Saturday, July 29, 2006

Offerings for the souls of those who have passed

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Kheiriyeh or Kheirat is something that is given for the soul of a loved one or someone who has passed on.

My mother recently gave Kheiriyeh, for the passing her much missed father.

Here is a video of my mother passing out some of her delicious rice pudding. As people get the offering, they usually say "Roohesh shad" or "May their soul be joyous", and then they pray for their soul by reciting the fateh, which is the following prayer:

This is recited once:

All praise is due to God, the Lord of the Worlds.
The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgment.
Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
Keep us on the right path.
The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray.

Immediately followed by this verse which is repeated three times:

Say: He, God, is One.
God is He on Whom all depend.
He begets not, nor is He begotten.
And none is like Him.

Translation taken from here and here

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hitching rides in Tehran

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Sure, it can be a bit of a fuss to get around without a car. However, in Tehran, people are likely to pick you up and drop you off to where you need to go.

As you can see in this video, I wanted to get into a cab, but I didn't find one going my way. So we just got into someone's car. They just picked us up, and dropped us in the direction we wanted to go (since it was on their way)...

There are also plenty of people who drive around town, pick people up, and get paid to do it (with their own cars). Usually people will say, it is free "ghabel nadareh" or it is not worthy of you, and then you say, no really, how much can I pay. Then they will tell you how much. This happens all the time, no matter where you go shopping.

"how much?"

"ghabel nadareh" (it is not worthy of you)

"No thanks, really."

"400 Tomans please." 



A superstition I can live with

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At least once a week, my grandmother will burn esfand (Peganum Harmala) for the family. The smoke smells really nice, acts as an antiseptic, and is also said to rid the effect of the evil eye. Rather than harming the person, any bad energy is said to be cleansed away.

It is also customary to burn esfand at weddings. Last night I went to a wedding, where this gentleman circled the esfand around my head before putting it into the fire.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hangin out with my great Aunt

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Ameh Akram is my mom's aunt (my grandfather's sister).



[the US] was very fun...and if i wasn't so old and if they were to ask me to go back [to the US] I would go.

I am afraid that if I go back something might happen to me...Or if they were to put me in a nursing home... I would rather sit in my own room here.

I saw my sister.  They put her in a nursing home.

It broke my heart.

I brought her in my house, even though my own leg was broken--she knows.

Yes, one or two years.

I brought her in my home and my own leg was broken.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

My Experiences with Technology in Iran this week

Due to some technical blog problems, I am reposting this entry.

I tried to go to the Craigslist website today and I got this error message.

I don’t know how to break through the blocked site restrictions, since the proxy sites were also blocked. However my cousin knows his way around it so I will ask him when I see him later today. I have seen these blocks before, but they are still sad.

Today I spoke to someone at Parsonline, a leading internet service provider in Iran, about getting high speed internet at my grandmother’s northern Tehran apartment. The highest speed DSL here is $500 a month, with a $60 connection fee! Dial up is only 12 dollars a month, and the ADSL connections range from ~$20-$500, depending on the connection speed. 512 kbps is still the maximum uploading speed, with a maximum download speed of 1024 kbps, at $500 a month!

I rented a cell phone line yesterday. First, I had to break the code that Cingular had on my phone—which I did break for around $15 dollars at a store that buys and sells cell phones. My cousin has an extra cell phone line, so I am using his SIM card and renting one of his lines for my time here. The flat rates here for cell phone rental are ~$30 a month, not including the cost per minute of the cell phone (700 Rials, which is ~8 cents per minute). No free weekends and evenings for phone calls, but at least the lines are much cheaper than they were over a year ago (from over ~$1000 for a line last year, they are now ~$650, with a long waiting list). There are also pay as you go phones, which I am told do not work as well and lack the reception of other mobile phone lines.

Since it is so much cheaper to send text messages here, text messaging is extremely popular. Two of my friends who I will be interviewing while I am here work in the telecommunications industry. I am looking forward to meeting up with them, and also getting their perspectives on the future of Iranian telecom.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hafiz Poetry

Hafiz Poetry Fortune

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I am in Iran now! It is so great to be here, amidst family and friends, people I love, wonderful places, and really wonderful experiences.

This first video is of me and a man who is selling Hafiz poems on the street.

Hafiz is a poet from approximately 700 years ago. His poems are still a major part of life in Iran today. Sometimes the person selling them will have a bird, who will then pick the poem for you. Each poem holds words of wisdom and love of life. Before picking a poem, it is advised to first call upon the poets soul.

