I was eating tacos for lunch, she was sketching me eating tacos in the sunshine.
I was eating tacos for lunch, she was sketching me eating tacos in the sunshine.
Sunday paper by the train
Great book to read at nearly any stage of your life.
Day two of italia 12 profiles.
Was going through my google doc and came across this short essay/story i wrote 7/8 years ago for my english class in high school. it describes my experience of my first (and only) time attending a particular international exhibition in Iran when i was 9 or 10 years old (14/15 years a go). Its worth noting iran, and tehran specially, has changed TREMENDOUSLY since then. specially in the recent past with all the sanctions and people’s accessibility to the outside world.
excuse the not so great english. I wrote this shortly after moving here while still learning English.
It’s not the first time he’s driving there, yet dad manages to get lost in the loops and tangles of the highway, not knowing which exit to take. We finally find our way out of the four highways surrounding the Exhibition, searching for a parking lot. Every spot is taken so we park four blocks away and start walking with the rest of the crowd towards the International Exhibition. All the way there, I stare at the back of a black neck. First one I’ve ever seen. It is dark like the night, the same colour as his suit. Despite all stereotypes, he looks rather healthy and groomed; no signs of ragged clothing or starvation. The black suit stops at a mat spread on the ground. A lady in vibrant colours has spread bibles on the mat for sale. We move on to see many more mats spread on the ground. A few people stand around each, either trying to buy or sell merchandise.
There are fully open tulips on the side of the road, screaming the arrival of spring. Everything is vivacious and alive. In Tehran, it is not often that one would hear the sound of people laughing without any concern or hesitation. I feel my mind absorbing all the foreign languages and dialects like a sponge. The cool spring breeze filled with the scent of flowers is refreshing and keeps me vigilant as we walk towards the main gate. The “ heaven’s gates”, my dad has nicknamed them
Out of excitement, I start skipping instead of walking. I take a deep breath before I enter the sacred land in front of me, reminding myself of my objective for coming here: the objective is to buy “Hasht Ketab”.
I cross the imaginary line, overwhelmed by the self-determination I feel. A number of confusing arrows are stacked on a pole, each pointing towards a different cite of the exhibition. On top of all arrows, a sign reads in multiple languages: “ Welcome to the International Annual Book Festival.” It’s shocking to me how many different languages exist. As I am enthusiastically trying to figure out my way towards the “Arts and Literature Hall”; I freeze. I rub my eyes not sure of what I had just witnessed. They are standing in each other’s arm, kissing, in public! It’s bizarre that they don’t seem scared considering they are in a religious based country where holding hands in public is illegal. What makes it even more interesting is that no one seems to mind. Every one here is from the educated population of the society. Half of them are not even from this country. It’s as though the laws don’t apply to an exhibition that is filled with awareness and books; everyone is free and not obligated to follow the rules. Any unreasonable laws fool no one here. After seconds of thinking, I decide to walk off, allowing the smell of hot dogs and hamburgers to guide me. There is joy in the air. A sense of freedom and confidence sparks in the eyes of every by passer. And I am amazed at all the happiness and unison books can bring.
I follow the sign towards the “ Literature Hall”. Each hall is slightly bigger than a stadium, filled with booths occupied by publishers from all over the globe. I enter at the top of the slightly slanted hall, over looking every booth. It’s humbling to see myself surrounded by such mass of knowledge. I start browsing, looking for an Iranian literature publisher, pausing every now and then to look at the people who all seem different, yet equally the same. It’s rather interesting to see two gentlemen who obviously don’t understand each other, yet they are trying to communicate. From the costumers to the publishers, every one here seems to be an expert on sign language. It is like watching a stadium filled with deaf people, trying to explain something to one another, with the exception that everyone is also shouting in the hope that maybe their partner will understand them better. My eyes are wide open and my brain is working as fast as it can, making sure every single detail is hacked into my memory. The smell of glue and paper in the air feels so liberating. With all this intelligence surrounding me there is nothing I can’t do.
After finding the Hasht Ketab and paying 30,000 rials - about $2.40 Canadian dollars- I leave the hall’s warm and stuffed air and meet my dad by the main pool. It is ironic how neither one of us wants to leave the “heaven”, the “land of wisdom”, but we have to. We walk as slowly as possible, inhaling as much “wisdom filled” spring breeze as we can before we pass the gates on our way out.
