Last summer the collecting gods smiled upon me. I decided to sell my most valuable records a month before the economy went haywire. The small stack of punk and grunge rock vinyl was worth enough on ebay to help fund a trip half-way around the world for my son and I. Next month, after lots of fundraising, three visa applications, one election, and several international incidents (none of which I caused) we will finally be off to visit The Islamic Republic of Iran.
I get a variety of reactions when folks learn about our trip. Will you be safe? Isn’t it dangerous there? (Yes. And no.) Why would you want to travel to a country where no one believes in the Holocaust? (That’s not true. Some 30,000 Jews still live in Iran.) But most people ask, “Why Iran?”
The short answer is that my good friend Shahrokh, who hosts KYRS radio’s “The Persian Hour,” offered to lead a trip for us and another Spokane family providing a unique opportunity to see his home country through the eyes of Persians. The longer answer has to do with our historical moment. Few other countries on Earth harbor more hostility and misunderstanding for each other than the U.S. and Iran. Yet as a result of American military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, our two nations’ fate is interconnected as never before. Whatever the future holds, there needs to be less ignorance and more understanding between us. There is no better way to do this than international travel.
Nasim and Jafar know this to be true. The young Iranian couple rode their bikes around the globe for two years in an effort to foster peace and understanding. Based on their relationship with Shahrokh—who helped them get their U.S. visas—Nasim and Jafar came to Spokane last May and helped plant a tree for peace in Polly Judd Park. We will have the pleasure of staying with Nasim and Jafar when we visit Tehran.
And despite their efforts I am expecting all out war when we arrive. A war of politeness. Nasim and Jafar were treated quite well in Spokane, and now, in the Iranian tradition of “Ta’rouf”—a sort of generosity one-upsmanship—they will attempt out-polite us when we visit them. May the best country win.
P.S. We hope to bike, hike, do lots of outdoor stuff in Iran. Check for trip reports on our website, outtheremonthly.ziplinestaging.com, and in the June issue of OTM.
Jon Snyder, Editor-in-chief