Appreciating Diversity: Is There an App for That?
September 26, 2013
Yazd and Shiraz
While travel seems the most obvious way to expose oneself to new cultures and ideas, what should I do with that awareness? Is there an app for that?
This morning, we left the city of Yazd in Yazd province, and by the close of the afternoon, were in Shiraz, in Pars province, passing through the Zagros Mountains. Over the past few days, we had started to recognize some of Yazd’s city landmarks, finding the place increasingly familiar. Once again back in the van, we were leaving that familiarity.
I have been finding wearing a head scarf, oh so clumsily held in place by hair pins, increasingly familiar, too. I can now easily swing the scarf’s ends back over my shoulders when the ends droop down when I lean over. Pretty easy to do, really. My other clothes make me hot in the 90+ sunny, dry weather, but they are appropriate, they “work”.
I recognize much of the delicious food that I have eaten since I arrived in Iran, primarily because some dishes remind me of meals I ate in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. So let’s break this down…one new dish to me is fasenjan, made of chicken, walnuts, and pomegranates. I like all of those foods separately, so there was a good chance I would like them combined. Unbelievably good! In this region of southwestern Iran, farmers grow wheat, grapes, pistachios, and corn, reminding me of portions of Turkey and the United States. Familiar turf, literally.
So, if I step out from the known to the unknown, it isn’t really that far away. We talked today about Avicenna, an ancient Persian physician and lawyer who had written major treaties in these disciplines. I have taught about him many times to 9th graders, but from the outside looking in. His life and career are part of Iran’s prized heritage, more familiar to me now so I can look at his reputation from the inside looking out. Familiar.
On the streets, I have noticed family groups of parents and children, and extended family members…like nanas. I know about these groups of people in my own life with joys, squabbles, so on. I set my mind to imagining what they had for breakfast or what it was like to get ready for school or work, fixing lunches, cooking dinner. I have done all these things. Familiar.
We passed nearby the edges of Bamu National Park where families go to camp and have a get away. I have done that, and I can imagine them getting the gear into the car, figuring out what foods to shop for to eat, agreeing on the time to leave home. Oh, and worrying about ants and bears, and fearing that they won’t get to see the deer their friends had told them about. Given the fact that Iran sees over 300 days of sun a year probably means they don’t worry about soggy tents. All also familiar, except for the no rain concern — always seem to rain for me.
Before arriving in Shiraz, we visited Pasargadae where Cyrus the Great, the ancient Persian king is buried and where his empire had its capital in 550 BCE. While we were there, we saw numerous other groups, some Iranians, some foreigners from east Asia. I watched them encountering the site, and wondered how they integrated knowledge about Cyrus into their understandings about leadership in their own country or as Iranians thinking about the achievements of early Persia under Cyrus’s rule.
Let’s just say that I could download an app for appreciating diversity. I could pull it down from the cloud, and see it soon on my heart-top. I could open it, and energize myself into welcoming all that was different. So, try it, share the app with a friend, even. My guess is that you may find that the ability to appreciate diversity was really there all along just hidden from view somewhere on your heart-top, and you really didn’t need the app.