I have read the Hasht Ketab; which literally means “the Eight Book”, over and over, every time discovering something new. Weather be it its light blue glossy cover or a poem from the collected 200 poems in it, I am reminded of that cool spring afternoon. I am reminded of how humble I felt by the power of books and the overwhelming amount of intelligence that bounded me. It is still within the 475 pages of poems that I find the liberty I experienced on my visit to the International Book Festival.
I was going through my notes on my phone looking for a name of a band that was recommended to me that i came across this note that i wrote while on the metro in Tehran on August 11th, on my last day of visiting Iran this past summer.
“Im on the metro in Tehran.
Going from one aunt’s house in the north of Tehran to another’s house further south of the city. It’s my very final day here in Iran.
The metro in of itself is quiet the experience. Single seats are always shared. The women have their own special car due to Islamic laws. The air conditioning is full on blasting.
Inside the cars are anything but quiet. From people talking next to each other or across the aisle to merchants selling their random nick nacks. From floss ad tooth brush to earring to scarves. I got on when all the seats had the one designate person on them. I took a seat too. When I got on, the AC felt too cold. Now, I’m squished between two ladies one talking on her phone and the other talking to the friend next to her - who asked me to scoot over to make room for her- and the one across the aisle-until she could when the aisle was empty-
The scent is of crisp cold AC air that’s full of sweaty people who haven’t eaten since its ramadan and they are fasting, and their mouths smell. It’s really not bad at all actually for the amount of people that are in the one car. However, The one thing which inspired me to start writing was the colors. There is barely anything but black. As far as eye can see, all are dressed in pitch black and dark dark navy blue. Most look like their outfits was assigned to them and uniform like because they barely express anything of the person wearing them. Even the makeup is minimal. I might have gotten on when it’s time for working class to be on their way home. But regardless, amongst all the black chador and hard core hijab wearers, I stand out like a sore thumb with my red jeans, blue and white floral long shirt, my loose cream and orange coloured head covering, sandals with toe nails polished and bright red ring. Not to mention my newly dyed hair which to me, when I’m out and getting stared and gocked at, feels amazingly super bright and red. being surrounded with the context im in, i feel like peoples eyes and stares piercing into me. as ok as i am with who i am, this situation makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin. at times like this i feel like a foreigner in my own home. “
i found this interesting because today, im wearing the same pants, a blue and white shirt, a scarf and same hair and jewellery. i took the public transit all day in Vancouver but never felt like i was being ogled at. never felt like someone was undressing me with their eyes. never felt sympathy for those around me because they looked like they couldn’t express themselves.
The difference felt between Tehran and Vancouver is a peace of mind. Peace of mind that my human rights will be respected. the peace of mind that i do not need to be hesitant about how i might possibly be perceived in public and if that image will put me in danger. freedom of expression is no small luxury. It is priceless to feel confident in my own skin with no worry about who might be around me.
ps. the photo is not mine and was resourced from here. however, a pretty accurate of my experience of Tehran’s metro during rush hour.
We have been working on the research section of the Italia Design Field school with the Gruppo for the past 5-6 weeks. We have studied Rome and its culture and history from the time of magna grecia to current day. anything from history to politics and architecture and pop culture. I enjoyed reading about the emperors, mostly because i was not well educated in them. But my favourite weeks thus far have been the art week when we studied Renaissance and Baroque art. The other week would be the politics. the reason these two particular weeks made me fall in love with Rome even more is because it made me feel like i’d be going home. I’ve visited Rome previously, but knowing all i know now, i can’t wait to go back.
i came across this video of Rick Steves traveling through Iran. He goes through Tehran, the capital, Esfahan( where i grew up for the first 11-12 years of my life) and Shiraz. I don’t agree with some of his points about the people of Iran, or certain vocabularies he chooses to describe or categorize or to translate the culture, but non the less, i enjoyed this video.
Having studied Roman art very recently, watching this video made me extremely proud. He doesn’t do the city of Esfahan justice i think, but i am biased. I can not wait to visit Rome, but more so, i can not wait to go back home and document the magnificent and astonishing monuments, buildings, and public spaces in Esfahan and Tehran.
who says you always have to listen to music while working late at night? Remco van de Craats talks to our team about practically everything design. very inspiring and interesting.
Sometime in late February/early march of 2009, #Ross Papa told me on our field trip to Seattle ” pay attention and try to understand the life between buildings”. I didn’t understand him then. Now, 2 and half years later, I’m preparing myself for yet another trip to mentor students in Seattle by reading a book by #Jan Gehl called “life between buildings” that was signed by him after interviewing him in his office in Copenhagen this past summer. Ross papa’s comments makes perfect sense now.