March 16th, 2010 - There’s no place like home
First I would like to thank Stephanie Schell for her generous donation. I wish her the best of luck and success in her endeavors.
Although I have been practically homeless for over 8 months, California sure feels like home, and it’s nice to be back. My five week excursion to Iran was bittersweet as I got to see and leave my grandparents for what I know for sure was the last time. Iran was just Iran with everything the same as I left it 10 years ago. The people were the same, the culture was untouched and from what I could tell, the only real difference was the mushroom-like apartments which were built on every corner.
I visited a few orphanages in Shiraz and got to see aspects of the “traditional” poverty in Iran which screams for education. A notable orphanage was the Narjes Home which focuses primarily on underprivileged children with mental and physical disabilities. This facility is an award winning non-profit, non-governmental rehabilitation and care center located in Shiraz, Iran which is home to many children. I was greeted by a blind kid named Zahra at the entrance who almost didn’t let me go until the end of my visit. I spoke to the management team and had a brief meeting with some of their directors to find out their problems and to see if we can do anything food wise for the patients.
Iranian people are semi-religious (they are just as religious as if a cow that was born in a tree is a bird, I wouldn’t call them fanatics) and because of their beliefs, they usually provide food for these kinds of places so generally the orphanages have no shortage of food. In fact the kids at Narjes were very well fed and I envied the fresh squeezed juices they were having after their lunch. What they needed most was diapers and cleaning supplies which are out of our organization’s focus, but I managed to round up some locals, family and friends to attend to their needs for the upcoming New Year (Persian New Year starts on 21st of March, the first day of spring). Overall this place is a very well-run institution which actually spends the money it raises on its patients rather than showing them off as poor to make more money. We cannot fundraise for them, and we will not as our mission is something else, but if anyone is interested in sparing a few dollars for these children, you can help out by visiting their website. I personally vouch for their honesty as I reviewed their financial statements, organizational documents and service records and found them to be exemplary.
Iran with all its peculiarities is still a notable place to visit. The people were hospitable, food was great and the traffic as deadly as it comes. For every car there were two motorcycles on the road and at times, the whole country seemed to run on two wheels. In fact, if you ever get stuck in traffic, all you have to do is to jump on back of any bike and it automatically becomes a two-wheeled taxi. The rest is like being in a 3D movie theater as every object comes to millimeters from your eyes before miraculously disappearing. Motorcycle taxis are plenty in big cities of Iran and you can expect your rider to have no helmet, wearing flip flops and riding like he’s Ted Kennedy and the liquor store is closing in 5 minutes.
I have to get new tires and do some adjustments on the bike and I’ll be on the road heading for Arizona for our World Hunger exhibitions and lectures. The weather is nice, the bike is running like a champ and the roads open. Till next time…