A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hosts in Barcelona: A Cancer Biologist and Mother, an Israeli Tour Guide, and an English Teacher from Barcelona's Quaker Meeting

Anthea and Scott sharing a very brief quiet moment
A couchsurfer from France with Anthea and Scott
 Barcelona has been a bit more difficult for me to find a host than other cities, especially considering the large number of Couchsurfing hosts in it. But after meeting my first host in Barcelona, Anthea, I soon discovered why. Anthea explained to me that she gets several couchsurfing requests a day, and does her best to accomodate them by hosting a person nearly everyday. Anthea somehow manages to blend the time required for this hopitality with the time she needs caring for her four-year-old son, Scott, and working full time as a cancer biologist. For example, in the short time I spent with Anthea and Scott, Anthea treated me and another couchsurfer to a drink at a sidewalk café, she cooked a nice curry for me at her apartment, and we spent a good bit of time talking after dinner, which I really enjoyed as Anthea keeps you on your toes in any kind of intellectual 'debate'. (In the end I was no match for her). And if Anthea hasn't got enough on her hands already, she's considering another PhD in another area. My slow walk to Egypt is a walk in the park compared to Anthea's high speed life, so all the more thanks, Anthea!

Dan on the left, Shahar in the back, on the right, and Shahar's mother, Klara,  and girlfriend, Petra. Petra is from Hungary.

Shahar signs a petition
 My host in Barcelona for the past three nights has been Dan, from Israel. Despite his origins, Dan hasn't been home much these past few years, as he's been working as a tour guide and travel agent in different parts of the world.
As a younger man in Israel, Dan served in the IDF as an officer for a while (everybody in Israel serves in the IDF at some point), but he didn't much like it. Like so many Israelis, Dan is sympathetic to the grievances of those Palestinians who are forced off their land by settlers, and he isn't at all sympathetic to the government that endorses settlement expansion. Dan and his friend Shahar, also from Israel, have been important to me on my walk, as they have offered an Israeli perspective for peace in the Middle East. Both Dan and Shahar (who also disliked, and tried to avoid service in the IDF) have thoughtfully considered and signed both of the petitions for peace in the Middle East, and filled me in on details I need to know about for my future walk into Israel.
And of course, Dan has also made me feel at home, treating me to dinner and being a very good friend.
And he's been my tour guide too!
Dan with a friend, Honey, who is the vocalist with 'The Minus Two' (Facebook.com/theminustwo). Honey is from Sweden, but is partly of Palestinian descent.

Dan and his other Couchsurfing guest, Valeria, from Argentina.  Before I left,  Valeria treated us to a delicious cup of  mate tea, which is shared around the table through a metal straw. What a great way to form a social bond! 

Gerry with his city mode of transport. Follow his example, folks!
I've also had the rare opportunity to meet with someone connected to the Religious Society of Friends in Spain/Catalunya.
While Gerry is not officially a Quaker, he has long attended the Barcelona Monthly Meeting, and we had the opportunity to talk a bit when he invited me to lunch.
Like so many Quaker meetings in continental Europe, Barcelona Monthly Meeting struggles with attendance, and they meet now only once a month. One of the reasons for Barcelona's fluctuating attendance is the transitory nature of the city; people come and go all the time.
As a young man, Gerry  studied at a seminary to be a Catholic priest, but lost his faith. He now teaches English as a  second language, and has done so for a very long time. Except for a few years teaching in Casablanca, he has spent his career as a teacher in Barcelona. Like more than a few Quakers, he considers himself an agnostic; perhaps a bit of a seeker; but he finds peace and a measure of  spirituality in the silence of a Quaker meeting, and, of course, the peace that he finds there radiates outward. If you are interested in contacting the Barcelona Friend's Meeting, you can e-mail Caroline Wilson at caroline.wilson@esade.edu.

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