Monday, June 30, 2003

Our sources tell us that quiet investigations into the plane crashes here in
on February 19 and in Pakistan on February 20 were likely bombs and the work of Al Qaeda. The belief is that they were a direct response to the fact that the 2 governments had recently arrested several suspected members of Al Qaeda.
June 29, 2003

Counterfeit culture

“A lot of the music you hear is a copy of music made elsewhere,” F says. “Sometimes it is the words that are copied, sometimes it is the tune.”

“I am not surprised,” I say. “It is true of everything else.” Copies of everything are here. There may be no Crest, but there is Crend with a similar logo. There are bad copies of the Coca Cola logo on bottles of homegrown soda that tastes pretty damn good. The Nike swoosh is a little too fat here. Things are “’maed’ in USA.” Children’s T-shirts have slogans on them like:

“Have a happy how heavy is a duckling.”


“Barbie is beauty fine and miss”

We watch movies on CD that are imprinted with: “Property of Miramax for prescreening purposes only.”

The lyrics of Metallica have all been translated into Persian and are published in a book that is very popular with teenagers.

A blue Mickey Mouse graced a wall in the restaurant we ate at last night.

CDs with music videos taken from Iranian television in America are everywhere. My favorite featured two men singing about their mother. One was wearing a yellow suit and the other a white suit. The set was filled from top to bottom with flowers. It was hard for me to imagine that these men live in America and still manage to dress themselves in such incredibly tacky suits.

People with satellite tv watch Iranian-American programs. Imagine: community television with a huge, huge, audience. (Note to my friend in Africa: your idea for doing a sit com for community television about a Nigerian family in America could be huge if that station gets broadcast on satellite.)

“We are not a rich country, so we have to learn to hack and crack,” A tells me. He is talking about software, but it is true of many other things as well.

Get Busy

“Shake that thing…”

It seems that everywhere I go, people are listening to “Get Busy” by Sean Paul. In New York it was on walkmen everywhere. You could see people irresistibly moving to the rhythm when it played over their headphones. In Amsterdam, it was playing in the park and on people’s stereos. In Iran, it is playing on people’s television sets.

“My mother loves this song,” K’s 18-year-old nephew, E, tells us when the video comes on.

“Look, look,” E’s mother says of the video. “That little boy is some dancer!”

Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” video has everything: great music, fun, friends, and family. Like the Iran that we are experiencing, different generations are present and participating in the event. A man we assume is Sean Paul’s father plays cards with a friend in the kitchen while his basement fills with gorgeous 20-somethings dancing to Get Busy. A small child in his pjs sneaks in and joins the dance.

In a way the video presents a life that Iranians could have. People just seem bursting to have fun. Fun is power. Fun is what will ultimately bring down this regime.

Speaking of fun, you are not allowed to dance outside. People are always stopping me from dancing. On my way out the door tonight, Es was singing: “…It’s all good girl, turn me on…” and I was dancing. All of a sudden I felt like I was in some cheesy film about a small, uptight town saved from itself by a few daring dancers.

“Do you think most women would wear a manteau and scarf if they did not have to,” I asked E and N?

“No way.”

“Then why do they? Who makes them?”

“The police.”

“But I saw a car accident yesterday. The people involved waited for 6 hours for the police to show up.”

“Yes,” N laughed, “but they always have time to bother people on the streets.”

Expect something from K soon

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

June 23, 2003

I am woman

I have a long suit coat that I brought to Iran to wear in order to fulfill the dress restrictions for women. It turns out, however, that my suit jacket was meant for an air conditioned office building, not for the streets of Tehran. After a lot of sweating and discomfort, N took me to buy a manteau: the knee-length jacket that women are supposed to wear.

We went into a store run by men and filled with women. “Don’t speak, don’t speak,” N said in broken English before we arrived. (When I open my mouth, prices go up.) It turned out that the prices were already marked and N thought they were good, so she let me talk. I tried pink manteaus, blue manteaus, and jean manteaus before settling on 1 black linen manteau and 1 khaki ramie-cotton manteau. The funny thing is that N had my dressing room door open, and I felt exposed even though I was still wearing more clothes than I would normally wear in the summer.

