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…”
An interesting article for Asheyan …
The Star Students of the Islamic Republic
Forget Harvard—one of the world’s best undergraduate colleges is in Iran.
By Afshin Molavi | NEWSWEEK
Stanford University‘s Electrical Engineering Department were startled when a group of foreign students aced the notoriously difficult Ph.D. entrance exam, getting some of the highest scores ever. That the whiz kids weren’t American wasn’t odd; students from Asia and elsewhere excel in U.S. programs. The surprising thing, say Stanford administrators, is that the majority came from one country and one school: Sharif University of Science and Technology in Iran.
Stanford has become a favorite destination of Sharif grads. Bruce A. Wooley, a former chair of the Electrical Engineering Department, has said that’s because Sharif now has one of the best undergraduate electrical-engineering programs in the world. That’s no small praise given its competition: MIT, Caltech and Stanford in the United States, Tsinghua in China and Cambridge in Britain.
Sharif’s reputation highlights how while Iran makes headlines for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s incendiary remarks and its nuclear showdown with the United States, Iranian students are developing an international reputation as science superstars. Stanford’s administrators aren’t the only ones to notice. Universities across Canada and Australia, where visa restrictions are lower, report a big boom in the Iranian recruits; Canada has seen its total number of Iranian students grow 240 percent since 1985, while Australian press reports point to a fivefold increase over the past five years, to nearly 1,500.
Iranian students from Sharif and other top schools, such as the University of Tehran and the Isfahan University of Technology, have also become major players in the international Science Olympics, taking home trophies in physics, mathematics, chemistry and robotics. As a testament to this newfound success, the Iranian city of Isfahan recently hosted the International Physics Olympiad—an honor no other Middle Eastern country has enjoyed. That’s because none of Iran’s neighbors can match the quality of its scholars…
To view the full article: click here
I sit here writing tonight from a friend’s apartment in the north of Tehran, Iran. For a moment, I almost feel as if I’m in the States. I get to watch Oprah talking to Dr. Oz on TV. The AC is blasting. A can of coca-cola is waiting for me in the fridge. How strange it is to be in a completely different coutry in the so-called “developing world”, but feel as if you’re sitting in your own living room in northern California. How globalized our world has become.
I’ve been putting off writing a post for quite some time now, mainly because I’ve been waiting for a noteworthy event to happen that would be interesting to everyone. However, Riad’s beautiful comment on my last post touched me and triggered some thoughts that I thought I would share with all of you tonight.
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:
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
It was a cold day in late February, a Friday afternoon busy with homework and exams during high school. My aunt had a “khaastegar” (translated to a suitor) that night! Well, in Iran like many other countries, when a man is introduced to a girl or her family (either independently or through family or friends) and wants to formally meet the girl at her parents’ house, introduce himself and his intentions, and make sure that the girl’s family approve (before actually asking for her hand), a formal but very small gathering is arranged. My aunt is still young and was much younger then (she’s only 9 years older than me) — she has been like my older sister. I was afraid that she would like the guy and get married, to be honest. I was afraid of losing her. The groom to be had come from the U.S., he had a Ph.D. in some type of engineering, and wanted to marry a beautiful and nice Iranian girl as soon as possible! In this case, he had no idea who my aunt was and what she looked like. He was simply introduced through a family friend. My aunt was first resistant to the whole concept, but my grandmother convinced her that she should at least meet the guy and then decide. Well, long story short, the khastegari session was arranged.
My aunt being a modern girl did not like the traditional setting where the bride is supposed to bring tea and the groom’s family would check her out and make sure she knows how to serve tea, that she is beautiful and polite, that she is not too nervous, that she smells like roses, that she has a nice smile on her face, etc. etc. As a result, I was charged with the task of bringing the tea instead of her, while she would sit politely and ask random questions. I had no intention of doing a good job, because I simply did not want her to get married and leave. I had also heard horrifying stories of what happens to girls who marry men who apparently came from somewhere in Europe or America pretending they were educated and led good lives, while they had faked everything and turned out to be crazy and abusive husbands. I did not want to see my beloved aunt experience such a horrific fate. Therefore I was determined to do everything in my power to disappoint the groom to be.
[Story to be continued…]
Photo courtesy of Vista
On our way to Iran from San Francisco, we stopped in Amsterdam to change planes. Shawhin and I got our coffee and orange juice (I’m the coffee person and he’s the healthy one) and we were on our way to find the gate for the KLM flight to Tehran. It turned out finding the gate was much easier than expected. All we had to do was to follow the large number of familiar eyes who spoke Farsi very loudly. It’s not common to speak loudly among Iranians, but somehow it seemed like we all wanted to make sure others noticed that we are Iranian, kind of like a signal, a way of communicating, a way to make sure other Iranians see us and can come to us if they are lost or need help of any sort.
I felt the excitement of going home after 8 years; it was amazing being among all those familiar eyes, familiar accents, familiar smiles, or familiar complaints. I realized in the middle of my excitement, however, that those eyes and accents were not our only guides to the right gate. It was something much more visual and obvious: the black clothes! Sadly I must acknowledge the current trend of fashion among my fellow countrymen. Black, black, black. All I could see was black, dark blue, dark gray, dark green, basically all sorts of varieties of black with different shades. I told Shawhin if he noticed that we were the only ones not wearing black at the gate while we were waiting for our flight. He laughed and nodded. I saw that his happy eyes transformed to something more like worried happy eyes. Well, I did not want to ruin this experience for him so I changed the topic. I was however deeply concerned about the effects of this color on people’s everyday life back home. Imagine living in a black city where colors are not widely accepted, are thought to be cheap, or are not even allowed in many public places. I wonder if anyone in Tehran or other big cities in Iran worries about this, but there I was waiting at the gate deeply struggling with these thoughts and emotions. I was emotional and excited with the thought of landing at the Mehrabad airport, seeing the Azadi tower when the pilot does a turn around it before landing, kissing the ground of my city, the city that really belonged to me. My fear of black, on the other hand, was constantly on my mind. I wanted to get the microphone from the flight attendant and ask all the passengers to change their outfits and wear brighter colors and was frustrated with my lack of power to do so.
A girl in Sanandaj, Iran, wearing traditional colorful costumes. Photo courtesy of Ddokosic