The Journey series
In this week’s Mustard Seed my sister and I double back to Qazvin and head north to Bandar Pahlavi.
I negotiated two concessions from my sister when I agreed to go to Europe with her. First, we cross from North America to Europe by ship, and second, we visit our uncle in Iran. We were on our way to fulfil the second.
We knew Uncle David worked for CEDA in Bandar Pahlavi. We knew the address of his office and timed our arrival for working hours. Once in town we couldn’t read the Farsi street signs. We drove around until we found an official looking building with several cars sporting decals on their doors parked outside. Two men in uniform exited, furthering the evidence that this was the local police station. My sister waited in our van while I went in to seek directions to CEDA’s office and, presumably, our uncle.
I spoke to four officers who just looked back quizzically before one was finally able to decipher which language I was speaking. He called for an interpreter. The interpreter’s English was far from fluent. I told him I was there to visit my uncle and I wanted directions to CEDA where I was sure he’d be. He rapped his knuckles on his desk and looked very concerned. He got up, and stood behind me. He started parting my hair and examining my head. He left. I was left alone, confused, in that room for what seemed many agonizing hours.
Eventually, my equally confused uncle arrived with a co-worker who actually could translate. My uncle’s friend spoke with the officer then turned to me and asked, “When did David hit you?”
“What?” I asked.
“The officer says your uncle hit you on the head and you want to fight him.”
It turned out that we were not in a police station; we were in a tribunal office. People went there to air their grievances. If the matter was deemed trivial the complainant would be fined, if not, the offending party would be summoned and supervised floggings, wrestling matches, or boxing bouts would settle the issue. The officer had assumed I knew where I was and had translated my request into something appropriate for his office.
Once he realized I had no grievance with my uncle we were allowed to go. By the time I got back to my sister she was extremely worried. My explanation did little to assuage her. She was tiring of our frequent ordeals.
We followed my uncle to his home and had a warm reunion with my uncle, aunt, and three cousins. It turned out we arrived just a few days before my aunt and oldest cousin were to return to Canada. Our two younger cousins were overjoyed since, with our arrival, they now had a reprieve from spending their days under the care of a babysitter they didn’t care for.
Next week: Separate Ways.
Peter T Elliott