12/31/2007

My Wishes in 2008

The last sunset of 2007, looking at San Francisco Bay from Oakland/Berkeley hills, 5:00 p.m. today.
In these parts of the world, on New Year’s Eve, many people make a New Year’s Resolution. It is a commitment or a promise the individual makes to him/herself for changing or improving something in his/her life over the coming year. Most people make resolutions which involve a better lifestyle, such as exercising and quitting smoking. Taking better care of finances and professional opportunities are also among the most common New Year’s Resolutions. I have a list every year on New Year’s Eve. Throughout the year, then, I try to adhere to those “wishes,” and if I haven’t accomplished them by Nowrooz, I make them my Nowrooz wishes, and start all over again! I will share with you parts of my list. I would like to invite you to make some wishes and resolutions, too, and share them with us.
My 2008 Wish List
  1. I wish for world peace in 2008. I hope loss of innocent human lives stops in 2008. I hope all the mean people in the world to wake up tomorrow and be incapable of hating anymore.
  2. I resolve to lose weight.
  3. I resolve to quit smoking.
  4. I resolve to work harder on my career this year.
  5. I wish my niece gets well and her red blood cells don’t attack her body anymore.
  6. I wish my older son will be admitted to a good university this year. I wish my younger son to continue on his path of positive growth and self discovery.
  7. I wish Kavoos would pass his horrible exams.
  8. I wish Mehran would finish his last two terms successfully.
  9. I wish Leva would laugh at how silly it was to worry about January 2008.
  10. I wish Bayram would fall in love.
  11. I wish Maryam would get the job of her dreams at Stanford Medical Center.
  12. I resolve to read more books this year. I need to start and finish reading the 12 books on my nightstand (the ones I dust every week, but don’t have time to read).
  13. I wish to go to Iran this year.
  14. I resolve to take more serious steps in improving my writing. I must attend a writing class. I want to get started on my book this year.
  15. I wish my friend gets a US visa and comes to visit the man she loves.
  16. I wish I would become stronger and more able to forget some of the painful memories of my past.
  17. I resolve to look into yoga this year (notice I only want to “look in” for now).
  18. I wish for myself and others without a partner to be thunder struck with the love of a good person this year. Life is too short.
  19. I wish to learn Scottish dancing. Better yet, I wish to learn Kurdish dancing this year.
  20. I resolve to clean my garage (it’s a mess, believe me).
    Happy New Year Everybody!

Iran On My Mind

A member of the Andalibi Ensemble tunes her Oud at Fajr Music Festival, Tehran, December 2007.
سبزی صد چمن
سرخی خون من
سپیدی طلوع سحر
به پرچمت نشسته
ای ایران، ایران
Listen to Mohammad Nouri's Iran, Iran.* A beautiful song by a remarkable artist. This song feels really good tonight, as I am so homesick for Iran again. Memories have a mind of their own, and delight and dim as they please. I'm too tired tonight to fight them. I let them take me back to those streets, to those homes, to those villages, and to those bazaars. I willingly give myself to the memories of light, kindness, friendships, joys, and pains. I walk the sidewalks and hear the sounds. I feel the touches and embraces of the people I miss. I dream about Iran tonight.
*(Also, see a young Arash Sobhani play the base guitar in the band!)

12/29/2007

Young Guests

My sons' friend, Iden, is back from Tehran. My older son went to work early this morning, and his brother went to work at around 1:00 p.m., leaving Iden at home with me again. Kayvan, my sons' other friend, came to keep Iden company at my house. I had lunch and coffee with the two of them this afternoon, chatting about Iran and Ahmadinejad and their other friend, Shervin, who is now in Iran, wanting to get married to a girl he loves! They then went to our living room to do whatever 21-year-olds do when they are in the living room, I guess! As I was tidying up and cleaning my house in preparation for dear guests tomorrow night, I snapped a picture of the two of them. I was thinking how familiar the sight of two young men sitting on the couch and chatting feels for me. I was thinking how good it feels when I see my sons' friends feeling comfortable and "at home" in my home. I was thinking that for some years in my life I was deprived of that joy, and how fortunate I feel to have put those years behind me. I was thinking this might be one of the reasons I believe that some of the best things in life can be enjoyed with little or no money at all. I was thinking that just as I own the least I have had in years, I feel the richest and happiest. I thought all of that looking in on my young guests.

12/28/2007

Heather Rastovac in Berkeley

I had lunch with my remarkable American friend, Heather Rastovac in Berkeley today. I had written something short about Heather in June. She is a dance artist and a researcher of Iranian arts. She is currently a student at the University of Washington pursuing a double major in Near Eastern Language and Civilization (with a focus on Persian language and literature) and Cultural Anthropology, and a minor in dance. She speaks a very sweet Farsi, and seeing her interest in Iranian arts and culture is so heartwarming to me, making me so proud.
As a performer of Iranian dances and through her involvement with Iranian diaspora communities in Seattle and San Francisco, Heather has gained insight into the complex and ambiguous position of performers in Iranian society. While among the Iranian community, she also began to learn about Iran’s cultural heritage and Persian literary traditions, and grew fascinated by the strong role mystical poetry plays in every day Persian dialogue. In her studies at the University of Washington, she has fully engaged herself in Persian language, literature and cultural studies. She is currently excelling in advanced Persian language courses and has taken a variety of classes in Persian classical and contemporary literature, Islamic mystical literature, Near Eastern folklore and History of Islamic Civilization.
In addition to her obvious talent as a performing artist, Heather is one of the wisest and kindest people I have ever known. I never get tired of talking with her and affectionately call her an "Honarary Iranian!" You can access Heather's weblogs here and here. You can also see her perform Persian dances here, here, and here (if you can't access YouTube in Iran, try these links: here, here, and here). I wish Heather success and joy in her professional and personal life, as she truly deserves the best.
I end this Friday post by wishing you all a very relaxing and joyful weekend. As the world celebrates the New Year and Iranian moslems celebrate Eid-e-Qadir-e-Khom, I wish you all a good time next to your family and friends, filled with love and understanding. Go visit your elders, pay attention to the young people around you, and confess your love to those who matter most in this world, the people who would lift your spirits when you are down, and who would support you through harder times in life. Celebrate life as it is meant to be celebrated, with love, passion, and compassion. Be good y'all.

San Francisco East Bay Weather

Oakland Hills, Last Friday of 2007, 4:00 p.m.
One of my readers asked me this week whether it snows in these parts. I said it almost never snows in the San Francisco Bay Area (and a good thing, too, because of all the steep hills in our area!). But this doesn't mean that it doesn't get cold here! These days we frequently wake up to frost-covered lawns and sidewalks. Take a look at Oakland Hills (coming from Berkeley) at about 4:00 p.m. today, on my way home. The fog has enveloped the hills, and it will rain sometime later this evening, as it did last night. Where I live, the temperature at this time is 6 degrees Celsius (Centigrade), with 89% humidity, and winds at 11 kilometers per hour. For your information, our temperature is about 4 degrees warmer than Tehran today, and at about the same level as London, UK. All I want to do is to sit by a warm fire and do nothing this evening! I will write my Friday post in a few hours, then. Stay warm and toasty wherever you are. I'll be back.

