We had a football game between UC Berkeley and UCLA today. Typically, these games have quite an impact on everything in town, most importantly transportation and parking become almost impossible. How lively it is to fight for winning, to have a favorite team, and to show your support for something you relate to. Today, while I work at a café next to the football stadium in Berkeley, I am witnessing hundreds of students and alumni from both universities walk by wearing UCLA or Berkeley shirts, hats, or shorts. Many have brought their children, and of course the children are wearing shirts with the name and colors of their parents’ favorite school. As I write, Berkeley’s marching band passes by with the loudest drums and a few hundred uniformed students marching Bancroft Avenue while the crowd waves at them with open smiles. I am automatically a part of the excitement as I hear that Berkeley has won the game: 41 by 22. Why do I care? What is it that is so exciting about being a part of a community united for a purpose, a community that has a team and is relating to that team to feel better or to fight against something in common? Would I be disappointed in Berkeley if she had lost the game? Perhaps but I think not for long; I would probably continue smiling and congratulate the UCLA folks passing by.
Photo courtesy of nybox6
I recently had a job interview in England and did not get the job. When I was invited to interview for a faculty position that seemed to be a dream job at the time, I remember getting extremely nervous to even attend the interview fearing for the outcome. I wished I had not applied for the job at all and thought it was too early for me to do this as I was not prepared and not even close to graduating. My father told me something that completely changed my attitude, which is why I want to talk about sports. He said: “this interview is like a football match of your dream. You are invited to play in your national team against another excellent team. What matters is that you play for the sake of playing, the excitement, the glory of the game in itself – pay no attention to the results. Life is not about the outcome, it’s about the game. You will go and you will play your best and will enjoy the game regardless of the results. Do not pre-judge, judge, or post-judge the outcome. Just play…”
I spent a week in the UK and returned a few days ago. I got to travel around a bit and see London, Cambridge, and Oxford. It was a lovely trip and I had a wonderful time, ignoring the incredibly high cost of everything in Europe. London is a crowded city which reminded me of some areas of New York City but much older. It was nice to see so many old structures throughout the country and not fear what would happen to them in the case of an earthquake. Earthquakes are not a big threat to England and you can see many old (as old as about 600-800 years) structures everywhere.
The architecture was breathtaking in many areas. I can say confidently that Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. While walking in narrow streets with old buildings, restaurants, and coffee shops you might see a door open to something that looks like a regular building. But once you look through the opened door, you see a beautiful garden behind the wall and a huge castle-like structure far away, all hidden when you walk through these lovely streets. Another amazing part of this trip was the opportunity to dine at one of the colleges in Cambridge with the department of engineering. Harry Potter is real in Cambridge and Oxford. They have kept most of the traditions alive, dining in gowns, a drum to start, words in Latin by the master to start the feast, professors sitting higher than the students, it’s all real.
Cambridge, UK — Photo courtesy of bugbog.com
My aunt sent me this letter to share with our blog readers. It is about hope and change and has a strong message for all of us, whether you are from New York City, Tehran, Tokyo, Cairo, London, or Los Angeles, even though the topic is on the existing situation in the United States. Enjoy reading it and send us your own thoughts and experiences:
On the 28th of June 2008 I made all the possible arrangements to attend a party in Berkeley for Obama. I wanted to participate in that party to unite with the community I felt a part of. Being with the people who are seeking change; who are promoting dignity for mankind irrespective of their race and ethnic back ground. The thought of this understanding coming from American people really excited me for the wonderful world my children and their generation are going to have ahead of them. This all had come at the time when they had lost hope for the future. People of this country were about to have compassion for themselves and for the people of the world. How incredible.
The people at the party were obviously mostly the elite group from Berkeley, fit, outspoken, and open minded of all ages. The refreshments were generously presented along with very efficient display of stickers, pamphlets, T-shirts, etc.
It was a wonderful feeling to be sitting with this group under the same roof. The speakers informed us of all that was happening and all that is needed to be done in the few months to come (just a few months). The questions and answers followed the introduction and it gave way to comments about international affairs.
As one of the speakers started commenting and joking about Iran, I found myself feeling very confused. What is going on here? As the jokes about my country continued, I felt as if the walls of the room were closing in on me. I felt even dizzier when I looked around and saw these well intentioned people, or so they seemed in the beginning, as the same prejudiced people they are trying to oppose.
My confusion continued to the point of absolute disappointment not because I was being insulted as an Iranian and not because once more I was witnessing a great civilization like Iran was being mocked by ignorance, but mostly because I was loosing hope.
A friend sent me this clip from a performance by Kuoban ensemble (formerly 40-daf) in Tehran. It is a combination of Kurdish and Luri music. We recently had a trip to Sanandaj in Kurdestan. The nature, people, music, and costumes are breath-taking and fascinating. Delightful yet traditional, proud, and strong. Enjoy:
On the way to a conference last week, I was faced with a more or less challenging situation: an intense dialogue among a few colleagues about the significance of different cultures in world history and development. This is a complex topic and it’s hard to make simple conclusions on the matter. I want to write about this experience though, not because I am after advertising or defending a particular nation or want to offend others. This is simply my way of alleviating pain after hearing highly ignorant and uneducated remarks by supposedly educated individuals in the United States.
I was faced with the question of “who contributed the most to our history” or “whose work we should look for when studying the history of art, philosophy, poetry, architecture, literature, and so on.”
