If someone invites you to a “Persian Party,” don’t ask questions. Just go.

My brother recently got a job as an engineering assistant at the USDA. This is his first job where is he not a cook/slave in a nasty, greasy kitchen out of which pours the calories and fat that the chubby mouths of this country consume ten minutes before closing time. Besides that fact, this is really a great job for him to have right now as an engineering student. He is gaining valuable experience, and he works with a great team of intelligent and kind people. One of these intelligent and kind individuals invited him to a “Persian Party” this past Saturday. I think the brief texting conversation went something like this:

USDA guy: “Persian party tonight. Come as you are.”
Bro: “What’s a Persian party?”
USDA guy: “Persian dancing and Persian alcohol.”

So, with this information, my brother, my boyfriend, another friend, and myself expect (in our ignorant, puny brains) that the party will just be a bunch of white people participating in a semi-racist Persian themed drunk party. You know, with beer pong and that kind of junk. Well, in the end, I felt a little semi-racist myself for making this assumption. When we showed up to the party there was one white guy there, the one who invited my brother and who lived at the apartment of the party. Beyond that, there were about 20 Persian women and men in the living room, shaking it hard and getting sweaty as hell to some groovy-ass Persian tunes.

(Aside: In my four-and-a-half years of studying anthropology in college, I have never been to such a cultural event as this. And for the record “Persian alcohol” turned out to be rum, white rum, and vodka.)

Even though we were still in Kansas, and in our hometown, I felt like we had been transported to a different place altogether and were no longer a native to the space. For one of the few times of my life, I became the minority and was outside the barrier that is put up by language and cultural cues. It took me a little while (and a few drinks), but after being coaxed to dance several times I finally loosened up and became comfortable enough to make a fool of myself and attempt the dance style that reigned supreme. One classic move that several party-goers taught me was the “screw in the lightbulb” move. I guess you just shake your hips and simultaneously move your hand above your head like you are literally screwing in a light bulb, and alternate up and down. When I finally was doing it correctly I got smiles and encouragement from the team. I’m going to use that one at every party I go to now. Watch out!

At one point during the party there was a fire in the oven (I think it accidentally got turned on when someone was leaning on it), and the plastic cups and styrofoam plates that were being housed there were engulfed in flames. My brother opened the oven and pulled out a few materials with his bare hands and swatted at it to make the  fire go out. Some guys came over and worked together to get the fire completely out, and to open some windows to let some smoke out. While all of this was happening, a few dancers in the living room shouted things like “Fire!” or “Smoke!” but did not cease their dancing. They danced through the fire, the smoke, and the commotion, keeping smiles on their faces and sweat flowing on their brows!

A little further into the night, there was a cake, and knife to cut it was making its way from dancer to dancer. This seemed to be an interesting new turn of events, but myself and my cohort had been left out of this detail…IT WAS A WEDDING PARTY! The host, who works with my brother, got married about a week before and this was their celebration with their friends! I guess the tradition goes that the groom cuts the cake, but everyone tries to keep the knife from the groom so he can’t do this as it solidifies the union. That is until the groom gives the dancer money to get the knife from them. Once I got the knife, I had no idea what was going on and just danced around in the middle with it for way too long, and someone gave me a buck. I think because they took pity on me and wanted me to stop dancing. So then we ate cake and everything was so happy and lovely! And I got to go home with an extra $1, which I learned a little later may have been an insult. Heh.

This surprising party turned out to be one of the funnest I have been to in quite a long time, and it was most definitely a positive learning/breaking-out-of-my-bubble experience. Below is a video of an artist featured at the party who was obviously a crowd favorite — everyone squealed in delight whenever a song of his began. So, please play it and picture yours truly screwing in an imaginary lightbulb.

