Saturday, March 24, 2007

My! My! 3 years in the country straight after a civil war,Iran (Jan 1980 to Feb 1983)

On the flight to Iran, I could not sleep as usual getting excited again. Lucky for me, I love the movie that was screening and not to mention the good food that was served after each take off. Before boarding the aircraft each of us was given a Destination Pass indicating the final destination of our journey and mine was Teheran, capital of Iran.
When the plane landed in Teheran, I noticed that no foreigner stood up to leave the plane except Iranians and me. The American passenger who was sitting beside me could not believe her eye that my Destination Pass indicated Teheran. She gave me a grinned and said those words, Good Luck. When I was moving towards the aircraft door, she pulled me back and asked me where was my winter coat and I told her that they were in the luggage . She straight away pulled me to the side window of the plane and showed me that snow was falling like flake outside. I turned to her and said wow, it is snowing.
I murmured to myself, “See Liao”(hokkien word meaning Death). Why did my administration staff in Singapore not tell me that it was winter over here in Teheran. Without any hesitation, she pulled a few woolen blankets from the seats and wrapped one at my next and another at my navel area.
Before leaving the aircraft the air flight attendant rearranged nicely all the woolen blankets for me and whispered these words, it is very cold out there, 0 degrees.
After getting out from the plane, I have to line up like the rest of the Iranians outside the terminal building. All the Iranians started to ask me to go forward to the terminal entrance and one of them tell the Revolution Guard to let me in for I do not have my winter coat.
Once inside, I was immediately question by the Revolution guard. The question was whether I like the American and my answer was , "what?".
At this very moment, I saw a Chinese standing beside me and was talking to the guard. He was holding a very special pass and straight away I was released and my passport stamped and before further questions I followed him out from the airport straight to the car where a driver was waiting.

Once in the car, he introduced himself as Mr.Ngai Sek Kee,the personal officer. He told me that I was lucky that I did not give the guard any answer. The whole country was just in a chao condition after winning the civil war again their King, Shah of Iran.

Oop, the voice of my former Project Manager, Mr Lee came flashing through my mind, do not go to the country having civil war, Iran
I finalized reached the office and met my project manager, Mr. Lau King siu.

Hasan Kif Substation in Mazandaran

He gave me a winter jack left over by those Kuwait’s staff and asked whether I have to buy any extra winter clothing for he will be asking the driver to take me to the Hasan Kif Substation site tomorrow.
The journey to the site was approximately 6 hours.
Upon arriving at company quarter, I was introduced to the housekeeper, Agar Safar ( Agar means Mister in Farsi, Persian Language.).
The following morning he gave me some petty cash to purchase any food that I wish to eat or cook by myself and he left to another site called Neka Power Station approximately 6 hours from my site.

This rented house that I stayed was directly opposite the Substation and it took me about 5 minutes to walk there everyday. For the first few days, I started to rehabilitate myself to the new environment. There was no phone in the house and everyday I have to make a trip to the Hasan Kif town to make a call. The daily call back to my Personal Officer in Teheran was toreport and to ensure that I was okay over here. Well, this country was straight after revolution and Law and Order was very unstable as yet.

Slowing my curiosity of this country started to turn into homesick. Just imagine, my housekeeper can not talk in English and I have to cook for myself. I started to carry out my daily marketing and also cooking for myself. Safar who was always beside me beside carrying out his daily housekeeping work, he also started to learn how to cook my Malaysian dishes after many trial and error.

Lucky for me, back in Penang ,when my mother was cooking in the kitchen , I managed to pick up some good menu from her. Anyway I did cooked once for the whole house when she was sick in Penang. Safar tried to pick up the way I cooked and one day he misunderstood my instruction and boiled a whole chicken for the whole day from 8.30am to 5.30pm. By the time I returned from site, he showed me with pride how well he has cooked! My God, on that night, I managed to drink a tasty essense of chicken but could not eating the chicken for meat was very tough due to over cooked.

Learning the Persian language, Farsi

One day when I was in the house, I heard the sound of a girl calling my housekeeper and upon opening the door, I found a girl standing in the lawn with an elderly man. Safar talked to them and turned to me and informed me who they are but at that time I could only can understand very little of what he has spoken for my Farsi was really bad. Then all of a sudden, the girl who was beside him started to speak to me in English explaining who she was and introduced me to her dad who was beside her. I told her how happy I was to see somebody who can speak in English. I asked her whether she could teach me Farsi and she told me that her dad has given the permission for me to visit her family after my work so as to learn it .She further explained that they are the owner of the house that my company have rented it from them.

I dropped by her house after my work and started to pick up Farsi. the best teacher was her mum and her brother, Kolam. Well, her mum would only speak Farsi to me and like a child , I started to speak and pronounce each word and I not to forget ,her youngest daughter, Mariam, who would talked straight Farsi and played with me when I was there.

I have traveled to other countries after Iran, and I would advised that the best way to learn a foreign language was to learn with the local family. Furthermore , you will understand their culture.

I now know why there are always International Student Exchange program between many countries.

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