Before coming here, I promised myself that I would not obsess over the headscarf and the manteau that I am forced to wear. When other writers did that, I was bored. I thought that there were other issues of women’s life that were more important. After all, I do have to wear a modicum of clothing anywhere I go. It’s just that I don’t really want to walk around the city topless or bottomless, but I definitely do want to walk around without a scarf on my head and without a manteau. I mean, it’s summer for god sakes!

I am losing my tolerance. Anyone who knows me, knows how frigging accepting I can be (I can hear my sisters and brother laughing now). But I am losing my tolerance.

My sisters-in-law can’t run out in the street to say goodbye when friends and relatives leave; they are afraid to be seen from the doorway even; they barely leave the house during the day because of the heat. It’s not even that hot! But it is that hot when you are wearing a scarf and a manteau.

I used to believe women who said that the hijab does not restrict them in any way. Oh yeah? Try telling that to any woman that I have spoken to hear in Iran. Even religious women that I have spoken to are fed up with the restrictions. Every single woman I have spoken with from those who pray 3 times a day to those who don’t pray at all feel restricted by the dress code and restricted by this regime.

This is the first time I have been in a truly restrictive society. Church and state? Prayer in school? A religious society? Come here if that is what you want. You’ll quickly find yourselves longing for liberals and liberal society.

Speaking of tolerance

How can I have tolerance for a society that severely restricts my rights? How can I accept that and live with it? And can I help but associate these restrictions with Islam?

I was in a total intolerant tailspin when I received an email from a good friend that included a long conversation that her high-school aged son’s class is having about religion. What a wonderful mix of ideas (however immature) and gentle and humorous respect for each other’s diverse opinions that conversation proved to be. Here is a post from her son’s Islamic classmate responding to a Christian classmate’s assertion that American society suffers from a lack of religion:

“...but mainstream relgions have been manipualted and twisted into what im sure you would consider 'immoral'. for example, Osama bin Ladin's form of "Islam" and the KKK's form of "Christianity" these have nothing moral about them and actually contribute to the "downfall of society" you referred to. perhaps if one insisted on taking an optimistic outlook on things, one could say that the essence of relgion is moral, but if one were to be realistic, it must be acknowledged that the same relgion that was meant to 'inject morals' has in many cases destroyed them. now at the risk of sounding like our deep-thinking friend caleb, i must ask, is relgion, even when manipualted and used for destruction, really worth it?
and by the way, LONG LIVE THE LIBERALS!!!!!!!!”

(If you want to read the whole discussion click on , then click on the link to the forum, and then click on "OK Faeza.")

The Innocents

K took me on a walk of places he had been beaten up in this city. “Here is where I was thrown out of a second-story window. Here is where I was beaten and dragged and left for dead. Here is where I used to give out pamphlets and got beaten up for it. Here is where I was when I was told that the beating I got was deserved.”

This treatment he got from less than one percent of the population of his city. Less than one percent believed so fervently and extremely in their religion and its rightness that they were willing to kill and die for it. Less than one percent of this city terrorized the other 99% of the city and forced them to live with the restrictions of an Islamic regime.

It does not take much. It just takes unquestioning faith and twisted beliefs.

Read Salam Pax’s account of riding in a taxi with someone he thought was potentially a suicide bomber and ask yourself, “Who is an innocent?”


A different day…Let’s just say, that if you ever come to Iran, make sure to eat ice cream with carrot juice.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

June 21, 2003

I am not sure if Arak is under construction or de-construction. Everywhere we go there are piles of bricks and sand. I don’t know if those piles are meant for the partly constructed buildings or come from them.

A said that I might be the first American to visit Arak. Somehow I doubt that. One thing is for sure: there aren’t a whole lot of “harigis” here.

That said, Arak is somewhat beautiful. The weather is beautiful. The stone buildings are potentially beautiful. The park is great. The air, however, leaves something to be desired. The smells range from gasoline to diesel to burning garbage.

The Iranian homes I have been in are really well-designed. My mom would love the houses here: she could have a Passover Seder for 30 in a house made for two (or 4). The houses we have been in have had really functional, over-sized rooms. Presumably this is because Iranian families often host huge groups for dinner or tea.

The Koran Belt

To get to Arak from Tehran we pass through the buckle of the Koran belt: Qom. K told me that he went there to see Khomeini when he first arrived from exile. “There were so many cars that the traffic did not move at all. We had to get out of our cars and walk.”

