Mysterious calcareous encrustations

Haifa in the morning

Haifa in the morning

It’s been a busy week.  Sergey and I went up to Nahariyya, a seaside town on the border with Lebanon.  After a ride on a public sherut, we stood on the pier, watching schools of skinny fish and a line of fishermen lackadaisically dipping their lines into the Mediterranean.  In what is typical of our relationship, I got suddenly hungry before we reached a restaurant, and demanded that we stop for ice cream.  I decided to wait for the frozen yogurt line, while he went for ice cream.  He got his before I was helped, and I proceeded to “safeguard” the ice cream while he put his wallet away.  Then I ate most of it, all the while apologizing for my greed.

“It’s okay,” he said as I contritely attacked the chocolate ice cream.  “Really, I’m letting you eat it out of self-defence, because I know how you get when you’re hungry.”

Once I had consumed my pre-lunch dessert, we sat down in the restaurant, Penguin.  Then suddenly I felt a strange sensation, a slackening around my neck.  One of the strings of my beaded necklace had broken and beads were cascading down.  I clutched at my neck, but already a number were spilling onto the floor.  Our server approached and wordlessly handed me a doggie bag for my accident.  While I managed to slip off the necklace, some rogue beads slipped down the front of my dress.  Observing my discomfort, Sergey suggested I “want to go to the washroom.”  And stand up like a maraca with beads pouring out of my skirt in front of all the nice families around us?  No thanks.  So I sat primly paralyzed until the barista started grinding coffee… “Now!” Sergey said.  I stood up, releasing my incubated cargo beneath the din of the grinding, and scooped up the beads from my chair like a clutch of tiny eggs.  It was the sort of thing that would have had me blushing myself ablaze on a first date, but luckily now it just sparked laughter.

***

Hey, maybe you can help me with my homework.  Last week, I hosted my orientation group’s weekly deepening.  Wait, let me clarify.  My orientation group in the Serving the Divine Plan program has embarked on a three-month study of a course called “A Discourse on Social Action,” and I managed to cram 23 of these souls into my tiny flat for dinner.  It is at times like this that I know I owe Chandu, who taught an Indian cooking class, a great debt of gratitude; because of him, I learned how to make the most delicious dish known to man (butter chicken) with zero chopping and minimal prep, allowing me to feed a crowd on short notice.

Anyway, tackle these and send me your answers to these questions from the Discourse on Social Action material:

What is the purpose of friendship?

The purpose of certain things is truly complex.  Yet it is often possible to find a sentence that expresses this complexity in a beautiful and profound way. Consider, for instance, the statement that “The purpose of our lives is to know God and to worship him.”  How does this statement embrace all the praiseworthy aims of our lives, for example, to acquire knowledge, to find true happiness, to serve others, to love and to be loved?

To engage in a process of societal transformation requires faith–the assurance that such transformation is possible.  How does one acquire this faith?

***

In recent days my work has taken me into a chilly room with two objects conservators who share a number of interests, from archaeology to beading to Dr. Who.  My total ignorance about such topics makes me feel like a bit of a third wheel–they sympathetically apologized for my situation trapped in a room with the two of them–but by the same token, I’m learning a great deal about old things, for which they have unbridled enthusiasm.

One of them is a metal conservator.  She looks like she stepped out of an Orientalist painting, with a long black braid that flows down her back, glittering jewellery, and striking features, an appearance counterposed by her Californian accent.  From her I’ve learned some of the poetry of metal conservation–terms like “mysterious calcareous encrustations.”  Suddenly, everything has a “healthy patina,” from relics to lab coats.  The other, a collection specialist, has bright red hair, and pert British accent that perfectly complements her sharp wit.  She described how, in “uni,” she spotted the top of a skull sprouting in her flower garden and was immediately filled with excitement.  What being did this belong to?  To the horror of her “mainstream” roommates (“I think we call them ‘muggles'”), she excavated the skeleton, which turned out to be a cat.  A few more credit-hours with these two ladies, and I expect to earn my own degree in conservation.

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