Seshhanbeh – The 3rd of Khordad 1390/Tuesday – The 24th of May 2011
First let us note that the Islamic Republic of Iran has certain restrictions on the use of websites inside their country. You cannot access most social media sites along with other sites which they might frown upon. So while I was on the flight from Frankfurt to Tehran, I found this particular ad (found in a local Tehran newspaper) for a cellphone maker LG particularly amusing.
On your new LG phone, why not check face…? Something fun on your phone.! *Notice everything on the photo of the phone’s screen is your typical facebook mobile application, without the word ‘facebook.’
Ah it’s the little things that amuse me.
Overall our flight from Denver to Frankfurt was pretty good. We ate good ol’ McDonald’s while waiting in our layover. (As a side note, I have had McDonalds now in four different countries: Spain, Germany, Australia and USA. Now that I’m writing this I take note that I haven’t had McDonald’s in England or Jamaica. Though German pomme frites are much better than the stuff we get served in the USA, they are drastically lacking in burger flavor. **You have to pay an extra 29 cents for each ketchup packet, talk about lame** That is my fast food commentary for this post. Moving on!)
Whilst waiting at security Sadra and I played a fun game of “Spot the Iranian.” A sub-game from a larger one known as “Where do you think that person is from?” It may not sound like fun, but trust me it is. At Frankfurt we found a little lounge area open to the public with chairs that actually let you lay back. What a concept! Those Germans and their engineering. Gets me every time. I took a much needed nap and read some, while Sadra watched tv episodes on the ol’ laptop.
When it came to boarding time I decided to get all gussied up for Iran. Here is the obligatory photo of me in line to board the plane.
The flight from Frankfurt to Tehran was pretty tame, though the last leg of your journey always seems the longest. Here is the obligatory photo of Sadra and I on the plane.
Just before we landed at Imam Khomeini Airport, the crew must make an announcement that Iran is of course an Islamic country and that hijab is necessary once we leave the plane. At this point I was a little nervous. I’m not opposed to wearing the hijab in an Islamic country. As I am writing I hear the call to prayer faintly in the distance. I was nervous because I wanted to wear the hijab properly. Stupidly I had chosen a silk scarf for the plane and it kept falling off more and more on my head. However, this nervousness subsided when I saw what most women wore for hijab off the plane, which wasn’t much let me tell you.
This leads me to a side topic for this entry on hijab or veil in Iran. When most people think of Iran, they think of sour women in chadors. Far from the whole truth. Yes women wear chadors, but they are hardly sour looking. Women, of course, are required to wear the veil, however how they choose to wear it is entirely up to them. It can be any color, style, short, long. Many women i’ve noticed in Iran wear the hijab towards the back of the head as to allow stylish wisps of hair, or sometimes almost all of it, to frame their face. The hijab, religiously represents modesty in Islam. However, to be frank in countries like Iran where it is required for all women, it has become a statement of individuality. How you wear it I like to think defines what kind of woman you are. Fashionable, strong, creative, unique, simple, understated, modest, outrageous. etc.
And now we continue with Imam Khomeini Airport. Sadra and I were checked at immigration and the nice Iranian lady stamping our passports took one look at me, then my passport and kindly remarked in farsi “You don’t speak any farsi do you?” To which I replied my new favorite sentence in Iran, as it is the only one I can really say “Man Farsi baled nistam/I don’t speak Farsi.” Waiting for your baggage at the airport you realize things in Iran are done a little differently. We had approximately 250-300 people on our plane easily. You figure each person has a minimum of 2 checked bags plus a carry-on. My math says that’s 3 bags a person x 300 = 900 bags. However, Iranians like to bring lots of things into Iran so many people had at least two cartfuls of baggage to carry out of the airport. Now the conveyor belt that carries your luggage through the airport is oh I don’t know, the length of two cars put together. (I’m being sarcastic, but it was a teeny tiny stretch of belt for 300 people to scramble to get their luggage) Once you’ve struggled to get your luggage together and navigate through a sea of people, you begin to notice a line for security to run your baggage through an x-ray one more time. A reasonable request. However it is pretty tiring to wait in line to have your bags x-rayed with only one x-ray machine operating at 2:30 in the morning. Sadra and I were already near the back, but Iranians left and right began cutting in line in front of us basically putting us at the end. I have a feeling this cutting trend continues elsewhere in Iran. It’s funny how Americans are such sticklers for lines. In most places outside the USA, lines are mere recommendations.
It took what seemed like forever to leave the airport, but we left unscathed. The drive towards Tehran was pretty neat as you see a group of lights, which from far away looks like a pretty big city. However you soon realize you just saw a fraction of Tehran and the city gets bigger and bigger. The streets here remind me of D.C. in that they go underground, up, sideways, diagonally, round-abouts. On the surface it seems like madness, but perhaps there’s some making sense of it once I get used to it. On the highways you’ll notice green signs, like any other direction/traffic sign, every now and then with some nice Islamic thing to say. Which from what I have heard from Tehran traffic, let’s face it, a little help from God is most certainly welcome.
Which brings us to my khoone/home in Tehran. Sadra’s family lives in an apartment in the northern part of Tehran. Their apartment is on the 3rd floor or for Europeans and I’m pretty sure everyone else in the world, the 2nd floor. What I like most about the apartment is that it has big windows that look out into the street and it’s comfortable. Sadra and I have unpacked and put everything in its proper place. For the first time in the last few weeks I feel super organized. Let’s see if I can keep the trend up.
This morning we had a breakfast of fresh barbari bread with sour cherry jam. Delicious! Sadra and I took a little walk around the neighborhood in the afternoon and had some icecream. Something different I notice here is that it is pretty usual to just order sampling of different flavors. I had hoped to buy a few mantos on our trip out, but half the stores were closed as their owners were too lazy to open in the afternoon. Something which reminds me a lot of Spanish siestas. Fabulous idea, but annoying when you want to get something accomplished.
And now I think i have updated you all of my present status in Iran. Still a bit jet lagged, but hopefully I’ll get over that soon.
Official Soundtrack to Iran – David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.
**I forgot to mention my great appreciation for Sadra’s sister’s fiancé, who drove all the way to the airport to pick us up. He and Sadra’s mom had to wait so long for us to get our baggage, and he didn’t get home until well past 3am. Thank you Reza!