An American in Iran.Posted: September 10, 2014
My visa was approved. It’s official. I’m going to Iran.
I picked up my passport at the Fed-Ex delivery station on South Alston last night. I tore the envelope open in the tiny lobby area and drummed my feet and shrieked like a little girl. Then I called my contact at the Embassy of Pakistan (which acts in the interests of Iran) and left him a tearful thank-you message on his voicemail. It’s really hard for Iranians and Pakistanis to get visas to the States. They didn’t have to be as awesome as they were. But they were. I’m grateful for that gesture of goodwill.
I’ve been asked a lot why I’m going. The simple answer: I want to. The more complicated answer: travel is essential to my creative process, and I go wherever I feel the universe is pulling me. In the last few years, through strange twists of fate, I’ve made several friends who happen to be Iranian (including several of the badasses behind this video), and just got more and more intrigued by the country itself. It’s pulling me there for a reason. There’s some story that will find me.
There’s actually a mini-surge of tourism underway that the Iranian government is encouraging. If you’re interested in going, you need an entity in Iran to sponsor you for a visa, and for my part, I can’t recommend Cyrus Travel Agency more highly. They—specifically, my contact there, Babak Kianpour—have been amazing in getting me squared away. (I’d already blown $60 on iranianvisa.com—they are SCAM SCAMMY SCAMMERS! Do not use.) I’ll be traveling with him and a guide, Mohammed, the entire time, which is fine by me, even though it’s not my usual mode of travel, given that I’m American and I don’t speak Farsi. I want to be a respectful guest. More than that, Babak and I have talked about my being a sort of “cultural ambassador,” and so he and Mohammed are planning meetings with artists, writers, and musicians around the country.
I do know one phrase in Farsi, kheili mamnoon, or “thank you so much.” I think I’ll be using it a lot in the coming days.