Driving through Qom makes me realize that I have not once heard the call to prayer since we arrived in Iran. This is unlike Istanbul with its warring calls to prayer. Every mosque in Istanbul has gigantic speakers that blare out the call to prayer. It was not until the third day here when we arrived in Arak that I heard the call to prayer.

It was also on the third day that I saw my first gun.


K has been making fun of me for my food obsession. “Some people think that food is the most important thing here,” he jokes.

Well food is awfully important to many of us. There is no doubt about that. I am a flavor junkie.

BTW, the secret ingredient in the stuffed eggplant dish was not cinnamon, it was turmeric. For those of you who thought that all turmeric did was turn food yellow, like I did, I have news for you: fresh, it is amazingly delicious and complex. Like I said earlier, there is a subtle flavor of cinnamon. That flavor is mixed with the flavor of cumin, but not the overt flavor of cumin. It tastes like cumin was planted nearby. It also tastes a little bit of clay.

Now that the turmeric discussion is over, it’s time to discuss dolmas. K always said that his family made the best dolmas and until eating them at his mother’s house, I did not believe him. I did have their dolmas before, but not from their own kitchen with their own ingredients. These dolmas were easily the best I have ever eaten. I do know that the grape leaves were fresh. There was rice and yellow beans inside and I think tarragon and some other herbs. One set of dolmas was salty and the other was sweet. Both were great.

Yesterday M made kebabs. “Iran’s most famous food,” he told me. I can’t argue with kebabs. These were made of ground beef, onions, salt pepper, and some other herb. We had them with barbecued tomatoes and rice. You can get these kebabs in any Iranian restaurant. They will be called koobideh or kubideh.

Tonight we are having joojeh (chicken) kebab. You’ll have to wait to hear about that.

Friday, June 20, 2003

June 20, 2003

I have seen more things in the last two days here in Iran than in 2 years in Amsterdam. I am definitely overwhelmed. I am also outraged. I am like the newscaster in the beautiful film called “Network.” I want to open the window of my mother's house and put my head out and scream, "I'm mad as hell, and I can’t take it any more!"

The state of the Islamic republic of Iran sucks.

This is the first time I am writing to you from Iran, so let me please say this:
this government is corrupt, unimaginative, and old-fashioned in the worst way. It is a powerful and growing cancer which forces its victims to give up first before it will take the last breath out of their bodies. Unfortunately a lot of Iranians like to be victims and are still waiting for god, in the form of Uncle Sam, to come and free them. They make the argument that Germany, Italy, Japan, and others were freed from evil governments with the help of Uncle Sam. We are not better than G I Joe. I have heard this argument from neo-conservatives in the US too.

Let me tell you one experience.

Yesterday we left the house around 10 am. We did this to change my Euros to Iranian money, Toman. It is now a good time for people who bring Euros here because the exchange rate is excellent. I pay 1 Euro and I get 958 Toman. With 5 euro I can have excellent food in very good restaurant in Tehran. Anyway, the first bank could not change the Euros because they did not have a machine to see if the Euros were good. We had to take a taxi and go to the other side of the town, to a very nice part of Tehran to exchange money. We went to Bank Melie Iran. The ugly long and square bank had a very long and rounded shape right middle of it which gave you the feeling that the number of customers in the bank was much less than there really were. After asking the director of the bank what we need to do, we get in line to exchange my Euros, There was no way to know where to go when you got in the lobby of the bank, no sign, and nobody to answer your questions. We waited there for almost 20 minutes before somebody came to ask if we needed help. We explained what we needed, and he gave us a form to fill in. He took the money and the form and left. After my nephew asked many times why we needed to wait so long for our money, the guy came back with the form in his hand and left it on the desk of the guy next to him and told us “okay he will take care of the rest.” We move to the next window. Hey we got it done. All we needed to do was to get our money. It took us another 2 hours to get the Iranian travelers checks. This process will take me only 10 minutes on a very busy day in any bank in Amsterdam. The lesson here is that you will not get any work done unless you beg or bribe.

You have to be super human to be able to stay cool and live under these conditions in Iran. Life in Iran will break you one way or another. It has its daily painful effect on my dearest people in the world: my family. I am in constant pain since I came here to see my family living this way. My 8 year old niece is wearing a veil, and when I said, "You are just 8 years old, and it is night, you don’t need that," she answered, "But my father gets upset if I don't wear it."