12/27/2007

Lily Afshar

Lily Afshar returns to Tehran to play her magical guitar at the Fajr Music Festival, December 2007.
Scanning events and pictures on Iranian news websites, I was delighted to come across this photograph, showing that the world renowned classical guitar master, Lily Afshar, attended Fajr Music Festival in Tehran this month. She was born and raised in Tehran, attended higher edcation in the US, becoming the first woman in the world to gain a Doctorate of Music in guitar performance. She is now a Professor at University of Memphis, managing the guitar progam there, and giving concert performances all over the world, receiving international acclaim for her artistic ahievements. Washington Post described her onstage performances as “remarkable, impeccable.” She sometimes plays Iranian folkloric melodies on her guitar, too. Listen to this short interview with her on Memphis TV. Also watch her play Aziz Joon and Dareneh Jan here (though the video quality isn't that good). If you can't access Youtube, try this link. You can also listen to pieces of her music on her website, which I'm sure is not filtered in Iran. Perhaps the most remarkable thing I can say about this beautiful and talented Iranian woman is that those who know her, those who have been her students, particularly her students inside Iran, all agree that Lily Afshar is one of the warmest, most generous, and most Iranian people they have ever met. In researching her a bit, I found this blog entry an Iranian blogger wrote about her concert in shiraz three years ago, which he attended.

12/26/2007

2:00 P.M. Heartbreak

My American friend says: "I think my husband wants a divorce." I say: "Stop talking about a divorce! You have been married for 25 years. Why are you thinking that?" She says: "He doesn't want to talk to me, doesn't want to touch me, and when I ask him what is the matter, he says he is not ready to discuss it with me." I say: "If he isn't talking about a divorce, chances are he doesn't want a divorce, he is just unhappy for some reason, maybe a mid-life crisis, maybe the symptoms of 'an empty nest,' some loneliness and bereavement people feel when their kids move out. You mustn't be the one bringing up a divorce if you don't want it. Your children are grown now and this is the time for the two of you to start enjoying your life together." She cries and says: "He doesn't pay any attention to me; he was so mean to me on Christmas Day; he didn't get me a present, and didn't open the present I gave him, saying I shouldn't have bothered." This one brings back too many sad memories for me. So, I cry, too.
How many times have I heard this scenario before? Though divorces are entirely too common, unfortunately, most people don't realize how much pain awaits them in the wake of a long-standing marriage. Knowing that pain, however, never enables me to stop it from happening to others I know. I think the decision to divorce is not one that people make overnight. It usually takes them years to make, whether they are aware of it or not, which is why it is not easily changed just through friendly advice. I told my friend to go see a marriage counselor, but she says he is not interested. It sounds bad to me, and it makes me sad.

Time To Diet

Afternoon Tea at Pleasanton Hotel, Celebrating my friend, Kathleen's Birthday, December 8th
This is ridiculous! For a grown woman, I have shown no willpower over the past month, eating anything offered to me by anyone at any occasion! This is just a small sample of the things I have been eating in December. That's it. I am going on a diet starting immediately.

12/25/2007

Opening My Presents

Christmas in Tehran, BBC Persian, December 24, 2007
Just as I open my Christmas presents, I am opening another present, one which I have had for several months now. On my birthday in October, my blogger friends Leva, Mehran, and Bayramali gave me a very special present. It was my very own weblog, with a dot com address! As you can see, though I was and continue to be deeply touched with their generosity and thoughtfulness, I am still trying to figure out how to use this new software, which is a lot more challenging than blogspot for me. My wonderful friends had their super-smart friend, Hamid Reza in Tehran, design the website for me. It is beautiful, though not completely finished yet. It will have music capabilities by the time it is ready, blogrolling to manage my growing circle of blogger friends, and will enable me to post interesting links. Leva, Mehran, and Hamid Reza will be teaching me how to use my weblog this coming weekend (good luck to them!), so that I'm able to switch sometime in January. I would like to invite you to go take a look and tell me what you think. Please don't change my address on your blogs and bookmarks yet. I will let you know when I'm ready to switch. Here's the address: http://nazykaviani.com/ . Will you come back and tell me what you think? Thanks a million.

12/24/2007

Merry Christmas

Christmas Lights in Berkeley
Some people believe as Iranians and born Moslems, Christmas is not a celebration for us. I have known Iranian parents who tell their kids "We are not Christian, so we don't celebrate Christmas." I have even known of people who in that same vein, tell their very young children that there is no Santa Claus. That all seems so unnecessarily cruel to me, more so to the children, but also to the adults who think that way. I think in addition to Iranian customs and celebrations which are very important to our identity, there is no harm in taking other opportunities to celebrate. Especially those occasions which enable us to be a part of the community and nation which we now call our home.
I fell in love with Christmas the first year I came to US as astudent almost three decades ago. I loved the lights, the colors, the presents, and the good spirit people had around Christmas. Though even then I was aware that this is a Christian holiday in origin, I never felt excluded from the celebrations by virtue of my religion or nationality. Much talk goes around about how commercial Christmas has become. It doesn't feel commercial to me, as I celebrate it for the joy and happiness it brings me and my family.
When we moved to Tehran in 1992, finding a Christmas tree and a turkey became a fairly complicated annual task. In Tehran these days, you can find perfect Christmas trees and huge turkeys to celebrate Christmas. In the early 1990's however, I wasn't so lucky, so I had to do with what I could find.While we could find Christmas trees in the Armenian neighborhoods of Tehran, because Greek Orthodox Armenians celebrate Christmas a little later on January 1st, finding a tree a few weeks before December 25th wasn't always very easy. Some years I could find perfect trees, and some years I would find less than perfect ones which might be crooked or bald, threating to topple over (and topple they did a few times!).
The turkeys from those first years in Tehran were also a memorable story. That first year in Tehran, when I asked a relative to help me find a turkey for our Christmas dinner, he delivered a live turkey to my door! The next year, the same relative who had had to put up with my complaints for a whole year, delivered a turkey that had been shot in a hunt. The next year life did not improve that much, as the turkey I received, though not alive nor shot, had all its feathers on it intact, and I had to be the one to clean it before cooking it! Until you have had to do the deed, you won't know what a gruesome task this is!
In later years, turkey farms were developed and I could get a decent turkey in most butcher shops. My family would celebrate Christmas with tens of other friends and relatives each year. Santa would come, too, but would only deliver "surprise" small gifts, seldom things on a wish list.
I live in these parts again. My children are grown and have now come to appreciate Christmas for the chance to be with family. Three decades on, I still don't believe Christmas is an "overly commercial" event, or a "stressful time of year," as many suggest. I think it is a time to come together, celebrate, visit with family and friends, and contemplate peace. For me it continues to be a time to be happy and festive regardless of our religeous beliefs. No matter what our spiritual beliefs, we all know and appreciate and need peace, now more than ever. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and invite you all to join me in praying for, or wishing for, peace on earth. Merry Christmas To All!

