The life of fame, it is so hard to carry! I had another great adventures on my last afternoon in Isfahan. I booked a tour with Dr. Alireza Rashidi, who decided after his PhD in science, I believe , to do something completely different, and to get into the tourist business. Although Alireza finished his doctorate in Vancouver, Canada, English was foreign to him! He spoke German!! Okay, good practice for me, since I can understand most of it.
Just before I was ready there was a knock on the door, my headscarf was no-where to be seen, so I grabbed my hijab, the black Muslim one. ( the one I wear sightseeing as it doesn’t fall off all the time!) it was the cleaning man bringing me toilet paper and stuff. Then the phone rang and Alireza was in the lobby, so here I am on holidays rushing about! Alireza brought a driver, Maryam, who also spoke no English.
First stop was the shaking minaret , but since it wasn’t shaking for the next half hour we went to the fire temple around the corner. There are only ruins, and there is a path that you can climb up, which I would have loved to do, if only for the views of the city! My knee has given me a lot of grief lately, and to be honest it starting to really peeve me off. So we snapped some photos and back to this shaking mosque. I have no idea why this was built this way, and since I am writing this very, very early in the morning I am too lazy to look it up.
After the shaking I was taken to the cemetery . I thought it was going to be the old one, instead it was the one with 8000 dead soldiers from the eight year war with Iraq. There were quite a few women there tending the graves, or just sitting there. Very depressing, especially to see how young some of them were.
We did spend a lot of time in the traffic, I managed to tell Maryam, that I wouldn’t drive for one million dollars! Okay, may for ten million!! Anyway Alireza received a phone call, and we were invited to some event, which he didn’t know the German word for, and sinceI speak no Farsi, he asked me if I wanted to come to this unknown event! Of course said yes, as you do! So we finally get to this conference, about prison reform in Iran. Alireza had told me, that all I needed to do was to listen for half an hour to some blah, blah, blahing and all would be well. Okay, since I wanted to see the old bridge by night anyway, this seemed like a fun thing to do.
Well, it was HUGE! Here I am, in my black hijab, the only blue eyed person in the room! It was fascinating. First a welcome to country, with songs of the Q’ran. Than a woman who was singing and told to speed it up, which was rather funny! You must understand that my total recognition of Farsi could be may be twenty to forty words, not many. So every time I hear a word I recognised I get all excited. Alireza was suppose to translate, which didn’t happen of course! Than this minister of something very, very important came and blah, blah, blah Australian, blah, blah blah tourist, well , I just knew he was talking about ME,! This Alireza did tell me that I was just officially welcomed.
Than a young boys choir sang, which was beautiful and gave me goosebumps. Snacks and drinks were provided. Lots of chocolate, but of course after a small bottle of water and a fruit juice , you guessed it, I needed a toilet! By now I am over all this blahing, needing to go to the ladies desperately. Pretending interest is something I don’t understand, I have perfected over my many years in Education, I put on my ” oh, how interesting” face, and go to sleep behind my open eyes. But this didn’t work any more. I was wriggling in my seat! By now fearing the ultimate humiliation, wetting myself.
Finally, finally, an hour and a half after it all began the national anthem, which is deeply touching by the way, was sung and people were leaving. I am talking about a LOT of people were leaving! Since Alireza couldn’t accompany my to the ladies room, I was alone with Maryam, and at least fifty other women, who needed to use the loo! The desperation must have shown on my face, as I was given priority! I didn’t even care it was an Iranian toilet, which I have difficulties using due to my knee!
So back in the crowd at the expo. Let me tell you the translation of all the blah, blah, blahing. In Iran, lightweight, non dangerous prisoners, get trained into a trade. There was so much, I have a list some where. Some of it is a specially training in old Iranian art forms, such as the in laying of turquoise into brass or copper. Wood inlay, wood carving, but also bee keeping, shoe making, clothes making etc. etc. this way the prisoner earns an income which keeps his family. The biggest difference is that the factories are inside the prison complex, so the prisoners don’t leave the prison, they just go around the corner, to the factory.
Lots of the prisoners were at the expo demonstrations what they were doing. It was all very fascinating, I tried different products. Alireza obviously knew a lot of people and was busy networking the room. Since the project is financially supported by all the rich people in Isfahan, he had to work very hard! Maryam and I were looking at some shoes, hand made and very well made, (and dirt cheap), when Alireza came back all excited. Grabbed my hand and of we went!
I was plonked in front of a huge television camera, while Alireza is asking me all these deep and meaningful questions, what did I think of the expo? I can say very good in Farsi, so quite willing to show off my limited knowledge, I gave my answer in Farsi! I can also say in Farsi that I love Iran and the Iranin people, so I said that as well. I was just getting ready to show off my total knowledge of the language, when Alureza asked me HOW the prison reform system in Australia compared to the prison reform in Iran. Eh?? Duh!! I know absolutely NOTHING about our prison reform system, so here I am on national television ( well, sounds better than the local news) looking and sounding like a total dork!
!” Ich habe keine ahnung” was all I could come up with! ( I have no idea!) feeling by now like a total idiot, I had gathered a following! The papparazie had arrived! Two television interviews, the papparazie, interested on lookers and I was the belle of the ball. By now my knee is killing me, Alireza is roaming the large hall and I am in desperate need, again, you guessed it!
It was a lot of fun, very special being the only foreigner there, even if I was a stupid one! The children knew Nemo, and loved my Nemo impressions, which since I lost all my top teeth, is much better now I think! I don’t know if I have mentioned that selfies are an epidemic here!? Can you imagine HOW many selfies were taken of me that afternoon? Ah, the weight of fame, you have to have strong legs ( this is a Dutch saying) and since I have a bad knee, I was getting rather tired and fed up of all the attention. Yeah, I know you guys, you find this all hard to believe, but it was true! After all this, I suggested to Alireza that he pay ME for the afternoon! We saw the oldest bridge in Isfahan at night. Maryam and I walked to the other side, where I had to run, you guessed it!. All this tasting, mixing, nerves and fame had given me a severe case of the sh***s. Tomorrow Shiraz! Hard time beating this amazing day!