I know her father better than I know myself. There is nothing Islamic about him. He is just sick of protest. He has given up on changing his life, and I am not sure if he sees any changes for his kids. I am not sure how many people like him live in this country of about 67 million. I know this is what the hardliners in Iran want: to make you worth nothing, with no desire for a better life, no hope for change, and more importantly, no power to make change. I know you get stuck here, and you want to get out.

I love football. In the last couple of days I have found out that I have a couple of things in common with my brothers, they all like to see football alone, without anybody in the room, No talking when there is football on TV. That is the way to watch football.

Football is great.
In Iran I hate football.

It is one of the best tools that the Iranian government has to keep Iranian men with their asses nailed to the ground watching. I saw France playing Colombia. The first 20 minutes was a video of the walls of stadium, but not people. That was probably because there were women in the audience who were not wearing the veil or something like that.

When I look the size of the stomachs of my family looking at the football games, which are bigger than the size of the TV they are watching, I tell myself that the Iranian government will stay here forever because of this wonderful sport. My brothers no everything there is to know about the football players. They know where they live, what they eat for breakfast, what they do for fun. They know all about their parents and where their parents live and what they eat for breakfast.

It is so sad to see all these big dreams go away. The other they somebody told me that we shouldn’t have revolution, because it will be a big and shocking thing. They give you so much bullshit about every player’s personal life and how much money they make that you don’t have to think of other things. I know for sure that this is one of the best ways the Iranian government has of keeping Iranians in line. A lot of us are hooking up to the TV box, so they don’t need to do anything good. Iranians are obsessed with football.

So fuck football in Iran.

Okay I need to calm done before my blood pressure goes as high as Mount Everest. I should stop taking about this. The next time I will be more positive. Help me god. Fuck. god…….

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Note to worried father
Everything is going well. We are at K's mother's house. There are tons of children around me, and they are all speaking to me right now.

Love, your daughter
June 18, 2003
K just returned from Teheran’s prison. “It was horrifying. I sat with the judge. I can’t talk about it now,” he told me. “I can’t write about it. You have to,” he said.

His family does not know he went. Late last night, his nephew C said, “I can bring you to the prison to meet the students who are being held there.”

C is well-connected.

It turned out that Intelligence officers were “visiting” the students when K & C arrived so they could not meet them. Instead they observed some court proceedings. “I could not believe it,” K said. “All they did was argue about who was the most corrupt. One judge, who was a prisoner himself, said, “Judges are the most corrupt.” Another said, “We learn from our masters.” Another said, “Investigators are the really corrupt among us.” An investigator answered, “No, it’s the informants who are the most corrupt.”

While K was there listening to a debate about who the most corrupt official was, A and As and Ai and I were at the park. As and Ai were on the swings. A and I sat in the shade talking politics. “Revolution is bad,” A said. “It is always bad. The most violent win. We need to move slowly,” he said. “We don’t want a revolution.”

“Secular government is much better than religious government.”

“We are a religious people,” A responded.

“So are Americans. Religious people need secular governments.”

“That’s right. That’s what we need.”

Before coming to Iran, I read so much about how the women are becoming more fashionable and daring with their dress. That said, I have only seen one truly daring woman. She wore a transparent pink scarf that clearly showed her black hair. Almost everyone else wears black and many women still wear chadors. Many have a kind of habit that makes them look like nuns.


Okay, this is the important part of the blog: food.

For lunch we had chicken with zeresh: a small, red sour berry that I think is called “barberry” in English (although barberry does not give me any more information than zeresh). We also had eggplant stuffed with ground lamb and raisins with the subtle taste of cinnamon. Yum.

The rice was also very lightly spiced with the cinnamon. Cinnamon here has a different flavor than what we are used to in America or Europe: it is deeper and more earthy tasting. It isn’t as light or sweet. I guess you could say that it tastes as though it was grown with cumin (not like it is mixed with cumin).

For dinner we had “calepacheh.” It is a soup of sheep’s head and feet. For the unitiated (me) it is a very unattractive dish. I mean, snouts, toes, brains, tongues: all arrayed on the plate: how could that possibly be attractive? It is a good thing I am a daring eater because it was delicious. We ate it with a flat bread that we bought straight from a fire in the wall of a bakery. That bread was mighty delicious. It was especially fantastic the second it left the fire.


