Friday, October 26, 2007

My thoughts on covering

My mind goes back and forth when it comes to headscarves and covering. At moments I look at all the women in chadors and think there is definitely something wrong here. How can women possibly put up with it? But then on the other hand, I sort of like my headscarf. I like the modesty. I like the feeling when I take it off in my room and see my hair for the first time all day. I like being the private me. It feels sexy and empowering in a way showing off too much never seems to for me.

The problem in Iran and other Islamic places is that its not a free choice and not all the women want to wear it, but as for me, I was a little sad to take it off on the airplane when I left.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Iran thoughts

Iran is different than I expected in so many ways.There is an enormous language barrier but the Iranians are very happy to meet Americans and very friendly and curious. I'm not seeing much evil here. People are educated and have opinions and want to express them. From my perspective the women I'm seeing in the cities seem empowered, strong, pretty (with plenty of makeup), stylish (they wear their manteaus (overcoats) tight and hip looking and all have amazing sunglasses, open, friendly and free to get their photos taken whenever I have the nerve to ask, instead of shying away with Muslim modesty. They are on the street shopping while their husbands tag behind holding the kids.

In terms of Islam, it doesn't seem to strict. Hard to explain why, but their is DEFINITELY less present in daily life than other Islamic countries I've been too. I don't see many mosques and don't hear call to prayer very often. In fact, they only have three calls a day, instead of the normal five because people "are busy and have to work" but even with that I haven't even heard it on some days. Today is the big Friday prayer day and I didn't see one person praying. I'm sure they went to mosques but it just isn't as visible.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A friendly American in the Middle East

Cultural differences make some communication hard. Everyone stares at us when we walk down the street. As an American, I want to look them in the eye and "salaam" but that is not what they do here. Instead I am supposed to mind my own business.

How can I make them like the US without a friendly hello? And frankly I make eye contact and say hello on the streets of New York too, so how can I not do it here?

In the end, I end up walking around saying salaam to everyone and I get some really happy responses back. In fact, I was told a few times that they like Americans because we are so approachable and friendly.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Islamic Eye Makeup

I know that people have many thoughts when about headscarves and mine change daily, but one thing is clear, if you only have one small part of your body to show off eye makeup can really make you shine.

I went out and bought myself kohl for my eyes after my Afghanistan trip. I want to look like these Islamic beauties!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nose jobs and plastic surgery

Did anyone see NBC's piece on Iran and nose jobs? Its really true. Lots of the women (I think I heard 2 out of 3) and plenty of the men in Iran get nose jobs and I've seen the bandages to prove it. Our guide says they get lots of nips and tucks.

It makes me me curious about what I could be getting done. I like my nose though. :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Iranian Pop Magazines

Citizen Diplomacy

The reason trips like mine exist is to practice citizen diplomacy. If I meet Iranians and they meet me the concept is that we will build a deeper understanding.

What is amazing is how many people little old me can affect. I think about everyone on my plane who gave me curious stares and listened intently as I made new friends around me or the people that gather around me on the streets or in the bazaars.

There is tremendous curiosity about why I wanted to come and also a lot mutual understanding about our unpopular presidents that use rhetoric to divert attention from the real issues at hand. Both countries have a real need for an economic boost, not more war.

Would you believe that some Iranians think that the US put Ahmedinijad in power so they could create a real enemy and justify a war?

Going through security at Newark

This morning I set off on my latest journey. As I waited on the security line I noticed that were about 10 Ss written all over my boarding pass in a red marker. I guess I'd been profiled. My lily white girl slip under the radar thing was over. At least for this trip anyway. Afterall I'm going to Iran! That must mean I am dangerous.

I must say though that the women who checked me out was pure American nice. She chatted me up as she patted me down, sorted through every single thing in my bag and tested lots of things for chemical residue. She flipped through books, took out my camera batteries and unpacked almost my whole backpack, while making small talk the whole time.

I'm always curious and found the whole process interesting, except the fact that the only others there were a Sikh with a turban and an Arab with a beard. Racial profiling is alive and well in the American security system!

In the end, the sad part is how scared everyone is. It doesn't bring out the best in us. I salute you, Ms. Security Guard, for at least being extra nice and not making me feel bad.