Click here to read some of Hafiz's poetry and see what you come across today...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Project Description for Collaborators in Iran

I am having a detailed description translated into Farsi to all the people that I am giving cameras to. The cameras will be given out for a few days at a time, and I am asking for no more than 30 minutes of footage per person.

It will state:

1. The questions I am asking (What do you imagine for your life? What have been some of the most influential experiences or people in your life? What is life [school, work, friends] like? etc.).

2. Basic tips on how to use their camcorders (use only for conversations that are close up [since the quality of microphones on the cameras are not so powerful], try to keep your hand still while recording, please return the camcorder after so many days, etc.).

I am still thinking about this last one:

3. How to upload the video on the web. Although I will be having all the small camcorders returned after a few days (so that I can then hand them out to more people), it will be helpful to me and educational for others to learn how to start their own video blogs. Maybe I can teach people how to use Perhaps there will be a way to organize and teach people how to tag their videos so that they can be searchable? If they do not have an Internet connection in their house, it is possible to organize a place for them to come to upload their videos and media files.

I feel that this project will teach me a lot about how Iranians are currently using video on the internet, while giving people the freedom to share their own stories with the world.

Camcorders and Equipment

Please click on image to see it at a larger scale ;)

Today I got some camcorders for my trip to Iran (leaving on Tuesday).

1. Sony TRV950 (which I am borrowing from ITP (YAY), with an external shotgun mic. This I plan on using for interviews, as well as for shooting video of places that would be much better with high quality video (such as the drive to the Caspian, in the mountains around Tehran, etc.).

2. I bought my first Pure Digital Camcorder, which is a really tiny little camcorder available at your local Target. I am planning on buying 2 or 3 more and handing them out to other people in Iran (people I know or am certain will return the camcorders).

Friday, July 07, 2006

Really Inspiring Projects

After reading this thing called Putting Documentary Work to Work (download the pdf on this page) I was able to see a moment of crystal clarity where documenting and organizing different aspects of our lives can really share a story so powerfully within a community. Otherwise, it is all just a bunch of stuff, by itself. By establishing and re-creating relationships between information, we are able to give the information a context in which to live--so that it goes from words, sounds, images, and motion into knowledge and quite possibly, greater forms of wisdom.

One really inspiring project is Indivisible, "an exploration of community life in America by some of this country's most accomplished photographers, radio producers, and folklorists."

StoryCorps, is one such incredible project. Online, you can hear the tone and emotion in people's voices as they tell their own stories. Story Corps created StoryBooths and provided an opportunity, and a space, for people to share their own experiences. I really like this mother/daughter interview, among others.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Iranian People: Behind the Veil

While I am in Iran much of my experiences are with all kinds of people. As I mentioned that I will be shooting video of people that I know...friends, family, friends of family, and people that I will meet.

In Iran, the demographics are really quite interesting, where 70% of the population under the age of 30.

People always ask me about the veil in Iran, and I often bring up a point that few people know about it. As I was reading in this article, one of many describing the history of the veil in Iran:

In 1936, as a part of a Westernizing national effort, Iran's monarchy had banned the veil. Women who wore the veil despite the law were routinely arrested and had their veils forcibly removed. Eventually, as dress code rules were relaxed, women were allowed to re-veil, although the practice was largely frowned upon, particularly by the somewhat Westernized middle- and upper-classes.

After the Islamic Revolution, hijab soon evolved from a voluntary display of solidarity to a compulsory demand on women in Iran. Protests on the part of women's groups went unheeded, and the arrests and punishments of women who dared to defy strict codes of appearance became commonplace.

I imagine that eventually what will happen will be that those who want to wear the veil will wear it, and those who do not want to wear it will not. It is already apparent that women dress so differently all throughout Iran.

The veil that bothers me the most is the misunderstanding and miscommunication between the people of Iran and the US. However, today it is possible to use technology and new forms of participatory media to help us imagine, explore, and discover new ways of communicating with people around the world.

This communication can only begin with us, where we are now. I feel that I am but one vessel, or one path of many, in bridging the gap between two places that I have never felt to be as separate.

Scenic Places to See in Iran

So, I have come up with a list of places to see in Iran. After visiting Wikipedia, and Flickr, there seems to be lack of good information about Iran. Last I checked on google maps, there was not a single dot indicating life or civilization in Tehran. I have been asked if Iran is green, whether or not people ride camels, and how people get around. I have been asked these questions since I was a kid, and I am happy to share my experiences.