Like many things in this country, driving is a game of chicken: who will give in first. Although, now that I have written this, I think it is actually more like a game of Tetris. Drivers are constantly aware of all available spaces and drive to fill them. Lanes and lights don’t matter. What matters is whether or not there is a space available that fits your car. This means, of course, that you are free to gently nudge the car beside you to take up any empty space available to it.

We drove all over M’s neighborhood. We bought the calepache, the bread, and a bottle of clear “medecine.”

We also drove to the subway, and took the metro into the center of Tehran to see K’s brother wrestle. For the most part, men and women ride in separate cars. I had to ride in the men’s car because I am a “harigi” (foreigner) and cannot take care of myself.

Not surprisingly, I was not allowed to enter the arena. All that skin might be too much for me, I guess. The referees, however, wanted to let me in. They were so excited that I came from America to see K’s brother wrestle.

He won. But we did not see the match.

June 17, 2003
At Schipol, we bought our tickets to travel to Iran. There we met our friends and their children who were also traveling on that afternoon’s flight. Together, we were 9 people.

Slowly we moved through the airport until we arrived at gate 7d. We were almost the last people to get on the Iran Air Flight. K and his friend went to have a beer right before we got on the plane. I had a rubbery ham and cheese croissant. The boys played on the moving sidewalks.

I walked on to a full plane and looked at the sea of semetic faces. A plane full of men who could get asked off of a flight in America just for having one eyebrow.

BTW, we got real silverware with our food.

The flight was easy and comfortable. I heard a lot of American voices (obviously 2nd gens flying to Iran), some Dutch, and mostly Iranian.

The real fun began when we landed. First there was a beautifully painted sheet that read: “If you are coughing and have a fever we are waiting you at the airport.” All painted in red, yellow, and blue.

It took us awhile to get all of the bags for the 9 of us who were accidentally traveling together. When we did we zipped through customs, then had to get our bags xrayed to leave.

There were so many people waiting for friends and relatives that it was almost impossible to leave the airport. Two police officers were sitting on chairs looking at the crowd. The man in front of me said, “Can’t you help? Get up and ask the crowd to let us through.” We still had to push our way through the crowd, a big part of which was K’s family. I was bombarded by so many greetings, flowers, happy children – I felt really and truly excited and happy to arrive.

There were 14 people waiting for us. The children were so happy and fresh and thrilled to see me and “Amoo” K.

When I saw the crowd waiting outside the airport, I thought “Wow! This is what a crowd of people waiting for relatives looks like! I wonder what the crowds look like by the university?” There were women dressed head to toe in black chadors, and women with fashionable long jackets and matching headscarves. The black chadors were depressing. I cannot say that they were not. The women wearing them weren’t smiling, that’s for sure.

Now we are sitting in a nice stone house. I ate a tomato that tasted like a tomato, unbelievably sweet apricots, a green plum with salt, white cherries, and a crisp cucumber. Life is good. Two children are sitting with me as I type, and we are listening to an Iranian pop band from LA.

I am going to sleep. I can smell the exhaust-filled air of Tehran.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Amsterdam June 17, 2003

“They should just kill us, this is not life we have in Iran,” said my sister in law couple of days ago when I asked her how things are going.

A lot of our friends think “ we are cool and crazy” to go to Iran now. They all may be right, but we are going. I can’t wait to get there so I can see with my on eyes what is happing. I asked my brother if I can go and see a demonstration, and his answer was funny in a way. He said, “You can bring all of your friends with you. We need all the help we can get.”

For those of you, in the west and America who think there is a lot of diffrence between the so-called reformers and hard liners, you should consider this: Mehdi Karrubi, speaker of the reformist parliament, said that differences "among the children of the revolution are differences of taste but they are all united against the enemy...." (Christian Science Monitor)

Reading this I feel good because I always said that there were not fundamental diffrences between reformists and hardliners in Iran. I also don’t belive that reformists are capable and willing to make a diffrence in Iran. The only way Iran can have a future is a secular government. So-called reformists in Iran are only intersted in re-branding the Islamist republic of Iran. It is not enough anymore.

I am glad I am leving today, because I don’t need to go around like a crazy man shopping for my family. I can’t NOT buy people gifts, and if I do, which I did, I make myself sick to my stomach. This time I told every \body I would not bring anything, which my family finds as no problem at all ( I wish one of them would say something like why did you bring this or that brand and not that brand so that I would have a good reason not to buy them anything at all.). I know one thing for sure, going to all this shops in Amsterdam convinced me that there is nothing wrong with the Dutch economy, because the shops were full and sometimes I had a really hard time to pick the cheap things because somebody just take them from my hand. Maybe shopping is all Dutch women do when they get their first kids because there were a lot of young girls with babies in the shops.

