Salam friends! سلام دوستان
Welcome back! This month I've been visiting Iran, a country in the "cradle of civilization" where there have been cities for thousands of years. In the first blog, I made some new friends and learned a bit about Iran's geography, history, and language. In the second blog, we learned a bunch about Persian New Year, called Nowruz. And last week, we learned more about Persian food, culture and schools. This week, I'm excited to write to you more about the culture and the people in Iran.
Northern Tehran Skyline Photo By ninara (flickr.com) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
Hospitality and Tarof
One of my favorite things about Iranian culture has been how friendly and welcoming everyone is. Everywhere I went, everyone was always so happy to see me! I learned from my friends Ali and Bahar that hospitality is a very important thing to Persians. In fact, there are many things that are considered polite to Persians that the western world may not think of.
There is a type of etiquette - that's a special word for manners - famous among Persians called tarof (tahr-ohf). There are a lot of parts to tarof, but mostly it has to do with being humble in public, not accepting compliments right away, and refusing help when it's offered - at least at first. For example, I was in a store with Ali while he was buying groceries for another wonderful meal at his house. The cashier at first refused his money, he insisted that it was just nice for us to be there. I thought this was weird at first! I mean, how can he run a business if he's doesn't take his customers' money? But Ali insisted on paying him. They went back and forth for a little bit, but eventually the cashier accepted Ali's payment. Ali told me this was normal, that the cashier always knew he would get the money, but that it was how Iranians are polite.
Another time, when I was with Bahar and everyone was tired and ready to go, herKhaleh (that means aunt in Persian), got up and insisted on making me a new pot of tea, even after we had already drunk the whole pot! I knew she was tired, and she knew we probably wouldn't want another pot, so I just said, "no, thank you". But she insisted. Bahar whispered to me that this was another form of tarof, that I was supposed to compliment her for being a wonderful host while insisting she didn't make more tea. So I did, but she made the tea anyway! Turns out, you don't want to say "no" to the person giving you something too many times, or they might feel insulted. Even though her Khaleh was tired, she felt good to be such a caring host.
To people from a western culture, this may seem odd. I know it did to me, and I am a sun bear! If someone doesn't want something and someone else doesn't want to give it to them, why do each of them pretend the opposite? It's just what Iranians consider polite because they value having a sense of togetherness. Manners in Iran are more complicated than some places, but it can become a fun back and forth exchange once you get the hang of it!
How to Help Iran
Iran has been separated from the rest of the world in many ways for a long time because of politics and how their government and the other governments of the world disagreed. This is sad, and has left Iran's economy - that's their businesses and jobs - struggling to take care of the people. Unfortunately, there is a very high unemployment rate, that means a lot of people are looking for jobs. However, the governments are working to get along better, so more people from America and other countries will be visiting Iran, which will make more jobs for Iranians. That's great news for everyone!
Iran deals with pollution just like a lot of the world. But for Iran, the weather can sometimes trap the pollution in some of the cities, like Tehran, causing the air to be pretty nasty. A big part of the pollution is the much older cars that they have there. You can always help Iran indirectly by taking care of the environment. You can plant trees (like Iranians are doing in the video above by PressTV), bike or take public transportation, carpool or use electric vehicles. Remember to turn off lights if you're done in a room and don't waste water.
If you have the chance to make an Iranian friend, you should. They are very polite and fun to talk to, and most Iranians that I've met love to laugh! Ask about their home and culture, and learn more about them. By opening yourself to learning more about Iranians and Iran, you'll help pave the way for a world filled with more tolerance and love, and that helps everyone!
Sizdeh Behdar Celebration and Hafez
Remember I talked about the 13th day after Nowruz and how special it was for Iranians? Well, at the end of this week it will be Sizdeh Behdar (seez-day beh-dar), the thirteenth day after Nowruz. Ali and Bahar's family, along with many other families, will be going to the park to celebrate! They asked me to stay and join them to celebrate, so I am super excited! Here is another great video by PressTV that talks about all the fun things we'll be doing.
Bahar wanted me to share with you a poem that is very special to her. This poem was written by her favorite Iranian poet named Hafez who lived around the 14th century. She hopes it will help you feel bigger than any problems you face.
My Brilliant Image by Hafez
Tomb of Hafez Photo By Fabienkhan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
One day the admitted, "I am just a shadow. I wish I could show you the infinite incandescence that had cast my brilliant image!"
"I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being!"
My time is almost done here in this beautiful country. Soon I'll be off to my next destination! Let's see if you can help me figure out where I will traveling to next based off these new clues I got from Viracocha:
- an island in the west Pacific ocean,
- where over 70% of the land is mountains, and...
- every year has a cherry blossom festival!
Can you guess where? I can't wait to find out!
If you want to join me and haven't already, ask your parent, guardian or teacher to click here to subscribe to my newsletter and join me on my adventures!
Thanks again friends and khoda hafez! خداحافظ
Joy Sun Bear