The Journey series
This week’s Mustard Seed shares an event that put me in place.
Most teachers treasured their breaks and the seclusion of the staff lounge. I preferred to spend breaks with my students. We played basketball or ping pong and, on occasion, wrestled. Few of my students had any training so the coaching I received on my college team allowed me to prevail. I soon became known among the students as keshta geerman, champion wrestler.
Wrestling was very popular in Iran at the time due to Olympic gold medalist Gholamreza Takhti. He was not only a skilled athlete but a genuinely nice man who wore his fame well. My prowess on the mat earned me a loyal following. Students flocked around me wherever I went.
One day, another teacher warned me that I shouldn’t mix with the students as much as I did. When I asked why he told me, “It makes people watch. Don’t trust everyone.”
I asked an Iranian friend what the teacher meant and she told me that there were lots of Savak (Iran’s secret police) agents in the school. I reasoned that I wasn’t up to anything subversive so I carried on as usual.
Shortly later, three of my students invited me to go to a movie with them. They told me where to meet after school. I picked them up in my van and we drove a short distance to the theatre. The floor crunched as we made our way to our seats through the darkened theatre; it was covered in pistachio shells. We watched a black-and-white gangster film that had been dubbed to Farsi. My students tried to translate for me but the movie was so clichéd I needed no translation. The next day rumours spread through the school that I was actually fluent in Farsi.
When I returned home my van was missing. I recalled passing a police station during my shopping excursions so I went there to report my problem. The officer at the desk informed me they had taken my van to make sure no one stole it. He said it would be returned if I signed a paper which he slid toward me. It was written in Farsi. I asked him what it said and he told me it was a standard form to say my van had been returned in good condition. I asked if I could see my van first.
“No,” he said. “It will be returned to your house tomorrow.”
I asked how I could sign a paper declaring my van was in good condition when returned before seeing it returned. He told me the alternative could be worse. Then he warned me I shouldn’t see any students outside of the school. Under duress, I signed the form in a manner I could claim wasn’t my signature. The officer took the paper and shooed me away with flick of his hand.
The next day I spent my breaks in the staff lounge. I went home, found my van parked out front, and examined it. Everything had been rummaged through. I couldn’t detect any problems but I understood the message.
Next week: It Gets Worse.
Peter T Elliott