Last night, we were graciously invited to dinner by Payam, the cousin of an Iranian student David met in Seattle. He brought us to meet his sister, brother-in-law, mother and nephew in their home. Pretty much everywhere we go in Iran, there is plenty of food being offered. I couldn’t believe we were having dinner after ice cream, tea, bananas, kiwis, apricots and other fruit.
When we first got to the house, Payam’s nephew Ali was shy and didn’t want to come out of his room. He first sent David to go in and talk to him to break the ice. Payam is an English teacher and has been teaching his six-year-old nephew. After a while, Ali still wouldn’t come out, so I was sent in next. Our conversation went something like this:
Ali: “Hello, how are you?”
Me: “I’m good, how are you?”
Me: “My name is Rebecca, what’s yours?”
Ali: “My name is Ali.”
Me: “Are you going to come out and join us?”
Me: “Your English is very good.”
Ali: “Of course.”
And so on. Ali finally got up the nerve to come out and couldn’t stop talking after that. As we all sat in the living room enjoying tea and talking, he went on about the work he was doing at school and a video game he likes to play, for which his uncle taught him to say, “let’s kick some alien ass!” Throughout our conversation it came up that I am a jazz vocalist and David sings in a peace chorus, so there was a request for a talent show. We couldn’t find anything to sing together, so David did a little excerpt from one of his songs. To my friends and coworkers who joked about sending me to do some “jazz diplomacy,” you’ll be happy to know that I gave them a little taste of Duke Ellington, which is always a good place to start for people who don’t know any jazz. I told them my boyfriend had told me earlier that day that there is a jazz song called “Isfahan,” and that I would have to learn it and sing it for them next time I came. Then Ali and his mom sang us a song about flying like a balloon.
Payam’s family then presented us with an amazing homemade Iranian meal. We all sat on the floor around a huge spread with two types of kebabs, rice, bread, salad, and a special Esfahani dessert. We had lots of great conversation about our trip to Iran so far, our work to promote peace, movies we like (once again I find myself behind my Iranian friends on watching American movies), and our desire for better relations between our two countries. Ali’s mom talked about watching BBC Persian with him and seeing coverage of the violence in Sri Lanka and not being able to offer him an answer when he asks why this is going on. Payam’s family was incredibly generous and it was wonderful to complement our visits to the beautiful sights on Iran with fun, social time with Iranians in their