Excited and Expectant

June 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s comic how fast fear and anxiety dissipate entirely once routine and order is introduced. Yesterday our itinerary arrived, bringing with it descriptions of the sites we will see (Persepolis, The Friday Mosque, ect.), promises of the smells and tastes we will experience (shay under a 4,000 year old cypress tree, fesenjoon and bademjan in the bazaar) and the alluring dreams of people we might meet. I can’t tell you just how anxious I was in the weeks between the time I mailed off my passport and yesterday. I had no time to be excited and expectant, instead I pragmatically researched  what it might mean for an American to visit Iran. The preparation for this trip really started a year or so ago, when my newfound interest of the region was strengthened with history books, pop music, a class aptly titled History of Iran—all of this information was gathered sporadically, from a myriad of sources, to help me understand Iran. And so it happened that I fell in love with a country I’d never seen.

But here’s the thing about those conventional courtships, where snippets of information are devoured with the utmost excitement—as the eventual meeting date grows closer, one begins to question just what exactly their enthusiasm has gotten them into. About a month and a half ago I bought my ticket, and started to focus not on understanding my elusive paramour, but rather to prepare myself to meet it. I scanned the paper, researched the realities of the legal system, mulled over blogs and travel websites, and began to realize that even the most well-intentioned of tourists don’t always follow the rules of the Islamic Republic. I began obsessing, wondering just how much of me–my past, my thoughts, my opinions, my body–was now a public entity. I’ve travelled far and wide, but I’ve always maintained the luxury of practically complete independence and autonomy, just as I do at home. I felt pathetic, like I was playing into the stereotypical fears of an ignorant, unaware tourist who assumed and generalized without a care in the world. I know better than this—after all, I had already proclaimed my infatuation with this remarkable place! How could I be wavering on the eve of my trip?

The truth is, I’ve never had to reconcile my somewhat romantic dreams of this country with the concrete realities of travelling there. I never thought I’d have to, so I tucked away my illusions of turquoise tiles, the soft, pleasing sounds of Farsi and mouthwatering kabob, along with my knowledge of the dress code, the awareness that the social is the political and the political is the social, and that the privilege of finally meeting that which I’ve fantasized will make reality better than dreams.

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§ One Response to Excited and Expectant

  • Iris Brito Stevens says:

    Beautiful words Alexa…I look forward to each and every morsel of your blog…As we send you off along your journey to IRAN I am filled with the optimism of a wonderful experience to come…You are well prepared and we have been readied even more thoroughly by that preparatory conference with Global Exchange…there is a sense of cautious awareness and great optimism for what lies ahead…I leave you with (what else?) a poem to express the words that are in my heart…

    When you travel,
    A new silence goes with you,
    And if you listen,
    You will hear
    What your heart would
    Love to say.

    A journey can become a sacred thing:
    Make sure, before you go,
    To take the time
    To honor your going forth,
    To free your heart from ballast
    So that the compass of your soul
    Might direct you toward
    The territories of Spirit
    Where you will discover
    More of your hidden life,
    And the urgencies
    That deserve to claim you.

    May you travel in an awakened way,
    Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
    That you may not waste the invitations
    Which wait along the way to transform you.

    John O’Donohue

    It is exactly one year ago today…that you and I were trekking along the Camino across northern Spain…and now one year later you are embarking yet again on another kind of journey…to the ancient and magical land of Persia! I am grateful for this opportunity for you…A piece of my heart goes with you and I am holding open the biggest and brightest wish for a safe and incredible adventure.
    Peace and Light Bonita….
    Mom

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