Some of the places I will be going to document are:

Sareh Pole Tajrish (Tajrish Square)--These Pictures are of Tajrish during the Persian New Year, but I couldn't find that many online. I love Tajrish because of how it feels when the sun is setting, the beautiful backdrop of mountains surrounding the busy city, everyone shopping, meeting up with friends, finding a ride home, meanwhile hearing the call to prayer, or prayers that are recited only during the holy month of Ramadan, which is one of my favorite prayers to listen to.

Mountains-- I LOVE MOUNTAINS, and have grown up loving the mountains surrounding Tehran. I would go hiking with my friends for eight or nine hours till we reached the summit of Tochal, and later we would take the tele-cabin back down. I have not yet been to the top of Damavand, which is the highest peak in the Middle East--but I was religious about going hiking in the tochal mountains as often as I could...

, the Caspian Sea, and Kish Island are great places to see as well. One of my favorite desert towns in Iran is Yazd, which is also the center of Zoroastrian culture. There tuly is a great variety of landscape in Iran.

Documenting: Past and Present

I feel that I have always loved to document my life experiences. I know I will eventually go through all of my stuff very soon and share parts of my life that I have saved (video, audio, images, drawings, sculptures, etc.) from the past.

As I relive my memories, looking at video and photographs, or listening to audio recordings, I have these moments where I am taken back to when something actually happened, so vivid in my mind.

However, now that I will be leaving soon to go to Iran (July 18th or so, I am buying my ticket today), I will be documenting my life in Iran. Last time I was there I took so many pictures, but I realize I have yet to document many of the places I am thinking of. Last time I was there, I took pictures of some of my favorite places, where I worked, a poetry reading at my house, a party at someone else's, traditional holidays, making rice pudding for religious mournings, or hanging out with family, and visiting old cities.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Iran Video Project: Experimental Documentary

This summer I am going to Iran to shoot video for an experimental documentary. I will be giving people cameras and asking them to shoot video, while shooting video of my own experiences in the process.

I plan on sharing my experiences of Iran—my life and the people that I know there. I will be taping people I know and experiences of mine from Iran to people in other parts of the world. I will asking people that I know—as well as those that I have yet to meet—questions about their lives, such as:

What is life like for you (school, going out, friends, work, etc.)?
What do you feel have been some of the most influential experiences of your life?
What decisions do you feel have had the most influence in your life until now?
Do you feel that social pressures inform your decision making? If so, what kinds of social pressures?
How do you see and imagine your life in the future? What kind of a future would you like to have?

What kind of questions would you ask?

Right now, the plan is that I will be interviewing people, and then handing out small video cameras (people can use their own if they have one on their phones or camera with video-capability) to shoot approximately half an hour of their life—brief moments that show a bit of their world. A few minutes from school, work, going out, and all the different aspects of life that they are be willing to share—places they love, places they have to go to—things they have to do, etc.

I am interested in sharing my experiences, while giving others an opportunity to speak about their own lives. Last year I heard about a project called Born Into Brothels, that really stuck with me. Ths past semester I started teaching video, animation, and vide-blogging in an after-school program in the Bronx. This experience inspired me to do a project where I could hand out small video cameras such as this one in Iran.

About me

My father always told me that Parastou ha hamishe be lane bar migardan, or “the swallows will always return to their nest.” When I was born, my family named me Parastou, which in English translates into the bird, the swallow.

I always see it as fitting that I was born in Switzerland—a country whose only memory that I have is of the transit in the airport between my two actual homes—Iran and the United States.

I was born in Geneve, Switzerland in 1980. I moved to the US as a baby, and at the age of seven I went to Iran for the first time. I spent every summer in Iran, and spent a couple years at Tehran International School. I also lived in Iran after graduating from Ohio State University, and spent two years living and working there. Last year, I returned to the US to pursue my masters degree in at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, where I am learning about interactive multimedia.

I am about to begin my second year at ITP, and right now I am sharing my personal stories of Iran, as well as my experiences of the people there that I love and know, and those that I have yet to meet. Today, people from around the world are able to share their experiences in an ongoing exchange—through video, the web, and participatory media, such as blogs, video-blogs (vlogs)—limited only by the scope of our imagination. This is my focus and emphasis with the project that I am working on—creating a space for communication and exchange where I can share my story of life in Iran with people here and around the world.