"I will be thinking about my conversation for a long time"
"I don’t know that I am ready to write about this experience yet but I know that I will be thinking about my conversation for a long time. My first portals conversation was with a twenty-something man who had just finished his military service – two years are required to obtain a passport therefore leave the country. Our conversation followed a surprising turn where he began by saying he would turn his back on all Iran but he ended by acknowledging the aspects of his life. My second portals conversation was with Mahsa...”
"Profoundly beautiful...exactly what social media technology should be used for."
“Amazing, incredible profoundly beautiful and connective experience. This is a terribly important art exhibit that instantly breaks down the arbitrary barriers that we put up between cultures and people. This is exactly what social media technology should be used for. It’s a beautiful, gorgeous bridge that I hope to see crossing more boundaries in the future. I am grateful and honored to be part of this art exhibit. Yours truly, Kwadwo ADAE"
"I really enjoyed speaking in the portal this morning. I had the opportunity to meet Mahsa, a woman photographer in grad school. As a photographer myself, we had a lovely conversation about one role at being a photographer and the difficulties that can come with that (especially for her in Tehran). I love the idea of the portal – stepping into the darkened container and making a connection with someone overseas. I love how successful the portal is in connecting 2 strangers. We use technology all day long and yet we can still feel a disconnect. The portal, in its simplicity, defies that. Thank you! Jessica"
"I’ll never forget this day!"
“Today is my 46th birthday so I wanted to do something special to mark the day so here I am! It’s such a great idea to connect people from different parts of the world. I really enjoyed my conversation my partner in Iran is a 3rd year engineering student who plays blues guitar! We exchanged contact info so I look forward to continuing the conversation in the future. Thanks so much for setting this up. I’ll never forget this day!”
"A purer experience"
"Last night, prior to entering the portal, I spoke to a friend about what I was doing today and he led me to a chat website, Omegle, were somewhat similarly to portal strangers meet. Unlike Portals, they meet for a variety of different motives, some flashing, in an altogether different concept. Not much respect, lots of inappropriate things, sex, trash talk etc. With Portal, the medium itself is of far more interest. Internet communications have allowed people to do this for years, but the context of the internet leads for a centre of profanity. By removing this technology from that context and placing it in “art” and making a physical space, Portal invents a purer experience. -Henry Wolf"
"The Portal worked perfectly, like magic."
"The Portal worked perfectly, like magic, I was transported to the life of a young photographer who is propelling herself toward studies in the US. We soon swapped stories of our travels and interests and as cliché as it sounds, we are all one community. I look forward to staying connected with this lovely and talented woman. Carol"
"It has been such a gift to be witness to a growing, maturing, loving way of being in this young world."
"Dear Portal, I have been sitting by your side for the last two weeks, listening to the thoughts of all the people who have shared in your experience: passersby, students, professors, lawyers, artists, children and even a snorty bulldog named Winnie. It has been such a gift to be witness to a growing, maturing, loving way of being in this young world. I felt different. I feel bigger and smaller at the same time, knowing how I was a part of Herat, a place I have never been, for this short time. And those on the other side, I feel such camaraderie for them! What will I do without Omid and Said every morning? I know this time has made a difference hundreds on people's’ lives, me being one of them. I want to go visit Afghanistan! Keep doing what you do, because it is important and it works. I’ll miss you, but hopefully I will see you later! Love"
"We’re American, or Washingtonian or this age, so that dictates what we talk about."
"I spoke with two young men who were both English teachers at the university. One, Muhammad, was very interested in my job, loves American movies, and wanted to know about the casting process and the American education system. The other, whose name I didn’t quite get, is working on a novel about how he got out of Afghanistan to Italy without any documentation. They were both incredibly articulate and interesting, very friendly, easy conversationalists. It’s funny when you think about all of the stilted conversations you have from day to day at work, parties, the bar, smoking outside, that feel so limited by our contexts – we’re American, or Washingtonian or this age, so that dictates what we talk about. But there are so many experience out there and way to connect, that are not about what we should be thinking or speaking about – politics, job, etc. I do wish that I had learned more about them and talked less about myself though – I would have liked to know more about day to day life. But I really enjoyed the experience and it was worth the trip across the bridge. Thank you. Kirsta"
"I felt honored that someone would want to take time out of their day to connect with me."
