Stray Dogma

iran-stray-dogsPicture it.

Nearly a hundred thousand stray animals – from dogs to donkeys – roaming an entire country.

One animal shelter.

For the whole country.

Just one.

Can you imagine it?

Fatemeh Motamedi didn’t have to. She saw it. Lived with it every day. And until she founded the country’s first and only animal shelter 9 years ago, stray animals there had no hope.

stray-dogs-iran

 

Where?

Iran.

Why?

 

 

In my opinion, it’s not wholly a financial issue. Iran is not a poor country. Their tiny wealthy/huge middle-to-low income ratio mirrors our own here in the U.S.

Neither do I think Iranians are heartless. They’re not. In fact, I found them overwhelmingly open-hearted and very conscientious.

So, when I posed the stray animal question during my trips there – to dozens of people from students to mullahs & government officials, from Tehran to the Caspian – I was not surprised by the varied answers I received.

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The Shitty Gritty

indiana_jones_holy_grail

In nearly every country I backpack through, the hunt for toilet paper is akin to Indiana’s search for the Holy Grail.

And so I bring my own from home, flattening and finagling to fit rolls of it into my pack.

 

 

I barely used them in Cuba, where I was taught by Cubanos to use pages of the Granma.

cuba-granma-newspaper

While staying in tent camps in Haiti weeks after the quake, I shared the flattened rolls with my Haitian neighbors. When we ran out, they showed me where to wash rags used for the shitty-gritty (add another to the multi-uses for Buffs!).

haitian-boy-peeing-beside-tent

Photo: Sylver Blaque / Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Local children of northern Madagascar rainforest villages followed me into the forest to see how I would use the flattened white roll.

In deeply rural villages in Afghanistan, girls stared suspiciously as I wiped instead of splashing with water.

squat-cartoon

 

Thank God there were no smartphones in the remote areas where I’ve shitty-grittied, or my squat would be YouTube-famous right now.

 

 

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Sweet Memory of Afghanistan

afghani-woman

Photo: Sylver Blaque/Kabul, Afghanistan

My skirt was too short by a few inches, exposing my ankles.

I pulled it down as far as I could; the elastic waist now hugged the top of my thighs.

At second morning prayer, I pleaded with both Jesus and Allah not to let my skirt slide from my thighs onto the ground in the middle of Kabul.

I had to buy a new, appropriate-length skirt.

Fast.

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The American Smile

woman-smiling

When we smile at someone, we expect them to smile back.

No matter what country we’re in.

Smiling is the universal symbol for friendliness. Right?

Wrong.

As it turns out, smiling is quite cultural.

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A Poo-Pee Post: What if there were no doors on public bathroom stalls?

toilet-in-a-forestSo, you walk into a public bathroom and pick your toilet.

No need to worry about peeking around the door to check if the toilet is clean.

There are no doors.

There are no toilets.

And toilet paper won’t be an issue because there isn’t any. It hasn’t been invented yet.

Neither have bathrooms.

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