Dear friends, this is probably as shocking to you as it was to me when I first heard the news. I am at once excited, nervous, and deeply honored to be a part of this amazing opportunity.
As many of you know, I have had an obsession with Iranian culture for the last three or four years. It is very similar to the way I felt about Africa, about Italy, and about Brasil before that. I have been studying their history, music, and language ravenously for four years. I find them to be some of the wittiest, deepest, warmest, soulful people I know. They are also extremely FUNNY!
Their music strikes a chord in me that feels karmic. Ironically, in 2005 I applied to the Iranian Embassy for a Visa. My plan was to attend a school there for a month or two to study Classical Persian Music and to learn more of their language of Farsi to better communicate with the people. I also hoped that my being there would create my own little ripple in the bigger pond as it were to show that we are pretty nice people and have sincere interest in them as people as well.
My Visa of course was rejected. This was 2005, and though they were intrigued by my strange inquiry, relations between Iran and the United States have not been great lately as most know so they told me to try again in a year or so.
Through a rather strange series of circumstances, out of literally nowhere came this opportunity. It was entirely unplanned truth be told and I am shocked at how beautifully odd, or oddly beautiful, things work out sometimes. I was at a two day Community Building Leadership conference being held at a beautiful convent that sits upon fifty acres in the middle of the woods in upstate New York a few months back. That’s a loaded statement I know, but I have a deep love for this particular place of peace and serenity in the middle of the woods, and for the kind-hearted, open-minded, intelligent, and generous Sisters who live there. It is a deeply spiritual and relaxing place to retreat to when one can.
There happened to be one who I had never met before, Sister Ellen Francis, because she was “just visiting that weekend” (talk about destiny) and we became fast friends. We spoke a lot about our love of other cultures, of technology and the internet, our love of connecting to the Divine, and our various volunteer and activist activities around the world, and she asked me if I would be interested in applying to go on some Peace Delegation Trip to Iran that she was going on in 2008. One has to wonder if angels weren’t laughing their wings off in hysterics in that moment at the sight of my dropped jaw and wide eyes. Of course I began speaking a million miles an hour telling her how I know all of the famous Persian composers and poets and writers through the centuries and how I had spent the last three years studying the language of Farsi and how I even applied for a Visa on my own. Neither of us could help but smile.
She then explained that there would be a lengthy application process and there was no guarantee that my application would be accepted out of all the hundreds that they probably receive for such trips. (It took over a month, and felt more like a college entrance exam to be perfectly frank, but I was accepted). She then told me that each delegate pays a fee for the trip. My jaw went back up and my heart went back into my brain. A friend of mine who was sitting at the table with us casually commented, “Fishy I’ll contribute $50 myself if you are actually selected. No harm in at least applying. Just do it.” So I did.
And there it is in a nutshell. Of course, the band still has two new CDs coming out early next year and who knows where this little side road fits in with all of that. But I will bring along the usual arsenal of cameras and tripod and create YouTube videos of the trip to keep you all as close and connected to the trip as I possibly can. Most of all, I hope we are really able to connect with the Iranian people in a sincere and impactful way and help do our small part to bridge us closer together, and one step further from conflict. To all of you are contributing and have contributed to past adventures of yours truly, thank you!