SYNOPSISI spent 8 hours in an overheated bus.  Nothing much else to report but you know me – I will write about something nonetheless; minarets and a movie, for example and some noticeable hairdos.  Jumping from Winter into Summer.  From North to Central Iran.

This was certainly the most miserable bus ride I have had in any of the overland busses so far.  And it had to be the longest!  The bus was old and run-down.  None of the accessories such as foot rests or turning back your seat were in working order.  The bus was crowded, full of nagging children topped by scratchy loudspeakers which conveyed the love story of an Iranian aging, bald, Muslim business man who falls in love with a beautiful, educated, Christian business woman in Lebanon.  As ever unlikely, she reciprocates and accepts his marriage proposal.  She moves with him to Iran just to find herself in a hostile environment of sisters, village women and mother in law who hate her for being different.  She converts to Islam, cooks great food for all of them which they repeatedly refuse and tries to fit in.  But she is rejected and harassed to the point where she simply packs up and goes back to Lebanon.  Now everyone is guilt-stricken about how badly they have treated her; the women cry and the bald guy who had not been any help but even yelled at her a few times – what happened to all of his love? – seemed to feel bad, too.   So he flies back to Lebanon to look for her everywhere.  And I mean everywhere.  He is driving around in a taxi from Beirut to Tripoli to Sour.  Doesn’t he know where his wife’s family lives?  Thank goodness, I had just been in Lebanon and recognized all of these places. Against all the odds he finds her in a small village in the middle of nowhere teaching of all things the Koran to little children.  She is overjoyed to see him again and flies back with him to Iran – why she is overjoyed is anyone’s guess.    Not that I understood a single word, but I swear this was the story.  I know that much about visual clues:  First she has a cross in her room, beautiful hair, a well paying job and prays to Jesus.  Then she wears a hijab, becomes a house wife and reads the Koran.  And body language did the rest.  Between all the tears, yelling, and leaving tables of beautifully prepared food – there is no mistaking of the story line.  How on earth they had to choose a guy who was old and bald I don’t know. He was short and unattractive, too.  Perhaps, they ran out of actors, or they wanted to make a point which I don’t even want to spell out.

When this movie was over they decided to have talk radio blasting over the loudspeakers which drove me to the point to complain to the bus driver.   I asked for the radio to be turned down; sign language. Despite my ear plugs the level was deafening.  But they misunderstood me and turned the radio off.  Even better.  After all, they are very polite people when it comes to guests and complaints.  That meant we only had to put up with the crying babies. In a bus where temperatures must have topped 30 degrees Celsius without any air flow – who would be surprised that the kids reached their limits.  Not a drop of water either even though the bus attendant passed out a bag of cookies and a cup in the beginning, which had raised my hopes.  Thank goodness, I had brought my own water.  Ugh, am I glad that I got out of the bus after only 8 hours.  Most of the passengers continued to the final destination and had to endure this torture for yet another 3 hours.

I spoke too early about smoking.  The bus driver smoked – a lot.  And since I sat in the second row I had to partake in his smoking.  But the front seat at least allowed me to see some of the gorgeous scenery out of the driver’s window.  Almost all the curtains left and right were drawn otherwise – speaking of a claustrophobic experience.  Photography was impossible, but the scenery was fantastic.  We drove through mountains the whole time.  First, close to Kermanshah, they were snow-capped.  It was still winter there.  All the trees were barren and gray.  The mountains changed into forest and back to barren mountains but this time full of interesting rock formations.  And finally, we reached the area closer to Andimeshk and not only were all trees full of foliage, the grass is green and the fields are full of grain which is already a foot high!  In a mere 8 hour ride we skipped a full season.  This is not just the beginning of spring, but its summer here.  The temperatures are accordingly.  I cooked under my woolen scarf even after I left that claustrophobic bus!

I hopped onto a service (shared) taxi and reached my hotel a few minutes later.  After haggling over the price a bit I checked into a no frill bed and shower room – believe it or not, the heaters were on!  I had to ask the hotel clerk to turn them off – there was no knob for me to turn.  I had to change rooms as he could not turn off the heat himself in the first room.  What are they thinking? It is 30 degrees Celsius out there and they never turned off the heat.  Sheets looked clean enough and the rusty showers have warm water.  Why did I say that I was able to avoid squatter toilets a few days ago?   I am sure I brought this on by angering the toilet deities:  I have had nothing but squatters ever since in every hotel I have been!  This is a challenge in and by itself.  I am beginning to manage.  But I have a hard time imagining aging or overweight people in my position, to take this literally for a moment…

Andimeshk is my kind of a town.  One main road where everything of interest to me is located in a 10 minutes stretch either to the left or to the right.  I am only here because Andimeshk is a convenient travel hub from where I will do some day trips before meeting Nicola in a few days.  One thing I noticed:  Andimeshk seems to be some kind of trendsetter town as far as hairstyles are concerned.  Almost all the young men here sport ridiculous greased long hair which is reminiscent (but much worse) of the Beatles in the 60’s!  What is that supposed to mean?  Nothing like the short hair, clean shaven men I observed in other towns.  I wonder what cultural statement I will discover behind this.

I found the internet – USB port worked, but no word program…  Skype has been nowhere ever since I got to Iran.  That is a major loss.  Wireless is hard to come by so I have to take what I can get at the Internet cafés.  I found a small place where they serve rice and goulash.  And when I opened my window, there was no gas tank out there blowing poison into my room.  All I have to deal with are lots of stares and the same mistaken question:  Ruski?  For some reason they think here that I am Russian.  Who knows, why?  I think I can live here for a few days.

Ever since Aleppo, the call of the muezzin has been the pleasant punctuation of the day that I remember from Egypt and Jordan, rather than the sleep-depriving nuisance.  And since I have no current photographs today, I will dedicate the images to the beautiful minarets which I have seen in just Hamadan and Kermanshaw.  Minarets are unique features of Islamic architecture.  In the old days a muezzin went up to the minaret to call the faithful to prayer five (or as I found out in Aleppo, six or seven) times a day.  Today, the muezzin is inside the prayer hall, right in front of the mihrab, the niche that faces Mecca.  His call is transmitted via microphone to loudspeakers up on the minaret.  Persia is known for its intricate designs on mosques and minarets.  There will be much, much more of this in Esfahan and Shiraz.  But here is a taste for now.

Good night.