July 23, 2003
An easy 15 minute walk from K’s brother’s house in Tehran takes you to a busy shopping area. You can get anything there from Eggerman glass to antiques left behind from the fall of the Shah to coffee to flip flops. The stores are deceptively small but seem to hold endless amounts of merchandise. There are at least 2 people at every counter. It seems to me that one person works at each store and the second person is a friend or relative who is there to keep the other company.
I was shopping there with K’s sister and his 18 year old nephew and 22 year old niece. Just outside the stores, we were approached by a whispering man who I automatically ignored. It was a bit like being approached on the streets of New York by men whispering “Pot, pot, pot…” K’s niece and nephew, however, did not ignore the whispering. They responded to the man who then produced a list of CDs and video CDs that he had for sale. They bought two Metallica video CDs, I bought Madonna’s American Life. I just could not resist the opportunity.
Later that evening we all sang along to American Life: K’s nieces and nephews know every word of the song. I put on the headphones to listen to the rest of the CD. Madonna sings this song called something like “I’m not religious” (I don’t know the exact name because my CD just says ‘track 1, track 2…) that actually made me cry. I am becoming quite sentimental.
The next morning, we boarded a bus to travel southwest. The door opened, and we were greeted by two stickers bearing the American flag and the Canadian flag. The text read: Looking forward to welcoming the US [Canadian] team to the World Cup.
The young woman upstairs is getting married. Yesterday the family bought a sheep and had it killed in the front yard. Nahid, her daughter, and I went out to watch while K and his brother stayed inside. K thought we were out of our minds. He had never seen an animal butchered and did not want to. I had seen an animal butchered before. It was a pig that my Florida neighbors raised in our backyard. Together we fed it and then ate it for Christmas dinner.
The butcher brought the sheep into the yard. It had green and red stripes painted on its back and was (understandably) very nervous. The family of the woman getting married fed the sheep milk and apples. They calmed him by petting him and talking to him. When he was ready to be killed, the butcher gently held the sheep while the father of the bride talked to him and stroked his head. I think he might have said a prayer. I am sure he thanked the sheep for giving up his life. When he was finished, the butcher killed him with a quick cut of the knife. The sheep died instantly. Some of the men put their hands into the sheep’s blood. I am not sure why.
The butcher really knew what he was doing. He did not get any blood on himself. Everything he did, he did quickly and cleanly. After killing the sheep, he blew him up like a balloon. When he cut into the sheep all of the air came out into the face of a 7-year-old girl who said yick, laughed, and jumped out of the way.
Late last night, the neighbors brought over some liver kebabs from the sheep, which K, his brother, and his brother’s wife ate without telling me. They thought I was asleep.