To say the least it’s been a rough start to the new year, the new decade. I’m not sure anything more could happen to make the headlines around the world any worse, but I shouldn’t jinx it. The images and reports coming out of Australia are heartbreaking. Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency after a series of earthquakes, and hundreds of thousands protesters, led by the courage of a seventeen-year-old girl, are taking to the streets every Friday around the world, to bring awareness to climate change. And, of course, the contentious conflict between the US and Iran, which has me thinking of our travels through Iran.
Travels Through Iran
In 2015 I published a series of posts which highlighted our travels through Iran. At the time, I remember a friend suggested I should dive more deeply in sharing the stories of our experience, the nitty gritty so-to-speak. I had my reasons for not doing so, but primarily, it was because in general the people of Iran, are good, kind and incredibly hospitable and I saw no reason to paint a negative picture of the people and their culture. The masses are not necessarily representative of their government, which I think is a fair assessment for pretty much any country.
The First Paragraph
Because of the current assault on the senses of what is truth and what is fiction in the daily headlines, here in the United States and around the world, I sat myself down and read through each of our 2015 posts about our travels through Iran. This is the first paragraph of our first post:
- “Could there be a hotter topic right now than the nuclear talks between the US and Iran?! What a time in history to visit this fascinating, yet hugely misunderstood country. But we were there, we heard the people in the streets, the honking of the horns and the firecrackers being set off as the news unfolded of the framework deal moving forward in a positive direction.”
In 2015 the headlines were positive, but now just a few short years later it’s a story unraveled. It’s staggering what can happen – or not happen – by the mighty sword of a few, with little regard for potential repercussions.
A Big Fat Misconception
Contrary to what political personalities and the mass media in the US would have you believe, from their overly sensationalized broadcasts, the people of Iran do not hate America. Far from it. It’s a big fat misconception. But that’s not the picture that’s being shown over and over and over again on television and computer screens around the world. Are tens of thousands of people in Iran angry over recent events? Of course they are. But the same can be said for tens of thousands of people here in the United States. People on both sides of the world are outraged and they are taking to the streets in protest. There are always two sides to every story.
What Would Pollyanna Do?
I have to admit, I’d really enjoy stepping up on to my soap box right about now to loudly sound off about recent headlines, but instead I’m going to ask myself, what would Pollyanna do? I’ve done this many times in my life when I’m particularly frustrated, infuriated, worried, etc. It doesn’t always work, but she always gives me pause to think. This time I’m going to listen to my inner Pollyanna and rather than stepping up on to my soap box, I’m going to share some goodness about a beautiful country with beautiful people. Politics aside.
Just Ask Rick Steves
- “I would like travelers, especially American travelers, to travel in a way that broadens their perspective, because I think Americans tend to be some of the most ethnocentric people on the planet…” Rick Steves
Although the US State Department continues to post strong advisories against travel to Iran, the warnings contradict the reality. Don’t believe me? Ask my favorite travel guru, Rick Steves. He traveled to Iran and filmed the experience. If you’d really like to see a balanced portrait of life in Iran, I encourage the viewing of this 45-minute video.
Travel bloggers from around the world, as well as tour operators who lead groups through Iran, share their travel experiences via the internet. People travel to Iran in droves because it’s a beautiful country with an incredible history. Don’t believe me? Just Google three little words… travel to Iran and see for yourself the abundance of information. Silvia of Heart My Backpack actually traveled solo and couch surfed her way through Iran in 2014. You can also search Pinterest and find a plethora of pins highlighting travel in Iran. It’s all there, you just have to look for it, you know… the feel good stories the mass media doesn’t tell you about because let’s face it… fear sells.
The Faces of Iran
What the political agenda doesn’t want you to see, and what the mainstream media broadcasts far too often
forget choose not to show us, are the faces of the people of Iran. I think it’s what infuriates me the most, and not just about Iran. Rick Steves (I know I’m quoting him a lot in this post, but he’s so spot on) said it best when he said,
- “I believe if you’re going to bomb someone, you should know them first. It should hurt when you kill someone.”
