Day 13: Small town Iran
November 20th, 2004
Life’s a beach
I woke up early and went back to sleep. I woke up again at 9 with a headache. But at least the weather was nice!

We lazed around until just before noon when August had to take a bus back to Tehran to work for the day. He said he would be back in the evening, and in the meantime I would be hanging out with his older brother who would show me around. Aniki works as a consultant on factory construction. In two weeks he will be heading to London to pitch a deal for a brick factory in Iran. Apparently Britain is the world’s brick powerhouse, and Iran has lots of rock and stone and cheap labour to exploit.

We got in the car and began our slow drive to death. Aniki is the slowest driver in Iran. In fact, I think he chose this day to be his first using a gear stick. Everyone was whizzing around us and honking their horns, and I could see my life flashing before my eyes in great detail at the speed of molasses.

We dropped off August at the bus station and headed 40 klicks north to the small seaside town of Babolsar towards the “bitch”, all while rocking out to Kenny G. Traffic was light even by Canadian standards and while driving all I saw (besides amazing amounts of vegetation not seen elsewhere in Iran) were factories upon factories. And lots of brick factories.

We stopped first in Babol, the town just before our destination, and went to the bazaar to pick up some olives and such. It was also a good chance to look at the ladies. Aniki told me that he loves “daughters.” After a few minutes of perving we got back into the car and kept going.

At about 2PM I got my first view of the Caspian Sea. The wide, endless blue body of water has been a hub of regional angst and activity since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Instead of two countries bordering the sea, Iran and the USSR, now 5 states share its waters: Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The crux of the argument is based upon borders, and how much of what each country should get. Why is this taking so long? Oil drilling and fishing rights are on the menu, and everyone wants their unfair share.

The Caspian
There were Iranian couples walking hand in hand, a guy leading a horse trying to sell horse rides, and two or three boats out on the water. The beach wasn’t exactly empty, but it wasn’t teeming either. The only thing besides sand and water it had in abundance was garbage. There was garbage everywhere! Littering is bad in Iran, and it looks particularly bad when contrasted  against only sand and the open blue water.

The garbage strewn beach
We saw some families picnicking up on the bank. Two little boys were playing in the sand right near us and I asked if I could take their picture. They said fine and as I was shooting the family patron came over to investigate. He struck up a conversation with Aniki and after a few minutes called over his son. I shook hands with all and they invited us for tea. After the necessary ta’rof declining, we walked up to the picnic. There were two blankets, with men sitting on one and women on the other. We sat with the men, father son and maybe uncle, and they offered me a puff on a qalyan (water pipe, or hookah). I don’t know what tyoe of tobacco was in it but it was sweet and tasted really good. I just sucked the smoke into my mouth and blew it out, not knowing whether I should inhale it into my lungs. It was really good and I was getting into it. After a few puffs I passed to the left, yo. The granpa let me take a pic of him puffing. The women on the other blanket were constantly looking over. They were wives and daughters and granddaughters. When it was time to go I said “Bye bye! Khoda hafez!” to them and they all laughed and said good-bye to me. We walked a bit down the beach and Aniki told me that they were Kurds. Cool.

Children at play
Kurdish man smoking a water pipe
We kept walking towards the car when Aniki stopped me. “Daughters!” he whispered urgently. I turned around and we watched a bunch of chicks walk past. What a perv.

We got back to the car and Aniki took me to a private beach, a sort of gated community with a few blocks of expensive villas. These homes are very European, with hedges instead of walls, and front yards exposed to everyone. Rich Iranians, French, Italians and Germans own these homes that run up to US$500,000.

The beach was empty. In fact, there wasn’t really a beach, just a cement boardwalk with plastic tables and chairs, a restaurant and a tea house. We ate chicken kebabs in the empty restaurant watching the waiters sit around smoking qalyan. Apparently Friday is the day to come here, all other days are dead.

We got back to the car and were getting ready to go when Aniki decided to make a phone call. While he was talking on the phone a car pulled up with 5 teenagers, three girls and two boys. Aniki decided that we wouldn’t leave just yet and would make another circuit of the boardwalk. I told him my wife would kill me, but went anyways pretending to read my Farsi phrasebook as we slowly walked by. The teenagers were flirting and touching, and the girls were practicing their feminine walking.

Finally we got back to the car and went to another private beach. This one had bigger and nicer homes than the last. There was a proper beach that was strewn with garbage as well. I had expected private beaches to be clean. There were a bunch of fisherman wrapping up for the day. There were no women so we left quickly.
Around town
The Wedding Singer