" I was nervous that I didn’t have anything interesting to say, but it turned out that the simplest topics of conversation are still profound when you are talking with someone you’d never otherwise have the chance to meet – soccer, shopping at the market, jobs, family. I felt honored that someone would want to take time out of their day to connect with me, and I hope to do it again sometime soon… thank you! Jen Taylor"
"I was surprised how easy and natural it was to connect."
"I had no idea what to expect from the experience, but will cherish the wonderful feeling I have coming out of it for a long time. I was surprised how easy and natural it was to connect, but even more so about how much we had to talk about. We exchanged information, so will continue the dialogue! Washington, DC"
"I will carry the feeling with me. "
"An incredible experience. How often in our lives do we get to interact with someone so free of all other connection, so intent on connection, no less half way around the world. I will carry the feeling with me. Madeleine"
"I felt like I knew the person I was talking to and as if we were just catching up."
"This just made my day! I felt like I knew the person I was talking to and as if we were just catching up. I’m so excited to introduce this amazing empowering idea to everyone. Best"
"This conversation is certainly one I’ll remember, even if it was only fifteen minutes."
As a senior at Georgetown, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how conversations have been the defining part of my college experience. This conversation is certainly one I’ll remember, even if it was only fifteen minutes.
Muwaz and I broke the ice by discovering a lot of things we have in common – we’re both attending university far from home, we both care about access to education, and we’re both 22-year-olds unsure of exactly what course our lives will take. But as we got talking, I also realized that he had had many experiences I never will. He was sent to Pakistan when he was nine to work on a construction site and he worked as a translator for foreign troops in Afghanistan. These moments of difference were uncomfortable for me, not because they surprised me necessarily, but because I realized that despite 22 years of interacting with people different than me, I still don’t always know the best way to respond – support? consolation? more questions? I’m reminded of a quote by anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn (or something like that) that says, in essence, “Everyone is the same, some people are the same, no one is the same”. We’re all human, we’re all part of a culture, and we’re all individuals – all at the same time! Thanks, Portal team and Merwaz reminding me of that."
"It felt like we were in the same strange room, existing in a place other than where we physically were."
"This experience was so eye-opening. Inside the portal, time and place fade away. I met Susan, a budding fashion designer who love her friends. She is inspired by art and music and the TV show 2 broke girls. It felt like we were in the same strange room, existing in a place other than where we physically were. I’m so grateful to have had this experience. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. -Caroline A"
"I am forever grateful for this opportunity."
"Wow. The whole experience felt so real! It was real! We are both married, and it was so eye-opening to hear how he spoke about his wife and kids. The deep respect he has for his wife, how happy he is to have kids, how much he thinks I should have kids! We are the same age, both run our own businesses, amazing. He was so thoughtful, so curious about me and my thoughts on the world. He openly acknowledged the difficulties between the US and Afghanistan, but he felt so much hope. Honestly, he had for more hope than I feel day to day, he has inspired me to keep writing my blog about different people and how they live around the world, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity."
"I sincerely hope my ‘portal friend’ can get what she wants in life, and that I someday would be able to play a part in making world an easier, more equal place for her. "
"What a small world this is! Maryem, whom I spoke to, studied in India, a couple of hours from where I was studying/working in India! The portal is like that thing that brought together 2 beings separated by time and space and gave me a beautiful interaction, and hopefully a lifelong friendship with someone who though so far geographically, is not really distant in thoughts, and wants. I was also reminded of how different someone else’s experience of the world is. I sincerely hope my ‘portal friend’ can get what she wants in life, and that I someday would be able to play a part in making world an easier, more equal place for her. Thank you for the opportunity!"
" I’m honored to be able to share my voice with the world."
