Week 21-22 – No problem? – Yes problem!


Weeks 21-22, 5.9 – 18.9

During the week not much happened again. I wanted to use the weekend to finally sent out some applications. On Wednesday (9.9) I went to the birthday celebration of a friend.
At 10.30pm I took the bus home. It was extremely crowed and that is special even for Tehran. Though I got inside. Before I received a message but I would answer it after having got off the bus. So I got off and wanted to answer the message, but there was no phone any more. And my wallet was nearly out of my pocket, so someone seemed to be greedy. So I ran after the bus, but of course didn’t catch it. Police officers, that I passed and told my problem didn’t do anything but smiling stupidly and asking for my nationality. Of course it was naive to think they would e.g. follow the bus, stop it and check everyone’s phone (only vibration was on) only because a foreigner said his mobile would have been stolen – possible in no country. So I went to the last station to check the buses because maybe my phone just fell out of my pocket. But it wasn’t in any bus. The police there didn’t help me much, I had to ask some traffic police officers to help me. They told me I had to go to the police district where my phone had been stolen – so back to Enghelab square. It was already 11.30pm. In the little police, you can call it booth, was one young soldier who called his boss. He came after another like 45 minutes, gave me a piece of paper stating my story and told me to go to the main police building of the district the next day. I was happy, that the door of my dorm was open otherwise I would have been really upset.
So the next day (Thursday) I went there, had to sign another paper and should come back with the bill of the mobile phone some day. I was happy being able to speak Farsi, since nobody was able to speak good English…
The rest of the day I spent in Zari’s apartment and when I returned in the evening I bought a new phone. I had enough SIM cards left and saved the contacts before my summer holidays, so basically I really only lost money and time. For around 62$ I got a used HTC Desire 310 with 16GB memory card – which was not a bad deal in my opinion.
On Friday (11.9) I configured the phone again, meet with Zhihui and went with my room-mates and some others to a café in the evening.
The pursuit of the bus combined with heavy breathing caused some breathing problems the following week.

On Saturday I bought new internet and calling credit. Unfortunately I changed a phone configuration that failed so my phone was like in a coma. Everything really went great! So Sunday I went to Zari until dawn again and at 2.30am I had a working phone again.
It was good so on Tuesday evening (15.9) I could meet for an art inauguration in the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.
Finally the following weekend (17. and 18.9) was a quiet one. Thursday I went to friends of a a friend and on Friday I learnt for the midterm exam.


In the end I want to give some information about the public transportation in Tehran at night. There are five metro lines and six fast bus lines (BRT – Bus Rapid Transport). Whereas the metro is only running from about 5.30am to 10.30pm the BRT thanks God 24/7. The BRT covers a great area in Tehran so one can easily move without taking a taxi. Another awesome advantage is how regular the buses are going all night. I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes!

BRT network map (as of September 2015)
Metro network map

front-week_11

Week 11


Day 75, 2.5, Saturday

That day was a national holiday, so I needn’t go to school. But I was lazy. With Zhihui and her room-mate Feyza I went to a coffee shop.
In addition at the moment there is an huge amount of mosquitoes in Tehran. Although the air is very dry and there aren’t really any lentic waters, these spawns of hell reproduce very fast. In contrary to Iranian people – no offence – they are very agile, fast and seem to know seconds before that one is about to try to hit them; plus their thirst for blood cannot be allayed.
Either way I can’t even hide in my sleeping bag because they still find some gap in it. So on morning I woke up with one of my arms covered with bites. Fortunately they don’t itch.

Days 76-79, 3.5-5.5, Sunday-Tuesday

It was a normal school week again and the teacher told me several times how bad my Farsi skills for a German were. What she didn’t acknowledge, 90% of the other Germans come to Iran during their study so already had Farsi in Germany. Me instead, as well as Tobias, started from zero and are as bad as other nationals.
On Monday we went to the Iranian version of the French supermarket company Carrefour (Hyperstar). Yang told of it and we needed a couple of things. The supermarket was really like normal western ones – without the alcohol section of course and at a certain time I was asked to stop taking photos.

Days 80-82, 6.5-8.5, Wednesday-Friday

The weekend came near and initially I. wanted to come to Tehran for the book fair. But it didn’t happen. I had to flee out of Tehran and with the help of the satellite view of Google Maps I chose a valley in the north-east of Tehran. After class I went to Kalugan by metro, bus, on foot and 25km by hitchhiking. Having arrived in the village I hiked until dusk until I found a kind of appropriate place for my tent. But since I was in the mountains I couldn’t pitch it probably and was lucky that it didn’t rain that night. Apart from some different inconveniences I enjoyed being in a safety distance from the 14 million people hell.

On Thursday morning I packed everything again and went back to Tehran. A bit sad I spent the evening with Frisco, Yang and another student of Dehkhoda in a coffee shop. Later an Iranian girl and Zhihui joined.

On Friday on 10am I went to worship in the German Protestant Church of Tehran (). It was my first time and I liked it a lot. About 12 other people were there and after the worshop I stayed there for tea and talking until noon.
When I came back to Enghelab, Iranians just gathered at the entrance of the University of Tehran for Friday praying. The main street was closed and you could see some “Death to Israel/USA” again.

front-week_9

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.

front-week_3_2

Week 3 – Part 2/4


Day 17, 6.2, Friday

Mostly, we relaxed of the hiking and I spent much time updating my blog. In the afternoon, I had an appointment with Zari and Saba in Café of ASP building. Roman had an appointment there as well, so we both went together. But due to the heavy traffic, I arrived one hour late.
On the way home I talked on the phone with Karlsruhe, so though the late hour I didn’t take the bus to the connecting station. When I arrived there at 22.30, the last bus to Velenjak was already gone. I didn’t want to take a taxi so I went by foot. In total I took me two hours to get home. And I still had to do homework so at 1am I finally went to bed.

