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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sad, Bittersweet, Sweet

Hi All,

There's a bit of all of the above to go around. Sara and I are back from our trip around Iran, after much hassle, never-ending visa problems (ok, it finally ended), and other assorted pains in the neck. But really, I'm the only one back in Qom, as my lovely wife has already left for much greener pastures as she gets ready to start her pre-medical, post-baccalaurate program in just a few days. But I'm not Paki-less! My friend and fellow PhD student from UVa, Rizwan, is in Qom for the summer, trying to learn some Persian and setting things up for his anticipated dissertation research here in a year or so.

Since Sara always gets on the blog and blabbers about her family, I thought I'd do a little bit myself...

First, the sad. My cousin Anthony passed away much too young. You can take a look at the great web site his brothers Chris and Jeff made here: www.anthonymazzetta.com

Next, the bittersweet. My "uncle" (great-uncle) Bill Taylor also passed away recently. He and Aunt Peg always sent me birthday cards when I was a kid, even though I always thought "who are these people again?" As time went on, I got to spend more time with them as they left Montana for California to visit family more often--or perhaps I was just around more often? You can read his death notice here: http://www.legacy.com/BillingsGazette/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonId=17619367

Finally, the sweet. Watch the Goldstein/Sims clan (Uncle Alan and cousins Karyn and Ben) of Santa Cruz get medieval with a Crossfit "Workout of the Day": http://media.crossfit.com/cf-video/goldstein-sims.wmv . Better them than me.

~Robert

11 Comments:

Anonymous Yash Owada said...

Bob,
Ben gave me this site when we got together in Tokyo on 4/1, but never
had a chance to log in. So good to read the LA Times Column One about you and Sara this morning. You're giving Paul Driscoll some headache having to deal with an onslaught of
applicants for Islamic Studies at Johnston! But really, so wonderful to see you grow in experience and wisdom. Do take care. Yash

9:31 PM  
Anonymous sdswmr@earthink.net said...

Hi -- I found your blog through an article in the L.A. Times about your religious studies and life as an American in Iran. I would love to contact you. I am a grad student in Anthropology, studying the Iranian comm. in SoCal. Do you have an email address?
Margaret

9:59 PM  
Blogger Charmaine said...

I saw an article about you in the L.A. Times where it mentioned that Sara believes the U.S. government is bad. So I read many of your articles and comments. Like many Americans I know I look forward to a day of carefree travel to the Middle East to see many of the places you mention and to meet the wonderful peopel of Iran and Iraq. But I do not understand how learning more about the Islamic culture can explain away the human rights abuses of the government of Iran. U.S. help toward democracy may be unwelcome in that part of the world but who will else will work to spread democracy and freedom? Certainly not the U.N. Commission on Human Rights which honors horribly repressive regimes with membership.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Kutz said...

Robert,

Glad to read about your experiences in Iran, and especially Qom. I lived in Iran from 1976 to July 1979, so I got to experience some of the Revolution. My experience is similar to yours in that I found people to be generally accepting, in spite of the political situation. I lived in Dezful and often traveled by bus to Tehran. We always stopped for a food break in Qom. Has the water improved? That is my long-term memory of Qom, the water tasted like the frog just jumped out of the glass before they brought it to the table.

I have not yet had time to catch up on all your blog entries but I want to wish you the best of luck in your studies and your adventure. If the newspaper article was accurate, I understand your frustration in your search for a spiritual connection in this holy city. I think the fact that a spiritual connection proves to be elusive, and then it pops up in the most unexpected way and place, only proves its true value and how special it really is. It is not something that you can search for intellectually or with a carefully thought-out plan, because it is not of the intellect. It is of something greater than our intellect and our ordinary selves. You have to search for it in an ordinary manner but it will reveal itself in a most extraordinary way, time, and place.

Best of luck,

Jeff Kutz
jdkutz_68@hotmail.com

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Rakesh Mohan said...

in a story in the LA Times you expressed dismay at the Iranians because "All they want to know is how much things cost in America." but come on! what did you expect? that they'd spend the entire day praying? they are human beings just like the rest of us, they like nice things like i-pods, computers and cars. i'm a hindu born and living in the West Indies and i don't know about you but i'm satisfied just knowing that they are generally decent, kind people and not the mob of wild eyed, screaming fanatics many Americans think that they are.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Irfan Ali said...

Dear Yash,

Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by the site! Thanks to you and JNST for putting me on the right track!

Best,
Robert

6:29 AM  
Blogger Irfan Ali said...

Hello Margaret,

You can reach me at rtappan (AT) hotmail (DOT) com.

I'd be happy to help you as best I can.

Best,
Robert

6:31 AM  
Blogger Irfan Ali said...

Dear Charmaine,

Thanks for visiting the site and for your comments.

I think Sara and I take a view similar to Shirin Ebadi's (http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/articles.asp?id=37221) as far as "spreading democracy" in Iran. In fact, to some significant degree, democracy is here, and Iranians themselves are continuing to work out just what that means and how far it goes for themselves.

The bigger problem with the US government in this respect is that the adminstration really doesn't understand this part of the world and seems more interested in imposing it's own vision here, rather than what the people themselves want. And not just in Iran--please click on the link on our blog to "In the Axis" to read my friend Brian's excellent blog on Syria for more insights into this region.

Best,
Robert

6:51 AM  
Blogger Irfan Ali said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your post! I actually blogged a bit about Qom's water here: http://sweetsohan.blogspot.com/2006/01/salty-water-nice-people.html

Now there's a big new western-style rest area outside of Qom, called Mehtab. Haven't been, but one of the Iranian web sites did a write up on it.

The longer I'm here, the more I agree with what you wrote WRT to spirituality. Thanks for your thoughts on that, they mean a lot.

Best,
Robert

7:00 AM  
Blogger Irfan Ali said...

Hi Rakesh,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

What we were trying to express by that quote was that just because we are from America it is assumed that we have a lot of money. This is often expressed as "how much does that cost in America"? When we tell them that whatever it is costs $5 instead of the 50 cents it probably costs here they are so surprised, as if we must be rolling in the dough.

Of course, that neglects the fact that yes, things cost more in the States, but incomes are much higher too. But what it really overlooks is the fact that Sara and I are dirt-poor college students with enormous school loans who actually have less money in Iran than do Iranians of similar education and background.

Glad it was clear that Iranians are human beings just like anyone else. That is the point we wanted to make and was the whole reason we agreed to do the interview.

Best,
Robert

7:06 AM  
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