Wednesday, October 31, 2007


One stormy afternoon in Tehran, we went up to the top floor of a building to visit a friend's office...This is the balcony they would take you to if unsatisfied with the meeting, luckily we weren't there on business.

When the rain stopped, the wind which comes from the Caspian in the north blew the clouds apart and the dust to the more unfortunate parts of the city.

What an amazing view it was, the photos can hardly describe it...

I felt new perspectives of the city. Being so high up, with the various segments of the city below me: from the ex-Shah's palace &gardens (in 1st photo) to the smoggier downtown and east (last photo)

General word on the streets:
Average people are unusually calm.
Although some politicians and those with more access to the outside world are more nervous and worried.

Although I've just read that there is a bit cooling of rhe
toric against Iran in US, so hopefully there is more time.

Let Iran decide...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yogurt and Herb Soup

This fusion recipe I created recently is quite versatile, you can alter the ingredients according to your taste or what you have available. It contains elements of Persian cooking, but it's a lot easier and quicker than the traditional Iranian "ash" or soup. And everything in it is great for your health.


1 bunch of Cilantro
, clean and clip stems (about a cup)

Several stems fresh dill
(or 1-2 tablespoon dried), clean and clip stems

Several green onion tips
, chopped

1 small white onion
, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon ginger
, finely chopped
2 table spoons olive oil (or other cooking oil)
4 cups broth
(chicken or vegetable)

1 cup barley
(or other grain/noodle)

1 cup lentils

Salt & pepper
Cayenne pepper (or other red pepper, if you like it spicy)
1-2 fresh lemon
(depending on your taste)

1 cup yogurt

Sauté white onions and ginger on medium-low heat in a large pot. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and turn occasionally until evenly golden brown. (you can speed up this step if in a hurry) . Add barley and/or lentils and sauté for a few minute before adding broth. Add pepper and lemon and simmer for 30 minutes, or until barley and lentils are well done. (this step can be quicker if you have already cooked barley/lentils, or use noodles instead-see below)

Add more broth to the soup depending on thickness you desire. Add cleaned & chopped herbs. If you substitute barley with egg noodles-add them at this point. Simmer on low heat for 15-20 more minutes.

A few minutes before serving, pour a little of the soup broth into a bowl and mix in yogurt-this way it doesn’t get lumpy. Add yogurt mixture back into the soup and simmer for a couple more minutes.

Noosh-e Jahn.

*the more herbs the better. you can alternate the herb mixture depending on your taste and what’s available. For example: parsley, mint, dill seeds, chopped spinach…you can also use dried or frozen, but fresh herbs taste the best.

If you try it, let me know how it went!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Russians are Coming

Last night we watched The Russians are Coming, a Hollywood film from 1960s, set during the cold war in smalltown New York, on an island upon which a Russian submarine accidentally lands. 8 sailors are sent out to find a boat to pull them back out to sea. Stereotypes abound, the story unfolds into a series of accidents and mishaps leaving the whole island believing that THE Russians are actually coming, they have landed and WW3 has begun. Chaos awakens the drunken village. A young, naive sailor falls in love with an all-American blond beauty. A little girl blows kisses at burly Russians. All this in silly slapstick style. At the heated climax, the Russian sub comes face to face with the village, threatening to blow them up. Mutual misunderstanding has driven them to a point of no return, it seems. Alas, a distraction saves the day: a little boy almost falls off the church steeple trying to get a better view of the showdown, he dangles precariously by the belt of his pants. When everyone chips in to help the kid, and save him, enemies suddenly become dear friends. The townies decide to escort the sub out to sea as to avoid an intended air attack. The fighter jets swoop dangerously low and, seeing 100s of tiny village boats surrounding the ominous black Russian, decide to head back to the base.

For me the film was great, especially the kitsch Soviet sailors in their stripes and stiff black leather jackets, with ridiculous imitations of Russian language. But this was not the case for everyone in our small audience, some of whom found it difficult to watch what they considered unrealistic and unfair idealism coming out of all-powerful Hollywood-in particular the USA who is seen as the world's bully in this era. It was however agreed as interesting and very relevant to view this film, at this time and place.

Debate involved the following: The issue of a film's role as entertainment
as well as meaning or ideology; problems regarding the comedy-war genre which fails to incite deep questioning or thought (as opposed to Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove); and this path led, somehow, to the state of the intellectual in Iran (the opinion was raised that some intellectuals are stuck in hermeneutic thought, creating a danger of misjudging the reality of simple things...)