"It amazes me just how universal hip-hop has become. Here in America it was originally created as a means to express ourselves despite the forces oppressing us. Blacks had few ways to convey their thoughts publicly so we confused creativity with passion in hopes that the words in our hearts would be felt. Today I spoke with a man on the other side of the world who said that positive hip-hop is blooming where he lives in Afghanistan. It’s inspirational to say the least. I’m honored to be able to share my voice with the world. This portal is a gift, a treasure in time that I feel will one day be incredibly impacting! Javier S"
"An incredible use of space and technology that offers a great deal of room in forging community with disparate people to share and open up borders."
"A very unique and thought-provoking experience, unlike any I have had. Unaware of what, exactly to expect, I kept an open mind and found the opportunity well worthwhile. The chance to meet, connect with and catch a glimpse of another’s life, halfway across the globe is a rare one and this portal is an incredible use of space and technology that offers a great deal of room in forging community with disparate people to share and open up borders, geographic and personal. Max"
"Being able to see someone who has the same hopes and dreams as you across the world is just awe-inspiring."
"That was incredible! I know I will cherish and treasure this experience for my whole life. Being able to see someone who has the same hopes and dreams as you across the world is just awe-inspiring. I thank you so much for this."
"A cosmic experience!"
"Wow! Was a bit nervous at first, but it was absolutely totally awesome. A cosmic experience!"
"It was amazing to see how similar he was to me in his goals for himself, his awareness of the issues in society, and his hobbies."
"That was a truly phenomenal experience! It was amazing to see how similar he was to me in his goals for himself, his awareness of the issues in society, and his hobbies. That being said, he is clearly working in a much more difficult environment (lack of electricity, economic hardship, educational barriers, etc.) that contextualize how lucky I am to have the opportunities I do. I was especially blown away by the fact that he is trying to start his own IT company and asked for my help as a business major who has worked both in start-ups and microfinance to help him develop a business plan… business really can be used for good. We exchanged emails + will be in touch! -Joshua Romjit"
"Fantastic concept + flawless execution – felt like I was really in the room with Syed."
"Fantastic concept + flawless execution – felt like I was really in the room with Syed, we chatted about work – he’s an app developer, and had some good insight as well about the NGO development community in Herat, where I have very little knowledge. It was humbling to hear about his displacement – twice – by war. Thankful that things seem quite a bit calmer in Herat. I think this sort of connection – physically + emotionally – is exceedingly rare and something I will cherish. In peace, Aaron"
"Amazing how the first moments and awkwardness gave ground to joy the technology and the opportunity to share a moment of connection across continents."
"Amazing how the first moments and awkwardness gave ground to joy the technology and the opportunity to share a moment of connection across continents. Thank you. Nate"
"Here’s one step closer to a more unified, tight knit, loving world and human race."
"I had the pleasure of speaking with the very delightful Human (Hooman) Amiri – a 23 year old Art painting Student at the University of Tehran. What a cutie patootie!! I was taken aback by how easily we connected – what an amazing experience! Human told me about his “girlfriend” and that he was really excited about the future of their relationship as a typical older Iranian woman, even though I was born and raised in the USA. I naturally fell into the position of giving relationship advice!
I was almost embarrassed that I felt it my place to chime in – but he was ecstatic! Continuing to tell me that he bought her a nice gift for her birthday almost in hopes of my praise and approval! How endearing and cute! His innocence and passion came through us vividly and were so symbolic of what I love and admire about Iranian people and youth in particular.
The time seemed to go by way too fast and perhaps the encounter was so sweet because of its rapidly fleeting moments. We exchanged contacts and I told Human I expected an invitation to his wedding! Ending by giving him a comfortably characteristic pep talk – ensuring him that his drive, spunk and kind demeanor will get him far. Whether in his goals for his art and painting career or his relationship with his current love interest. Human had not expected an Iranian American on the other side of the portal and I had expected to disappoint my Iranian counterpart by being a “boring Iranian”. But in reality we were both (at least I think he was too) very pleasantly surprised! I look forward to keeping in touch. Thank you to the beautifully artistic and interestingly “human” experience. I can’t wait until there is a beautiful Golden Portal in every city around the world. Here’s one step closer to a more unified, tight knit, loving world and human race. To Human!"