Friday, November 18, 2005

Rana and Barf

It’s our first Friday here!! I’m not sure what that means, but it seems milestoney. Dr. Elahi and his wife Batool Khanum, and his two children Mahdi and Fatemeh came over to visit with us today. The Khanum showed me how to make Iranian style tea. Good thing too, because I would have made it way too strong for them. It’s so funny, I used 2 teabags for 6 cups of tea. And when she poured out the tea into the cups, it was still too dark, so she diluted it with the hot water from the samovar. So really, it was more like 2 teabags for a potential 12 cups. To be fair, the cups are pretty tiny.
Pakistanis would be horrified at the thought of such weak tea. It’s still good though, especially with 4 or 5 cubes of sugar. Then it's like a beautiful amber-crimson sugar water.

We talked for a while and it was nice. The Khanum (Khanum means Ms./Mrs.) said they make spaghetti, called “makaron”, so that’s something familiar I can get and make at some point.

She was very eager to know about the level of education of most people, particularly women, in America, and the status of education in general. Education is a huge deal in Iran, and in fact, ~70% of Iranian women are college educated. It quite outdoes the American statistic, whatever it may be. She seemed a little surprised. I guess when you see America on the news and hear about all these Americans doing big, important things and see that the US is the superpower, you assume its women must be inordinately educated too.

She and her daughter were both wearing chadors. While helping me with the tea, the Khanum was still able to keep her chador wrapped about her using her elbows as her hands filled the cups. Her daughter had a different one that seemed a little easier. It had sort of built-in arm holes which seems interesting and probably a little easier.

Then they left because the Khanum had to make lunch and Dr. Elahi said he’d come get us later to go for a drive around town.

In the interim, I boiled a few eggs and made a basic egg salad to eat in the fantasy bread roll or with the lavash for a little lunch to tide us over. Also, feeling bad about not having done anything with the turnip and reminded by the Khanum that it is indeed good for me during the flu, I finally chopped up and boiled the kilo (2.2 lbs) of turnip that Agha Katebi bought me. He did it out of his own generosity and thoughtfulness, and I didn’t want them to spoil. Up until then, they had been literally still sitting on the counter in the plastic grocery bag. I also made sure to inhale the steam as they cooked. I am dreading eating this turnip absolutely unflavored. So after boiling it, I stuck it in the fridge.

Dr. Elahi said he would come get us at 4:30, but he was a little late. Why? Because for his guests, he went and got his car washed and cleaned. He’s such a good man. It paid off, because the car was shiny as a new penny and spotless on the inside as well. We felt so special, though having this much of a big deal made of our presence is also kind of awkward and weird. We’re just two normal dorks who happen to be in Iran but people keep treating us like guests of honor.

Anyway, he took us to see Ayatollah Khomeini’s house. They call him Imam Khomeini, and I know it’s just a term of respect but he’s not really an Imam to me. The closest to being my Imam would be Imam Maged of ADAMS center in No. Va. He’s great, so I’ll keep him as my Imam.
Anyway, according to Lonely Planet Iran, “Surprisingly little fanfare surrounds the simple brick former residence of Ayatollah Khomeini… It was here that Khomeini lived – before being forced into exile – and built his power base among conservative clerics. ….there’s little to distinguish this house. It is not open to visitors and is of purely historic appeal.”

Dr. Elahi just walked in through the gates of the house and we just followed, so I suppose visitors can come. It was interesting, because, as the book said, it’s quite unremarkable. No swarms of people, no lines of tourists. No crowding inside. It’s not very big either. It has a small central courtyard with an 8-pointed star pool and some landscaping around here and there. We just saw the main rooms, most likely where guests would have sat. There were a couple of mullahs and people just praying and reading the Quran. Someone was giving a lecture or sermon and a 2 or 3 people were listening.

We saw Khomeini’s library area, which was small but filled with tomes of fancy sounding stuff. Then, we saw a little corridor that displayed all the stuff he’s written. There is lots and lots of it. He wrote everything from Quranic interpretations and explications of other religious texts to children’s books.

There was a call to prayer for Maghrib (sunset prayer) and they kicked us out because that’s when it closes.

Then we went for ice cream, “bastani”. The “regular traditional” flavor of ice cream is not vanilla (as I arrogantly thought all basic flavored ice creams of the world are and should be), it was a bright yellow gooey saffron flavored confection. It was actually good, though perhaps too sweet for me (yes, even for me) because I hadn’t eaten much except for cream and a sugary jam on top of it for the past 3 days.

Dr. Elahi also ordered us carrot juice, which turned out to be pure unsweetened carrot juice. It goes with the ice cream. Like a float, except it’s a saffron ice cream and carrot juice float and it actually was really good. The carrot juice (very refreshing) cuts the super sweetness of the ice cream.

Fatemeh (The Elahis' daughter) just got ice cream. I have to tell you about her. She’s delightful. When we first saw her we thought she might be 17 or 18. She’s taller than I am, very slender, lovely, and speaks very good English. She’s also outspoken and witty and opinionated and we love her. She’s also only 15. I can’t believe it. She is brilliant. She’s in high school, in the math and physics track. When I asked if there are any women at Mofid University, she immediately said “Of course! 2 or 3 of them.” Even with the language barrier and our newness around each other she managed to make a funny joke. So indeed, as she said, there are like 2 or 3 female professors, and about 300 female students out of 1000.

We also learned that Khanume Elahi is actually a lawyer. Get this: She got her associate’s degree, then met and married Dr. Elahi, had 5 kids, then went back to school and got her BA in public law and practiced for 10 years. 2 years ago, she got her Master’s in Law. She is actually on a 2-month hiatus while she sets up her private practice. *VERY* cool. She worked in the Women’s Affairs section of the office of the Provincial Governor of Qom.

When we got home, we were hungry for dinner and I tried my best to reconstitute the chelo kabob by frying lots of garlic and onions and putting in salt and pepper and leftover dill that I found in a cupboard and butter and yogurt and frying the rice along with it and turning the kabob into little grounds. It was still inedible so unfortunately, may we be forgiven for the waste, we had to toss it.

It was back to bread and cheese and jam and cream and tea and some more egg salad. Also, to supplement our meal, and because the fantasy rolls are really not that palatable, I cut them into thick round slices and turned two of them into Pakistani style French toast (because we *do* have milk, eggs, and some sugar). I must say they turned out fabulously! Because the bread is kind of hard and stale, it absorbed the wet mix well without collapsing. .

On a funny note, the mayonnaise and ketchup brand is Rana, which is my mom’s name. All our lives, her name meant “frog” in Spanish, but here, it’s considered a beautiful name. Yay for Rana the Beautiful.

Also, notice the name of the laundry detergent. Yes. It’s Barf. And, as it tells you, Barf means snow. Ahh, you gotta love foreign languages. Here are the instructions: Barf will get your clothes amazingly clean. To obtain best results of Barf, particularly for very dirty clothes, proceed as follows: Soak the clothes in a solution of Barf for a few hours of preferably overnight and then wash as usual. Use Barf for washing woolen, polyester cotton and fine fabrics. Barf is safe for all washable fabrics.
The commercial practically writes itself…”So just remember, a Barf solution will work wonders for your laundry. It did for mine. Barf, because cleanliness is Godliness.”


Blogger huma said...

be sure to bring barf back home with you...

2:07 AM  

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