This shopping experience gave me a brand new idea: if I am not successful in anything I will open a company for helping Iranians do their shopping before they go to Iran. But this is maybe not a good idea since we iranians don’t want to pay for services. Like you, we like to get everything free.

Okay I need to call my bank, visit city hall, do the rest of my packing, and get to the Airport. You should see how much bags we are taking with us. It is just so stupid. Hey I had to buy 37 people gifts.

T says that those bags will be filled with pistachios on the way back. She is a pistachio fanatic. Not artwork, not rugs, not books, not gifts for friends, or dirt from Iran.

What a lovely wife I have.

Wish me good luck.
Read the state department warning on travel to Iran.
Got modem cables.
Finished a few projects.
Invoiced a few people.
Sent telephone numbers to my family.
Emailed friends and family.
Got someone to stay in the house.
What am I forgetting?

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Amsterdam, June 13, 2003
I am almost hourly following the student demonstrations in Iran, but this first.

Today I went to Iranian embassy in The Hague to pick up T’s travel document. I got T an Iranian Shenasname. It was the best way to travel to Iran since getting a visa for Americans seems much harder then couple of months ago. It was 2 PM when I got to the embassy. I am still very uncomfortable to go to the embassy. This time because I thought that there was no one in embassy at that time that they may plan this to hold me there. I asked T to call me on my mobile if I did not call her in one hour. I was afraid that they would hold me and check my bags and find the book I had in my bag. This lovely and very sad book is the story of an Iranian writer and artist named Marjane Satrapi. I heard of her first in an article in the New York Times that my friend in NY sent me. I finished her book right before I got out of the tram, and I know if I wasn’t in the tram I would have had to cry. Everybody should read this book. It is about a Marjane as a young girl growing up in the first couple years of the Islamic regime of Iran. Most of my friends have similar stories to tell. But what I love about her book is not only the quality of the writing, which I really like, but also the beautiful drawings. The book title is
and you should be able to find it in a lot of bookstores.

Today I also got a free place in heaven because I married a non-Muslim. I heard in Islam if you marry a non-Muslim woman and turn her to Muslim, you get a FREE place in heaven. Since I was born Muslim and had to get officially married by a Mullah in the Netherlands in order to travel to Iran with T, then my place in heaven is guaranteed. T is saying, “I am not muslim.” I do not want to be Muslim, and I am happy T feels the same. I can’t not belive you have to go through so much to get to you birth place with a non-Iranian wife. This may be my punishment for not marring an Iranan woman. Who knows?

So far T’s parents have not called to say that they are worried about us going to Iran. It may be because the have not heard the news of the student demonstrations in the last couple of nights. I am sure they heard all the news. I know this is making my family nervous. My sister asked if we have a B-plan. I have to think of a B-plan in case there are some difficulties. I know I can panic very fast. So I need to make sure everything is planned well.

I will not leave Iran without my wife. yes.

BBC is reporting two seconds ago about continuing clashes between students and police in Tehran. Is this beginning of something big? I truly hope so.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Amsterdam, June 12, 2003
This morning, The New York Times reported that ”Riot police and hard-line vigilantes clashed with teenage demonstrators who denounced supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Wednesday, as protests mushroomed into Iran's biggest in months.” Other news providers like BBC and AP gave details of the last two days of student action. The Iranian intelligence minister is saying that these demonstrations are the work of American suporters in Iran, Something that they always use for cracking down on any pro-democracy activities in Iran.

