White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Midnight time! back home in US. After a sweet conversation with Reyhan, I was having tea with a piece of Kolompeh, an Iranian sweet/cookie from the city of Kerman. It just came accross my mind how much art is in this sweet. Covered with pistachio powder(from city of Rafsanjan) , a hard cover of bread over a thick layer of dates (from city of Bam) filled with walnut and cardamom (from Kerman). There is a clear trace of culture of the region in this simple, delicious product. So much eastern!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Safarnameh (Trip Report) 2: Prague-Berlin

Now after 4 weeks, back in Detroit Airport waiting for the last flight home. Prague was literally a paradise. Czechs are still far from professional tourisms and are stuck with some sort of tough communist era behaviors. But with no reservation, I recommend visiting the Prague.

Berlin was a great cosmopolitan city. So much to see and of course our two days stay was nothing. We only visited the cold war aspects of the city which was very educational and interesting. After walking next to the wall and visiting check point Charlie, for the first time I felt the depth of the cold war separations. The story of Berlin is quite interesting. West Berlin refused to join the leftist East side in the city’s election and Soviets set blockade to the west side to block access to foods and other basic needs to break the west side resistance. Americans who knew about the strategic importance of the west Berlin dropped food and did airlift to help the west side survive. Practically during the cold war, to access the west side, you had to use a road which went through East Berlin. In Berlin for the first time, I felt the deep alliance that once existed between the western Europeans and America. This is more than economic and political ties. The history of the world war II and later cold war had made the Europeans a true admirer of the US. And you can feel that how much the Iraq war and Bush’s unilateral policies.

In Berlin I got a chance to see a few Iranians who used to be serious leftist political activist in 1980s. I always love to sit and listen to stories of these people. Each one of their life stories are perfect screen plays about an important period of Iran’s history.
Their activities during and after revolutions, the crack down of the leftists in Iran and the way that they have escaped to Eastern Europe, etc… Just consider they guy that
I talked to: He was a member of a famous leftist party in Iran. He talks Farsi, Arabic, German, Polish and Czech fluently. His father was a mullah who had close contact with Khomeini and even now with Ayatollah Sistani. This guy fled Iran and went to work for one leftist radio in Soviet controlled Afghanistan. Later he fled to Czech …. And it’s unfortunate that many of these sincere and honest people look at the current world with the same leftist view of cold war times: Blaming all the problems of the middle east on Israel and Zionism, having a conspiracy look at every event and worse than all being so passive and still stunned in front of the Islamists in Iran.

Talking to a few young Germans from my generation, I feel that new generation of the Germans are finally some how against inheriting all the guilt of the war. Two generations have already inherited and paid heavily both economically and psychologically for the mistakes of another generation in Germany. World Cup 2006 was the first time that people were able to take out and wave their flags for the first time after the war. Still there is so much of suspicion and controversy about any act of patriotism in Germany, but it is visible that some change is happening there.

Safarnameh (Trip Report) 1: Iran

The Iran trip was one of the best. Half of it was outside Tehran. We visited Shahrekord for a few days for family reasons and later went to the gorgeous province of Kurdistan. Kurds are the most hospitable people that I have seen in Iran. Their rich culture and history and the tendency to have their own state, historically have put them at odds with the non-kurd governments of the region. In all countries their independence movement have been brutally silenced. The worst has happened in Iraq (under Saddam) and Turkey where their whole existence as a race has been attacked. In Iran the Kurdistan region is clearly poor and has been left alone by the government. There is minimal investment in the region and it is clear that there is a high unemployment and tendency for illegal jobs. Gas is extremely cheaper in Iran compared with any country in the world. There is a huge petrol smuggling network in the border region. Local residents can get only 20 liters of gas every 2 days only if they wait in the station line before noon time. Despite such a restriction, most of the cars who wait in the gas line end up selling their gas to the smuggling network 50 meters from the gas station.

We visited Sanandaj and Marivan. Marivan with the beautiful Zairvar Lake is a magnificent tourist site that like most other spots in Iran is far from its tourist potentials. It was one of the few spots that it was quite green under the heat of summer. We went to the Iraqi border which is under the full control of the revolutionary guards (Think about the scale of profits from the trade and smuggling exchanges). There is a huge trade exchange between the two sides after the fall of Saddam. Every day about 2000 Iranian trucks are sent into Iraq with Iranian goods. I heard from some people that nowadays many of the Iranian factories prefer to sell to the Iraqi side rather than the local Iranians because they receive their cash easier and faster and that has caused some sort of inflation in the Iranian market. Kurds seem to be happy about the political climate in Iraq. Apparently they were visiting their loved ones on the Iraqi side quite easily (I heard you can get to Iraq side with a payment of $4).

In Tehran I got some time to see some old friends. There is little talk on politics. Only my own family were still quite involved with the details of the developments. It was so nice to see how much my cousins have grown and become independent and mature characters. It is falttering to call a friend after 3-4 years and tell him that I only have 1 hour to see you and then he drives crazily from northern Tehran to the center in 25 minutes to catch the chance of seeing each other and catching up with all the beautiful memories. It is such a pleasant feeling to see that there is still a strong base for me there that I can go back and use at some point.

Of course there is a lot of frustration and uncertainty in Iran today. The whole future of the country is unclear thanks to the stupidity of I talked with a friend who runs one of the largest Internet service company in Tehran. It was clear that the whole existence of their business can be shattered overnight, but apparently that’s the rule of the game in Iran to walk on a tiny narrow string all the time.

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