-and my favorite quote from the discussion:

'they won't drink water unless Gramsci tells them to drink water'


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vali Asr Street

Exit: Vali Asr

The central avenue running 12 miles down the center of Tehran from south to north is Vali Asr Street, formerly known as Pahlavi and briefly known in 1979 as Mossadeq. Pahlavi after the Shah, Mossadeq after the democratic nationalist prime minister overthrown by US and UK in 1953, and Vali Asr the 12th Imam of Shia Islam who has been hiding since the 9th century. Vali Asr Street is reported to be the longest, continuous street in the Middle East, and one of the longest in the world.

I am now living maybe 15 steps away from the street at times referred to me as the Champs Elysees of Tehran. Lined with towering sycamores, tall and slender. On the large sidewalks motorbikes, men, women and children of all shapes and styles mingle protected under the grace of the trees. Those seedlings growing up one day to be towering pillars of beauty and shade is probably what Reza Shah envisioned when he had them planted some 70 years ago. But he probably didn't imagine the post-modern Islamic architecture looming greedily behind the timeless charm of the sycamores. Or the 'Super Star Burger' which was actually a McDonald's for a day (well, a morning and an afternoon) in 1991, before biker militias stormed in and denounced it into oblivion. By the way, fast food burgers here are as good as top restaurant burgers in the west-as a friend said, it is after all the land of kabob.
Vali Asr begins in the north with 'Tajrish' a market where you can find literally everything: Az shir-e morgh tah joon-e adamizad ("from chicken milk to to human souls") ...or the dirty version Az kir-e morgh tah koon-e adamizad ("from chicken dicks to human asses"). A bit down from Tajrish are various University faculties, and the Cinema Museum. Down further is my place, which is very near the famous 'Tavazo', where they sell precious nuts, dried fruits, teas and various other spices of the Iranian kitchen-always packed...
Countless shops and cafes, restaurants, fountained parks (which I don't really know what to do with), various monuments and buildings, end at the Tehran train station in the south.

This street has often been described to me, but now when I walk up and down it or cross its wide thoroughfare in peril, my own experience and feelings blend with the history and nostalgia that's been passed. Two above ground canals about 3 feet wide on either side of the street are called 'joob', like some kind of lucid dream which lies just above the surface as to feel its presence, thus ever so mysterious and magical. They bubble and drip through my consciousness as I walk along , this artery of the Tehran. The joobs carry down water from the mountains down throughout and all the way to the south of the city; by that time it may be quite polluted, as is the air and the social benefit. The water might symbolize how near that distant section of the city actually is.

The 'joob' a conscious water canal

Ladies stroll alongside motorbike

A young girl walks from school under the shade of trees

Chickens around the corner on Vali Asr

Wandering around Tehran

eslavoy zizek and nietzsche's 'Een Aast Ensan' (Ecce Homo)
no, they don't only like the hairy ones. nearby were foucault and gramsci...

surrounding former US embassy: 'marg bar amrika' ...with convenient translation

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


In old countries when someone took a journey it took a very long time. As they traveled through lands by primitive means of travel: horseback, caravan, donkey, or just by foot…thus the voyage itself became a story, as various moments appeared on the path leading into a new narrative twist; inevitably, given a great time span and a slowness of life. This niche of epic travel writing and memoirs seems to have diminished in recent times. I realize today however, coming to Iran, that the journey is still as windy and convoluted as before, of course in different ways.

I could say getting to Iran has taken me 20 some years. That would be saying it’s my destiny and I’m not sure if I believe that. But surely society constructions like ‘motherland’ & ‘nationality’ partly drove me here, along with family propaganda, which fed me the sweets and savories of my beloved heritage, literally. Or maybe I’m only here to distract another year of my life....Either way, it has taken me at least a few years to get here and in these years a lot has happened, as might also happen in a very long journey. I grew up a lot, found my life’s companion, earned a graduate degree, shed many of my preconceptions and probably gained some new ones. That is not what this blog will be about, directly at least--fortunately my memory isn’t so good, and my imagination isn’t so organized, plus it would not be so interesting anyway! So, I try best to document this journey’s continuation from now--on being and becoming an Iranian woman--on my imagination's constructions and de-constructions.

This is not meant to be a consistent or very academic description of things. I'm only sharing my experiences and thoughts about them without claiming to be an expert or judge. Sometimes I will use more words, or less, sometimes photographs, recipes, or maybe a song...


