202 days too many

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Today marks 202 days that my friend Josh has been held in detainment in Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. In July of 2009, Josh was hiking with his two friends Sarah and Shane in Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region that has not seen violence or unrest since 1991, when they mistakenly crossed the border to into Iran. Since then, they have been held mostly in solitary confinement and denied contact with friends and family or access legal counsel.

I met Josh in January of 2009 on my study abroad program with IHP. We traveled to India, China, South Africa and Switzerland studying community health. Officially, Josh was the program fellow — essentially the person responsible for coordinating logistics of our crazy travel plans and overseeing the health and safety of the other students. In actuality, Josh played the role of friend, brother, cultural broker, comic relief, teacher, and role model. Josh is one of the most intelligent people I know. He is outrageously funny, honest beyond belief, and one of those individuals who just makes you feel happier when you are around him.

The past few months I have met dozens of friends and family members of Josh, Sarah and Shane through organizing in New York on their behalf. Never, ever did I think we would still be here, six and a half months later, without any clue as to when they may be released, or how they are dealing with the circumstances, both physically and psychologically.

On Monday evening, to mark the 200 days of detainment, friends of Sarah, Shane and Josh gathered at my apartment for a meal and to exchange ideas on what to do next. Jessica was in from out of town, which was a special treat, though I was sad that day, feeling overwhelmed and just still full of so many questions. I decided to bake a loaf of bread. Baking bread has the most calming effect. It is a rewarding, cathartic process, and that is just what I needed. And it reminded me of Josh – his calm, composed nature.

Over six months is long enough. It’s time for Josh to come home. In the meantime, we can make bread…. For more information and to see what you can do to help bring Josh, Sarah and Shane home, please visit http://freethehikers.org.

Based on the Tassajara Yeasted Bread Recipe

Ingredients for the starter:

3 cups of warm water

1 ½ tablespoons dry yeast

1/3 cup maple syrup (note: the maple syrup I used was from our CSA and it was much thinner and less sweet than a lot of maple syrup. I would not use as much if I was using a sweeter variety.)

1 cup dry milk

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups AP flour

4 teaspoons salt

½3 cups of olive oil

1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour

1 ½ cups of AP flour

1 cup AP flour on hand for kneeding

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water using a fork to gently mix. Stir in maple syrup and dry milk once the yeast is dissolved.

Stir in 2 cups of whole wheat and 2 cups of AP flour and beat using a spoon.

Cover with a cloth, preferably wet with warm water, and let rise for about 45 minutes. Make sure that the bowl is not exposed to a draft. I like to keep the starter over a radiator.

After the starter has risen, gently mix in the salt and oil. Then fold in the additional 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.

Knead on a floured counter top. Additional flour may be needed. Kneed until dough is smooth.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise for an hour. Then punch the dough back down.

Repeat once again, covering the dough for only for 45 minutes.

Split dough in half with a knife and bake in the oven in two greased 9” round cake pans, or two large loaf pans. Before placing in over, draw two 2-inch cuts into the top of the dough. Bake for about 45-50 minutes at 350 F.

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2 Responses to “202 days too many”

  1. Jeannie Feld Says:

    That bread looks beautiful! Yummy!
    Mom

  2. Jessica Perry Says:

    bread looks (and smelled) amazing. i am going to try and make it here with spelt flour and see how it turns out. i recently made chocolate/peppermint/marshmellow cookies (it was an invention) and came up with some crispy wafers, pretty decent.

    anyways the real point of my comment is that never before have i felt so privileged to sit in silence and listen to a bunch of people talk (sometimes over each other) than I felt on Monday night. i learned a lot about the situation, obviously, but more importantly, it humanized it for me. I saw those three through the eyes of all the people they have touched over their 30-ish years. What is highlighted by the tragedy of their way-too-long confinement is the amazing power of individuals to touch hundreds of lives personally, but not only that, to leave a significant mark on the insides, on the souls, of those people. What an incredible trio. What a terrifying loss that the world has gone 6.5 months without them, that 6.5 months worth of people have not had their souls touched by Josh, Shane, Sarah. I can only hope that they are using their brilliance, their strength, and the powerful sense of love that is coming their way to keep their heads up, and that these characteristics are touching those around them in Iran just as they touched all those they encountered throughout the years.

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