Hospitality II

Tehran Railway Station
November 28, 2007

Sometimes, I wonder why I'm so anti-social. I look back to the entry I wrote a few days ago. In it, I mentioned how when first meeting people questions occasionally come up that put me off of conversation. Now, I'm back up in Tehran and have met so many people who are open and energetic: people who take the initiative to connect with travelers passing through their city. I read back on what I wrote last week and feel like a grump with attitude.

Over these past days I've been meeting local Iranians and other foreign travelers through no effort of my own. The people I've been hanging out with around the city are all new faces, people I hadn't met the first time I came through. This quick connection with people has been entirely through CouchSurfing. When passing through Tehran this time I hadn't planned to initiate contact with anybody new through the website, but it turned out that I didn't need to--lots of people reached out to me. One of the features of the CouchSurfing website is a box which automatically displays profiles of people passing through the area. When they saw that I was in their corner of Iran, several Tehranis sent me welcoming messages.

I've been meeting with various people around town each night. Hanging out with Tehran's young and tech-savvy (i.e., Couchsurfers) has been giving me a fuller impression of the range of people around Iran. My first evening back in town I was invited to an informal party at an apartment. Stepping inside meant crossing into a setting a world removed from the public streets. Everything that is forbidden in public comes out in the privacy of people's homes. That night was the first time in six weeks I've seen women with their heads uncovered. Headscarves come off, alcohol is available, men and women mingle freely.

The level of hospitality here is phenomenal. Each of the people in Tehran who contacted me through CouchSurfing not only welcomed me and took me out, but drove me back to the hotel where I was staying. I felt silly that I was staying at some hotel, rather than one of their homes. I'm certain I would have had a place at a Couchsurfer's home if I'd just sent a request through the website a few days prior. Letting people crash for free is the central point to CouchSurfing, I met a couple European travelers who were staying with one of the Iranians who took me around town.

Though this time passing through Tehran has been even better than my first, I am ready to move along. I've completed the one errand I had planned for my time back here: a return to the Farhangsaray Sabs bookstore. I picked up not only the calligraphy instruction manual for the thuluth script which I'd seen my first time passing through town, but also came away with several other books I hadn't noticed before. I don't know how I missed the entire stack of books giving direction in nastaliq, right next to where I had been browsing the first time. My knapsack is now a half-dozen new books and a couple calligraphy pens heavier. I'll have to figure a way to somehow stuff them all inside.

The pens are the traditional type carved from reeds, they look a lot better than the results the day Abdu-Shukur and I attempted to carve our own in class last year.

In a few hours I'll be catching the overnight train to Tabriz, my final stop in Iran. From there I'll cross into Armenia, where I hope to visit with an old friend from Seattle over several days. Leah is presently up in Yerevan on business. I'm eager not just to see a familiar face, but to merely chat for awhile with a native speaker of English. I realize as I type this that it's been months since I've done either.