Week 9 – Part 1/1

Days 61-67, 18-24.4

This week wasn’t really exciting. While a normal shopping tour on the Tajrish bazaar I discovered a box with little chicks and ducks and other birdies. They didn’t even cost 2 EUR and are so cute – apart from the non-stop noise of them. Unfortunately my flatmates aren’t in favour of the idea of having a little farm in our living room although it would be spacious enough. They are afraid of the dirt caused by them and little bugs who would “welcome the chicks presence”. Even though we will never win the price of the cleanest apartment and at the moment there are so many disrespectful and agile mosquitoes, that a few more insects won’t bother anyone.
So the farm seems to have to wait some time. Zhihui liked the idea though, but since she’s not living here, she needn’t bother the side effects of the keeping. Instead she suggested having little rabbits which are only about 5 EUR. They would be more easy-care. But on the contrary they don’t produce eggs and we could have given the chickens just everything we didn’t want to eat any more. Time will show, if Zhihui really buys a rabbit. It would be funny in any case.

Background photo: Southern view from the roof-top

Since there’s nothing else to tell, I want to give some additional insights into everyday life of a ginger in Iran.

First I want to start with the experiences on the bus ride from Kashan to Tehran, that will be the same on mostly every bus ride during the day in Iran.

  • After the bus left the terminal, it didn’t went directly – as it would have done in Germany – to Tehran. Since Iranians are mostly coming a bit late, the bus went quite slowly the first kilometres after having left the terminal and an attendant talked to mostly every pedestrian, if they want to catch this bus to Tehran. Suprisingly (or not) many people got into the bus like this. And even on the highway the bus stopped several times to pick up some villagers. How much they had to pay is beyond my knowledge, but I assume it’s not more than everyone else paid.
    Having arrived in Tehran, it may be that the terminal has no metro station nearby. No problem, the bus then just stops at one on the way for people to get out and continue.
  • While the driving skills of Tehranis seem non-existent, they don’t exist on the highway for real. On Fridays the Tehranis drive back into the capital hence the highway is crowded. The buses are only allowed the use the right and middle lane. But as in the city likewise on the highway there is no logical or anticipatory driving manner. Driving on the right lane seems to put a curse on people since only few cars are using it. That’s why the middle and left lane are overloaded. The issue is, that these are used by people who – according to European standards – should drive on the right lane because of their low speed. Thus I sat in the front of the bus seeing all this chaos, I couldn’t sleep, it draws my total attention. The Iranians are not stupid, but during such overland rides they seem to remove their brain beforehand. The bus driver was always like honking for slower cars out of the way and giving flash-lights. At least two times we nearly had an accident.

Then some facts to my eye-catching look (hair).

  • In the beginning it might have been funny to be approached and looked at by many people – especially girls and to be asked for photos (usually by girls). But by and by it just gets annoying. There’s nearly one metro ride that I can spend with listening to music or learning vocabulary. Usually some man talks to me, even when I have earphones in. Of course they are curious what there’s going outside their country and why a foreigner visit their country/city. They understandably don’t know that I’m daily approached and asked these questions. Even pretending not to speak English doesn’t hold them from talking. And if someone starts a “conversation” usually others will join, so even when I change the metro, I’m not let alone till I go out.
    The questions are always the same: Where I’m from, what I’m doing and why, if I like Iran (of course) and then about sanctions, politics and relatives abroad, sometimes not serious invitations. A few times even these relatives in Austria or Germany were called and I should talk to them.
  • It gets a little better pretending to be Austrian. Many people don’t know it and can’t make a connection with football or – which is somehow funny – Hitler. But of course it’s more popular than Montenegro. But I don’t want to get into a situation where someone suddenly talks Serbian with me; but it surely only depends on my further endurance. While Francesco is considered as Iranian, I think I can’t do anything but maybe dye my hair, which won’t happen though.
  • But my endurance was nearly reached this week. I wanted to do homework and relax a bit in Laleh park. But of course it didn’t work out. After two minutes two soldiers sat down next to me. They, as many men in Iran, couldn’t speak English. So babbled, well only one, the stupidest of them. As far as I understood, it wasn’t even something interesting but mostly vulgar. For his self-reflection, that didn’t exist, I’ll summarize a little part of the conversation:
    He ask, if I felt annoyed by some people. Funny that this question occurred after 15 minutes and that I’ve obviously being into doing my homework and had books and my pc laying around. I even mentioned that I came here to do my homework. However I said yes, I sometimes feel annoyed. Then he told me I should remember these people, he’ll give a “special treatment” to their mothers…Of course I didn’t say, he therefore could start with his own mother
  • Last but not least the mobile phone numbers. Most of the people of the metro or bus conversations want to stay in contact with their new best friend. Hence it’s useful to have a piece of paper and a pencil near you, to write down their details. In any case I try to avoid giving them my number – very successful until now. By the time I have a second SIM card as well, which I can use for “emergencies”.

