By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Our final trip is to Esfahan, known as the gem of Iran and the Islamic world. You don’t need to be Iranian or Muslim to fall in love with this city — even Duke Ellington wrote a song about it. Set in the center of the country, at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range, it is a designated UNESCO world-heritage city. Eleven picturesque, fairytale-like bridges cross the scenic Zayandeh River. We stroll repeatedly across them, stopping for chayee at a teahouse on the lower portion of a bridge constructed of 33 arches. At the Baazaar-e Bozorg (Big Bazaar), I speak to a baazaari who tells me he loves Americans but doesn’t care much for their government. As an afterthought, he points out that he feels the same way about Iranians. He goes to the back of his shop and brings me a book in which he has pasted the business cards of all the Americans who have ever visited. We chat for some time, and as I’m about to leave he asks, “Is it true?” He wants to know if America is likely to hamleh (attack) Iran. He is well-read, and he knows Esfahan has a uranium-conversion facility.
Back in Imam Square, surrounded by turquoise-blue architecture, I eat a perfect cup of paloodeh as the delicate dome tile work of Masched-e Sheik Lotfallah changes colors with the rising sun. My trip is almost over. I promised my Spanish teacher I would write a summary of my time here. But will I be able to capture even the smallest bit of my experience? In a language that’s not my own? I must try. I am meticulous, double- and triple-checking for errors. I send the e-mail. Only later do I realize my mistake. I meant to write: I am returning home Thursday. But I have used salir in place of volver. “I am leaving home Thursday.” She’ll understand. We learned those verbs of motion early on, all on the same page. It was a bit confusing.
I am back at Mehrabad Airport. At the check-in line, a man tries to cut ahead of all of us. “Agha!” I ask him. “Cheh khabareh? Befarmayeen, befarmayeen tooyeh saaf.” (“Sir! What’s the story? Welcome, welcome to the line.”) He politely apologizes and moves back behind us. I turn and look fondly at him, the last line-cutter of my trip. I am trying to hold these final moments, but there’s an unnatural speed to air travel. The signs are once again in both English and Farsi. Then they’re only in English. My hair is uncovered. The U.S. passport guy is asking me questions. I think about the quiet room ahead, where passengers are arriving with no one to greet them. He hands me back both passports.
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