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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.

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Week 2 – Part 2/2


Day 13, 2.2, Monday

Together with Anahit, Zhihui and two other Russians (Zhenya and Alexander) I went to the former American embassy by metro to take some photos and visit the museum. It is open only one time a year: During a ten day period before revolution day (11th February). We were able to take photos, but the entrance fee of 7USD or 1 mio Rial (which is apparently 29USD) couldn’t be paid, since we didn’t have any dollars with us.
So we went eating and strolled around. First to a Zoroastrian temple, which was closed and then to an Armenian church. It was also closed due to renovation. So we continued, passed the Russian embassy which can be found on a gigantic park area.
Then we went to the Armenian Club, where alcohol can be consumed. Passing an art gallery, where a famous actress was present, too, we went to a shop where Zhihui bought a traditional Baluch (Baluchistan is the border region between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so a very safe area).

Day 14, 3.2, Tuesday

Tuesday was a boring day. I don’t know any more what I did. Everyday life stuff, I guess. Roman and I tried a new route to the dorm which led through a long park.

Day 15, 4.2, Wednesday

In the morning the smog dome that covers Tehran nearly daily was clearly visible.
After class I took the metro to the south east to an airport which I thought was unused. But I had to notice that on the contrary it is the base of the Iranian Airforce, so strolling around was not really possible.
In the evening I accepted being interviewed. I hadn’t had any information about it; it was supposed to be a project of Iranian students. The first question about us were masquerade and the main topic was Islam and violence. One of the questions was how our view of Islam changed, now being in Iran and how it has been beforehand. Me and a German female student were the only ones who participated.
In the end we should read A Letter 4 U of the religious Leader of the Islamic Republic Iran . I’m sure the film is used as propaganda material, but I cannot deny that I don’t totally disagree with the complete letter.
In addition we got a rose as thank you which is such a nice gift I would have said every propaganda sentence for. I’m really curious about the final documentary. Depending on the result, I’ll upload it.

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Week 2 – Part 1/2


Day 9, 29.1, Thursday

It was the first weekend during the official classes. Roman, Nilufar and me went to Darakeh by bus and taxi. The quarter is barely 1km as the crow flies (what a great expression by the way), but separated by a valley and private properties.
We went along a simple hiking trail, which was lined with shops. I didn’t like that fact at all. Hiking in my opinion is walking through rough, wild nature. I could stand a paved trail, but the line of shops went on for kilometres, though of course there were not all one after another.
Anyway in the beginning was a man with an instrument being a mixture of a guitar and a violin playing. He had a little speaker and his position was wisely chosen since the surrounding mountains created a full sound supported by echo. Since Germany has a very good reputation he was effusively happy that a German listened to his music and naturally wanted a photo.
After three hours the shops almost vanished and we went into a tea house and then returned. In total we were hiking for six hours and came home in time before it began raining cats and dogs.

Day 10, 30.1, Friday

At four in the morning a heavy thunderstorm passed over Tehran.
Initially I wanted to improve my vocabulary but in the end I mostly ended watching movies and doing homework.

Day 11, 31.1, Saturday

Since my visa is only valid for 30 days, the language course is 42 days and I’m going to stay for about 50 days in Iran, my visa had to be extended.
I had to hand in my passport in the dormitory. Although it was already in their possession I was asked a couple of times to hand it in since I arrived. It mostly ended in a discussion after which they checked the safe and had to admit that I didn’t steal it in the meantime…It was strange.
When I wanted to get it for the visa extension they refused to give it back: It should be copied – again. I don’t know how many copies they already had, but apparently they were not enough.
I also used to new week to charge my mobile data plan, because the 1.5GB were finished quite fast. It costed 5 Euro.
After having done homework in the evening I ran my traditional running lap to Tochal cabin station.

Day 12, 1.2, Sunday

I could finally apply for my visa extension. It will take about three weeks. Apart from cooking, nothing else happened.

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Week One – Part 2/2


Day 5, 25.1

Together with Anahit and Roman, I went to the bazaar at Tajrish square to buy vegetables and other food for cooking. On the way we passed a shop selling the delicious Iranian sweets though, where we stopped and filled two boxes with different kinds of them. Afterwards Anahit and I visited two bookshops, having many old books and certainly some valuable among them, and drove back to the dorm by a shared taxi.
Initially I planned to build a snow (wo)man with hijab, but unfortunately this idea wasn’t covered by enough snow. Instead Roman and I invited Anahit over, taking a break from learning to drink some tea and eat the sweets. Since they make full quickly we postponed the cooking to next day.

Day 6, 26.1

This day was like the ones before: Classes, bazaar, but this time Roman and I took the bus back to the dorm. However this took nearly the same amount of time as walking back – around one hour. The time seems to run really fast here in general. Going from A to B takes so long due to the chaotic traffic. Apart from it everything else takes more time. In exchange offices but as well as in other shops always multiple people seem to work very slowly although it seems only a few customers come visiting every day.
Anyway at 5pm we arrived at the dorm, what has one big advantage: I could surf the internet with high-speed (5 MB/s). That’s why I could download the most popular German TV show (Tatort – crime scene) very fast.
After the mandatory postprocessing of the class we cooked the pasta, which we bought the day before, with many herbs that are really cheap in Iran.
Then Tatort was watched by Roman and me and for 90 minutes I forgot being 4000km away in a completely culture area. But we called it a day at 2am because we after having watched, we continued learning.

Day 7, 27.1

Finally a normal day.
After school I wanted to go home quickly. While Roman was meeting with a friend and Anahit went with another Russian to a Zoroastrian Temple, I was accompanied by Nilufar, an Afghan girl living in Dubai on the Palm and whose father is an Afghan politician. At one round-about we passed a cool bus that I had seen some days before on the way to school and I had to take pictures. The driver especially washed his face.
Before going up to my room I stopped by at the bakery and had to discover that I had been given a bread of which the baker took a piece that he was eating when I entered…Anyway the prices change a lot. The price range is from 5000 Rials to 10 000 Rials (13 Cents to 25 Cents).
In the evening at 10pm, after homework, I went running to Tochal station. There were still many people around, mostly couples and smaller groups. But I didn’t cope with the altitude yet. At least the air in this area isn’t really polluted so I’ll certainly go there more often.

Day 8, 28.1

Today was by far the worst day of school. I had the feeling that I had missed one week of classes. I couldn’t follow and fortunately Roman either. Anyway now it’s week-end so I hope I can catch up again. While some people are going to Esfahan, I’ll go hiking with Roman and Nilufar. I mean, the mountains literally start in front of the dormitory’s door. Journeys to Esfahan and Caspian Sea will be made the following week-ends. But today I’ll relax.

Background picture: Cool bus, 2015 all rights reserved

#By the way: I’m not really restricted in any kind. I mean I’m not somewhere in a village of a – well- third world country. The tap water has some chlorine in it and I guess many people would suggest not to drink it, but I’ve been fine. My monthly data plan of the dorm is finished due to Tatort, so now I can only use mobile internet of Rightel (3G). With the help of a VPN communication with the outside world is only restricted by my own lazyness. But apart from that Youtube, Facebook, in general all blocked websites, can be accessed. I think I’m being ripped off many times. On Wednesday I paid for 8 apples, 4 bananas, 2 kiwis, one orange and one avocado nearly 8 EUR. Next time I will give them all back with a grin. The dormitory is mixed, but not the rooms, which is still fair enough. Of course many things are different but became pretty fast normal, since I’m not on holidays. Though I’ll try to mention them as good as possible. E.g. I often feel like being a zoo’s animal. What reason could that probably have?#