Hi Friends! This month I wanted to go to someplace that many Americans don’t think about visiting but that my friends in Australia, Europe, and Asia have always recommended.
It is the birth place of chess, algebra and the guitar. Do you know where it is?
Today we know it as Iran! But like many countries, it used to be called something else. Iran was once called Persia, home of the great Persian Empire and one of the oldest existing cultures on Earth! Throughout history. it has given all of us around the world many important things. I knew I had to go and check it out for myself!
Where else to start but Tehran, the capital. The capital of Tehran has about 8 million people and over 50,000 mosques, making for some beautiful architecture. The population is said to be over 90% Muslim.
Iran is not just desert either, the city of Tehran is surrounded by tall, snow covered peaks. They even have two ski resorts, one of which is taller than any ski resort in Europe! As I hopped down the streets, I saw many beautiful rugs. One lady kindly explained to me in their national language, Farsi, that their people have been weaving rugs for over 25,000 years.
Then I found my first opportunity to help someone with translation. A Chinese couple were doing their best to buy a rug but were finding some difficulty in bargaining.
“Hello!” I called out in Mandarin. “How are you?”
“Good,” they responded, a little surprised that a frog like me could speak Mandarin. “We are trying to buy this beautiful rug for our house back home but he doesn’t seem to want to barter.” I explained that Persian culture is unique in the way that they value politeness so much that they act like they couldn’t possibility take your money at first. Once I helped them barter the rug for a fair price, I continued to ask what the couple was doing in Tehran.
“Well, Iran is the fourth biggest oil supplier in the world, and 22% of their oil is exported to China. We come over a few times a year to negotiate contracts. We also have friends who come here for similar reasons but they work in the plastic, chemicals, or fruit industries.
Actually, your translation skills are amazing! Could you help us in our business meetings? Our Farsi is very basic, and in meetings when both our suppliers and we both speak English, some details fall through the cracks.”
I hopped up excitedly, “Of course!” and we left to meet their friends at a restaurant.
In Iran, they traditionally eat on the floor. This restaurant had raised surfaces on which you sat cross-legged after removing your shoes. Food was served on the “ground” in front of you and utensils were optional. I noticed that saffron seemed to be in many of the foods we were eating.
When the Iranian business partners of my new Chinese friends arrived, I asked them about saffron being popular. “Yes, we export more than just oil and natural gas here! We are one of the world’s largest saffron, caviar and pistachio producers! We also are the home to Persian cats,” they said with a laugh. “Many great things come from Iran. Like the Post Office! That concept is an ancient Iranian idea, created thousands of years ago.”
Another Iranian woman chimed in, “Another funny thing about Iran is that we love nose jobs. I believe we are the country with the most nose jobs per year of any country in the world! Sometimes it is more a display of status so people will keep their bandages on longer than necessary to show off their operation.” Everyone laughed at this when another Iranian man added, “My cousin wore a bandage on her nose for months before we realized she had never had an operation at all!”
After I had helped my Chinese friends negotiate fair prices for the contracts they had come to discuss, I left to hop to another town outside of Tehran. The Iranian business people who had joined us for lunch offered to let me stay at their houses but I assured them I was excited to see another side of Iran outside of Tehran.
One of the women agreed with me, “Yes, there are many sides of Iran to see and know. We have made alcohol illegal, yet you may attend parties here in people’s homes where they drink alcohol they made in their bathtub. Women will shed their hijabs to display short sequin skirts, while their neighbors are busy praying at their mosque. While women still do not have as many rights as other countries may offer, you will see that the majority of our engineering students in university are women! So just when you think you’ve seen enough to know Iran, you will see there is still another side to know. Our history and culture has held strong for thousands of years. We have architecture and historical sights that date back to…well, did you know we are home to the first ever recorded doctrine of universal human rights? It’s called the Cyrus Cylinder. Iran is filled with wonders like this.”
So now I’m hopping all around the country of Iran, learning and taking as much in as I can. I’ve posted some photos here but be sure to check me out on Instagram for more adventures! Who knows where I’ll end up next! All I know is that I’ll be translating and helping spread clear communication wherever I go. Until next time!