Nesfe Jahan, pt 74

25 December 2010

2 am on some expressway in Tehran. The streets are deserted, even though it’s the first evening of the weekend. Nothing new though. The social gathering happens, as unusual for a small percentage of the people behind a closed door. But not for me. Tonight, I’m leaving Tehran, Iran, and probably the life I’ve been living the last months. I said my goodbyes to the handful of people here that have become very close to me. No drama, no surprises. Perfunctory. The minute we met, we knew it was coming, and there’s always that vague promises that I will be back. It’s so big that it can only be unreal.

I’m flying today. My mind is on autopilot. I claim the right to be, because I paid for the privilege. I coast through Iranian customs, wake up a couple of thousand kilometres later in Rome. I meet a dear friend of mine, but I’m completely incapable to communicate any profound thoughts due to lack of sleep and context. We bum around for the afternoon. It’s kind of a culture shock for me. Everywhere there are historical places, I probably see more from my airport transfer than I’ve seen in the past six weeks. Nice shops. Really nice shops, expensive ones. Foreigners, from everywhere. Nice places to eat. Nice cars. Indifferent people.  It takes some getting used to. Not that I take that time, I just hang around and head back to the airfield, stuffed with the good stuff. I doze in the two hour queue for check in. And then I have my wake up call.

“I’m sorry sir, but your flight status is set to suspended. Please proceed to the ticketing counter”.  My mental machinery wakes up from standby during the ten second walk. Apparently, there is a problem with using someone else’s credit-card to pay for the flight. They need a fax, and there’s no budging. So I call my dear mother, who is luckily in the right place in the right time. But of course it’s not that easy. Their is broken, or they don’t know the actual number, but it just doesn’t matter. I’m calm, speak clearly and to the point, and I’m adamant. Whatever happens, I’m going to continue to get on this flight until it kills me. The woman at the counter is professional, but not unhelpful. The plane is already late one hour, and both her and me know that without that, it would already be too late. She gets nervous, she’s shaking her shoulders while she searches for alternatives. She walks swiftly between the fax and her terminal. Everything is devoid of emotion, until she looks at me, and tells me she’s going to arrange it. And to please not tell anyone, as it’s not really according to procedure, and not really beneficial to job security.

Faced with a bleary eyed dirtball in trying to get home for Christmas from Iran, people probably fall in two categories. The ones that don’t care, and would leave me stranded. And the others. I’m very lucky to be in front of the second group. I think the rest is cultural, if she was born in Iran she would have probably just bought a new ticket out of her own pocket. There are nice people everywhere, even in Italy, even working for airlines.

Security confiscates fifteen year old garlic. The plane is two hours late to depart. It’s half an hour late to arrive, it keeps circling around the airport. When we touch down, I know why. The whole airport is a snowy wasteland. Most signalisation is buried under half a meter of snow. It takes another half an hour for our plane to drive half a kilometre to the terminal. It takes another half an hour to find some stairs to takes us down. It takes half a second for me to realize it’s damn fucking cold when I get out of the plane. I hang around the baggage claim for a couple of minutes. Enough to see the crowds of previous flight looking miserable, sleeping. It’s a lost cause for mine anyway, considering how difficult it was to get the human luggage off, so I just split. No trains, no buses. But no way I’m going to sleep in an airport tonight. I call around, make sure I have some addresses to go to. I put on the raincoat I was lucky enough to pack in my hand luggage, expecting rain a couple of hours ago. I head to the road. The same on I’ve been on, even though I haven’t been expecting it here. Hitchhiking now is a bit weird. The idealist would expect everyone to stop in a situation like this, but hey, welcome back to Europe. The only ride I find is going to a place where I don’t know anyone, mainly because I hate the place. Yeah, Antwerp. I catch a cab, and it costs me about as much as a week travelling in Iran. But I don’t care. My whole brain is focused on one single thing. It’s going to end as soon as possible.

The taxi ride proves tricky too. I manage to steer the conversation to the weather for ten minutes. But fatigue, and rusty French make it turn into politics ten minutes into it. Which I wanted to avoid. I can barely muster the energy to hum approvingly, my attention to absorbed by the sight of the deserted highway. I ask to get dropped off at the edge of the city, as it’s probably faster to walk. And I get my reward for the day. The whole city is covered and empty, apart from a handful of pedestrians. Situations are what they are, everyone greets each other with the familiarity of shared experience. It’s all a little surreal, but I enjoy it to the fullest. It’s peanuts after two Berlin winters. I arrive home to my father, and it’s over.

I’m home now. My plans extend no further than the next bathroom break. Everything is too easy. Fast, uncensored internet.  Alcohol that’s not procured from the trunk of a car. Good food, and knowing I don’t have to leave within a couple of days.  Neither looking back nor forwards. If you’re anywhere within a hundred kilometres, give me a call. Time of arrival in Berlin is tentative.