Noilly Prattle: Persian Odyssey: Part XV – Flashback

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Persian Odyssey: Part XV – Flashback

When I returned from my motorcycle journey through Ancient Persia, I came back to an increasingly turbulent present day Iran and the third of the four houses that I rented within the year that I lived in Esfahan. There were no restrictions on where we were allowed to live as foreigners in Iran as was the case later, for example, in Saudi Arabia where foreign workers were required to live in compounds specially designated for foreigners.

The incredible beauty of Esfahan aside, individual homes, in harmony with the city, can also be quite charming. As is characteristic in that desert part of the world Iranian homes are enclosed by relatively high walls, a world unto themselves, with a house and courtyard within. There is often a small fountain and garden in the courtyard and the house opens out onto the courtyard.

Returning from a 2½ -year stint with the Peace Corps in Africa, I got a job with a company based in Chicago that had a contract with Bell Helicopter International to teach English in Esfahan, Iran. I shared my first house with J., a colleague I had met in Chicago at the home office of our company (I've seen it referred to ironically as “Belemedia”). Pretty close to its actual name in fact. J. and I were hired at the same time and we decided to share a house once we arrived in Esfahan. A funny story about him: he was rather phobic about eating local food and would always soak vegetables and fruit purchased from local markets in an anti-bacterial solution (such as bleach and water), but always complained of stomach disorders anyway—the bleach, I wonder? Me, I ate anything I wanted (unsoaked and unbleached) and never even got the hiccups. One of my favorites stops, while off on short bike jaunts, was eating at roadside stands that sold lamb kebab with roasted tomatoes and salads of mixed herbs. Nun (pronounced 'noon') is the most delicious flat-bread I ever tasted. It is baked in kiln-like ovens by slapping the dough on the inside wall and baking it. We would go in the early morning before school to the bakery and buy some, piping hot fresh from the oven, scrape off the ash residue, take it home and eat it immediately with some coffee for breakfast.

I soon met D., a teacher at the school. We were attracted to each other, and after dating and discoing and cycling around the area for a while we decided to get a place together, so we rented what was my second house with all the right characteristics, high wall, courtyard with fountain and garden and a nice house with a great cellar that made a wonderful den. Unfortunately, I felt constrained by domestic bliss; the bloom was soon off the rose and I began going out again—on my own. I then met C., another teacher, at my favorite disco, and she was soon riding pillion on the Yamaha. Naturally, living in a goldfish bowl and frequenting the same haunts as expats usually do, word got around and I came home one night to find the door locked, which led to a ruckus in the neighborhood—shouting match and threats to break the door down, etc. Soon enough, a hunt for another house, this time alone, my third—the one I came back to after returning from my odyssey.

Meanwhile, I had returned to work at the air base, this time as an in-flight tutor to the students who had graduated from the classroom part of their English and pilot training program. Essentially, I rode in the back seat of the UH-1 type Bell helicopters (Hueys) that are synonymous with the Vietnam War and tried to rectify any communication problems between the “Texas cowboys” (many were Vietnam veterans) instructor pilots and the Iranian cadets they were flight training. Hooeee, Huey!

mosque in Nain (famous for carpets) near Esfahan 
relatively unadorned but blends beautifully into the desert around Nain
interior of Nain mosque dome also plain but beautiful

metalwork tray (one of my few remaining mementos)

miniature 7 by 12 cm. (another memento)

To be continued....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks sounds familiar…didn't you post this already???

ps. you will just love Istanbul. it will bring back many of the memories that you describe. Ephesus, for me, was magical.