The Breathing Plane

It’s a surprisingly calm and easy flight from London to Baku. Even with the 2 Iranian kids nagging loudly in the back-in typical Iranian emotiveness. I am strangely relaxed, in some sort of zen euphoria-but not overtly. The plane is more than half empty and everyone has a row to themselves, a tiny private island within the tattered blue-gray Boeing 757. I curl across my seats after squirting a couple tears during the cheesy gospel-choir movie with Beyonce-really really bad. (I often turn unusually emotional in a plane, I wonder if this has something to do with altitude? I recently cried during a film about a pig!) Having shut my eyes long enough, the shabby cloth I’m clinging to transforms.

The plane is softly humming, humm humm humm like breathing. The ride is actually enjoyable and I feel like I am riding on Simorgh’s back, as it was visualized in The Neverending Story. Out the window is not the fairytale as I could have imagined, only grim circles, squares and lines engraved in vast dusty planes. The humming goes on and a soft dry breeze emanates from an obscure direction?

I’m still riding on Simorgh-except with retractable dusty chairs. The occasional sweet Azeri hostess with heavy makeup, who readily pours vodka with a slight, unforced smile. It's like some post-ancient dream. I cling to soft and coarse, milky white hair tugging at pinkish brown skin. It’s a wonderful fantasy and makes the plane ride completely bearable, this is how I get through the flight (I normally detest flying). I can really visualize my friendly beast; and I could fall in love with this creature, so innocent and loyal.

I look out the window again and we are crossing a sea bordered by mountains encrusted with tiny habitations shimmering under a bright sky, it finally fits my fantasy.

The stewardess has dyed blond hair with substantial black roots, blue-white eye shadow shimmering and plump square shaped cheeks.
Her smile is gentle and unassuming, her eyes narrow, dark and soft, her mouth small and pouting. The steward is confident and darker in complexion, but with child features in a grown man’s physique. They have a quiet emptiness which is kind and somehow warm.

Maybe the vodka is making me romantic, especially as I believe it will be my last!
They serve it with cherry juice, and a sweet pickle and cheddar sandwich that goes stale after being out of the wrapper for 5 minutes and they fill the glass like it’s water. And everything seems so pleasant, these islands and the pathetic sandwiches and vodka. For this time and place it’s a sort of paradise. I look out again and the fantasy is further fulfilled, as if the happy painter just dabbed his knife in white and scraped on some mountains into the happy clouds

It is romantic and emotional on top of Simorgh that I think of the title for the blog. Forgive me if in the future I make attempts at being funny.

Layover in Baku, and more rosy faced middle easterners. I’m trying to figure out exactly when I should put on my head scarf--hejab. Most of the women don’t have it on yet, so I watch them out of the corner of my eye and follow along. The interesting outfits start to showcase: a lot of black, rouge, tight. As we prepare for landing in Imam Khomeini’s Airport, one woman nearby starts arranging her hejab. I move quickly, yet non-chalantly, strapping on my black scarf. Slowly more women start folding and refolding theirs, redoing their hair in fluffy ponytails, and when they put on the scarf they do this move which tucks in the fringe and then pulls it right back out--the amount which shows seems to depend on style or disposition.

I’m smiling when we land.

I am the first in the passport queue and the man hardly says a word to me. Baku?” is all he asks before slamming down the stamp. The woman at customs mumbles a question that I don’t understand, and just shake my head “no.” I pass my luggage through x-ray where 2 men don’t look at the screen, their discourse must be too interesting. And that’s it.

A very distant relative of my father picks me up. I am surprised at how conservative she is, dressed in a black chador, quite different from the rest of my family. Her son is driving, we don’t shake hands and he doesn’t really look at me. Of course they want to take me to their home. I try to refuse in the kindest manner possible, it’s late and people are waiting for me I say. The excuse that worked best: “My husband is expecting me home and he is going to call from London!”

And I arrive home, finally, after promising several times to visit them for lunch, and to call them if I need anything.

Now, I’m in here in my room, and I’m tired. My head is heavy with the debris from 2 nights of copious drink, observing conversations ranging from heavy and political to petty gossip and complaint, and fumes of tar being laid in a lot next door and the squeeze of the bazaar this morning...


So far I feel it is surprisingly calm, and clean—although heavily polluted, but the streets are clean and cars are newer than I’d imagined-and of course I am unfairly speaking from north of the city. Modernity has clearly made its mark on the cityscape and so many things are perfect examples of post-modern contradiction.

Not many animals in sight, pets are not looked highly upon to say the least, though I did spot a cat shitting in the sidewalk gutter. Mosquitoes bite but they are somehow playful, teasing you--microscopic Iranians.

We walked into one market just to check it out, “You want some bananas?” the fruit man asked with a dirty sarcasm.

Overall though it seems friendly and civil…although Thursday and Friday are the slowest and quietest days, the weather has been near perfect and I haven’t attempted any official business. So we will see how the new week goes!