Brownie Book II in Iran

(Note:  Brownie Book I traveled to Iran in 2008, and soon will be on display
at the Tehran Peace Museum.)

In Late April, Erica Wirtala, Troop Mother for Brownie troop 3385 of Kalispell, Montana, encouraged the troop members to create a scrap book telling about their interests, and where they lived.  The book needed to be self-explanatory, so that children in other countries, who might not know English, could look at it and learn about other children like them in Western Montana.

Brownie Troop 3385 Kalispell

This was not the first “Brownie Book”.  A year earlier Troup 3385 had created such a book and it had been carried  to many cities and towns in Central Iran by members of a People to People tour sponsored by Neighbors East and West of Richmond, Indiana.

Brownie Book II was completed on April 20, and thanks to the efficiency of Fed-Ex it arrived in Indiana just in time for this year’s departure five days later.  The book includes a page for each troop member, with photos depicting their life and interests. Sprinkled among its pages are pictures of Montana wild life, a wild turkey feather and artistic collages of hearts, flowers and other designs created by the children. It also includes a map of the United States, and a map of Montana, so that children could find the location of the Kalispell troop.
Ruth in Abyaneh        Roger Abyaneh
Brownie Book II traveled happily to Iran in the back pack of Ruth Neff of Whitefish, one of the leaders of the tour group of 24 Americans.  Iranians of all ages were curious about the travelers, since so few Americans visit Iran these days.  The Iranian children were often the least shy, willing to try out the little bit of English which they knew on the foreigners.  When the Brownie Book inevitably made its appearance, other onlookers would be drawn into this little vignette of the lives of 9 young girls living in the Northwest.  The turkey feather was always popular, eliciting cries of “boogalaman”, the fitting Iranian name for that big bird.
Brownie Book in Shiraz
Eventually there would be further conversations between Iranians and Americans, and it was not difficult for both sides to realize that they shared a mutual friendliness and desire to learn about each other.

All in all, the Brownie Book was looked at in six large cities in Central Iran, and in many small villages in between. Along the way it was part of a picnic near the tomb of Cyrus the Great, was read by a group of Oil Company workers in the Shiraz Bazaar, and was serenaded with the ABC song by kindergartners in Abadeh.  It also was seen at the tombs of the hallowed Iranian poets Sadi and Hafez in Shiraz, among the ancient columns of Darius’ palace in Peresepolis, and in the beautiful Nagash e Rostam Square in Esfahan.
Abadan Children sing ABC
Brownie Book II returned to the United States on May 10.   In its new role it will be part of programs to show that Americans and Iranians can be friends, despite the rhetoric of their governments.  Its first appearance, fittingly, was at a Brownie Troop meeting on May 11 in Fishers, Indiana.

(Note:  Neighbors East and West is an organization based in Richmond, Indiana, which seeks to promote understanding among citizens of the world through people-to-people travel experiences.  It concentrates on travel to countries which are thought of as our enemies, such as Cuba, the former Soviet Union, and, at present, Iran.)