The first few days while in Iran, I didn’t understand why everyone stared at me so intently. Of course I understood I was a western woman, but such intense staring. We soon found out that they were staring not out of rudeness, but out of a sense of awe. They don’t see many American women which is sad in itself. I was treated with such respect.
If they couldn’t speak English, they would ask for their words to be translated. They asked me where I live, what did I think of their country, and most often could they take their picture with me. It was incredibly sweet. And, the women of Iran. They are beautiful, strong and they will go out of their way to be kind. They are also at the forefront of change in their country.
The People of Iran
The people of Iran are just that… people. Just like the French, or the Germans, or the Japanese, or the Koreans or the British or Portuguese or anyone else. We all get up in the morning, love our families and try to live our best lives while surviving the political agendas of our governments. Sometimes, it feels as if we’re all just pawns on a giant chessboard. What we do about it is up to each of us.
So let’s embrace the idea that a nation’s people do not “all” condone and/or agree with their government. Quite often it’s the majority of the population who don’t condone and/or agree. It’s so easy to judge, isn’t it? Especially when all too often we do not understand the context of the situation.
If you’ve read this far and you’re curious as to the translation of the signs held by the sweet young girls in the first photo, a loose translation is as follows:
The hijab is like dew on the face of a beautiful flower.
So beautifully written, Patti. Your phrase, “The masses are not necessarily representative of their government…” is well said. We have only to look at our own country to see the great divide between our current government of hate, lies and intolerance and what our country could be again: a country with its leaders working together towards the goals of peace and the well-being of ALL its people. It is the acceptance of our diversity, rather than a wish to create a homogeneous people, that is our strength. A very timely post!
Thank you, Anita, for your thoughtful comment. History will not reflect kindly on this administration, but hopefully 2020 will bring about positive change.
When I clicked on this post I studied the header picture for about 5 minutes. I tried to read the expressions on the girl’s faces and I focused on 5th girl. Was she upset? Hmm wasn’t sure. Then I looked past that and I noticed the roses they held in their hands. The ultimate symbol and proclamation of love for any culture. It’s funny to me that your post read like a love story and you accomplished your mission of ” sharing some goodness about a beautiful country with beautiful people. Politics aside.” It made me realize how often we look at something and quickly think what’s been hammered into us and not take a moment to just take everything in and judge for yourself. Back in Montreal I met and befriended a few Iranians. They all said the same thing. They have no issues with Americans just our politics/policies.
I had a friend (British) who often traveled to Iran on business and his only issue was how hard it was to get a beer :).
Beautiful post Patti and how wonderful to know the translation of the signs the girls were holding up <3.
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Thank you, Spanky, for your thoughtful comment. Believe it or not, I thought long and hard about using this particular photo as the header. I came across it in Abi’s photo files and I had not seen it before. I too focused on the little girl who seems to be almost yelling and I worried that it might not fit my message. But then I focused on the other girls who were smiling and the two girls who were wearing sweet little Mary Jane shoes and like you, the roses. Once I had the translation clarified through our nephew, I knew it was in fact the right message. I like to think the little girl who seems as if she’s unhappy is entitled to be just that, unhappy because her mother said she needed to pose and really, she wants to be off playing. 🙂
It’s nice to see Iran portrayed in a positive light. I lived there from 1975-77 and had (mostly-the driving was horrendous!) wonderful experiences. We’d love to visit again but I don’t feel it’s totally safe now for US citizens.
Your post reinforces what those of us who travel the world see: people in the middle east are very polite and friendly and just want a decent life for their families. Thanks.
Yes, the traffic is crazy! I think the painted traffic lines on the asphalt were just suggestions. Ha! Ha! So interesting that you lived there for two years, especially in the 70’s. Sadly, we agree, it’s a very unstable time with the relationship between the US and Iran under the current US administration. Hopefully, it will all change for the better sooner than later.
This is an excellently written post, very moving, an eye-opener. Thank you!
Cheers and to great adventures in 2020!
Thank you, John & Susan, for your feedback. We appreciate your thoughts and safe travels to you as well.
It’s ironic that by killing Kuds Force general, we stoked nationalist fervor in Iran, much like the effect 9/11 had on us. Reformers in Iran know they have to lay low (again) for now.
Yep, definitely, Suzanne. It’s a frightening time on so many levels.