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Middle East Jasmine Dispatch

No More No Ruz
April 15, 2000

Jazzy's Journal

Date: Farvardin 13, 1379 (according to the Persian Calendar)
Place: We just got to Shiraz last night. Iran skies are blue, and it's a beautiful spring day.
Thought: "Love never fails."
Song: "That's Love"... A gospel favorite that my church choir sings; just came to me on the long ride yesterday. I've been singing it ever since.

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Beautiful meal
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Dear Diary,

Today was the thirteenth day of the New Year in Iran and it seemed that everyone in the entire country was outside celebrating. Me, I started the day with a lot on my mind. Even though we had a picnic planned, I woke up this morning feeling like maybe it would be best for me to stay in the room and reflect. With every new year comes new year's resolutions, and these long bus rides through the vast, dry desert for hours have given me time to think. Where am I in life? Where do I want to be? How will I get there? Those are big questions, very important questions, and they're often difficult to answer.

Map
Nevertheless, after a long shower and some quiet time in meditation and prayer, I decided to join the team for the day's events. "Carpe diem!" A seize-the-day attitude took over me. There was something waiting for me out there and I wasn't going to let it pass me by. So with pen and journal in hand, I disappeared into the wind, off to join the official Odyssey Seez Deh Bedar, or Thirteenth Day, festivities in the park. Traffic was insane. Streets were lined with families perched on rugs having lunch, snapping photos, and visiting with friends. Everyone was just buzzing with holiday cheer and excitement. This was a biggie. I was glad I didn't stay home.

Seez Deh BeDar

The two week long No Ruz celebration ends with Seez Deh Bedar. Seez Deh means Thirteen and Seez Deh Bedar is the process of getting over with or passing over the thirteenth day of the New Year. This day is usually celebrated outdoors, picnic-style. This is the last day of the New Year celebration, and life will return to normal the following day. Schools will re-open, shops will start on their regular hours and offices and government agencies will be back in normal operation. Therefore, this is one of the last opportunities to spend some festive, carefree days with family and friends and enjoy the fresh smells of Spring.

Once we finally arrived we were greeted by thousands of people, literally. The park was packed, with families picnicking, children with pants rolled up to their knees frolicking in fountains and grandparents on their blankets playing cards, laughing, and enjoying the day. This is just like the last Wednesday in the year, a holiday that turned living rooms all over Iran into party central. This time, however, the thirteenth day of the New Year celebration emptied the party into the streets. The idea behind this holiday is that thirteen is an unlucky number and no one wants to start off the New Year on a sour note. Families come to the park and "give the grass their troubles." Their houses will be clear of any negativity and the grass will wither in the sun to be reborn again anyway. It all works out.

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Jazz claps at picnic party
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My new friend Ismail spoke to me about this holiday as we dodged oncoming balls from a nearby soccer game. He explained that this was a holiday to avoid bringing negativity into one's home, but that the tradition didn't stop there. In addition, this is the one day of the year when people make a wish for the things they want to see happen during the rest of the year. It is said that boys and girls wish for husbands or wives. (I don't know, I heard a couple wishes for the new Sony Play Station.) Newlyweds usually wish for a house, a baby, or whatever is on their have-not list. I wished to rid myself of the heavy-hearted spirit that weighed me down on this thirteenth day; I wished to give it to the grass. With that, I tied a blade of grass in a knot, and as the knot opened, it would open my luck. That was it, according to Amir. Now, my wish would come true.

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abeja surrounded by kids beautiful background, mountains, trees etc.
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"OK, sounds good enough," I thought. Ismail left me to find his relatives, a feat that would take some time in the sea of people that had poured into the park. We had wandered quite a way away from where we started, so I figured I should try to get back to my "relatives," the other trekkers, too. That was where my adventure began.

"Ha-low! Ha-low!" A little voice shouted. "Well, hello!" I smiled, "Salam aleikom."

"Where are you from?" smiled a precious boy, proud to relate to me in front of his family who eagerly listened for my answer.

"I am from America," I smiled.

"Chay... Tea" His mother offered.

Well, that was the beginning of the end. News spread like wildfire! Families on neighboring blankets inquired about their guest. Soon, a large crowd was gathered around us. Little ones tugged softly on my hejab, "Mrs. Come, come!"

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girls drumming for me
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I finished my tea and bid farewell to my new friends, following behind a beautiful gray-eyed little girl who promised to play her drum for me. I noticed a similar commotion up ahead of us and was not in the least bit surprised to find Kavitha and Abeja at the center of attention. We hugged, and laughed at the sheer chaos that we'd all created. We agreed that Iranian people are by far the kindest people we've ever met. Neither of the three of us could walk through the park without being offered food, tea, a seat in the shade, or a dance performance.

All in all, it was a lovely day, and I was so happy that I decided to join the festivities rather than ponder the meaning of life alone in my room. Maybe that knot in the grass did open up some luck for me, after all.

Jasmine

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...jasminehamlett@bigfoot.com
 

Abeja - The Odyssey is Non-Profit, but Not Non-Prophet
Brian - A Chat with a Mosque
Kavitha - Trekkers and Mongols in Iran's Desert Plateau
Kavitha - An Iranian Dead Poets' Society
Team - Turn Off That Faucet! Water Doesn't Grow on Trees, You Know

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