what was supposed to be an edifying 4-day tour of the historic cities of Esfahan and Shiraz turned into a nightmare express trip to the caspian sea.
the night before our excursion, my mother (who’s visiting) and I pack all our necessities and swear that no matter what happens (i.e., no matter which of our other family members stalled or complained) we will be on the road by no later than 11am.
alas, that’s just not the way my family works.
the morning of the trip we grab our bags and head over to my uncle’s house, where several other of my relatives are staying during the holidays. the intention is to either pick them up and take them along or bid them farewell and be on our way. instead, we wind up sitting pitifully beside our luggage for the following NINE HOURS while this or that person hums and haws about where to go and what to bring and etc. etc. after about the 7th hour, i tune out completely and so don’t realize that at some point it is decided that instead of Esfahan/Shiraz, we will go north to the caspian sea. heartbroken and despondent, with no power over the elder council that has made the choice, I shove my things into one of the four cars in the caravan and go, with 22 of my cousins, uncles, aunts and other familial bits and pieces, to the caspian sea.
if only the change in plans were the beginning and end of my sorrows. when we finally arrive, close to 1am after numerous tea stops, we still have to resolve the matter of where to sleep. no problem, my uncle assures me, in Shomal (“the north”) you can drive down the street at any time of day or night and find roadside peddlers of upscale villa rentals. sure enough, even at the late hour of our arrival there are dozens of young men (of questionable repute) lining the streets holding tattered signs with the word “villa” scribbled on them. one by one, we take turns loading strangers into the lead car and winding up and down the desolate alleys, looking for an empty villa. I have the best in town, top quality, right by the ocean, one of them promises. upon delivery we find nothing more than a dilapidated two room shack swarming with flies and covered in mysterious stains. on and on we go like this, stranger after stranger until at 3:30 am we can no longer stand our own sleepiness and settle on a passable little villa a few steps from the sea. there aren’t enough beds or blankets to go around so we sleep in rows, all on one sheet with our own jackets as pillows.
sounds like the worst trip ever, huh?
well guess what: by the following night we’re all dancing and laughing and feeling like we’re in the most prized location in the world. in celebration of my aunt’s birthday we buy an enormous cake and I do a belly dance in front of the whole crew before we head out onto the beach to build a bonfire. all up and down the shore are groups of young people, free of hejab, warm with moonshine and dancing to the music blaring from their cars. we party til 4am and for the next two days we eat and dance and laugh and eat, never minding that the villa is covered in ants and our necks ache each morning from the lack of bedding. and as we head back towards tehran i add one to the plus column for my relatives who are able turn the most horrible circumstances into a memorable experience.