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You shouldn't be visiting Mexico either
Not without my laptop (8)

By Joni Mashti
September 19, 2002
The Iranian

We arrived in Tehran. We toured 'nesf-e jahan' (half of the world): Isfahan. We toured the sights of Shiraz, once the center of the Persian Empire, once the home of the vineyards that produced the famous Shirazi wine, home of Takt-e Jamsheed (Persopolis). We stayed with and were spoiled by family in Mashad. We went asp safari (horse-back riding), khar safari (donkey riding) and motor safari (motorcycle riding) in the farmland of Bour-ya Bad. We returned to Tehran and took an spur-of-the-moment trip to a villa by the Caspian Sea. Finally, we returned to Tehran, did a little shopping and returned home.

Right now I'm sitting comfortably in Starbuck's relaxing until the very last minute before I go back to work. I've been home for three days now, and I've been using jet lag as my excuse for sitting around and doing almost nothing at all : Well, nothing except unpacking, and setting up my Samovar, and making tea with my new Kettarie. Other than that, I've just been sitting around sipping the ob talabi that I learned to make in Iran. (cantaloupe mixed in a blender with ice, a splash of rose water and honey).

Through the entire month and a half long trip, I carried my laptop. I kept it tucked away in my purse, next to my camera during the day and pulled it out at night to use with the many internet cards I purchased as we went from town to town. The plan was to keep you posted on every detail of the trip as I was going. I should have known better. I was way to busy having fun, to take the time to write about it. I did take hundreds of pictures and video clips and daily notes, all of which I plan to share with you in future episodes. But, for now I'm just going to give you a glimpse of what I had to compare to before leaving by telling you about the first part of my journey. We started with a visit to my parents.

I guess I should remind you here that my parents aren't Iranian. They live in Pennsylvania, not in Iran. But, my parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and this would be an important part of the journey. After a total of 10 hours of traveling we arrived in Pennsylvania. A direct flight would have only taken around 5 hours, but to get the cheap seats and I guess prepare ourselves for the long flights to Iran we booked 2 connections. Friday night we stayed up late with my mom and dad chatting about old times. My mom had fond memories of when Mama Jun and Baba Jun came to visit a few years back.

We reminisced about the morning my parents and Jamsheed's parents woke up early to enjoy breakfast together without the benefit of a translator. My mom still remembers the first time I brought Jamshid home for dinner. Rice was served as part of the meal. Rice is not something that is served at every meal in our family. On the rare occasion that rice is served, it is served as a small side dish. A bowl of rice is on the table next to the bowl of peas, or corn or other vegetable. A serving of rice is a couple of small spoonfuls that is placed somewhere between the vegetables and the meat on the plate. My mother had remained quiet as Jamshid emptied the family's bowl of rice onto his plate. He commented on how thoughtful it was of my mother to make rice just for him.

On Saturday we attended the party. Sure that most of my family thinks that I'm a at least a little crazy for planning on visiting Iran, I avoided the subject. Over the past five years or so I've been trying to prepare my mother for our visit to Iran. I managed to convince her that visiting Iran was really not any more dangerous than visiting Mexico. Since Mexico is close to where we live now, we've visited many times and returned safely. This wasn't much help. Her reply to this was "Well you shouldn't be visiting Mexico either".

I even tried bribing her with the suggestion that a Persian rug might look nice in her living room. She didn't go for it. She had recently re-decorated and was sure that a Persian design would clash with her décor. I had slightly better luck when I told her about the great gold jewelry. I promised to buy her a gold bracelet in Iran for her 50th wedding anniversary. That seemed to calm her fears a bit. One of my sisters had other concerns. Her comment was: "Well I just want it to be known that if you get kidnapped over there, I'm NOT going to pay the ransom." I assured her that foreigners in Iran are at least as safe as foreigners in the US.

The party was held at the home of one of my sisters. My sister and her husband have a place on a hill surrounded by untamed forest. I remember the first time I visited there several years ago, I wondered what they saw in it. It was an ancient house (by American standards : over 75 years old). Seeing it now, I understand. My sister and her husband have worked over the years to turn this dwelling into a little paradise. They made a few paths through the woods : one leading to a tree house they built for their daughters to play in - another leading to a greenhouse they built for themselves.

They worked so much on the house itself, that the original structure is only a very small part of their living area. They turned the basement into a home theater and a wine cellar, added fireplaces to the living room and dining room. They added a large veranda with a full fireplace of it's own. The once tiny kitchen was expanded and transformed into any modern gourmet chef's dream. Their latest addition was a babbling brook fountain that they added three days before the party.

By this time you are probably wondering why I'm describing my sister's house in an article that is supposed to be about my trip to Iran. Before the party, my sister made my mother promise not to talk at all about the work she had done on the house. There were to be ABSOLUTELY NO tours of the house. My mother kept this promise. I know how hard it was for my mom to keep that promise, so I've decided to publish the information here. Now all she has to do is discretely direct her friends to this Internet page.

When I got to the party, I was happily surprised when quite a few of my relatives brought up the subject of the journey to Iran. Some even mentioned that they would love to be able to join us. If they had pre-conceptions about Iran, they kept them to themselves. I gave anyone I thought might care to know about it the Internet address to these articles.

On Sunday I sat through the mass in which my parents renewed their marriage vows. It had been a long time since I had seen inside of a church. My cousin told me that the grandchildren, including my children would be presenting the gifts. My reply was "Was I supposed to bring a gift?" My cousin laughed at me for having forgotten about the part of the mass where they present the wine, and so forth.

The subject of the sermon was mercy. The priest told us how mercy is something that is given by god however undeserved. He prayed that god would have mercy on the priests that have been in the news lately for fondling children. Jamsheed and the kids sat patiently through the mass. I contemplated the fact that strongest image of Iran with most Americans is the image of religious fanaticism.

Next Episode : Residim beh Tehran (for real)

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