Alone With The Dishwasher

Ash-e-Reshteh, courtesy of my older sister.
I had my family to my house tonight. Did I tell you that I have many brothers and sisters? Half of us live in this area. The others are scattered in other parts of the world. Though I want to complain about that fact, I won't! I'm just glad that we do have a chance to see each other once a year now. This was a very good year for my family, because all of us got together this past summer, and most of us got together again this December, so no complaints there. I prepared for my family's arrival all day today, and now they have come and gone, leaving me with my thoughts in a house which is quiet, except for the humming of the dishwasher. For some reason, I'm missing my parents tonight. I think they would have loved to be here tonight. In a way, I think they were.

12/22/2007

Winding Down

My house has been slow to prepare for Christmas this year. We're getting there, though! I put up my sons' 18-year-old stockings today. Those stockings have traveled all over the world a few times now!
My sons and I stayed at the hotel where the wedding was. I went to bed very late last night and had to wake up very early this morning to go have coffee with someone before she left for the airport. All day I have felt tired and sleepy as a result. I tried to take a nap earlier this afternoon, but I couldn't fall asleep, as I'm not used to sleeping in the middle of the day. It appears that all of a sudden all the running around of the past few weeks has caught up with me. I feel like I'm in "super slow motion," where everything takes longer to comprehend, to respond, to lift, and to move! A good thing for this to happen at this time, too, as I am officially on the first day of a 4-day weekend, celebrating Christmas. I welcome the chance to do nothing for just a couple of days. I hope you are all enjoying your official first day of winter, and the upcoming holidays wherever you are. As for me, I am slooooowly getting ready to go visit my family for dinner tonight, and that makes me very happy.
As I slept in that hotel room with my sons last night, listening to them breathe and shuffle in their beds (something I hadn't done for a couple of years), I was thinking why counting the ways in which we are fortunate and prosperous becomes so difficult somedays. Sometimes, all we have to do to know just how good life is, is to close our eyes in the dark and listen.

A Yalda Love Story (Epilogue)

The Yalda Bride (Parts I, II, III, and IV)
Morteza
You remember Morteza, the third friend. Morteza gave a talk at the wedding tonight. He said this was one of the happiest nights of his life. He said right next to his own wedding and the days his kids had been born, he couldn't think of any other day in his life when he had been more joyous. He said everything about this union feels perfect to him. Later, I asked him for his permission to publish his photograph. He said so long as I made sure his part in my story was as important as it had been in real life! He believes his role was to be the keeper of hope for the couple's union, even if only in his heart. In keeping that hope, he and his wife made this five-day trip from UK, just to be at that Yalda wedding tonight. I believe any keeper of hope's role is very important, whether or not a story is ever written about it.
The End

12/20/2007

A Yalda Invitation

It's almost Friday and it is the eve of Yalda. My friend, Jahangir, has sent me the following description of the event which I share with you (source unknown):
"On Yalda festival, Iranians celebrate the arrival of winter, the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. Considered the longest night of the year, Yalda eve is the night when ancient Iranians celebrated the birth of Mithra, the goddess of light. Every 21st of December Iranians celebrate Yalda which means birth in Syriac. It is believed that when this night ends, days become longer as light (Sun) has defeated darkness."
"Today the Yalda festival is a time when family members gather at the home of the elders until after midnight. Guests are served with dried fruits, nuts, and winter fruits like pomegranates and watermelons, which symbolize the red color of dawn in the sky. They also practice bibliomancy [tafaol, faal] with the poetry of the highly respected mystic Iranian poet Hafez. Persians believe whenever one is faced with difficulties or has a general question, one can ask the poet for an answer. Hafez sings to the questioner in his own enigmatic way and allows individuals to look in the mirror of their soul through his poems."
Let's celebrate Yalda together this year (agar ghabel bedoonid). Please leave me a piece of Hafez poetry of your choice or by tafaol (bibliomancy). Or, leave me the link to a piece of music you would like others to hear. Or tell us a story, an anecdote, or anything your heart desires. Or do all three! Join in the celebration, please.
Here's my poetry contribution:

یارم چو قدح بدست گیرد

بازار بتان شکست گیرد

هرکس که بدید چشم او گفت

کو محتسبی که مست گیرد

در بحر فتاده ام چو ماهی

تا یار مرا بشست گیرد

در پاش فتاده ام بزاری

آیا بود آنکه دست گیرد

خرم دل آنکه همچو حافظ

جامی ز می الست گیرد

And here are musical contributions from Amir, the groom of the Yalda wedding, a present to his bride, and one love song from my sweet and wonderful friend, Hadi, who always reads me and gives his comments verbally! Happy Yalda Everybody. Have a great weekend, filled with warm bonfires of love and understanding in your hearts. Be good y'all, wherever on this planet you are tonight.

Photo by Babak Bordbar, Fars News Agency, Shiraz Music Festival, December 2007 (I have cropped this photo).

A Yalda Love Story (Part IV)

A nut shop in Tehran showcases Yalda nuts
(Parts
I, II, and III)
Amir and Maryam met for the first time for a cup of coffee. They had so much to tell each other, where they had been, what they had done, their losses and failures, ther triumphs and joys, their children and their careers, and of course, their old friends. As the months went by, they started meeting each other regularly, talking, talking, and talking, trying to make up for all the lost years. They called Morteza on the phone one time. Morteza still remembered how in that school yard with hundres of students in it, whenever he asked Amir where Maryam was, he could point her out to him, as though her movements were somehow followed by the most exact instruments inside Amir's heart and mind. He could also remember his fateful words of patience and encouragement to Amir, the ones about his knowing that he and Maryam would be together someday. After talking to Maryam, when Amir took the phone to talk to Morteza, who was in shock for learning that his old classmates were side by side of each other and calling him, Morteza asked Amir if he and Maryam were going to get married. Amir replied: "Maybe someday."
Six months later, Amir told Tara that he wanted to take her mother out on "a proper date." In her young innocense, Tara simply asked Amir to be nice to her mother, as she had been through a lot. Now Amir and Maryam were inseparable, in love again, and managing their independent lives. Years of separation, and their painful failures in their first marriages, however, had left many wounds and scars on their souls. Scars that only time and love could heal. They persisted and persevered as occasionally one of those old wounds would open up and would have one or both of them in agony, doubt, and pain. Their love needed time to spread its roots and to heal those wounds. Last year they decided to get married this year, still waiting to be sure, as in their adult lives they both knew there was no more time for mistakes.
This year they are finally sure. They have a wedding planned, with an appropriate date and occasion--Yalda, the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. An occasion which has meaning and significance to them both, as it has touched their lives irreversibly a few times. Yalda, with all its sweet and sad memories spanning three decades, is finally bringing them together for a union and a celebration long overdue. The longest night of the year, finally closing the longest time two people can wait for each other.
Is there a happier thing to witness than two people's adult love, respect, and trust for and in each other? For me, there isn't. I will put on my dancing shoes and go celebrate one of the sweetest love stories I have ever known. I am going to a wedding this Yalda.
(To Be Continued...)

