Italian Food Tehran Tea Rose Gholhak Conference Room Persian Food Housing Prices Mixed Nuts Celebrations Goodbye Party Leaving Tehran Airplane Magazine Stand Sam Adams Beer LAX In N Out Burgers Target Washington Mutual American Rental Car Work BBQ Cop Car Movie Theater San Francisco Night Scene Wine Tasting California Picnic Barnes And Noble Bookstore Gas Prices LA Metro Universal City California
A group of friends having dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant; Basilico on Pasdaran Avenue.
Tea brewing in the kitchen of a film office. The abdarchi dudes in charge of brewing tea must get really bored. They bring it out a million times a day, even if you keep telling them that you're not interested in drinking tea. They feel that if they get you to drink one cup, they have won!
This is a typical background for old family photos in the albums of most Iranians. The thought process must have been: "Flowers are a pretty, must make good backgrounds." Never mind if they busy up the frame and stick out of the back your head.
A view of Gholhak neighborhood from above my grandma's five story apartment building -- where we went to start up her cooler in preparations for the summer heat.
In a conference room where I was translating for 5 people at the same time for close to 10 hours straight!
The same beef and chicken kabob cost 50% less at the same restaurant a year ago. This meal now costs $20, which is comparable to prices in the US. This goes to show you how bad the economy is doing. Inflation is so high that you can actually feel its pulse every time you set foot in a mini market.
A 60 sq. meter one-bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood that cost $100,000 last year is now well above $250,000. Tehran is fast becoming one of the most expensive cities in the world and yet the GDP stays the same. No one knows where all the oil money goes and no one ever admits that the UN sanctions are in fact hurting.
Ajil is an assortment of mixed nuts and dried fruits that is put in front of guests. It includes -- but it's not limited to -- walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, raisins, dried mulberries and cashew nuts. In recent years it is becoming less and less affordable and therefore only readily available for special guests!
With 12 Imams in Shia Islam there are 12 birthdays to celebrate and 11 deaths to mourn (12th Imam is absent). Since the dates are based on the Islamic lunar calendar that is 10 days shorter than both the Persian and Georgian calendars, the corresponding holidays are constantly being rotated. Confused yet?! For some reason both the celebrations and the mourning ceremonies are depressing.
My "goodbye get-together" with friends and family. Where am I going you ask?! Back to Los Angeles. I decided that I need to go back to touch base with my LA life. I know fully well that I can't possibly give you a report on how successful I think this reverse migration has been, but I will have a better idea once I go back to LA and stay for a few months.
On the taxi ride to the airport, I was nervous about the possibility of never arriving in Los Angeles. Not only I was worried about being "mamnoo-khorooj" (Forbidden-to-Exit) in Tehran, I was also worried about ending up in Guantanamo Bay after a Bush-policy-failure reception in NYC, where I had a stop. I guess this is normal when you have fear-mongering presidents in both countries.
A window to the dark abyss known as Tehran. I wondered how many hundreds of thousands of Iranians last saw Tehran through their airplane's window? Most probably wondered as i always do whether they will ever get to go back.
Soon after being interrogated by officials at the JFK airport, where they appeared to be writing my travelogue for me (!), I found myself at an airport magazine stand. Immediately I felt pressured to buy stuff, get a six-pack (abs) and find myself an airbrushed slender white girlfriend!
Believe me when I say that the first sip of the American Sam Adams beer brought tears to my eyes... The tear was not for the beer, but rather the option to have beer at 8 a.m. in a public place. The tear was for the desire to want to share the freedom to choose what you do with your personal life with all those I was leaving behind.
And after a few hours of flying and a couple of change-overs, i found myself in LAX again. I left Los Angeles 15 months to date and I come back having gained 10 pounds, a [rice] belly and most importantly a new positive perspective on life. To a person fresh off the boat plane, America is indeed a land of opportunity. That's before you let its objects of comfort and desire get in the way of realizing your dreams.
I had my first lunch (and dinner) at my favorite fast food joint; In N Out burgers, where employees work hard and fast in providing you with the best tasting burgers and fries in town.
You can find most anything in Tehran, but never under one roof. Instead of traveling to the far corners of the city to get what you need, a trip to the local Target store in the US provides you with ample opportunity to get everything that you need with a reasonable haggle-free price.
I went over to a branch of Washington Mutual Bank to remove the "Presidential Ordered Block" from my account. My bank account was frozen because I had checked my balance on the WAMU website in Iran. I am sure keeping me from paying my student loans is an integral part of fighting terrorism! Can we end Bush's term already?!
I was still jet-lagged (11:30 hour time difference) when I got on the road with three of my friends and headed towards San Jose and San Francisco in northern California. The big American rental car was like a comfortable couch on wheels! Comfort I have come to realize is an important part of life in the US of A.
A work BBQ (Barbeque) is when a group of co-workers gather around and have charbroiled burgers, hot dogs and chicken alongside beer and good (though often small talk) conversations. Seeing everyone be so chill and casual was refreshing, since back in Iran people dress up for smallest of gatherings!
When you see a cop car in the US you immediately adjust your driving and wonder if you've broken any traffic laws. When seeing a cop car in Iran, you basically recount your life story and wonder if there's anything you have NOT done wrong, because everything down to the thought in your head seems to be illegal in one way or another!
We went to see Indiana Jones at the local movie complex. Good picture quality, sound and seating was refreshing. Too bad the movie was really bad and a total let down.
Bar hopping late at night in the streets of San Francisco.
We stopped at one of many vineyards for some wine-tasting. I secretly made a toast to all my wine-loving friends back in Iran who are forced to drinking basement-produced black-market wines.
We found a lake in mid-state California and had a picnic. Good weather, nice conversations [in English] and a barking dog made our day. It's good to be back.
At the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Westlake village near my parents' apartment in Thousand Oaks, where I am crashing for the next few months.
When I left LA 15 months ago, gas prices were at $2.50 a gallon. They're above $4.00 now. Each trip I make to Los Angeles (40 miles away) costs me close to $15. A big difference from the $0.32 I was paying per gallon of gas back in Iran. But what you're paying for isn't the gas, it's the freedom to choose from a great number of cars. Plus, even at $4.21, it's still cheaper than OJ, milk or beer even!
There's not much of a public transportation in LA. The LA Metro is a joke considering the massive amounts of wealth present here. Even the metro in Tehran has more stops! But we did take it to Downtown one day and it was pleasant being in the presence of strangers en-route to various destinations. You don't get that too often in LA.
The NBC/Universal building in Universal City, down the street from Studio City, where I used to live before I left.

Lake unknown, on the way back from San Jose. I have thought extensively about whether I should continue this site when I'm no longer in Tehran. I have concluded that I now have even more of an opportunity to bridge the cultural gap that exists between my own personal two worlds. Thanks to Hollywood, LA is one of the most over-exposed cities in the world. But that doesn't mean people who haven't been here know what life in LA is like. Furthermore, president Bush's failed foreign policies has done so much damage to the image of America and Americans abroad that any portals to the lives of ordinary Americans will help with the damage-control. So for the next few months, allow me to depict how Life Goes On in LA...

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