At long last, the endless project of completing the IRS paperwork for 501(c)(3) status is completed which takes a huge load off of our shoulders. I wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars as the process was intense, complicated, meticulous and not fun at all. Just when I thought that I could rest for a few days, I ended up leaving the motorcycle in California with Cynthia and flying out of LAX to Tehran, Iran due to a family emergency.
I was born in Iran and lived there until I was 18 years old. Most of my family migrated to the United States starting from my oldest uncle three decades ago. My grandparents whom I dearly love are still living in Shiraz, my birthplace. My elderly grandfather is not doing very well, hence my excursion to the forbidden land.
I call it the forbidden land as everything is forbidden for one reason or another. From the heavily-filtered internet and disputed elections, to capital punishment for dog-walking in public (Dogs get executed by hanging, not the owners), there is always something to get a good kick out of. Despite all of this, Iran is a lovely country with an amazing history, mesmerizing scenery and the most welcoming people around.
You know you are in Iran the second you walk out of the airplane and stand in one of the never ending lines (even for killing yourself, you still have to stand in line in Iran) to the immigration and maze of suitcases full of western merchandise piled up at the customs waiting to be released. Tehran’s airport has been moved 60 miles out of the city and even though I arrived at 3:30 am, the whole city was alive with the preparation for the February 11th demonstration and the opposition protest of the recent election. The heavy presence of police was felt on every corner and frequent search stops brought me back to the reality I was away from for so long.
My aunt and her family live in Tehran so I have been visiting with them for a few days. It is great to see my cousins and hear their stories as they try to fill me in on the recent changes and of course, the inflation of prices. I had no interest in spending my short visit here in one of the notorious Iranian prisons, so I stayed away from all the political dramas of the revolution’s anniversary on February 11th.
Everything was shut down due to all the holidays, and I had to wait four days to buy a plane ticket to Shiraz, so I tried to make use of my time by checking out some of the museums and historical sites around Tehran. One of the places I visited was the Ancient Persia Museum in Southern Tehran. My visit was a bittersweet experience as it was hard for me to see billions of dollars worth of historical artifacts sitting so shamelessly in what I can only describe as the most careless and lackadaisical manner with florescent lamps lighting up the show floor like a ghost town. The materials are fascinating and range mostly from 2nd to 5th millennium BC, covering from the Stone Age to the magnificent Persian empire. Artifacts from 7000 years ago are on display in glass cases, and one can’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship of the early Persians. (If you believe that the world is only 6000 years old, Iran is probably not a country to visit as it might shed some serious light on your biblical beliefs.)
Just north of Tehran, starts a 200 kilometers two-lane road called the Chalous Highway which twists and turns all the way to the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran. There are tunnels after tunnels which have been dug out the heart of Alborz Mountain range, and it’s one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Iran. There are no camels contrary to popular belief, and snow-covered mountains cover the area. Much of the forests are memories of the past and have long given their places to cheap villas, shopping malls and ice cream parlors. You see more trash on and off the road than ever before. It makes me furious to see what my people have done to this once pristine landscape while still claiming to be glorious Persians.
I’m flying south to Shiraz in a day or two and will post more reports once I get there. I’m planning to visit a few orphanages and will cover the poverty of the rural life of Southwestern Iran so long as I can find an internet connection to get the news out. Till next time …