Day #14 Traffic in the humming hub, Muslim beer & Persian food

Again I move with all my luggage – which is a rucksack of about 15 kg and a computer bag with about 4 kg. Enough for a man to stay away from home for 2.5 month. I guess I could get around with that equipment for even a half year. It might would add a few gifts and souvenirs, but at the same time I brought host gifts along. This is a good idea if you live for free in the places of other people. I recommend to bring along small gifts which are related to the country and could be easily identified as such gifts. For a few friends I brought along some some special gifts related to Hamburg, because I knew, that they could recognize that from their stay.

Enough off topic. You might notice, that I tend to write like I think, surfing from one thought to the next. It’s called inductive thinking, but this is for sure another story.

I came to “my” office in the university and sat down on a free space. Later I found out, that this is Ali Raisers place. So it seems I have a good sense for what is the bosses place and naturally sat down there 🙂 A good half of the day I spend surfing in the net, updating my website with the entries from Africa, which I finished here and going through the pictures. My biggest problem at the moment is to save disk space. I really think about buying another external drive, because I produce here easily a three to four GB content a day. I must be a very awful tourist or at maybe a very productive journalist.

The internet in the university is a bit unstable if you use a wireless connection. Therefore it is hard to upload or download big files like a website. With a cable connection this is no problem at all. Very enjoyable 🙂 I nearly forgot to leave the office at all. The Chines girl form Canada, lets call her the drill sergeant :-), told me about on of the rare places to get money with a credit card. I didn’t brought along a lot of money, which was a failure in this country. The drill sergeant told me, she brings along a lot of cash from Canada, when she travels home from time to time, and the rest comes from the small income in Rial she has with the AIESEC job as Coordinator for this new branch. She is here since seven month and will stay for a hole year in Teheran. For sure she get along fine here – even if she is a very independent liberal western women with a very strong character – a drill sergeant :-). Saman, the MCP elect, who spend a lot of time with her chatting, told me, that she struggled in the beginning very hard with the traditions and rules in the society. For sure, there is a bit more to care about for a women, then a man. On the other side, I know from the stories of a lot of German girls, that they had a lot of fun here. Germans are pretty common in this AIESEC office, because it was a German who started to build it up. There is also a German professor teaching in this university and not long ago my friend Tobias was here for six weeks to help them with the work here, before he went to his internship in Delhi, my next step on the trip. Ali Raiser speaks by the way a very good German and will apply for a German university after his AIESEC Term. Saman, who is a tour guide in his side job, also speaks a bit German. I tend to switch to German, when I speak with Ali Raiser. Sometimes we end up in a wired mix of German, English and a few words in Farsi, when other people chat with us in between.

While I referred to you about this issues, I already left the office with Ali Raiser to experience the traffic to this money transfer place.

At first let me tell you about the taxi here. Fuel is cheap and a Taxi ride is about 400 to 500 Toman. Sorry if I confuse you with that, but it also confuses me: The official money you get in Iran is Rial. They have really high numbers printed on them, like 50,000 Rial. To calculate in lower numbers, which is usually easier for the people, the invented the Toman. A Toman is actually not a other currency, but another way of thinking about the same money. Just skip a zero at the end. If someone told you, you have to pay 500 Toma, he wants to have 5,000 Rial from you! So be careful. The price might sound cheap to you, but is then ten times bigger! Anyway a Taxi ride for 500 Toma or 5,000 Rial is about 40 Euro Cent or 50 Dollar Cent. The problem with the Taxi in Teheran is, that they don’t bring you to your target, but go straight in lines to through the city like busses. It is kind of the same system than with the Matatus in Kenya. You squeeze in a small old car with three other people – I usually wait until the car is full, or you told him to pay for the empty seats as well. Then he brings you to a specific area. If you are close to a turning point, you have to get of, move around the corner and wait for another taxi. This is not really a problem, there a millions of taxi in Teheran. It is the major transport system for the people. Since a few years they have three subway lines and they still build some, but in the northern area, close to the mountains, this will take a while longer. In the meantime, there are a lot of different taxis, and even private cars honk and stop at the street, when they see someone waving his hand for a taxi. I pretty sure this is illegal, but it is extremely common, that they act then like a taxi. You jump in, if he drives your direction and you pay the regular Taxi price. After surfing with two taxi and some walkways to our place of interest, we changed money for the drill sergeant and found out, that the person who is responsible for the credit cards money is no longer in the office. Therefore I had to comeback the other day to get money for the trips I planed with Ali Raiser and Saman this morning.

