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Trip

They knew
Breaking habit, wind & my waistline

June 30, 2003
The Iranian

The final holiday as a couple without kids is an important one. Varinder, pregnant with our twins, is fast approaching her 30th week after which she won't be allowed to fly on any airline. So the holiday was going to be a special one. We booked the Formentor which is a beautiful hotel at the very Northern tip of the Spanish island of Mallorca. I won't bore you by going through every detail of that trip, instead, here are a few highlights:

***

I couldn't help looking at all the topless women on our beach, particularly the Danish lady a few feet away, like a 'gedaa goshne'. Varinder finally lost her patience with me.

"If you stare at her breasts one more time her husband is going to come over and kick the living daylights out of you."

"Whose breasts? I'm not staring at any breasts!" I protested.

"The Danish blonde behind you to the left."

"I'm looking at the view behind her..."

"There is no view behind her, idiot - it's a car park. If he does come and beat you up, I won't be able to jump on his back to protect you... (she was very heavy with twins) instead I'll come over and kick you a couple of times for good measure."

I finally succeeded in breaking my staring habit.

***

On day three I humiliated myself to an extent that still makes me cringe when I think about it. While lying on the sun-lounger reading my book, a wasp began buzzing around me. I tried to shoo it away with my book but only succeeded in drawing attention to myself.

I continued to flap my book around before the wasp seemed to decide it was going to try and sting me. Suddenly, it was buzzing only an inch or two from my nose. I panicked and rolled myself as fast as I could off the sun-lounger. As I hit the sand, I gave out a very loud, in involuntary, fart which sounded like a short trumpet sound and resonated to a few hundred yards radius of my bottom.

I crawled over to Varinder who was already in paroxysms of laughter before joining her. When I laugh extremely hard, I sound like I am crying. Nobody on the beach could work out what was happening to me. I laughed, wept and snorted for a full five minutes before I finally regained my composure.

***

On days seven, eight and nine Varinder complained of a faint sewage smell emanating from our bedroom.

***

On day ten I realised that my spare swimming trunks were missing. After a quick search I found them rolled up inside a plastic bag next to the bin under the writing table. I pulled them out and noticing they were damp decided to smell them. The first sniff was quite sweet, so I took a deeper sniff and covered my entire face with the trunks. I immediately realised I was smelling human or animal SHIT.

As I pulled it away from my face, bits of something moist stuck to my cheek, forehead and chin. I spent 15 minutes in the shower scrubbing my face extremely hard with a nail brush. This did not stop Varinder from refusing to kiss me for the duration of our holiday and christening me, 'shit face' and 'shit head'.

To this day, the 23rd of June 2003, I have no idea how shit came to be smeared on the outside front of my trunks. It is a complete mystery. Perhaps out maid had a grudge against is... who knows.

***

Our last two days were spent at a hotel in Palma, the capital of Mallorca. We enjoyed our final evening at a beautiful restaurant by the harbour.

Varinder nudged me half way through our meal.

"What?" I asked

"Sssshhhh! Don't look now but those people on the table in the far corner are Iranian."

I looked around and saw two couples eating, laughing and joking together - in what sounded like English. But I couldn't hear them properly. They were middle aged and their dress sense was stylish but very Gucci (which is fine if you like that sort of thing). I strained to listen to their conversation again but couldn't hear anything.

"The second couple aren't Iranian at all. The guy is so fair skinned he looks German," I told Varinder.

"But he is the one who speaks English with a strong Iranian accent. I just heard him say, 'Tanks god I have ess-tocks and shares'... that's exactly how your mum speaks!"

In the taxi back to our hotel Varinder told me that each couple had taken it in turn to discreetly stare at us just as we had stared at them. Being too busy negotiating a large paella for two I had not noticed.

"They knew you were Iranian," she told me.

To our amazement, the following morning at breakfast we saw the same group having breakfast a few tables away from us.

"Don't you dare go and say hello... why do you always think other Iranians want to know us?"

Too late, I was already half way to their table. I reached it, stopped, smiled and introduced myself explaining that we had sat across from each other at the restaurant the night before and that I, too was Iranian.

The Iranian looking couple looked up at me for a few seconds before the husband said somewhat coldly, "Yes?"

"I just wanted to say hello," I smiled; trying hard not sound like the wind had been taken from my sails.

The second, fairer looking couple immediately got up and shook my hand before asking what I did for a living, what my family name was and where I lived. I discovered that the first couple were residents of LA and the second couple (only the husband was Iranian, his wife was Belgian) lived in Brussels. This is why they had all spoken in English over dinner the night before.

***

I so crave Iranian company. Which is why today I went to an Iranian restaurant in Chicago called, Reza. Let me rewind: I am writing this as I sit in my hotel room near Chicago's O'Hare airport. I am in the US for a week of work and meetings. My taxi driver from the airport looked so Iranian that I couldn't resist asking him if he was. He turned out to be Syrian. We spoke at length about Iraq.

"Why do you think Bush senior stopped short of helping the Iraqi's oust Saddam during the last conflict?" he asked me.

I looked quizzically back at him through his rear view mirror. He continued.

"Because if Saddam had been removed back then the Arabs would no longer have needed an American presence on their soil. Bush needed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to be dependent on a US presence. That's why he let Saddam stay in power."

I asked him if he knew any good Iranian restaurants which is how I ended up at Reza's in downtown Chicago. My first disappointment came when I spent a full minute speaking to a waiter and a waitress in Farsi before realising they were both Mexican. I looked around the vast space which made up Reza's restaurant and did not spot a single Iranian member of staff.

My next disappointment came when I ordered a Chelo Kabab-e-Soltani. I asked the very pleasant Indian waiter for an egg yolk to mix in with my rice.

"I am sorry sir but we don't do egg yolk."

"What!"

"I am very sorry sir."

"But I can't eat this without an egg yolk."

"We are not allowed to serve it sir." He continued.

I had a very dry tasting Chelo Kabab which left me stuffed but dissatisfied.

From Reza's, which was on Ontario, I resolved to walk the five or so blocks up to Michigan to find a GAP store. It was hot, humid and my stomach was fully stretched. The reason for visiting GAP was that every single pair of trousers I own (40W30L) has lost its top button.

I found a store and was delighted to find that I could buy 42W30L trousers. So I bought 5 pairs. I can now conduct the rest of my meetings confident that if I point to something high up on a chart, colleagues won't see my undone trousers and hairy stomach.

I fly home on Friday and can't wait to see the beautiful mother to be of our twins. I have missed her badly and can't bare the thought that in just 3 weeks I will fly away (again) to India for ten whole days of meetings. It will be my last trip before we become parents. I will report back from Bangalore - the Silicone Valley of India.

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