Our first stop in Arizona was at the Native American Baha’i Institute (NABI) in the Navajo Nation. We only got to spend one night there, but it was a wonderful night spent with some locals, staff at NABI, and a group of university students from Salt Lake, Utah. As soon as we arrived we joined a few friends for sunset prayers in the Prayer Hogan, which is a dome building in the middle of the campus with benches inside in a circle around a fire. After prayers we shared dinner in the Big Hogan (the main building with a kitchen and a big room for eating and gathering) with those who were breaking fast, then we topped the night off by performing a few songs and socializing with all the lovely visitors and staff at NABI.
The next morning after breakfast we were back on the road, this time towards Tucson. When we arrived we only had a couple hours to relax before heading out again. That night we performed at a Mexican restaurant called La Parrilla Suiza for a crowd of around 45, not including the workers and others who were just there to eat. It was a very different environment which reminded me more of my open mic and busking days, playing more as background music for about an hour while others ate food and enjoyed the company around them. Many of them shared with us their positive feedback on our music and support for our continued travels.
The following morning Gustaff and I popped into the Tucson Baha’i Center for a youth gathering. There was a large family there from Congo who had just got to the United States a month prior. They seemed so full of joy and gratitude, and I cannot imagine what they had to go through as a family in order to get to this moment. Gustaff and another friend helped translate since they spoke french and had not yet learned english. After a few songs we headed outside to get a group photo. On our way outside the father picked up my guitar and began playing a song. I encouraged him to keep going, so he played and sang a couple songs for the group. His wife joined in the singing too, and together they sounded amazing. Shortly after we said our goodbyes, just as we got to the end of the road it dawned on me that he probably didn’t have a guitar! I quickly whipped the van around and pulled back up to the Baha’i Center, grabbed my Backpacker Guitar and ran inside to give it to him. He told me that he was so happy to have a guitar now because he has a wish to be able to compose his own songs and now with this guitar he will be able to do this. I figured since the world has been so kind to me, now that I have a new guitar, why would I need two? It made me feel so happy to know that he appreciated the gift, and I truly believe it will be put to good use.
That evening on our way to Flagstaff, we raced the sun to get a quick glimpse of Bell Rock just outside of Sedona before dark. I’d have to say the drives through the state of Arizona have been the most diverse so far from the driest of deserts, to the lush green highlands, to the red soil hills, to the rock covered mountains.
We had our first day off in a while that Sunday, so Gustaff and I decided to go check out the Grand Canyon. Just before heading out of the city we grabbed a coffee at a local Baha’i coffee shop called Macy’s European Coffee House. It was so cool to see pictures of Abdu’l-Baha and quotes by Baha’u’llah on the wall, plus the coffee was fantastic! Once outta town on our way to the Grand Canyon we stopped in at Red Mountain for the short walk into this volcanic region. The rock formations left there were like nothing I’ve seen before. The rest of our afternoon was spent exploring the south rim of the Grand Canyon, more specifically Shonone Point. It was a bit difficult finding this spot since there was no signs for it, but it was highly recommended to us so we didn’t give up. Once we found it we could see why it was such a special spot. A few other people were there too, including a couple who had spent some time working for the park and they said this was their first time here too. They said it is now probably one of their favorite spots in the park! We stayed until we froze from the crisp breeze that rushed through the canyon, then made our way back to Flagstaff as the sun set through the mountains.
Our last evening in Flagstaff was spent with some Junior Youth and their parents performing an hour long set then jamming with everyone afterwards. Each person had a turn at performing their own songs as well, since we were such a talented group. The variety of songs from cultures around the world, by people of all ages was the perfect fit for our themes of unity, love and peace!
“Earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” – Baha’u’llah
After one final rest in Arizona we got up early and had breakfast with our host family before setting off on a long drive towards California.