Vigen, Sultan of Pop

Hannah

Attitude Shift

I had this whole blog post written up that I was working on and I just scrapped all of it. The post was essentially a spillage of my emotions about where I am in my life right now – geographically, mentally, spiritually, and any other “ally” that you may wish to throw in there.  After sitting in my drafts folder for a few days, and with a few different ideas in my brain, I realized the post was much too self-pitiful and came to no conclusion. That is not the kind of post I want to include in my blog – that is the kind of thing I need to write in my personal journal.

With an attitude adjustment and some new thoughts, I want to focus on the same issue but with a more positive and productive filter.

In the past few months of being a college graduate, I think the “betwixt and between” phase has left me somewhat confused.  This is the first time in two decades that I have not been in school, and the time away from the classroom has sent me straight to Identity Crisis-ville. Who am I, if I am not a student? What do I do now? These are not novel problems; many college graduates go through these thoughts, especially at this juncture in economic history. Novel or not, these issues are important to me and my growth (hopefully) into a “functioning cog in some great machinery,” contributing to something greater than myself. How do I go about getting out into the world, outside of my hometown, to serve some kind of purpose as well as find personal happiness?

I’ve dwelt on the fact for a while now that I am not very well-traveled.  I stayed in my hometown for college and am still here working, moving into my own apartment, and making more and more commitments that will keep me here and from being “out there,” for a continuing stretch of time. While I am itching to get out there, I have yet to make the leap and actually JUST DO IT. That’s all it takes, right? JUST DOING IT. Don’t think – just do. I hear that a lot. Well, I really wish that were my approach, but that is not the kind of person I am. I am a planner. I over-plan and over-analyze, so when I make a decision I can be sure it is the “right” one. Unfortunately, I spend so much time planning, analyzing, and organizing, and as I am a pretty indecisive person, I rarely get to the doing stage. I have realized this about myself and this is something that I really want to improve upon. Yes, I can keep the planning, organizing part of myself satisfied, but should let a little of that go and be more willing to throw at least a tiny bit of caution to the wind. Other people do it all the time and come out on the other end quite alright, so I should have confidence to do the same.  I don’t want to be an idiot about it or anything, I mean, I am in a good amount of student loan debt, so I’m not about to quit my job, leave my dog, and go couch surfing for a year with nothing in my savings account. I’ve got to find some happy medium.

So instead of feeling sorry for myself because I’m still in MHK (which is really a lovely place to be, and I shouldn’t be ungrateful about it for a second), I’m going to accept the commitments I have made at this point, follow them through, and use this time to figure some stuff out. I am in the process of moving into my very own apartment for the first time, and am looking forward to the consistent alone/quiet time I will be getting for the first time in a long time. I will devote this time to really looking deep within and figuring out what my next step could be. I don’t want to meticulously plan anything more than is necessary, and not for a little while at least, but I do want to make a decision about what step to take next. Where to go next, even if it is not for very long. I don’t want to do any “soul-searching,” I want to do some “soul-making.” Not just meditate and eat Oreos for a year to figure out what the universe is calling me to next, but to search and search actively to find something for myself about which I can be incredibly passionate.

I want to read, read, read all different kinds of material in an attempt to learn about as many different things as possible to find something that piques my interest. I want to do, do, do (not doo doo) new things in and around my community that I’ve never done before and that stimulate me in new and interesting ways. I want to continue throwing pottery, as this is something that makes me feel differently than anything else I have ever done, and my new apartment is right behind our local arts center where I can do this as I please. I want to knit and challenge myself to create my own patterns as I go. I want to have people over to listen to records, drink good wine, eat great food, and have interesting discussions about everything. I want to abandon as many glowing rectangles as is possible when I can (so this will not include my 40-hour work week which consists of me staring at two computer monitors side-by-side). I want to take my dog to Arts in the Park and experience the local energy of MHK togetherness. I want to get into the habit of doing yoga every single day. I want to learn about the world and its inhabitants, and right now the best way I know how to do that is to use the resources that are available to me right here in the town where I grew up, with the people I love and know so well.

And after that I want to get rid of all my shit and go somewhere.

Hannah