This may sound arrogant, but I’m living here, of course as a foreigner, but I’m not here as a tourist. If each one of the 14 million inhabitants talks to me for 30 seconds, I’ll have to stay for more that 13 years in Iran. I’ll speak Farsi perfectly, but my life would probably be ruined and my contact list been burst.
Obviously and naturally the Iranians aren’t aware of this issue and I cannot ignore them completely (yet), but I cannot react as polite as in the beginning any more in these situations.
By the way, I’m not alone most obviously foreign student feel the same.

Week 8 – Hitchhiking in Iran – Part 1/1

Days 54-58, 11.4-15.4, Saturday till Wednesday

It was a normal week with school, appointments and being talked to on the metro. On day I went running in Laleh Park and I finally picked up all my things that were still in Velenjak.
For the weekend I initially wanted to go to Ardebil, because the weekend was supposed to be one day longer because of an organized trip by the school. But this trip was cancelled so I arranged a meeting with I. in Kashan. She recommended me to visit Abyaneh, a village in the mountains, as well. So I decided to make this trip my first hitchhiking experience in Iran. On Thursday I’d hitchhike to Abyaneh, spend the night in my tent and hitchhike to Kashan to visit the town with I.
To the photos

Day 59, 16.4, Thursday

Of course I started my little journey early in the morning and took only 800g of dates as food with me and 2l of water. At a quarter past 9am my hitchhiking experiment in Iran finally started. I presented the drivers my کاشان (Kashan) sign. Only minutes passed until I got a ride to Qom. Though before at least one car stopped but asked for money, because in Iran hitchhiking is not know. Only few people are aware of this kind of travelling. That’s why I always asked if it was ok, that I enter without money – three times, because otherwise they could just have been polite.
The first driver was from Tehran on the way to Arak. He left me near Qom not without taking photos on which he posed ridiculously and asked for my number. Fortunately just the day before I found a second SIM card, so I didn’t bother giving him my “new” number.
In Qom I had to wait a bit longer. First I stood next of a construction site, where people were working. The workers didn’t know what I was doing.
*”I’m hitchhiking, doing auto-stop.”
#”You want to go to Kashan by (auto)bus?”
*”No, by car.”
#”Ah, you will take a taxi.”
*”No, without money, but with cars. It’s not a problem. It’s called auto-stop.”
#”So by bus?”
It was very annoying. My mouth became dry from hundreds of times saying “It’s not a problem.” (moshkele nist) and at certain time I instead said “Khoshgele nist”, which means “He/She is not beautiful”. It made the workers even more confused. After half an hour, only people asking money had stopped, I went 200m further where I wasn’t disturbed any more. Not only five minutes later an old guy with a younger one the other front seat stopped; they were going to Kashan.
During the ride they drank tea, offered me some as well and the old man even knew Austria where I said to be from.
In Kashan (on my sign was written Abyaneh/Natanz) a car with three old ladies stopped, but they just told me they were going to Kashan. Although it was obviously not on my way one wanted to convince me to come with them. After 10 minutes a factory owner from Esfahan stopped. He made a detour to Abyaneh and even invited me for lunch there. After not even five hours, I arrived in Abyaneh. Of course I asked him at least three times if he really wanted me to invite and make the detour. So I didn’t care when he kind of regretted his decision having made this offer. The lunch was expensive for Iranian standards (7EUR) and he had to pay an entrance fee of 1,40EUR prior of driving into Abyaneh.
At least I could walk with new energy through Abyaneh, which was unluckyly full of teenage girls chatting very loud. I pittied the inhabitants, since the village was full of tourists who had the chance of posing in traditional dresses. Away from the tiny main road, it was still quite rural. Old women were chatting, a shepherd took care of his sheep between some houses and I was greeted friendly. Contrary to the girls nearly killed each other for a photo with me.
At 5pm I walked away to search for a place for pitching my tent. Some hundred metres off the road was a little stream that supplied green gardens with apple trees with water. Abreast the next village I found an appropriate place for my tent and laying in my sleeping bag could listen to the raindrops. The air was so clear and it was very awesome – like during my travels in summer.
To the photos of Abyaneh

Day 60, 17.4, Friday

At 6.30am I got up, the tent was dry again and the sun shone of sleepy village of Tareh. At 8am I started walking towards Kashan, the same time when I. took the bus from Esfahan. After one hour of walking, the second car passing gave me a lift to Kashan, where I. and I met half past 10am. On the way we passed the reprocessing plant of Natanz that was guarded by many anti-aircraft guns in the area.
When I. arrived when went into the city. I had forgotten my student’s ID so always should have paid the tourist price which is 10 times more. But the opposite happened. I told every cashier that I forgot my ID. In the end I could enter the Fin Garden without paying anything and in the next two museums I. could enter for free while I paid the reduced price.
Since it was Friday Kashan wasn’t busy at all. The bazaar was empty and the whole atmosphere was relaxed. We spent a great day and having spent the weekend like this, was a perfect idea.
At 6pm we drove back to Esfahan respectively Tehran.
To the photos of Kashan

