Monday, 20 August 2007

View from the couch

“Wow, you’re brave,” or “Is it safe?” were frequent responses when my wife and I told people we were heading to Iran.

Considering the coverage that Iran receives in most media outlets, these comments were not exactly surprising.

Almost always political and overwhelmingly negative, Iran is presented as a forbidding and rather anti-Western country that considers foreigners – especially the American and British kind - to be the “enemy.”

In reality, that impression couldn’t be further from the truth. At least in our experience at street level.

Everywhere we go in Tehran we are met with curious smiles and a friendly “salam” – hello!

View of the Alborz Mountains from the living room of our apartment.

While in recent years Iran might not be a “path well trodden” by foreigners, it certainly isn’t as isolated or cut-off from the world as many people might think.

Our first foray into a department store/supermarket to purchase essentials to stock the refrigerator was made so much more productive by a lady who took the time to explain the confusing way items were priced – while also telling us about the years she had spent in Canada as a student.

The staff in the electronics department had us in stitches with a slapstick comedy routine as several hands tried to repack the toaster we had just bought – with varying degrees of success!

View from our couch in a small restaurant in the mountains near Darbang Square. Delicious food, traditional music, and a puff!!

Many of the people we have met have either lived or studied abroad, or currently have friends or family who are.

Isolated and cut off from the outside world? Absolutely not, though some Iranians have told us it can be a tiresome process getting visas for certain countries.

It has been almost three weeks since we touched down here and of course there have been a few irritations – but that is all they have been – irritations, minor frustrations. A delay in upgrading our internet service, a two tier mobile phone service – the first, expensive and efficient, and the second (the one we opted for) cheap and unreliable!

Will there be more serious frustrations or problems on the path ahead? Without a doubt. But just as living in Korea or China, Thailand or Hong Kong – and even Britain for that matter - had their own unique benefits and delights, there were also some downsides. How these benefits and downsides will balance themselves out in the months ahead is anyone’s guess.

But right now, we are still on “honeymoon” and the view from our couch is looking pretty good.

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Lillian said...

Thanks for giving us a taste of what life is like in Iran through your vivid portrayal in both words and pictures. Looking forward to more posts!

Anonymous said...

Hey - good to see you made it there. Still haven't heard from you but would like to.

Stay safe.

Robert N.

Chris Gelken said...

Thanks Lillian for your posts... Robert, be in touch real soon!
And Jon.. thanks to you for the reference on your blog!

Lillian said...

“If only I could watch your shows on line” these are the words I wrote in my comment to one of your earlier posts. My wish did come true on September 14, 2007, when I saw you anchoring the news on Press TV. It was really a thrill to hear your voice and see you after nearly two years. I discovered Press TV earlier this month. I was quite certain that station is the one you were going to work for, because I learnt it’s the only Iran-based English language TV station. Seems that there’s no stringent dress code in Iran TV stations. You don’t have to wear a tie. I think that’s a good thing, because you’ll feel a lot conformable. Catch you soon. Take care!

Lillian said...

Oops, sorry for the typing error! I mean “a lot more comfortable”, rather than “a lot conformable”.