Day 18, 7.2, Saturday

I still feel the hiking. Roman and I went shopping on our way home and I finally managed to begin to digitse part of the Farsi vocab. In addition I finished work for Karlsruhe so I was up till 1am again.

Day 19, 8.2, Sunday

School, bazaar, homework, at 1am to bed

Day 20, 9.2, Monday

I didn’t do my reading homework, because digitising was more important to me. So at class I stammered like hell and had to repeat the homework.
Due to having changed money, I got a million Rial note.
After class I went to the American embassy again. I was 50 minutes early with some others so we went for a sandwich (I took falafel with cheese for 1,30€).
At the embassy we got a guide and a kind Danish with Iranian roots translated. The ground floor was used for and by normal embassy stuff and staff, but the first floor was the heart of espionage of the CIA. Pictures of people, that were meant to be killed by the US and its allys during the Iraq-Iran war asking for truth, were hanging in the corridor.
During the introduction the guide mentioned that the movie “Argo” would be nonsense approved by the Canadian ambassador and his wife. The truth is, the Canadian ambassador only criticized the downplaying of his effort, not the content itself. Although the success would have been 90% Canada’s labour and only 10% of the CIA, the movie would show the opposite. Only the wife of the ambassador mentioned it would have been better to declare the movie being based on a true case than declaring it completely true.
We were shown the rooms: soundproof meeting rooms, rooms with reinforced doors to communicate with the headquarters and receive orders, rooms to fake passports and other documents.

The time of the shah was over in February 1979. The Iranians didn’t want to be oppressed by a leader that would follow imperialists and especially in the end beat down the opposition (clerics) brutally. They didn’t want to live in a dictatorship. That the Islamic Repbulic with its Supreme Leader (currently Ayatollah Khamenei) can be considered a dictatorship as well, is not mentioned. The members of the parliament and the president himself can be voted by the Iranian people of a list that has been approved by the Guardian Council. The members of this council are appointed by the already selected members of the parliament and the Supreme Leader. He is appointed by the Assembly of Experts, that consists of mullahs, who are vetted by the Guardian Council and who are then “elected” by the people. To make a long story short: The Supreme Leader, his leadership circle and vassals can appoint what the parliament and the president do. They survey themselves, command the army, the constitutional court and in addition have a second army of followers that secures their power. In public, their decisions are rarely discussed.

In November 1979 the US embassy was bursted by Khomeini friendly students and hostages were held for 444 days. Coloured people and women were released soon, but high-ranked employees and CIA members were still captured. Though they would have been treated very well with e.g. high quality food from other embassies whereas the students only ate normal food. Even a Christmas celebration was held.
Of course we were told about the Iraq-Iran war ind the early 80s. The Iraqis under US implemented leadership of Saddam Hussein wanted to use the seeming weakness of the Islamic revolution to occupy oil-rich territory and coast. But thanks to Khomeini’s leadership and Allah, who for sure fought for the Iraqis as well…, the Iranians didn’t loose territory but strengthened mentally, but with many casualties, having made head against Iraq and western supporters. Apparently chemicals weapons came from Germany, mines from Belgium, jets from France and underground hangars were built by Italians. Nobody seemed to be on Iran’s side. But revange for crimes against Iranian civilians was forbidden by merciful Khomeini. Instead it is said he let children and teenagers clean mine field on foot and told them they’ll die as martyrs (these victims may be shown on the pictures in the corridor as well).
After all the hostilities and sanctions, now-a-days due to peaceful use of nuclear energy, although many countries including North Korea and Pakistan even have nuclear weapons, the shouting “Down/Death with/to America/Israel” is not against the people but an exaggerated desire for new politics and governments. The greetings at Iranian New Year of President Obama in 2014 (and surely in 2015 again) are worth nothing, considering the hardened sanctions and military threats.

Day 21, 10.2, Tuesday

Since on Wednesday the Islamic Revolution is celebrated it is the last day of the school for this week. I didn’t do anything.
In the evening I could get a preview of the things that may happen tomorrow: At 9pm Iranian students for their dorms just opposite were shouting in a chorus: “Allah u akbar”, “Marg bar amerika” and “Marg bar Israel”. (It’s often translated as “Down with USA/Israel” but “marg” means literally “death”) In the background fireworks were lighten the sky of Tehran. It has been quite an absurd picture, but didn’t lower my excitement for the next day’s parade. Although last year three students were captured by police.

#By the way: The normal public buses are separated. One part is for men only, the other for women only. In smaller buses, like the ones I go to school with, which are like the big Mercedes vans this separation doesn’t exist. In the metro there are two parts for women only: at the front and at the end. They can enter everywhere else though. This is an advantage for them in my opinion. During rush our, the mixed parts are always completely full. In the ones of the women there is always enough space.
Let’s stay at the metro. The stairs, as I already wrote, are hardly used and people look weirdly if you do so. Sometimes there are even queues in front of the escalators. Fun starts, when the escalators start working. The people seem to be in such bad physical shape, that even a difference of 5 metres height causes them to gasp heavily.
I learned my first swearword: “an”. It means shit and is also an abbreviation of AhmadiNejad.