IRVINE, United States (Kurdistan24) - When a Kurdish refugee from Sanandaj (Sina), Iranian Kurdistan (Rojhilat) boarded a plane from Los Angeles to Europe, he did not think his life would be altered after that trip.
Sitting next to him on the plane was Tracy, an American graduate student of political science who had started to learn about Kurds.
Twelve hours of discussion later, the young man and woman took off in different directions but decided that they would like to continue their conversation.
Fast forward three decades. Rashid and Tracy Fahimi sit in their backyard and speak to Kurdistan24 about inter-racial marriage, running a Kurdish cruise for 12 years and raising two Kurdish-American children.
Fahimi's raise chickens and plant vegetables in their backyard with a booming pomegranate tree and yellow, purple, and red flowers rising up over their gate and on their walls.
A former engineer, and present travel agent who has organized Kurdish cruise 12 times in over two decades, Rashid proudly informs us that his wife, the dean of a college in California, teaches Kurdish dance (Halparke) during the trip to Mexico.
Starting with sixty patrons, the latest cruise host about two hundred people who spent four days and three nights on a ship where Kurdish dance and music was showcased.
"Kurdish cruise is an opportunity, the best way and the easiest way, to introduce them [Kurds] to the world," Rashid said, pointing out that Kurds were little known in America when the cruise started.
Tracy agrees that the cruise is "a way to embrace the culture and get the community together," to connect and have a good time.
Tracy says that what she likes the best about Kurdish culture is the strong sense of family and the pride in the culture. "The loyalty and dedication among family and friend group" is a quality she admires.
The family has traveled to Kurdistan of Iran several times over the years. Tracy, her daughter Dilan, 22, and Avan, 16, feel embraced by family and relatives in Sina.
Fahimis decided to give their mixed-raced American-born children Kurdish names to "represent the culture."
Both Rashid and Tracy were criticized by their communities for marrying "an outsider" and their children repeatedly have to explain to their peers how to pronoun their names. But the family finds the overall experience enriching and eye-opening.
They encourage that people entering inter-cultural marriage to realize they should be accepting of the new culture.
"Don't engage in an intercultural marriage if you think you are going to change the person's culture to be like yours," Tracy concluded