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June, 2009 visit to Iran

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I have to apologize for not posting anything since my return from Iran in June. I got home and then a week later went to Belize and Honduras for a week and a half, so I have been too busy traveling and trip planning. I will post a trip report very soon.

I will say that everything went very well. Getting into Tehran at 2am sucked. That plus, the interrogation, finger-printing, etc. that I went through until almost 5am made it worse. I expected it, so it wasn't in shock. They were especially suspicious as to why I canceled my original trip that I had planned a few weeks prior to my arrival. I explained my reasons (the election turmoil) and the officer still seemed suspicious. He asked me what I did for a living, I told him that I was an HR director. They didn't understand that one either. At one point, they put me next to another woman that they were deporting (who was sitting next to 5 military guys). I was sure I was going to be deported. At that point, I was so tired and hung-over that I didn't care what happened to me.

After 3 hours and me being bounced around the entire airport, they wanted to contact my tour guide who I was certain would be gone by now; luckily, he was still there (probably sleeping on the luggage turnstile). He spoke with immigration. Finally, they let me go. My guide took me to my hotel. I asked him how the economy was in Iran and he said that it was horrible. He then proceeded to say that it was probably because of the jews having all the money....I quickly changed the subject.

My guide was supposed to pick me up the next morning to begin the tours (after about 7 minutes of sleep in a sauna room). However, I got a call that he got into an accident. Not surprising given the truly insane traffic there. He would not be able to drive me that day so I had to wait for another driver; that was another 2 hours. Finally, a guide arrived (I will fill in the details of the tours later). The guide drove me to Isfahan with stops along the way. His car broke down in the middle of no where in 150 degree heat. I thought that he and I would have to spend the night together in the backseat of the car. Luckily, he fixed the problem after about an hour.

The next morning I was supposed to have another guide take me the rest of the week. However, I got a call that morning and found out that the guide had been arrested by the religious police. Apparently, his girlfriend kissed him on the forehead in a park and an officer saw it. A big no, no according to Shiria law. He was jailed for 2 days and the judge called both his parents and hers (like they were 15 years old). Therefore, I had a different guide who took things from there. He was a nice guy, about 32. However, he too had a lot of run-ins with the government and complained the entire time about the situation there, Islam, asking why his parents gave birth to him in this country (yikes), etc. He swore like a sailor (I will say that I taught him a couple slang words which he used like crazy). I mean he would go off about it the situation there. This made me very nervous because of the heightened tensions in Iran. In fact, strangely enough a lot of people would approach me to complain about the situation. I never had to change the subject so many times with so many people in all of my life that week. I wasn't about to get into trash talking the government in the midst of the tensions there.

I will say that women are gorgeous and the people awesome - so friendly. They were especially shocked that an American would come to Iran in the midst of everything going on. I saw VERY FEW, if any, tourists while I was there. That was a strange feeling, but at the same time, it gave me a chance to see the sites (of course in the 150 degree heat) all by myself. My guides took me to all the great, local restaurants to eat - no more kabobs and rice please!! The non-alcoholic beer is truly nasty. I've had some bad beer in my life, hello penny-pitcher nights in grad school, but this was disgusting. They had apple, cheery, etc. tasting beer!! Who mixes cheery and apple with beer??!! The funniest thing I saw were 7 or 8 year olds drinking this beer out of mugs. Funny to see that.

If it seems like I'm complaining, I'm not. It was all part of the fun and intrigue of that place. I would go back in a second. Problem was that I was there in the mean summer heat at a time when things were so tense. I didn't see any protests, but I did hear a lot of chanting at night from people on roof tops. I was nervous about taking pictures, as several tourists had been detained for taking too many pictures. I didn't drink, but my guide offered some to me. God, I wanted some so bad. The binder I went on the flight over to Tehran didn't satisfy me for long. After he offered the booze to me, he mentioned that we were probably being followed this entire week, so he advised against partaking in any booze. I didn't want to take any chances.

Anyway, I am busy planning my next trip in a couple weeks to Syria and Lebanon - just a week long. I will post a better report about Iran a little later.

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