We are getting ready to leave Amsterdam for Tehran next week. I should be very worried to go with my American wife to Iran at this point. But I am not. I know that there are a lot of risks involvedd with this trip, but we don’t have any other options. We planned this trip 6 months ago. If anything happens, I want to be part of it. I am very exicted to go to Tehran and see demonstrations. I asked myself this morning: “how can I help to free Iran from this regime?” I know this is what a lot of Iranians like me are thinking in Europe and America and other parts of the world. I read somewhere that every 25 years something big happens in Iran. I know this also means that Iranians are lazy and only every 25 years take a big action, but I am going to look at this differently for a couple of minutes. If there is any truth to this, I am very glad, because 25 years is around the corner, and we should get ready for a lot of changes. I want to see with my eyes if Iran can handle these coming changes. If things change I will go on street and kiss one thousans people on their lips. I want to make a world record of this. The only problem with this is that I dont know if I should do this in Iran or outside Iran. I have visited Iran only once in the last 20 years, and the last time I went there was January 2003 for a short and emergency trip to see my very sick mother. That time I only saw my Mother and my birth place. This time I want to look for my past. I was not ready to leave Iran the way I did and know I need to know more about myself and the country that I love somtimes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

K's brother M was driving through Teheran with his wife. They heard a strange noise coming from the car. "I'm worried," said his wife. "That did not sound good."

"Don't worry," said M. "Whatever it is, I'll fix it later." He continued driving, but soon noticed that the steering wheel was not actually controlling the direction of the car. He was finally forced to stop the car when he could not turn a corner. It turns out that the steering wheel was no longer connected to whatever it needs to be connected to in order to turn the wheels.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

K. and I have been traveling back and forth to the Iranian embassy in The Hague. The embassy is in a semi-residential, semi-governmental neighborhood near the sea. It’s in an ugly white, cement building. After the Islamic takeover of Iran’s revolution, Iranian exiles came to the embassy to protest the crackdown on political dissidents. Now the neighborhood feels quiet and peaceful.

The embassy itself is often filled with Iranian emigrants legalizing their status and their children’s status so that they can travel back to Iran to see families they have left behind. The television plays fuzzy satellite images from Iran. There is the obligatory ticker tape running across the bottom of the page, floating images of Khomeini and Khameini, a couple of mosques and burial vaults shown.

The waiting area is small and crowded and filled with women uncomfortable in their headscarves, children bored with waiting, and men filled with nervous energy.

We are quickly taken care of. What amazes me most, is that the man taking care of our request really wants to help us. This is the first time I have encountered a bureaucrat who wants to solve my problem rather than making new problems for me. Hmmm…

This is the same man Katayoon called when she needed a new passport in a hurry. She spoke to him almost every day and cajoled him into getting her her passport on time. This was also the same man who made sure that K. received his passport in time to go see his mother in Iran.

On the final day of our 3-days of voyaging to the embassy, we were admitted to a small and stuffy room where the final paperwork was done to get me papers to travel in Iran. When we were left alone in the room, I asked K what would happen to people like T if the regime fell? “Don’t be stupid,” K. said. Sometimes I forget that there are subjects that are better off discussed elsewhere.

Mr. T returned to the room with more papers for us to sign. K said to him, "Considering the situation now with America now and their talk of regime change, I don't want their to be any problems for T in Iran because it would not just be family problem, it would be a political problem too since she is an American. "

"We want to make sure that does not happen," Mr. T responded. "We love Americans."

I looked from him to K and saw many familiar features: heavy eyebrows, large eyes with long black lashes, small rounded noses, and heart-shaped mouths. “He looks like your brother,” I said to K. later. “He does,” K answers. “He is from our city. He knows my family.”

K and Mr. T talk. I hear the words, “Bush” and “cowboy.” Mr. T turns to me and says in Farsi, “I hope that our two countries will have good relations.” “I do too,” I answer. “Inshallah,” says Mr. T.

When we leave, K says that he was surprised that Mr. T said that.

We left. K and I went into the shopping area and ate herring from a roadside stand. This was the first time I ate herring the traditional way. (I have eaten lots and lots of herring, mind you. I love it.) It was served whole. I lifted it by the tail and dropped it into my mouth. I could taste the sea. It was a bit like eating really good sea urchin.

“I will never make fun of Dutch food again,” I told K. “The key is to get the cheap food: the herring, the bitterballen and kroquettes, and the tomato soup. Those are all fantastically delicious.”

I tell the herring vendors that this is the best herring I have ever had. “Of course,” the fishmonger says. “You see me deboning it, if you don’t see someone doing this don’t eat it. It means they bought their herring from someone else and it’s just been sitting. Plus don’t eat at recreation parks or festivals. You have to see your herring and know it is fresh.”

Later we return for a second herring. “Where are you from,” the woman asks us?

“America,” I answer.

“And I am from Iran,” K says.

“We need mediation.”

“Netherlanders are good at that,” the fishmonger laughs.