Shrewsbury resident presents trip to Iran to students
Submitted by Samantha Yard, Oak Middle School seventh grade student
Sue DiLeo, Oak Middle School guidance councilor
Shrewsbury- Bob DeCoteau, a former eight-grade Geography teacher with the Shrewsbury Public Schools, presented his two trips to Iran to the seventh-grade students recently at Oak Middle School. He first talked about how he had to get permission to go to Iran through the Pakistani embassy because there isn’t an Iranian embassy in the United States. When asked in a questionnaire what his purpose was for going to Iran, he knew that he would be considered a journalist by the Iranians because he wrote some articles about his past travels, so he answered that he was a journalist, rather than a tourist. When you hear Mr. DeCoteau talk about his travels, you know very quickly that he is not your “average tourist”.
He then talked about the history of Iran, the Iran Hostage Crisis, which began in 1979 and ended in 1981, (lasting 444 days) and the present government. He also talked about how Muslim women are treated differently than the men, especially when it comes to dress. The women must wear clothes that show as little flesh as possible and they cannot show their hair. The older women tend to wear mostly black, but many of the younger women are pushing the envelope by wearing fitted clothes, brighter colors and jeans and sneakers. Sometimes, the modern dressers may get scolded and embarrassed by “the morality police,” according to Mr. DeCoteau, where the women, who are not dressed properly, are taken by the police, to the station. They then have to get picked up by their fathers, grandfathers, or male members of their families. This rule is also true in Saudi Arabia and in Yemen where Mr. DeCoteau has also travelled.
Mr. DeCoteau also showed us many pictures of beautifully designed modern buildings. Some people in the United States may think of Iran as being a third world country where there’s lots of desert and no modern conveniences, but that isn’t true. Even villages far away from the cities have conveniences like refrigerators, electricity, running water and flat-screened televisions. He likes to sit down and have a meal or drink tea with the people that he visits. He doesn’t just walk around like a tourist and take pictures of the buildings, he tries to meet people, have tea with them and eat in their restaurants. He often gets invited to people’s homes to share a meal and has tried a variety of foods, including goat’s head soup. He communicates with the people through his guide or interpreter and by showing pictures of his family and his home in the states. He even stayed with nomads for one night and slept on a rug in a tent in the desert.
Mr. DeCoteau has traveled to 108 countries out of the 150 countries in the world.
He is planning his next trip to go to Ethiopia and possibly Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan. If you ever have the chance to hear Mr. DeCoteau talk about his travels, you should definitely go to a presentation because he’s very interesting.
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