I have often noticed that Europe stands out in the American version of history in many different fields. For example, I happened to take introductory courses to political philosophy and architecture history at Cornell University as an undergraduate student. I can confidently say that the majority of topics covered were related to Rome and Greece and some times Great Britain. I, like many other students, left our class thinking that these concepts were first introduced by these nations only and others were mostly followers. Plato’s Republic was introduced to us as a book that marked the beginning of philosophy and political dialogue and such ideas seemed to begin in a society where thinking and logic were encouraged for the first time. Democracy was shown to be the most mesmerizing concept in a world of chaos. We were introduced to every famous architectural piece in Europe and briefly reviewed a few others (i.e. Ancient Egypt, Japan, and India) in the last couple weeks of the class. Even specialized courses tend to be biased and negative towards eastern nations, following the language used in ancient Greek historical records.
I was faced with the same dilemma in the car last week.
Cyrus’ Cylinder: Considered as History’s First Declaration of Human Rights
in Ancient Times is today displayed at the British Museum.
©British Museum, London
Filed under Africa, America, art, culture, development, India, Iran, lessons, literature, poetry, popular culture, sociology, traditions, War
I was speechless when I read the news. I only hope this baby’s parents will allow doctors to check her internal organs and make sure surgery is not needed for her health. It is interesting how different communities look at an event/outcome from different angles based on old beliefs/traditions and that an extremely negative situation in one society may be viewed as a blessing in another society.
12:24 PM CDT, April 8, 2008
SAINI SUNPURA, India – A baby with two faces was born in a northern Indian village, where she is doing well and is being worshipped as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess, her father said Tuesday.The baby, Lali, apparently has an extremely rare condition known as craniofacial duplication, where a single head has two faces. All of Lali’s facial features are duplicated except for her ears–she has two. Otherwise, she has two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes.
“My daughter is fine–like any other child,” said Vinod Singh, 23, a poor farm worker.
Lali has caused a sensation in the dusty village of Saini Sunpura, 25 miles east of New Delhi. When she left the hospital, eight hours after a normal delivery on March 11, she was swarmed by villagers, said Sabir Ali, the director of Saifi Hospital.
Last week, on Sunday morning while the streets of New York City showed small signs of spring but cold winter winds could still freeze my bones early in the morning, we got on the bus to go to Manhattan for a special event. The Iranian community in New York (and many other parts of the world) had organized a parade in the city for celebrating the Persian New Year, Norooz of 1387. I was a part of one of the dance groups representing a nomadic tribe in Iran, the Qashgai’s. We got ready on the bus and by the time we got to our destination, the sun began to shine to some how help us through. The wind in Manhattan gets blinding sometimes, especially when you are used to the California weather. When our bus approached the location of the Parade, we saw little kids with the Iranian flag painted on their cheeks, young people holding the Iranian and American flags together, yelling “Norooz Mobarak” meaning Happy New Year. When they saw us, the color of our costumes made their smiles wider and voices louder, they waved at us showing their excitement and support. A huge crowd of Iranians and non-Iranians were gathered on the two sides of the street, holding multi-national flags, cheering us on. When we started dancing, I was cold in the beginning and my eyes were watery due to the wind. After a few seconds, I forgot all about myself and immediately melted with the energy of the crowd and what was going on around me. It was like a slow motion experience, when I was watching the crowd from above. I looked around me to see my friends dancing with me or the people yelling “dametoon garm, thank you, beautiful” and saw many different faces. In our group of Qashqai dancers, there was only one Iranian and one half-Iranian, the rest were from all over the world. There I was among a group of dancers from the U.S., Italy, Japan, Mexico, Israel, Tajikistan, and Iran, dressed in traditional Qashgai costumes, dancing like the nomadic women of the mountains in Iran. I bet the Qashgai women have no idea that such an international group was trying to be like them in the streets of Manhattan on the other side of the planet. Next time I go to Iran, if I go to the mountains and stay with the Qashgai’s for a few days, would they believe me when I tell them about my experience in America? How would they feel about it?
We are living in a magical age, experiencing so much unity and having access to much information is bringing us closer to each other. Despite the current direction of the governments that try to advocate separation while demonizing others, we are moving toward unity at a fast pace, in my opinion. I felt this when I was in the middle of the Parade dancing and I feel it today as I see people with many nationalities here in the streets of Berkeley, protesting against the Chinese invasion of Tibet. I felt it when an Indian taxi driver in New York asked me what this event was about and when I told him it’s for the Persian New Year, he said: “oh yes, Happy Norooz to you and to all Iranians.” Becoming global does not mean to forget about our backgrounds, cultures, costumes, histories, and traditions. In my opinion, unity and globalization is about being aware of what a girl my age is going through in Baghdad, what a mother needs to do to survive in Darfur, how a young boy struggles to earn money for his family and study at the same time in southern Tehran, what games children play and what they learn in school in Kabul, how many people spend their youth in prisons in China, and how Qashgai women dance in the mountains of Iran. We don’t need to travel to all these places to know how; we only need to care and once we sit behind the magical screen and type the name, hundreds of links show up to take us to the places we like. We only need to care and it is my responsibility to get to know you on a deeper level and go beyond our surficial differences, so that we can together prevent hatred and war in the future and among our children and grand children.
Filed under Africa, America, Communication, culture, India, Iran, lessons, life, traditions, War, youth, youth voices