During the week

Photos of Abyaneh

Photos of Kashan

Week 7 – Homeless in Tehran – Part 2/2

Day 49, 6.4, Monday

It was the third day of school of the new term and I got up at 6am to avoid using the crowded metro.
Having arrived a school I was very friendly welcomed by the “secretary”, who didn’t gave me a room. But it was very nice to see the old classmates again.
After class I went to the secretary again to finally arrange a room. In the meantime Francesco and Tobias offered me to stay at their place until I a real place.
After I got an address somewhere in Enghelab from the secretary, I went there by metro with Tobias and Francesco, who also live in that area. But it soon turned out the place where I should stay was supposed to be the shabby place where Francesco had to live for one months: one room for 12 people in the basement without windows. I didn’t want to go to the secretary the next day and complain, without having seen that place so I decided to go there, but left all valuable stuff at Francesco’s apartment.
At the dormitory no-one in charge knew I was coming. A young student accompanied me the administration, but the lord of the keys wasn’t around any more and nobody knew if he come back the next day as well. So the student took me to a common room and a few hours later to a two bed room. But all to beds were already reserved, so I had to sleep on the ground again. Also I noticed that he belongs to these kind of people being in favour of the religious government, which was another reason for me to quickly find a different place. Instead of going out for dinner with him and his friends, I arranged a meeting with Zhihui to eat, who doesn’t live far and to make the evening at least a bit nice.
Before going to sleep I enjoyed the first shower since Berlin and tried to sleep well on the ground.

Day 50, 7.4, Tuesday

I left the room, saying to myself to not return. I could change my jogging trousers and the T-Shirt into a jeans and a shirt.
At school I went to the secretary again. She told me I should call the caretaker of the apartments of Tobias and Francesco at 9pm. I replied that I wouldn’t wait with all my stuff somewhere outside to maybe get a room at 9pm and told her that I’d stay at a friend’s (Tobias). There I could at least sleep in a proper bed after four nights on the more or less bare ground.
At 9pm I called the caretaker and as I assumed he didn’t know if there was a free room/bed and said he’d call the secretary the next day…

Day 51, 8.4, Wednesday

It was the last day of school of the first week and I was still home- or roomless. At 3pm the secretary gave me the adress of a pension where I should go, because the caretaker hadn’t called back.
But before I could even go there, she called me telling me there was a free bed in Francesco’s apartment, although he said, the all wanted single rooms.
His roommates were astonished as well, but I finally had a place.

Day 52, 10.4, Thursday

I slept long this day.
My new home is near Enghelab square (Meydan-e Enghelab), few minutes from the metro and even nearer to the big Laleh Park. We can even access the rooftop, where you have a great view and can see Damavand and an anti-aircraft gun. My apartment mates are Jack (an Englishman), Francesco and my roommate Yang from Taiwan. Each morning we take the taxi to school, paying 30’000 (0,80 EUR).
In the after-noon we met at a café with other people for talking and afterwards for a kebab.

Day 53, 10.4, Friday

At noon we met with two Iranians from Thursday to learn some swear words and then I met with Zhihui to make some homework and relax in the sun.

Back to Tehran – Week 7 – Homeless in Tehran – Part 1/2


Because of norooz (Iranian New Year) flights from Europe to Iran in the beginning of April were incredibly expensive. That’s why I had booked a connection with which I was in Tehran about 48 hours later and arrived to days after classes had started.
I started on Friday at 1am from Berlin-Schönefeld to Istanbul Sabiha-Gökcen. I wanted to take a new bought cooker for my trip during summer. But I was taken from me at the security control, although I highly doubt that outside of Germany anyone would have cared.
In Istanbul I had a 10 hour lay-over (from 5am to 3pm) and I slept most of the time. Then I took Qatar Airways to Doha, where the lay-over was 23 hours. Unfortunately I didn’t get any accommodation nor food vouchers nor a free entry visa. In addition my luggage containing apples and bananas couldn’t be picked up by me during that time.
But with a smart sense, I baked enough cottage cheese dough bag for not starving.
After my arrival in Doha I went straight to the relaxation room to sleep on the floor as good as possible.
The next morning (Sunday) I went to one of the numerous tables with power to work a bit and WiFi was for free as well. In general the airport was more a luxury shopping mall with many expensive cars in front of a couple of high-class shops and computers for passengers to use the internet for had all been by Apple. It was not the right location for a guy in sloppy jogging trousers.
At 6pm I finally boarded the airplane to Tehran and although being in Iranian air space got a double vodka.

Day 48, 5.4, Sunday

I arrived in Tehran and had no place to stay. I gave up my room in Velenjak for the month I was in Germany (why should I pay, when I was not there) and asked for a new room – whether in Velenjak again or Enghelab, I didn’t care. I haven’t received a mail. Zhihui gave up her room for one month,too but she got a reply and a room in a dormitory again.
There I was. Fortunately I still had enough data on my mobile, the calling credit was somehow zero, so I. arranged me a place at the aunt of a friend of hers. The taxi driver didn’t know the way so finally at 1am I arrived at the aunt’s place. She already had arranged a small mattress on the floor, which was a thousands time better than the seats or bare floor at the airport.