12/19/2007

Hafez Talks

I know nothing beats holding my old Hafez book in my alone time, praying my prayer, making a wish, and opening the book to read his words of advice and wisdom to me. But when I received a link for an internet-based Faal-e-Hafez this morning at work, I couldn't resist it! I closed my eyes and made a wish with all my heart. I clicked on the book. Would you believe this is what Hafez told me today? I have been buzzing with joy all day! Something fabulous is about to happen for me. Something beautiful. Something big. I knew it, but now I am sure.

12/18/2007

A Yalda Love Story (Part III)

Snow in Tabriz, December 2007
(Parts I, and II)
After his divorce, Amir was immersed in memories of his childhood and his first love again. Thoughts of "what if?" and "where is she now?" constantly haunted him. A few days before Yalda in 2001, just like all the other Yalda's before that, he was overwhelmed with nostalgia and thoughts about Iran, his family, and Maryam.
****
Maryam’s daughter, Tara, was preparing for college in 2001. On a lazy Sunday morning, she and her brother were doing their homework and Maryam was ironing. Their television was set on the Iranian program and they were absent-mindedly “listening” to the program when on a commercial break, an advertisement for an Iranian business appeared. When the announcer said: “……under Mr. Amir Azimpoor’s management…,” Maryam looked up and on the TV screen, there was Amir’s face, his blue eyes and his face, older, more settled, with graying hair, but still the same, was looking at her. Catching her breath, she said casually to her daughter, “That is my old classmate, Amir.” Tara quickly wrote the number down in her open notebook, and suggested her mother call her old classmate and invite him and some of her other old classmates in the area to their traditional Yalda celebration the following weekend. It took all Maryam’s might to speak in a normal tone, telling Tara that this wasn’t such a good idea.
The vivacious Tara , however, had a mind of her own. Amid her mother’s protests, she picked up the phone, punched in the numbers just mentioned on TV, asked to talk to Mr. Azimpoor, and once he came online, she handed the telephone to her mother. Maryam took the phone and said: “Hi, I just saw your commercial on TV, and I am wondering whether you were a classmate of mine in middle school.” There was a silence on the other end of the line. Amir then said: “Yes, Maryam Khanoom. I was your classmate, and I have waited all my life for this phone call. I knew you would call me someday.”
(To Be Continued...)

12/17/2007

Ala Hazrat Haj Agha

Deutsche Welle Radio (Radio Sedaye Alman) has interviewed Ala Hazrat Haj Agha. You can read the interview and listent to it here.
This might be a good post to talk about another related topic. I know some of you have been curious about my unlikely friendship with a group of young Iranian bloggers in this area. Here's the simple story of the way that friendship began. I went to a panel discussion about Iranian bloggers at Stanford University last February. In transition from another life into a new one, I had created my weblog in December 2006, and had been writing in it, but I hadn't given its address to anyone. I went there to find some answers to my questions, but was too shy to ask my questions! The panel consisted of Mehran, Leva, Omid, and Mehdi. Omid was already my friend, but I had never met or known about the other panelists or their blogs. Unbeknownst to me, there were others in that room whom I also did not know, but who would become my friends a little later, such as this fine gentleman. I left the gathering that day, having briefly chatted with the panelists (enough for them to remember me later, I guess!). Anyhow, our friendship started on that day, and I started sending Mehran my writings. He was full of kindness and support for me and eventually, with his and Leva's cajoling and encouragement, I gave them my blog address on their birthday in March (the two of them share the same birthday, would you believe?), they publicized it, and I went from a "blogger makhfi" to a public blogger. Mehran left me my very first comment on this blog. His blogger personality, Ala Hazrat Haj Agha, "A king without a throne and a Haji without a prayer," is a wonderful character, a funny, joyful and happy soul, and a man full of hope, optimism, and love for others. His real character, Mehran of Kerman and Tehran and Kermanshah and Rome and Fresno and San Francisco, I'll have you know, is even better than His Majesty. This one's throne and crown and prayer is his heart of gold.

A Yalda Love Story (Part II)

Maranjab Desert, Iran
After the Revolution, Maryam returned to Iran in 1980 to prepare for her university entrance exam (konkoor), but faced the “Cultural Revolution” which would have universities shut down for several years. A few years later she got married and went on to have two children. Her marriage was fraught with problems and unhappiness. In 2000, after moving back and forth between US and Iran several times, she and her husband were divorced, and she moved to US with her two children.*
Amir did return in the summer of 1980, looking for Maryam, but was unable to find the new home to which her parents had moved. His good friend, Morteza, still attending university in UK, wrote him letters in which he expressed hope that Amir would find Maryam some day and start his life with her. Amir continued his education in the US, and was sad to hear a few years later that Maryam had married and had her own family now. In the years to come, Amir, too, got married and had two children. His marriage was not a happy one either, full of arguements, unhappiness, and feelings of loneliness for him. He and his wife finally went their separate ways in 2000.*
*(I ommitted so much about those marriages here. Those details are not pivotal to my story. This story is not about those sad failures and their ensuing losses. I hope in telling the story of those separations, I don't appear insensitive or dismissive of the importance of those events. My story, however, is about something else, and these points are only made to portray the sequence of events, hence their summary descriptions.)
(To Be Continued...)

Raindrops

Waiting for the arrival of my friends and family earlier tonight. (The photo is dark on purpose.)
It's raining. I listen to the drumbeat of raindrops on my roof. My little house feels warm and content in having hosted loved ones tonight. I'm reminded again that the most valuable things in life are attained not in return for material things, but only through open hearts. I am tired and happy. The next episode of the Yalda love story will be posted tomorrow night. Your kind comments will be replied tomorrow night, as well, as I need to go listen to those raindrops some more before this day is complete for me. Good Night.

12/16/2007

Bacheh Mahal's

Chattanooga Restaurant, Tehran, in its days of grandeur
Life can be amusing! A group of my extended family who live in Europe are in our area for their winter vacation, attending our family reunion. The amusing thing about this family of four brothers and two sisters is that they were my and my sisters’ friends as we were growing up in Tehran. Their mother was one of my late mother’s best friends, too. We were each other’s “Bacheh Mahal,” riding bicycles in our neighborhood and taking the same bus to school together and learning life a few doors down from each other. One of their boys married one of my sisters. One of their girls married another boy, four doors down on our street.
Seeing them last night had all the joy of a family reunion, plus opening the floodgates of childhood and adolescence memories and nostalgia. We laughed hard remembering each other as the scrawny young boys and feisty young girls that we were. We reminded each other of the tricks we used to play on each other and on our parents, and how we would ward off our nosey neighbors who liked nothing more than to gossip about us! We reflected on some sadder memories and rejoiced in realizing that some of us had kept in touch with yet others from our neighborhoods. It was such a good time! It won’t come as a surprise to you when I tell you that I was one of the noisiest ones, telling the most stories and reminding everyone about our moments of mischief, discovery, embarrassment, and first love. We had a blast and that felt so good. Such is the texture and feeling of old friendships—even if you don’t see your old friends for a long time, when you do see them, it feels as though the years of separation never happened, such is the feeling of continuity in friendships. I am expecting my family for dinner tonight (yes, all those 30 people from last night), so I will go do what needs to be done about that. I will see whether I can also post another part of my Yalda story later today. With so much to do, I’m not hopeful. Happy Sunday!

