Sehaty Foreign Exchange

All set: Uncle Abol sitting in the
Land Rover parked by the stream.

Written and photographed by
J. Javid
New York

Every time I got ready for my annual trip to Iran, I would call my Uncle Abol to see if he needed anything. He was on a basketball team and usually he would ask me to bring him sneakers, a basketball or a jersey with Michael Jordan or Charles Barkeley's name on it.

The last of my grandfather's 17 children (if it makes any difference, there were two mothers), Abol is a year younger than I am and very athletic. This time he asked me to bring him fishing gear. Fishing gear? Was he planning a trip to Montana? "We go to Lar Dam every weekend with the Masouds. It's great. I'll take you when you get here," he said.

The experience of driving less than an hour out of a giant, cruel fume dome that is Tehran to a place where gentle blue streams skip and slide below graceful bare mountains under clear skies gives you an incredible high. Standing there, I felt the warmth from the surrounding beauty that was nature; the natural beauty of a country known for anything but.

I had never fished before. And just as I had imagined, it was more than a bit boring, actually. Every ten minutes or so, I would tell myself that millions of people love to sit in their little boat or stand by a stream and hold that rod for hours and hours, throwing it back and forth once in a while and ... fish.

I did it out of respect for the great sport of fishing more than anything else. And curiosity, of course. And there was nothing else to do. Abol and the Masouds taught me (or thought they did) how to fish. They left me by the Land Rover and went upstream where they thought they had a better chance of catching more and bigger fish. I only caught one qezelala (trout) and it was our biggest catch of the day.

Catching the fish should have been the most exciting part of my fishing experience. But my excitement soon turned to an, admittedly minor, panic as I realized I'm actually killing a living being. Somehow I thought the pain and mess of removing the steal hook locked in the fish's jaw was worse than letting it die. So it did, after much twisting and turning on the rocks not far from its home.

After that wonderful experience, that was it for me. I sat on the foot of a mound, throwing stones as far as I could and thought about the woman I loved so dearly. A lizard kept me company.

By then it was around noon and the sun was too generous for me. I took refuge in the Land Rover and lied down on the front seats with my feet hanging out the door. (As I write this, I wonder why I didn't just go for a good swim?)

When Abol and the Masouds came back we opened a red, juicy, sweet watermelon, probably the most delicious, refreshing fruit in the world. (What would have happebed if the serpent had offered Eve a slice of watermelon instead? I mean, look what a boring apple did.)

After taking a picture of Abol and the Masouds horsing around, we headed back to the fume dome.

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