so many lessons to learn, especially about patience and detachment. Baha'u'llah always tests us in the ways that are the most challenging. Love and prayers.

  2. Saraiya, You can be very proud of the Friday children's class. Today they combined efforts with the Wednesday class and did a presentation with music and prayers. The Wednesday girls each wrote a talk about race unity and then we sang songs again. Raven spoke clearly and loudly and the boys sang with gusto and Demitrius played the drums. After it was over they asked about you and seemed to be proud of themselves and a little overwhelmed at the full audience. We are saying prayers for you and thank you for all your insights and role modeling. Star