Back on the streets I experienced another truth of the traffic here. When I told you, that the people in Kenya drive crazy and you run over streets in the middle of the traffic, the Iran system is just insane! To make it more complicated for me, They drive right hand side like in Germany. After two weeks in Nairobi where they drive on the left hand side, which I got used to now, they come from the other side. Sometimes you see traffic lights for the cars, which are most likely are just blinking yellow which means exactly nothing. It should mean attention, but what does this tell the people? They not even reduce the speed. Sometimes you see traffic lights for pedestrians, but they also just flickering, which means with a Green walking man: You may go if you see a chance to stay alive. A flickering red standing man means you may stop if you see a reason to stop. Which is exactly no meaning. The same goes for Crossing lines on the streets for the pedestrians. Absolutely nobody cares about you standing on this lines. If you not move your bum, the run you over. The rule seems to be: If your will is stronger than the will of the other person to go, they will stop. So sometimes a car stops for a pedestrian, and sometimes the other way round. Motorcycles stop never and for nobody. The drive on sidewalks and in wrong directions. Stay away from motorcycles! They are out there everywhere and they don’t care about any life at all! The picture above shows just a minor regular situation, but I saw worse things and got some of the situations on video for my videocast. So you may find people walking over a street with three or four lines, with with about five to six lines of cars going down and a few motorcycles squeezed in between the lines. It looks just dangerous.

Back in the office I had my first canteen food in Iran. This might be everywhere in the world the same, There was not much to choose, just one meal and all the girls brought their own lunch boxes with them. I guess that tells you enough about the quality. It’s like in all canteens around the world. The meal was a pretty common Iran meal: Gorme sabsi. Sabsi means always a mix like a stew. You got fine Persian rice. A bit is coloured with saffron and a few dried red berries in between. The stew is with spinach and beans and in this case with a very few pieces of beef from a lamb. Tab water at the side. Not really something, but o.k. for a canteen.

Later I was showed to the major source of energy for the students, the little shop outside of the university, where they got their crisps, sweets, instant coffee and lemonades from. Their I found my first beer in Iran. Yeah, right – beeeeeer! So nobody should tell ever again the don’t have beer in Iran. I went for a beer and drank it down with Ali Raiser. But let me explain. Beer in Iran is always non alcoholic. Usually it is flavored with fruit juice like mix drinks in my country. It looks a bit like beer if you pour it in a glass, the bottle or tin can looks also a bit like beer if you have just a short look at it, but it tastes not like beer at all. Its more a kind of lemonade, which is brewed. We have something like that in Germany, which is called Bionade.

Anyway, I had a beer in Iran, even if it was not really recommendable – check.

I spent the rest of the day in the internet to update my website about the Africa adventures and found out that Facebook only works here if you use the prefix “https://”. Try this if you have problems with a website in Iran.

In the evening I moved again to my final hosts house – Hojjat. I will call him the kind guy. Saman is a good friend of Hojjat, who is speaking english not that good. Hojjat is a early member of the AIESEC project in Iran and has since a while finished his studies in law. He is the kind of person that reads poems and cares more about other people then about himself. Just to mention this about the attitude of Persian people: The tend to be driven by emotions. They love everything which is full of tragedy and big feelings in general. So the tend to very welcoming, very sad, very angry and so on. So don’t give to much about it, if they say something you don’t like. But on the other hand side, it is touching who much they care about you and fine their hospitality is. Up to now I have just good experiences about all my hosts.

Hojjat and Saman soon made them selfs more comfortable. I copied. So it seems, that Persian people have outside clothes and as soon as they come back home, the switch to very leisure “inside! clothes”.

We cooked a dinner in the small kitchen. It was a mix from spinach with eggs and vegetables which was fried in a pan like an omelet. It’s called Kuko Sabsi. Sabsi means mix of something and is a common ending for meals in Iran. The most food in Iran is a mix of the really good special rice there with butter and saffron and something else like a sauce of vegetables and/or meat. At the side you have the flat bread of Persia which is tasty and quite different to the 5000 kinds of German bread. But I still consider Germany as the bread hub of the world. We are not really famous for our food, but when it comes to bread and sausage, there is no other place.

If I am talking about food, I just will mention the trash. Even in Kenya the used to split between organic and other trash. In Iran is just one trash bin for everything. Environmental and sustainable issues are not really a big deal here, as you can tell from the founding of fuel and the air in Teheran. Saman called Teheran as one of the ten best polluted cities in the world. You will believe it after a few days with out rain. The other thing is, that I don’t saw the habit of energy saving. But these issues might be only important if you fixed other economical and social problems first in a society. So may be there is a bit about the historical development steps a society has to go through. This theory is under harsh critic, but it seamed to be developed from impression like I have while traveling. So maybe these impressions of mine are just because of my short stay. Put that in mind, while read my lines. On the other hand it’s just true what I tell you for various families in more than one families while I write these lines always a bit later then in the date above.

To finish this episode: I found out why Persian carpets are so famous and important for that culture (I never had much use for carpets). They eat on the ground and carpet. Not all, but it is the traditional way. My kind host has not even a dining table. Just naturally placed the food on the small living room table, but he just put a plastic piece on the carpet to make sure it will stay clean and we sat down to eat with our bare hands – I love that part. So you sit then maybe on one hand and place the legs on the other side oder you sit with the legs under you body “Buddha style”.

Even if America is not very loved in this country – there is no American embassy allowed since the early 1980’s, and Americans have to go to the embassy of Switzerland – Coke is all over the place with Farsi printings on it and usually in a 1.5 liter bottle packed and filled local. By the way, this is a McDonalds-free country. One of the few, even in the Muslim culture.

So good night for today and…

…read you later!

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