12/14/2007

Embraces of Love

Pari Saberi's Shams-e-Parandeh, the story of Molana's life, re-staged November 2007, Tehran.
It's Friday. My work life has turned harder and more complicated, and more rewarding as a result. I enjoy working hard at a job I like. It is a life long habit for me now. I wouldn't know how not to work! I had to bring a project home this weekend. I just hope that this one doesn't turn into a habit, as weekends are for anything but work, in my opinion.
This videoclip of Cinema Paradiso is the part where a grown Salvatore (Toto), who is now a famous movie director, receives Alfredo's "inheritence," a movie reel of all the censored love scenes from all the movies shown at Cinema Paradiso. I love that movie. For 18 years now, I haven't grown tired of it. This is one of the most poignant parts of the film, I believe. This is my gift to a dear friend of mine who has decided to give love another chance. I am so happy for her happiness, a happiness with which her eyes were brimming when I saw her last night. Zendeh bad eshgh!
This videoclip of Iran, is made by Nasser Jafarzadeh. I don't know him, but I consider him my friend because of the love he put into making this clip, named Iran Iran. The music on the clip is a song by the late Emad Ram, sung by the late Maziar, with lyrics from Alireza Meibodi. I give this gift to all my friends inside and outside Iran, all those who love "in yek tekkeh ja."
I wish you all a very happy and relaxed weekend. I hope you hearts are filled with love and understanding, and your arms are embraced in embraces of love and friendship for all who are dear and important to you. Use those lips to say sweet words, whistle, sing, smile, and kiss this weekend. Use those eyes to see beauty and to communicate affection. Use those hands to touch, caress, hug, and hold your family and friends. Be bold. Confess your love. Give love another chance if it's still not too late. I am all smiles for two episodes of love lost and found again in my circle of friends and family this week. Be good y'all.

12/13/2007

Scattered Thoughts of A Thursday

Isfahan's Ghalamkar Textile
  1. After much hard work on their part and a lot of anxiety on mine, my kids finished their semester this week. Boy, I am relieved. Living with college students has its own trials and tribulations. Each term, from their slow start to the frenzy of activity, term papers, all-nighter study sessions and exam days, performing the “support role” has its moments for me, too. I have to cajole, give rides, read papers, feed, listen to stories, ask questions, frown, smile, and get alternatively mad or exhilarated before the term is finished. They are done for now and I only suffered a colitis attack this week! Life is more beautiful all of a sudden now.
  2. My family is gathering in the Bay Area again, and I’m really excited. Planes, trains, and automobiles are the order of the day in the coming days. I can’t wait to look at their faces and to hold them in my arms. Soghati is always welcome, too!
  3. I wrote a piece about Farrokh Shehabi, the ceramics artist in Iranian.com today. You remember my telling you about him a couple of months ago. If you live in this area, do go and visit this interesting man in his studio this weekend, December 15th and 16th at Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios, where he and many other artists open their studios and the public can go meet them and view their art. The address is: Sawtooth Building; 2547 8th Street at Dwight; Bay 2, Studio #23; Berkeley, CA 94710; Tel: 510 841-0843.
  4. I haven’t watched a DVD in a long time. My younger son and I have a “date” to watch The Bourne Ultimatum sometime soon. If it’s good, I’ll tell you about it.
  5. Thank you all for your enthusiasm about the Yalda Love Story! I will be giving you Part II soon. Watch this amazing video clip of music by a master and dance by another, which my friend, Shohreh, sent me. Joy.

12/12/2007

A Yalda Love Story (Part I)

Music Players, Ashayer Festival, Lorestan, November 2007.
In a quiet middle-class suburb of Tehran in 1975, three friends attended a co-ed middle school. Amir, Maryam, and Morteza were 13. Inseparable at school and after school, the three friends were known as “The Three Musketeers,” creating havoc at school, playing games and sports together, and hanging out in nearby shops and eateries. Maryam was a beautiful tomboy, with long auburn hair and freckles, Amir a lanky, blue-eyed terror, and Morteza was the dark and mysterious bookworm whose attraction to the other two nobody understood. Seventh grade passed quickly with minor reprimands from school authorities and parents and more laughter than the group would experience in the years to come. In the sleepy unaware state the whole nation seemed to exist, life was full of joy and happiness for the unruly group. Summer of 1976 passed in a blur and the three friends united again in Eighth grade. A few months into the school year, on the eve of Yalda, the Winter Solstice, near the water fountain (abkhori) at school, Amir confessed his love for Maryam. Maryam, ever the playful soul, laughed and replied, "basheh," (O.K.)! In the coming weeks, Amir’s moments of adolescent love and excitement, however, took a backseat to his concerns over his mother’s health. She had been diagnosed with cancer. During the 1977 school year, Amir’s mother passed away, leaving the 15-year old boy bereft and quiet. His two friends tried endlessly to console him, to no avail.
The following year saw the three friends’ separation. Maryam was sent to an all-girls’ high school, Amir was sent to attend high school in the US, and Morteza was enrolled in a boarding school in the UK. Just like that, the three were separated to fend for themselves in a world devoid of the easy camaraderie and friendship they had found so essential to their happiness. Though Morteza and Amir stayed in touch, Maryam lost contact with the two friends. Maryam’s parents took her and her older sister on a trip to US in the summer of 1978, and as they watched demonstrations on Tehran streets on American television, left her to attend high school there. A Revolution happed in Iran. (To be continued.)

12/11/2007

Blue Bay and Red Shoes

From Berkeley Marina, looking at Berkeley hills, 2:00 p.m. today.
My friend, Kay, is retiring from university employment next week. We had a retirement party for her at H’s Lordships Restaurant in Berkeley Marina. Kay is one of those people you seldom meet and never forget. She is full of energy and life and dedication, with strong work ethics and values. When her son who was in his mid-thirties suddenly died last year, she rolled up her sleeves and started taking care of his two high-school-age children. In fact it is to provide a better life for them that she is moving to Sacramento . My heart is full of sadness, already missing this remarkable woman, but it is also full of pride in knowing her exemplary strength and courage. After giving a little speech about her (my boss gave the big speech), I led the group into singing Kay's and my favorite song together. We were a sight! Well, it's the idea that counts!
Walking into H’s Lordships brought back so many memories for me from a time when this was one of the fanciest restaurants in this area, and my college used to hold its annual Homecoming Dances there. I remembered myself as the bright-eyed young woman that I was, observing and loving my new environment, feeling brave to participate and to learn. Memories were threatening to flood me!
To keep up with the Christmas spirit and with the festive occasion of a fancy luncheon in the middle of the day, I had worn my red shoes to the event. My feet hurt all day, and it feels good to be home and free of them! You know, vanity might be a trait I'd like to ditch one of these days. I am, indeed, too many years past my bright-eyed young woman stage to bother with it anymore!

