Sunday, July 15, 2007

More on Days 1 and 2 in Iran

These notes are a composite of comments by our traveling team, five students and their leaders….

Iran Day 1

The USA team arrived in Iran to a most welcoming greeting by the Iranian Organizers. The Organizers collected our group's passports and luggage claims and personally went through customs for the group. In the meantime, our students were brought to a reception room where they met the teams from China, Nigeria and Korea. They enjoyed morning tea and biscuits until all the customs formalities were taken care of. The airport was different because of the “silence.” There were absolutely no other people around, other than the several teams.

The group was then taken to a bus where they were brought to the university. The ride was uncomfortable only because the temperature outside was close to 120 degrees and the bus was cooled to a mere 90 degrees. The boys were housed together with their own guide while Jenny was given her own guide and brought to the Guest House with the other female team members. The coaches were housed about 20 minutes away. They were told by the organizers that their clothes would be taken at night and washed and pressed to be returned by 7am each morning! (Parents might note this expectation by their returning student.)

Already everyone is bonding nicely. The USA coaches, Paul and Bob, and Toufic were interviewed by the local TV, and the USA team is enjoying its celebrity status.

All in all, the arrival went quite smoothly and very quickly.

Iran Day 2

The Opening Ceremony was truly a great experience. It was opened by the Minister of Education; the Keynote Address was given by the Head of the Iranian Parliament – equivalent to the USA Speaker of the House. Throughout the ceremony, there was much dancing and singing; the ceremony ended with a “parade” of the student competitors marching across the stage. Afterwards, everyone sat down for a banquet.

Later that day, the leaders and students said ‘goodbye’ and separated until the next day so that the leaders could begin discussion of the first exam to be given at 8am Sunday morning (midnight on Saturday EDT). The students spent Saturday on their first excursion – Bird Garden with over 5,000 birds in an enclosed area, among many other sites. For breakfast, the 22 female students locked themselves in their dorm and enjoyed a “special” birthday breakfast for one of the Iranian girls. The US Team shared lunch, chatted and told stories with their fellow Netherlands teammates.

The one thread that keeps coming through from the USA group is that everyone is warm, welcoming, accommodating and very, very friendly.