WHY GO TO IRAN?

GO TO IRAN BECAUSE…

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It’s the elephant in the room. With all that is going on in the Middle East in general and Iraq right next door in particular, and the “official” view of America in Iran, why would any one choose to travel to Iran just now?

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Listen to a few Iran Peace Corps Volunteers who have traveled there recently:

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     Ann Taaffe (Yazd, 1964-66)  Much has changed in Iran since our days there, resulting in a higher standard of living for many. For those with a heart for Iran, it remains a great joy! Of course, we all long for a government friendlier to women’s rights, human rights and greater freedom. I hope that the deep goodwill I experienced in Iran will help to bring about solutions on a governmental level. If you have not been back to Iran since your Peace Corps days, find a way to go. You will love it!

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     Carolyn Yale (Shiraz, 1974-75)    The three of our group who had lived in Iran were eager to revisit and, viewing the politics of that summer with trepidation, hoped that Iranian hospitality would smooth any rough spots. As it turned out, the hospitality and interest in Americans exceeded all expectations.

     Behind the inspiration of this special journey to Iran was the dream of building a people-to-people exchange in science and culture. Intervening events have postponed that effort, but not extinguished it. One of our group, Alan Hale, remarking on the friendship he felt among people he met on the trip put it this way, ‘America, are you listening?’

 

     John Lorentz  (Karaj, 1962-64)  My expectations were far exceeded in the overwhelming warmth, even joy, in the hospitality we experienced throughout the country. It was exactly as I had remembered from pre-revolutionary days and not in the least besmirched by the politics of the day  

…Tehran is a relatively well-ordered city – much easier to get around in than the mid-seventies with a superb subway system worth riding just to take in the beautiful art work that adorns each station.”

…Nowhere did I find the decay I remembered or expected. Each city and location had its own vibrance.

…The highways in Iran are in better shape than where I live in the U.S.A.

…Those able to return will find much familiar and much changed, but I suspect they will feel as I did, deeply re-energized by the encounter with Iranians, and grateful for having had the privilege of once calling Iran ‘home’.

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Doug Schermer
(Semnan, 1966-67) I always wanted to return to Iran for a visit, especially to Semnan where I served. I really wanted to show Iran to my wife. She’d seen my pictures but I wanted her to experience places like Persepolis in person. In 2002 the National Peace Corps Association helped sponsor a tour to Iran. It was the first opportunity we had to go and we took it, although Semnan was not on the itinerary. 

     In 2014 there was a posting about a trip to Iran on the PCIA Facebook page featuring an optional extension to visit places, like Semnan, where volunteers had served. We jumped at the chance! We enjoyed the two-week tour before traveling to Semnan. It had been 47 years since I had seen Semnan and the people who changed the course of my life.

So….Beeya Bereem!  Let’s Go! Visit Iran, and tell us about your trip.

Jackie’s Corner – How Going Back Changed My Life

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In 2005, I attended a journal-writing workshop and spent a weekend delving into my deepest aspirations, dreams, and dormant memories. During two days of intensive writing, something stirred in me, and in the car on the way home, I suddenly realized that I needed to go back to Iran. I needed to know if the country was really as grim and scary as the media portrayed it, and I needed to reconnect with whatever was still recognizable of the Iran I had loved. I walked in the door and told Mike, “We’re going to Iran!” He looked at me and said, “OK!”

Our return took place in 2006 – two weeks with Global Exchange, traveling up and down the tourist “spine” – Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, Kashan, and back to Tehran. We were stunned at the welcome we received. On the plane from Frankfurt to Tehran, the woman next to me said, “We love the American people. We’re sorry about the problems between our two governments, but those are between the governments, not the people.” This was reiterated to us many times every day throughout the rest of the trip.

Iran was friendly, modern, clean, and beautiful. It was June, but I was comfortable in my scarf and coat, because the buses and hotels were air-conditioned. Outside we often sat in the shade in parks or lovely teahouses.

Upon our return, Mike and I felt a sense of urgency about sharing the message from so many Iranians: “We love the American people”. We began showing a slideshow of our trip around our area, and we joined a local organization called American-Iranian Friendship Council. We began following Iran issues in the news more closely.

I decided to take Persian at Portland State University to refresh my skills, and became friends with the instructor, a young Fulbright scholar from Tehran, with whom Mike and I became friends. She is back in Tehran, but her two sisters are in the US and we communicate with all three of them regularly.

In 2011, I joined with other Iran RPCVs to present the Portland reunion received so emotionally by the 300 people in attendance. From that event, PCIA was born, followed by subsequent reunion/conferences in Boston and Austin. Mike and I returned to Iran in 2008 with a group of our own family and friends.

In short, my trip to Iran in 2006 expanded my world, reconnected me to my Peace Corps experience, helped me become more informed about Iran, made me a better citizen, and opened up myriad ways for me to be of service in the ongoing dialogue about Iran’s place in the world. My life is fuller and more meaningful for having returned to Iran in 2006. I came back 35 years later to the place where my world initially opened up, only to learn that the opening never ends.

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Carolyn Yale

Ann Taaffe

Doug Schermer

John Lorentz

Jackie Spurlock