Cologne, Snow Paris Tower Paris Woman Walking Persian Girl Grandfather and Grandson Koln tower Bored Ceiling Cologne Alley Final Night Big Mac Church Obama Live on CNN Koln Airport Kabob Tabeii Babaii Freeway Plumber Tehran Benz dealership in Tehran Traffic and killer smog Tehran Night Life Car Wash Warning Flash Lights Cashier Stairway To Nowhere Barbershop United Colors of Benetton Fruits State-Owned Hospital Room Phone Lines Rain on Chamran Fajr Film Festival Paris
I prolonged my stay in Germany to host a cousin from Iran with limited ability to travel. I was to help him obtain a US Visa from the US Embassy in Paris, where I had gotten an appointment weeks prior. So on a snowy day we left Cologne for Paris alongside another friend who was nice enough to host us in Paris.
The experience at the US embassy in Paris was a total embarrassment for the American in me. They have basically set up shop to collect a 107 Euro application fee only to tell people like my cousin that they are not allowed to visit their family and friends. Without even bothering to look at his case or documents, they concluded that he's not worthy of a visa.
A woman walking on Rue de la Pompe in Paris. This time around I decided that I don't mind Paris. It's too complex a city to try to figure out in a few days. I would still not live here, but it's nice to now and then come for a visit.
SD looking mischievous at a bar in Paris where I caught myself saying "back in Berlin" and comparing prices of goods as though I was a Berlin native. I guess it doesn't take long to get attached to a city to the point of defending it and speaking highly of it as though you belonged.
A grandfather having lunch and spending quality time with his grandson atop Paris.
Back in Cologne where I were to spend another two weeks. Since I had nothing to do but be a good host, I was starting to really get bored. 2.5 months is a long time to spend away from home. And it's one thing to have a job, but when your job is to walk around and eat fast food all day, you tend to feel useless.
I didn't take many pictures and I longed for home. When boredom sets in you tend to notice random inanimate objects more. The ceiling of places for one becomes a common sight!
An alley in Cologne on a melancholy Sunday morning as the church bells rang.
A building on Ebertplatz in Cologne that reminded me of random 1970s apartment buildings in Tehran. This were to be the last night under the nightmare of the Bush presidency.
January 20th turned out to be a beautiful sunny day in Cologne. I felt like doing something American, so I had a Big Mac at McDonalds! Unfortunately change hasn't come to McDonald's yet. Further proof that Obama can't do miracles and shouldn't be expected to do so.
"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
Leaving Cologne Airport, 11:30 am.
Dinner at grandma's, 9:00 pm.
The city has a thick layer of dirt covering it for the most part. Something I only notice in the first couple of days upon returning to Tehran.
The water pipes leading up to our heaters cracked and started leaking water, which ended up in our downstairs neighbor's apartment. So a plumber had to come in to fix it. My uncle overlooked the procedure to make sure I don't get jipped.
Ultimate window shopping. You see more high end Mercedes and BMWs in northern Tehran than you do in Cologne! These dealerships often mask their beyond-reach-by-ordinary-folks-luxury with an Islamic flag or banner. This one had signs reading "Oh Hossein The Martyr." I guess if you leave these flags up God doesn't see it as "satanic" capitalism.
The good old maddening traffic. The smog is so bad that you always hear horror stories of little kids suffocating because their lungs are infected. A 7 months old baby of a friend of a friend died last month because of smog. I personally feel more tired as though i don't get enough oxygen.
Back to the Tehran night life; aka house parties. A look at the change room makes you get a feel for how different the public and the private spaces are.
The good ol' car wash. Busy even at 8 in the morning.
I always think of old science fiction movies when I see these warning lights/buttons. They are still well in use here.
A cashier at a kabob joint counting his cash. 500,000 Rial "money checks" (not to be confused with bills) are in full circulation now. Sign of a healthy economy with a healthier 30% inflation rate!
File this under So Ugly It's Beautiful. A random floating door in Jolfa.
A barbershop in Pasdaran. In movies, whenever they establish a city and want to show that life goes on, they often have an insert of a barber cutting hair or shaving. So here we go... Life goes on...
Tehran's United Colors of Benetton branch might as well be for gays only. You don't see posters of beautiful women as that would be un-Islamic. Last month a group of basijis set fire to one of these stores to protest Israel's unjust war. They still haven't learned how to protest peacefully. The fact that Israel can still continue it's barbaric acts is because of the fanaticism of the likes of basijis (volunteers for Islam).
I came to the sad realization that I missed the pomegranate season while I was away. I will have to wait for next year's crop. But the good news is that I am back to eating fruits and vegetables.
A room in a state-owned hospital where you are apparently expected to die. Granted the room is no longer being used except for film shoots, but the rooms in use weren't that much different. Luckily unlike the state-owned radio and television and postal service, the private sector is allowed to be active. Private hospitals offer a better alternative.
First the traffic in the streets, now traffic on cell phone signals have put people on an inevitable collision course. There are now more cell phone users than they have technology to handle. If you're lucky enough to get through, your call will either be dropped within 2 minutes or you'll end up speaking with a total stranger thinking he or she is a friend.
A rainy day on Chamran Freeway, with the tall buildings in the posh Fereshte neighborhood in the distance.
The 27th Fajr Film Festival, the most prestigious film festival in Iran, officially kicks off on February 1st. The ten days of Fajr festivities mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution which ends on February 11th (22nd of Bahman), "Islamic Revolution's Victory Day." More coverage of the festival and the ten days of Fajr in next month's issue...

I am considered by many Iranians my age living in Iran to be "privileged" simply because I can travel freely without the need for visas. A privilege that should never be taken for granted. I also see being able to go to Iran as a privilege. But all this is rather unfortunate, because this is only the sign of the thick wall the international community has built around Iran. In a recent TV interview, when asked why Iranians can't travel anywhere without visas when "back in the day" they could, Ahmadinejad replied: "That's a lie. Iranians can go anywhere they want. I go everywhere and I don't need visas. They never even check my documents." Oh the good ol' denial move!

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