12/10/2007

Chatting With Mehran

Mehran: Chetori Nazy Joon?
Me: I'm O.K. A bit melancholic today.
Mehran: Oh no, it's been a while since you were melancholic last. What's going on?
Me: I don't know, I'm confused by men again.
Mehran: Oh no, what happened?
Me: In that big party on Friday night, there were these two guys that I knew and had worked with on cultural things. They had each come with a woman they introduced to me. Later, I ran into each of them separately. They both asked me if I wanted to go out next week.
Mehran: So, what's wrong?
Me: I don't want to go out with a man who would ask another woman out when his girlfriend goes to the restroom...
Mehran: Aha....So... how are the kids?
.......

12/09/2007

Shahrnush Parsipur

I attended a lecture by Ladan Boroumand in Berkeley this afternoon. I will write about the lecture later. I saw my friend, Shahrnush Parsipur , who is a well-known Iranian author, there. She looked good and peaceful, as usual. We chatted some about Azar Nafisi's recent tour of the Bay Area. She told me about her new E-book, Men From Various Civilizations. As I went to check it out online tonight, I thought I would tell you about it, too. You can go to Shahrnush's website, read excerpts from her book and order it ($3). It's not a huge book, and you can download it onto your computer. The book has been translated into English. I saw many other friends there, too, which made me really happy on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

12/08/2007

Gordafarid

I want to share the amazing story of a woman in Iran with you. Her name is Fatemeh Habibizad from Ahwaz, also known as Gordafarid. She is the first female Shahnameh narrator (naghal). The art of reciting the epic Shahnameh or the Book of Kings, was traditionally a male domain. Fatemeh Habibizad showed that a woman could do it too, just as the Shahnameh’s Gordafarid showed men how to fight. This is the story of how she came to do it and why she thinks it is important today. Watch this clip about her. Read her story on JadidOnline. It is truly amazing.

Quiet Love

Theater Festival, Tehran, November 2007
It's Friday. Life is passing by entirely too fast. Sometimes I get dizzy watching the parade of days, people, and events before me. Someday very soon, I will take a few days off to be by myself and to sort myself out. Those days are not here yet, however. For now, life goes on and so must I.
I wish you all a good weekend, full of joy, relaxation, and laughter. Since I feel very quiet and a little bi-hoseleh myself, instead of advising you to go and say and shout your love for those you love, as I normally do, I would like to suggest that you try a "quiet trick" with them this weekend. Without using too many words, find ways to show you love them. This is easier than you think, and chances are you will be heard even more loudly. Here are some examples of the "quiet trick of love:"
  1. Make a cup of tea for someone without their asking for it. Take a small tray, put the nicest china cup and saucer you can find in your home, pour the tea in the cup, put it on the try, put a tea spoon and a sugar bowl on the tray and take it to them.
  2. Wash the dishes without being asked (if this is not a part of your normal routine).
  3. Take his or her eyeglasses and wash and dry and polish them and put them back where you found them.
  4. Voluntarily put the television on the channel they like to wach. Then go sit next to them and watch their favorite program with them for an hour.
  5. Write " I Love You" on a piece of paper an tape it on the mirror in the bathroom. This can work for your partner or your kids equally.

The list can be longer, but you get the gist of what I'm saying. Be unpredictably attentive. Surprise them. You don't need words for that. Nothing feels better than having someone in our life who cares about us, what we like, and how we feel. Give that gift to the people around you this weekend. I guarantee good result. Be good y'all.

12/07/2007

A Meeting On A Street Corner

I was running up the street in Downtown Berkeley the other day, when I saw my boss (right) and her boss (left) engrossed in a discussion on a street corner. Their faces looked so intent and interesting as they were conducting their business, unaware of the traffic and the noise around them. I tried to hide and snap a picture of them having that meeting, but then I thought better of it, thinking how strange that would make me look if I was caught! When they saw me, they "posed" for me, and here's the photo. We then started walking back to work, talking about my new project. Well, the picture wasn't what I had in mind, but it turned out to be a good picture after all. Hee hee, though I am almost certain they weren't talking about me before I took the photo, I can't be so sure that they haven't been doing it since! I really have to stop carrying that camera with me (yeki az in rooza kar dastam mideh!).

12/06/2007

Peace On Earth

Ashayer woman displaying Gilim weaving at Middle East Tourism Expo in Shiraz, November 2007.
I went to see a preview of the film, No End In Sight, at UC Berkeley tonight. The movie is about Iraq war and what went wrong to make one mistake into thousands of others, killing over 3,000 US soldiers and in excess of one million Iraqi's in the process. It was heart wrenching and sad, and it made me angry to see the ineptitude of US-appointed "managers" and "consultants" in Iraq, turning that country into hell. It was so sad. Occasionally, I read in some publications that some Iranians desire military action on Iran. Though I have always thought those Iranians idiots, I so wished I could find them and make them see this movie with me tonight, to see if after watching it they still want a military attack on beautiful Iran and its people. War is hell anywhere and for any nation. There is no such thing as a "sensible" war. All wars are senseless. Even so, the US occupation of Iraq has been one of the most senseless wars in the history. They showed a young Hispanic American soldier who had lost his eyesight and health to a roadside bomb. Disabled and sick, the last thing he said was that his only wish was that someday he realizes something good came out of this war, that he had lost so much not for nothing. I doubt he would get his wish, I'm afraid. I pray for peace on earth tonight.

12/05/2007

Christmas On The Way

My "artistic" picture of a Christmas tree, decorating Oldtown Sacramento, taken during my recent trip up there to attend a training class.
American neighborhoods are preparing for Christmas. Many houses are decorated in colorful electric lights, and it is a common occurrence these days to drive by cars on the freeway which are carrying fresh Christmas trees in their trunks or on their roofs. My sons and I will probably set up our Christmas tree this weekend. I don't like "killing" a tree for my pleasure, so I have a reusable Christmas tree which I set up every year. I will show you a picture of it when it is set up. For the past 23 years, except for one year when I was really sad and lost, I have had a Christmas tree in my house in the US or in Iran around this time of the year. I love decorating it with ornaments I have collected from all over the world over the years, some of which are things my children made when they were in daycare. Though we celebrate Nowrooz extensively and vigorously in our Iranian home every year, I decided a long time ago that I wouldn't pass up the chance to celebrate other beautiful ceremonies, such as Christmas, in addition to the "traditions" my children and I developed for ourselves.
I went to see the "twins" tonight. They are my niece's 2.5 year-old daughters. I am so happy they are here for a few weeks. I have been surrounded by adults for the past 2 years and I had forgotten the joy of having not one, but two 2.5 year-old angels around me. They sang and danced and played around me. We did Atal Matal Tootooleh about 100 times, and I taught them a new song. They are already bilingual and speak Farsi and French, so it was challenging to figure out what they were saying half the time! I kicked myself again for the thousandth time tonight for having cut so many French classes in high school, learning no French, but a lot of other things I shouldn't have been learning about! Hee Hee, the memories made me laugh again tonight! Don't tell my kids this, but I was such a handful for my poor parents!
I am getting ready to tell you a love story soon. No, I'm not in the story. It is a beautiful story of chances lost and love found. It is a true story. Brace yourselves, I'll tell it soon.

