Souvenir Shopping

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
November 24, 2007

Though the equinox was two months ago, for me, autumn started when I went out today at noon. There have been some cool evenings, especially in Yazd, but it was only this afternoon that I first needed to wear a coat or long-sleeved shirt during the day.

This late-coming autumn was just what I was hoping for when plotting routes west from China this summer. I was hoping to catch the tail end of summer across the 'Stans, then spend time in the places across Iran where it was still warm. I think I've done pretty well. The path I've come has stretched summer out by a couple extra months.

I'm finally making my way out of Iran. I feel that I've spent a proper amount of time. If I had stayed only as long as my initial visa allowed--21 days--I know I would have left feeling that I hadn't spent enough time seeing places, becoming familiar with the culture here. Getting my visa extended, adding a few extra weeks in the country was the right decision. Now I feel ready to move along.

When planning this trip to Iran, Isfahan was the city I most wanted to visit. Even with my high expectations, I've not been let down. The mosques, the bazaars, the artisans at work: it's hard to believe such a place truly exists today. But even in this wonderful city of Isfahan, I feel that I've seen what I wanted. My time has been ample.

I'll leave Isfahan tomorrow morning. Spending this last day here, for the first time over this trip, I bought souvenirs. I bargained for a couple of miniature paintings--colorful illustrations within calligraphy. I also got a half-sized hookah. I'm presuming that the glass base will probably break at some point in the future: I'm carrying it around in my soft knapsack. I'd love to get it all the way to Seattle, but if the thing survives even as far as western Europe I'll be happy. I suppose it won't be that much of a loss should it shatter sooner than later. The little old man I bought if from in the Isfahan bazaar opened with such a low asking price--50,000 rials, a bit over $5 USD--that I didn't bother to bargain.

It's a shame I haven't bought souvenirs from any of the other places I've passed through. There was some beautiful craftwork being done around Bukhara and Khiva, back in Uzbekistan. My reasoning for not shopping in the places I've passed through is that I'm carrying a tiny bag with almost no free space. I've realized that's no excuse. There is always some way to cram something more in, re-arranging my things, re-packing. Or, I could just suck it up and pay several times the purchase price to post items off to somebody in my family.

Right now I'm hoping that I can temporarily lighten my load by off-loading some of the contents of my bag (e.g. books, photo back-ups, miniature paintings) onto Leah. We'll see each other when I cross into Armenia in early December. She's working there for a few weeks this autumn, then flying back home to Budapest. We had speculated about traveling together, taking a ferry across the Black Sea, but she won't have the time to do that. So, I plan to instead route myself across Turkey, eventually passing through Budapest. I could pick my things up there; I'm hoping she'll have the spare luggage allowance to take some of my stuff when she flies back from Armenia. I haven't yet asked her about playing courier--but if she can, that will be great: I'll have a half-empty bag while crossing Turkey.