Category Archives: Family

Women Make the World Go Round

Traveling the world, one gets the sense that the treatment of women may be the most dramatic cultural difference from country to country.  It would be easy for one to generalize that women are treated with more respect and dignity in more developed, economically advanced societies, but unfortunately, that is not always the case.  I have found that there is usually something positive to be learned from nearly every society’s approach to women, even if it is not so obvious, as was the case in the countries of the Persian Gulf where I lived and worked.  I have also found that nearly every society, no matter how developed, is lacking in some way or another in its appreciation of women, their place in society, the dignity they should be afforded, etc.  This may be partly due to my bias on the subject and partly due to the fact that there is no monolithic, “correct” approach to gender issues that spans the globe and humanity.  But I can certainly speak to the women of my family and the importance they hold in my life and the life of my other male relatives.

It’s easy in a family like mine to under-appreciate the value of the women in our lives.  It is not because of any shortage of women, they are the dominant sex by numbers in every living generation.  But possibly, for that very reason, it has become easier to cloister ourselves, as men, in our own little world of male ignorance and ineptitude.  I do not want to give the wrong impression of my family, because we are not a family that disrespects women and we certainly do not view their place in the family or society differently than the average American family, but that just might be the problem.  Where does the average American family place a woman’s value and importance in the family and society?  These thoughts are more acute now as I watch as my wife manages pregnancy with brilliance and poise.

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Rather than answer the fluid question above, I would rather focus for a moment on what I know.  I have been married for nearly two years now, and my wife has given my life the missing sauce.  Yes, that’s right, I am like tasteless pasta.  I have come to appreciate the women in my life in a different, more complex way now that I am married and expecting a child.  They challenge us to think differently, colorfully is probably the best way to describe it, and without the cold ordered insensitivity that rules our thoughts.  I guess I should not use the pronoun “us” too loosely, as my feelings and thoughts on this subject are likely not those of “us” men as a whole.  But what has brought me to this gender-based topic is the flurry of life events my family has experienced in recent years.  From pregnancies, as mentioned before, to surgeries, career changes to engagements, and unfortunately, even death, our family has had its share of, “Oh wow! Seriously?” moments.  Each of these moments has been punctuated by the magnificence of the women in my family.

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Foods of My Father

Ab Goosht

Ab Goosht

What is a man’s legacy?  What does he leave behind for his children to appreciate?  Has his legacy made the world a better place?  It would be too much to say that my father’s legacy is his cooking, but not by much.  He has been on a culinary adventure for years, perfecting his craft and taking the opportunity to teach me and others along the way.  Now that he is semi-retired he has more time to focus his efforts, and the resulting recipes and dishes he has perfected (and sometimes created) hark back to the land of my forefathers.  An Iranian immigrant to the U.S., my father’s cooking has evolved to reflect both his love for Persian cuisine and his affection for rich, delicious dishes that he has encountered along the way living in Louisiana most of his life. Lately I have taken an interest in learning the tricks he has used to refine the time-honored dishes that have satisfied our family’s hunger, along with my mom’s down-home cooking (God, I love those biscuits!), for over three decades.

Why now and not earlier (or later) in my life?  My interest has probably peaked because of a confluence of events.  My wife and I are now proud homeowners, which, I presume, is the quintessential place to begin or carry on the traditional foods of one’s family.  We are also expecting our first child in the coming months, and we hope that he or she will use those fresh new taste buds to enjoy the classic’s from the TLA family cookbook.  And as we prepare to leave for Honduras for our second assignment abroad soon, we want to be able to take the comforts of home with us to that foreign land.  Of course being at the Foreign Service Institute provides time to think, that was rarely available in Bahrain.  Finally, in classic “teach a man to fish” form, my father has also decided the time is ripe for providing me with a recipe nearly every other phone call, such that I would have been cockeyed not to take a few notes and preserve a tradition so carefully cultivated over the course of a lifetime.

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Español es Una Montaña Rusa Para Mi

The tools of the trade.

The tools of the trade.

As diplomats we are given the chance to learn languages as rare and unknown as Quechua and as common as French.  This opportunity is at once a rare luxury and a humbling mind warp.  More than two years ago, when I finished studying Arabic and headed off for the Persian Gulf to serve in Bahrain, I thought that most likely I would head to another Arabic or English-designated posting for my second tour, but I fortunate enough to receive Spanish training for my consular assignment to Honduras.

Unlike Arabic, I immediately found Spanish appealing.  Arabic was a struggle the whole way through, with deep periods of disappointment, as it seemed I would never be able to communicate with any degree of comfort.  It’s true that today, if someone asked me if I speak Arabic, I would be dishonest to reply with anything more than “A very little bit, nothing more.”  Spanish, on the other hand, I soon discovered, was all around me in Washington.  If I wanted to I could completely immerse myself in the language without feeling distant from where I live here and now.  I was very excited about all the Spanish I would be speaking and the people I would be speaking Spanish with in the District.  That feeling faded about a month in, when I realized it was not going to be all pupusas and cerveza on the way to learning the mother tongue of Miquel de Cervantes, nor was I going to be speed-reading Don Quixote anytime soon.

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The Price of Service

I recently realized the price I paid by joining the State Department when my cousin in Iran died. Continue reading

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