Tuesday, January 06, 2004

K's sister and I were out walking, combing bookstores for novels in English. Here is the list of what we found:

The White Buffalo
A book-length horoscope for Capricorns circa 1978
A Sidney Sheldon novel (Something about a mirror)
A poorly translated Iranian novel (I decided not to buy it when saw good bye spelled "good-buy")
Tess D'Ubervilles
Hard Times (which I bought)
Robinson Crusoe
The Scarlet Letter

On the street we ran into a woman who had just returned form Kish (Iran's shopping mecca on the Persian Gulf). She told us that she saw the tents the Japanese donated for earthquake relief in Bam for sale in Kish.

As we walked away, I told F that I did not believe her. F insisted that it was possible. "People donate things, but nothing is arriving."

"K and I saw huge trains heading for Kerman on the way here," I told her.

"Nothing is getting there."

Rafsanjani's driver wears gold shoes

We got in a taxi with a man who claimed to have been Rafsanjani's driver. "I was Rafsanjani's driver for eleven years until he caught me smoking opium and fired me," he told us.

It was as though we had gotten into a cab with Brer Rabbit or some other mythical storyteller. He started our ride with a long, and according to my two traveling companions: false, story of his recent trip to Bam. "In Tehran, they have drilled holes into the ground to release the pressure on the faults," he told us. "That way we won't have as big an earthquake here."

The guy went on and on. And we sat and sat. The traffic was terrible. I wanted to get out and walk, but I thought that K and his nephew were enjoying the conversation with the driver. I did not understand enough of it to judge what was real and what was not. The only thing I knew for sure was that there was no way that holes drilled into the earth were going to help in the case of an earthquake.

On our way home, we had a sane driver. K and A told him about our earlier ride, and the driver said: "Rafsanjani's driver wears gold shoes. He doesn't drive a broken-down taxi cab."

More drivers

It snowed and snowed and snowed here in Tehran. K and I decided to go to the mountains, see the snow, and fall on our asses for several hours.

People everywhere were engaged in snowball fights. A stray snowball hit me on the shoulder. When we arrived at the mountain, there were thousands of other Iranians there as well. Our driver was a former fighter pilot who now teaches at the university. He insisted on speaking a broad and friendly English to the two of us. K finally convinced him that he was a small-town Iranian boy himself.

"I trained in America," the driver told us.


(When I told my father this story he thought that the guy probably trained at Rantoul.)

"No. I flew F14s, F10s."

(Maybe he thought that "Texas" was a kind of plane the way I pronounced it.)

"Now I drive taxis and teach at the university."

There must be an agency that only employs former pilots. I've had so many drivers who have told me that they used to be pilots. They have all been the right age, and they have all spoken English.)

"America has lifted the sanctions," he told us.

"Did you hear that, T?"

"I don't believe it," I told K. "If they have been lifted, they have not been 100% lifted."

On days when I do not connect to the internet or get an English newspaper, my news comes from taxi drivers. That's how K and I found out that Saddam Hussein had been captured months before he was actually captured. You can imagine that I do not always trust my sources.

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