Got visa to Iran!



I have a visa to Iran! I have been dreaming about this for months, and waiting for it for over a month. So, this is it – the adventure has begun…



In fact, my journeys begin long before I get on the plane, car or train. To me, preparing to a journey is also an adventure. It's no different this time. Everything started with one fundamental question:

How?

On my dream bamboo bike, of course!
Now that it has been clear, time for more questions:
Where to?
It took me a few weeks to come up with the final answer to this one. First, I thought about the Orkney Islands. I checked them up – the route is fine, the ferries are there, the megalithic tombs are still standing. I went to Google streetview. No people in the streets, no houses along the streets. But that's nothing! I checked the rainfall – too much, I checked the temperature – not even near my ideal 30°C. I kept searching… How about Iran? Yes, I want to see the world as it is in “The Wind Will Carry Us” by Kiarostami and in Panahi's “Taxi”. Yes, Iran seems like a natural choice for a trip on a dreamed-of bicycle. Only it brings one more fundamental question…

Can women ride bicycles in Iran?

This isn't so obvious in Islamic countries. I look it up on the Internet – women have been riding bikes for a few years in Iran. It's not easy, though. They need to dress up properly. I find a pic of an Iranian cycling girl par excellence; she looks like a big black tent on wheels. Fortunately, the police does not exact such an attire. I check up couchsurfing.org. I type in 'bicycle' in the “interests” column in the browser. I get many women in the results. They confirm that if you wear a headscarf and a tunic covering your butt no one will bother you.
Now, is it safe?
“Absolutely not!” people in Iran all agree. “Drivers here are nuts. Stay away from freeways and deserts.” Anything else? “You will see…”

When?

Plan A – August! This is when the temperature reaches the perfect 30°C, and the hot 40°C in the south. Perfect. I came back to my senses in Budapest, dying on a stool in a Turkish bath. With my dull eyes I was trying to grasp the shape of something looming in the clouds of steam. After a longer moment I realized I was staring at a thermometer showing 40°C. This is exactly the temperature in Iran in August and September. Oh no! I'm not cycling in such heat! And that's how I decided to go in the beginning of October.

How will I communicate?

I usually learn a few basic words: thank you, please, hello and water. But when I'm in somebody's house – which I'm going to do because I'm not taking a tent – I would like to understand the hosts at least a little bit. On tutorial24 I found Małgosia.
“Can you teach basic Persian in three months?”
“You mean Persian survival?”
“Yes.”
“If you work hard, yes, I can. Persian is quite easy, you just need to scrape through the alphabet. When you do, the rest is a piece of cake.”
Małgosia scared me with that alphabet. But it's not that horrible. Especially for someone like me, who is pretty liberal with orthography. Besides, if I was never able to learn Polish orthography to perfection, why would I expect to be a Persian spelling expert? It's enough that they can read what I write. And understand me when I speak. After three months of learning I can speak Persian, well, more or less.
“Iranians should understand you.” This is Małgosia's usual comment to my Persian sentences. Then she sighs and adds: “Which does not mean it can't be better…” And that's how she ruins my vision of me speaking perfect Persian!

Waiting for a visa to Iran

It took over a month. Right after I got it I went to buy a ticket. I have two weeks left. I'm completing the bike, and start the first goodbyes – with those I won't be able to meet before I leave or I simply won't be able to meet again. Who knows…



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