12/04/2007

Fars

با هر نگاه

بر آسمان اين خاک هزار بوسه ميزنم

نفسم را از رود سپيد و آسمان خزر و خليج هميشگي فارس ميگيرم

من نگاهم از تنب بزرگ و کوچک و ابوموسي نور ميگيرد

من عشقم را در کوه گواتر در سرخس و خرمشهر به زبان مادري فرياد خواهم زد

فرياد خواهم زد

تفنگم در دست سرودم بر لب

همه ي ايران را ميبوسم

من خورشيد هزار پاره ي عشق را بر خاک وطن مي آويزم

من خورشيد هزار پاره ي عشق را بر خاک وطن مي آويزم

اي وارثان پاکي من آخرين نگاهم

بر آسمان آبي اين خاک و خليج هميشگي فارس

فارس فارس خواهد بود

ترانه سرا : عادل حسینی آهنگساز : محمد شمس تنظیم کننده : محمد شمس

If you can't access YouTube, listen to it here.

Persian Gulf 101

Persian Gulf from Kish Island. Photo by Arash Ashoorinia.
From Wikipedia:
"In the world map of Diseark (285-347 B.C.) too, Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf have been clearly distinct. At the same time, many maps and deeds prepared up to the 8th century by the historians such as Arrian, Hecataeus, Herodotus, Hiparek, Claudius Batlamious, Krats Malous,…… and in the Islamic period, Khwārizmī, Abou Yousef Eshagh Kandi, Ibn Khordadbeh, Batani (Harrani), Mas'udi, Balkhi, Estakhri, Ibn Houghal, Aboureyhan Birouni and others, mention that there is a wide sea at south of Iran named “Pars Sea”, “Pars Gulf”, “Fars Sea”, “Fars Gulf”, “Bahre Fars”, “Sinus Persicus” and “Mare Persicum” and so on. In a book, named “Persilus Aryateria”, the Greek traveller of the 1st century A.D. has called the Red Sea as Arabian gulf; the Indian ocean has been named Aryateria Sea; the waters at Oman Coast is called Pars Sea; Barbarus region between Oman and Yemen coast are called belonging to Pars, and the Gulf located at south side of Iran is named: Persian Gulf. By describing the water body, the life of Persians living at both sides have also been confirmed.
Most recently, at the Twenty-third session of United Nation in March-April 2006, the name "Persian Gulf" was confirmed again as the legitimate and the official term to be used by members of United Nation."

Persian Gulf

They sit as President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran at the GCC Summit in Doha, under a sign that reads "The Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council." Did something happen over the past 24 hours to change 3000 years of history for Iran? Has Mr. Ahmadinejad accepted that it is now the "Arabian Gulf?" On whose behalf? In return for what? A seat at a conference table? No true Iranian would accept to sit under that sign. Iranian Presidents and dignitaries have left state receptions because a bottle of wine was served or a woman was singing at an event, stating the host's disrespect for their beliefs as their excuse. They would, however, stay and participate in a meeting whose very name is hostile to and demeaning of Iran's territorial sovereignty? Over the past decade, we have had to continually fight to remind the Arab countries and their European and American business partners that it is THE PERSIAN GULF, not "The Gulf," nor "The Arabian Gulf," it is THE PERSIAN GULF. Must we now tell the Iranian President and his Minister of Foreign Affairs the same thing, too? This is surreal. Iran's "representatives" have brought shame to our nation tonight. That's what I think.
Photo from here.

12/03/2007

Hamed Nikpay

My good friend, Hamed Nikpay, a talented young Iranian composer, instrumentalist, and singer will be appearing at the 1st Winter "Solh" Fest on Friday, December 6th, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts. The event also features the Kiosk band as well as a new singer named Arjang Rad. For more information about the event, visit Beyond Persia's website. Many of you remember the pieces I have written about Hamed, as well as the interview I did with him for San Diego Persian Cultural Center's Peyk, in Farsi (Page 17), and in English (Page 17).
Hamed is one of the first Iranian artists to embrace World (or fusion) music. You can listen to samples of his songs on his website, or here and here. Listening to Hamed's music is divine, but knowing him and his beautiful heart and soul is a true privilege and pleasure. Seeing him on a stage is a treat you shouldn't miss if you live in these parts. He usually plays several instruments and his sweet and well-trained voice fills you with memories of our beautiful Iran.

Berkeley Events

Berkeley is winding down for the winter break. This is probably the last week of the year during which events will be taking place on campus. There are some interesting things happening which I think might be of interest to those in the area. I will try to attend if I can. Take a look:
1. America's Current and Impending Wars: From Campus to the Middle East. There will be a teach-in focusing on the continuing occupations of Iraq and Palestine, on the threats of American wars against Syria and Iran, and on the intimidation crusades of lobbies and pressure groups against members of the academic community who have voiced criticism. Panel includes: Shahram Aghamir, KPFA, Producer of "Voices of the Middle East and North Africa", Wendy Brown, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, Samera Esmeir, Professor of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley, Dahr Jamail, Independent Reporter and Author; Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.; 155 Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley Campus. For more information see here.
2. Also on Thursday, December 6th from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Wheeler Auditorium of UC Berkeley, there will be a preview of a new documentary called No End in Sight: The American Occupation of Iraq with documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson. Charles Ferguson’s documentary, No End in Sight, outlines the miscalculations, errors, and incompetence of the American government’s Iraqi involvement. Based on 200 hours of footage, government official and military officers, analysts, American soldiers and Iraqi citizens tell the story of Iraq’s flaws since the 2003 fall of Baghdad. No End In Sight, Ferguson’s first film, won a special jury prize for documentaries at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be followed by a talk with Ferguson at 9 p.m. This event is free and open to public. You will have to show up before 6:30 p.m. to pick up a ticket from Wheeler Hall's Will Call.
3. On Sunday, December 9th at 4:00 p.m., in UC Berkeley's 110 Barrows Hall, Berkeley Lecture Series presents a talk by Ladan Boroumand, Research Director at Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation. Lecture topic is Human Rights and Democracy in Iran. This lecture is in Farsi.

My Friend's Corner

Have you ever felt the presence of someone in a room even after that person has left? I had a guest in my house for a few days last weekend. I continue to feel her warmth and good spirit in my house. It's as though she is still around. In a way she is, because those we love move around, come and go, and occupy and abandon spaces around us, but once in our hearts, they will stay forever. I wish my young friend a safe and happy journey. I will keep her corner warm for her in my home and in my heart, hoping that she will come back safe soon.
Photo by Tameshk

