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Emails from home
Visiting Iran: Part 3
Part (1) (2) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

August 17,2004


Mohammad called and said hello to everyone. He is expecting a mini-Mammad in a few days. Mammad told me he has "rahned" a nice house for about $20k and is happy in Iran, but he said money is hard to earn in Iran and he prefers making money in America and living in Iran. Rahn is an interesting concept. For those of you who don't know, if you pay 10% of value of a house you get to live in it for a definite time, say for about a year, then when you decide to leave the house you get all of your original money back.

A religious story: I was visiting a relative of mine and he said one of his cousins who has converted to the Bahai religion 40 years ago has passed away and he was going to go to his funeral that day. I asked if Bahais are still prosecuted in Iran and he said there is a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

He then told me a story regarding his cousin: last year. The Bahai cousin complained to the neighborhood police that their neighbor's dog barked all the time. Police came and together with the Bahai guy went to the dog owner's house. The dog owner neighbor got mad and pointing to his Bahai neighbor said to the Pasdars/Police that these people were Bahai. Police in return got angry at the man, and told him to not repeat such things anymore and that he should not sink so low to take revenge on his neighbor by revealing his neighbor's religion! He added that they have direct orders as to not bother Bahais anymore.

A Restaurant story: 3 days ago one of my girl cousins and I decided to go to a restaurant. My cousin told me that this certain restaurant had such wonderful food, but it was very expensive for Iran, about $30 per person for each dish.

We walked in to a very luxurious small restaurant and were faced with a very chic host. "May I help you" he said. We wanted a table for two.

"Do you have a reservation?" No, we said. He showed us the door.

"Sorry you have to call first,' he said. Can we call from my cousin's mobile phone right now and ask for a reservation, I said? No, he said. We left the restaurant with our tails between our legs.

Next door there was a nice pizza parlor: Let's eat here, I said. The menus were in English and Persian. Apparently rejecties from the 5-star restaurant end up there. Pepperoni pizza! hmmm that sounds good. Pepperoni and sausage sounds good.

I asked our waiter, "is your Italian Sausage real sausage, made from pig?"

"No," he said, "It is beef but it is seasoned like sausage."

"Is your pepperoni real?"

"Yes it is. It is real. It is Salami."

"Is it Salami or is it pepperoni?"

Our waiter confidently replied, "Yes our pepperoni is salami."

"What is your Salami then."

The waiter lost his composure and went in and came back with the restaurant owner to explain the difference between pepperoni and salami.

"Is your pepperoni red?"

"No, it is thick and dry like salami but after we cook it it shrinks and turns red and becomes like pepperoni."

Now I was clear: sausage was beef, pepperoni was salami but it turned into pepperoni after they cooked it. My cousin had read too much into my conversation with the waiter, she couldn't stop laughing. I, however, take my pizza seriously.

Other items you should remember in Iran; "jambon" is not ham, it means processed meat. "jambon-e morgh", for example, means bologna made from chicken. "Sossees" does not mean hot dog. "Koktail" (cocktail) means hot dog. "Sossees" is a type of hot dog that is made from unknown materials. It tastes like processed cardboard dipped in red blood and rolled into the shape of hot dog.

"Super deluxe bus" means a regular bus. If you want to travel in style you need to know the right terms. Don't eat the hot dogs.


I have been home for the past three days, tending my father, talking to him, reminding him to wear his pants, etc. This morning I went to Ekbatan's Bazaar. I spent $13:

-- $10 for a haircut and neck massage ($1.80)

-- Dry-cleaning: five shirts and one pair of pants: $3.80

-- A beginners computer book, WinXP, $3.20

-- 2 pounds of fresh cream pastry: $2.50

-- Two packs of Kent Light: $1.80

Newspapers are 5 cents per copy. Bus fare is between 1 and 4 cents, depending on where you are going. Bread is about 2 to 10 cents, depending on the kind and weight. I had my dad's Dupont lighter repaired and gassed for 30 cents. He threw in two special Dupont size gas caps.

2.6 Ghz Panasonic cordless phone with CallerID and answering machine $105. Cars are more expensive here. Some items are same as in America, most of the stuff is much cheaper here. Some items such as bread and bus fares are almost free.

I had “Gheimeh Polo” for lunch. It's 2PM and the Bazaar is closed. My parents are taking a nap, Siesta time is upon us. The city will wake up again around 4:30PM.


Last Thursday night I went to a friend’s house. Shahram explained that his house was not large enough to accommodate all of our mutual friends, so he had only invited a few. Actually all the guests except Shahram had lived or were visiting from America, including Shahram's wife. She has lived in America for 5 years in the early eighties. She is a great host and a great cook.

Parties start late in Iran. We were supposed to be there at p.m. I got there a little after 8:10 p.m. Others arrived at about 9, and the rest arrived at 10. We ate around 11:30. The party was over at 2 a.m. Shahram kept saying "kojaa haalaa, yeh khordeh digeh beshinid." We took lots of pictures and had a chance to talk one on one.

Shahram insisted on giving me a ride home. I wanted to call "Taxi-Telephoni", but he really really insisted. Another friend offered to take me home since he was going to the general vicinity and it was late and there was little traffic. Traffic never stops in Tehran. At 12 midnight there are always cars all over the place but at 2 a.m. it was a smooth ride.


Other stuff,

Yesterday I went to Bahram's factory and had a chance to witness a mold building in process. He was designing a mold for Iran-khodro to build "fingers" for robots that are used in painting vehicles. These fingers are used in conducting sparks at exact time in the process of painting vehicles. Bahram's shop's reputation is that he builds parts that are very exact.

These kinds of exact measured parts used to be ordered from Germany and Korea but people like Bahram are now building them in Iran, with a fraction of the costs. After Bahram builds these parts he sends them to an agency in Germany for testing. If they pass then that agency puts its seal on the part. Bahram then sells the part to his customers. Other non-exact parts don't need to have the seal.

In Bahram's shop I met a guy from Iran-khodro. He said much of the factory is automated. They build 1,400 cars per day and they rank 12th in the world. Iran-khodro (former Iran National) now builds 7 different passenger cars: Samand, Persia, Peykan, Puegeot, Maxima, and others. Merceds Benz will start its production separate from other car manufacturers in the city of Saveh in a few months. The man from Iran-Khodro said that quality issues remain in Iran's car manufacturing >>> Part 4
Part (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

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Book of the day

A Taste of Persia
An Introduction to Persian Cooking
by Najmieh Batmanglij

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