Arizona – Pleasantly surprised.

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.

Native American Baha'i Institute in the Navajo Nation, Arizona
So simple and so powerful was this area in the Navajo Nation.
Prayer Hogan at Native American Baha'i Institute, Arizona
Entrance to the sacred Prayer Hogan.
EP Shadows performance with Stevie Vagabond at NABI, Arizona
Performing in the Big Hogan. Photo by: Ashish Patel

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.

EP Shadows with Stevie Vagabond performing at La Parrilla Suiza Mexican Restaurant in Tucson, Arizona
Playing for the crowd at La Parrilla Suiza in Tucson, Arizona. Photo by: Charles Coffey

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.

Youth concert at the Tucson Baha'i Center in Tucson, Arizona
Singing for the youth at the Tucson Baha’i Center. Photo by: Roohieh Parsa
Dancing at the Baha'i Center in Tucson Arizona
We even got to do a bit of dancing!
Photo of the group at the Baha'i Center in Tucson Arizona
Group photo after the youth gathering.

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.

photo of bell rock in the village of oak creek, arizona
We made it just in time as the sun was setting.
Photo of yoga pose at Salt River Canyon in Arizona
Salt River Canyon: one of the many stops on our drive through Arizona.
Photo of the drive on the highway headed north from Tucson to Flagstaff Arizona
Driving north out of Tucson: the last glimpse of the iconic saguaro cactus.

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.

photo of macy's european coffee house in flagstaff arizona
Coffee break at Macy’s!
Quote by Baha'u'llah at Macy's European coffee house in flagstaff arizona
“Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch”
Red Mountain Arizona
Gustaff and I inside the volcanic cinder cone of Red Mountain.
We had so much fun scaling this landscape.
The Red Mountian Amphitheater in Arizona
A view of the amphitheater and it’s erosional pillars called “hoodoos”.
Photo of a yoga handstand at the Grand Canyon in arizona
Enjoying the views of the Grand Canyon… upside down.
Photo of the south rim of the grand canyon, arizona
Feeling like I’m on top of the world at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Photo of EP Shadows and Stevie Vagabond at Shoshone Point of the Grand Canyon, arizona
Gustaff and I at Shoshone Point.

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.