12/02/2007

Breaking Barbari Bread*

I went to Ehsan and Maryam's house for dinner last night. They had invited us a while back and I had been looking forward to going to their home. Leva and Vahid came and took me there. I was not a very good guest, I'm afraid, as I was talking to my son on the phone all night, helping him to submit his university application by midnight last night. My hosts and their other guests were understanding and gracious, but it didn't feel right. The young Iranian couple had such a lovely and warm home, and were so good to us. I know I promised not to post food pictures for a while, but this couldn't be helped, as I saw food items at their house I hadn't had in years! First, take a look at these amazing home-made barbari's! Ehsan made them himself! They were fresh out of the oven when we got there! It took Ehsan 2 days to make these barbarai's and Bayramali, Leva, Vahid, and I ate them all in about five minutes!
Maybe eating those Barbari's so quickly was a mistake, because the spread Maryam had prepared was out of this world, we would soon find out. Ehsan had also helped by making a Southern Iran favorite, ghelyeh-mahi. Just look at this:
Can you see the koofteh, khorak-e-zaboon, zershk-polo-ba morgh, sabzi polo, tahdig, and gheliyeh-mahi? It was out of this world!
And this is my first helping, with more to follow! Please note that home-made baby bademjoon torshi, shoor, salad shirazi, and tahdig next to my gorgeous koofteh! Outdone, absolutely!
Once we ate the fabulous food and the phone calls stopped (yes, he is done for now, so we wait and see how things develop), we sat around and chatted companionably for a few more hours, my absolute most favorite part of a dinner party, even if the food is as heavenly as Maryam's. Those relaxed hours after the food is served and the host and hostess can join their guests, sit down, relax, and enjoy their party. We were all full of stories to tell and it was hard to wait our turns to tell them! Some of our other friends had missed the party because of illness and emergencies, and we missed them. I am glad to report that I took their share of kooftehs and now they wait in my freezer to be my dinner on a cold winter's eve soon! No, I won't give them away to anyone, sorry!
Somedays I think the best part of my life in its newest iteration has been the possibility of making the friendships I enjoy these days. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people in the world to have come to know some of the brightest Iranians who live outside Iran, and then many inside Iran.
*Breaking Bread is an expression as old as biblical times. It means sharing food with others, and in colloquial English it means developing friendships with others through eating together.

11/30/2007

I Am Iran

It's Friday. I have had a whole week of very exciting and very exhausting events. My older son was applying for university admissions this week. Waiting until the last possible moment created so much stress for him, something from which I hope he has learned a thing or two. Truth be told, I am learning a lot of things, too, about myself, about him, and about life in the process.
I leave you with a video clip which sweet Roja Najafi, Tameshk, has made. It was an idea I had, which she understood with all her heart and ran with it, adding her own soul to it. It is about Iran and about our collective desire to protect it from a potential attack. It was inspired by anti-war protests in San Francisco and Berkeley in October and November. You will see many of the photos that I have collected about Iran in the slideshow. My beautiful and talented friend, Vaaleh, performs her song "Mojdeh-ye Vasl," based on a Hafez poem in the background. I hope you enjoy it. Do tell us what you think. If you can' access Youtube, watch it here on FileDen.
I hope you have a good weekend, full of joy and warm feelings. Think about peace this weekend. Talk about it. Share this video clip with anyone you like, if you find it useful. Do anything and everything within your power to raise awareness about peace. Life is beautiful, full of promises of joys and accomplishments and good memories to come. All of that can only happen when there is peace. When there is no peace, there is fear, there is hate, and there is hopelessness. Peace is what our world needs the most. That's the least we can give our children and their children. Be good y'all.

11/29/2007

Parsi and Persepolis in Berkeley

I went to listen to Dr. Trita Parsi present his new book, Treacherous Alliance, The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. Parsi is President of National Iranian American Council, and Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Parsi's book discusses the different eras of relations amongst Iran, Israel, and United States. His most important point is that though the relations have been defined by each country's ideology during certain periods of time in recent history, currently it is one of strategy and not ideology. He discussed each country's motivations in behaving the way they do, and why having skipped diplomacy and starting at the present hot-headed critical stage of dialogue is costing every country so much and how this is threatening world peace. As I have said before, the best part of going to a lecture is when questions are asked and answered. Parsi is an excellent orator and his speech was flawless, and he particularly answered his questions well. I bought his book and when I have read it, I might talk about it.
Later, we went to a sneak preview of Marjane Satrapi's animated film, Persepolis. I had read her books before, but seeing the movie was a remarkable experience. In the movie, Satrapi talks about her childhood and her memories of Iranian Revolution, Iran-Iraq War, and growing up in Iran. Many sequences were funny, some of them were dramatic, but the majority of them were sad for me. I cried several times during the movie. I remember FarNice had said that she had cried during the movie and I had wondered at the time how an animation could make one cry. I found out how tonight. I recommend this movie when it opens in the US in late December through mid-January. Of course, the best part of tonight was seeing my friends, old and new, and feeling like a part of the large Iranian community in Berkeley.

11/28/2007

Inspired on A Wednesday (Part III)

Last, I want you to look at a slideshow depicting one woman’s story. Her name is Mahtab, and she lives in the Ghassemabad Village of Baluchestan. Her art and trade is soozan doozi (embroidery or needlework). Ghassemabad is a village that has gone through ten years of draught; its men have moved away to find work, and it is now left with a population of women, children, and old people. Mahtab taught her village women how to do soozan doozi, and women of the village saved and continue to sustain the livelihood of the village through this art. Look at her hands and her feet, listen to her voice telling her story, and see her beautiful creations. Don't be sad at Mahtab's story and the story of her village. Be inspired by her triumph over adversities and her life which has inspired and sustained so many, including me on this Wednesday.

Inspired on A Wednesday (Part II)

While on the subject of inspired and inspiring paintings, I would like to make sure you have all heard the story of a Mazandarani woman by the name of Mokarrameh. Have you heard it? It is an incredible story, which my friend Alef Shin shared with me not too long ago.
A very young village girl was married to a much older man about 60 years ago. The young girl was deeply sad and unhappy, looking for an outlet to release the pain and abuse she had suffered in her world in Darikandeh Village of Babol. Later in her life she became attached to her pet cow. When she was too old to take her cow grazing, her children secretly sold the cow. Mokarrameh went through a depression after which she started painting. At first she was painting with raspberry juice. She then started finding paper and paint, painting more elaborate and sophisticated designs. She painted day and night, giving her paintings away. When she ran out of paper, she would paint on her walls and furniture and appliances. When asked why she painted, she responded that she had so much to say, but she was illiterate and couldn’t read or write, so she started to paint to express herself, her hopes, her fears, and her demons.
Mokarrameh started a revolution in her village, where slowly other village people started painting, too. She started having visitors from Tehran , mostly artists and fellow painters. She received national and international attention until in 2001 she was named Woman of The Year in Sweden. Mokarrameh died in 2005, leaving a legacy of love for painting and hope in her village and in every Iranian's heart. Each year artists from all over Iran gather in her village to remember her. On that day everybody paints in her memory. Take a look at this slideshow on BBC Persian about this year's event. You can read more about her here. Doesn't this story just inspire you?

Inspired on A Wednesday (Part I)

My friend, Talieh Shahrokhi who is a photographer has posted this picture on Iranian.com today. It is of a piece of a Hafez poem, written on a wall in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapols, Minnesota. Citizens of Corcoran have gathered to create artwork on their neighborhood's walls. Take a look at this slideshow which shows how they did another wall, that one depicting another piece of Hafez' poem. It made me so proud to see this. I felt inspired and strengthened in the humanity this project reflects. Hafez rules in my world and as it appears, in other people's, as well.
P.S. Can anybody tell me which Hafez poem in Farsi this is?