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The impact of my American education was still with me. That night in Tabriz, as I walked along in the company of Ferhad, a university student I had met at a fruit-juice stand near the city’s central park (Bāgh-e Ghulistān), the conversation turned to America.Fear of America had been as much a part of his education as fear of Iran had been of mine. Heck Terrorism, anti-Americanism, religious fanaticism. It was humbling to admit being nervous as I approached the Iranian border station.It seemed almost comical in its disrepair, and yet it was the only government authority in this isolated desert some thirty kilometers east of the Turkish town of Doğubeyazit.As we parted, he said, “Still, young Iranians, and even not so young ones, have changed their idea of America.” The Iranians to which he referred slowly became part of my life over the next four weeks.Another hot and noisy afternoon found me on the crowded streets of Shah-e Cherāgh, the major shrine of Shiraz. ” Such words, I suggested, did not leave a favorable impression.Yet America along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is financing them, creating a system that knows neither reason nor civilization, all to convince the world how awful Islam is.The Taliban, Sunni extremists in his view, are a highly disruptive force in the region.
Almost everyone, when they heard me say I am American, stood open-mouthed for several seconds before regaining composure. The fruit-juice vendors refused my money for the first glass.
Offering me tea, he said he only need to know why I had come to Iran and what cities I planned to visit.
Before sending me on my way, he advised me to get my visa updated if I planned to stay longer than the month that the Embassy of Iran in Ankara had granted me.
A handful of workers repairing the northern portico soon departed. The use of “satan,” he maintained, was more complex.
One soul remained to greet me in the shade of the school’s garden, a middle-aged man by the name of Seyyid Hussein. In Iran, it is used for tricksters, who say one thing and do another for the sake of gain.
Before I knew it, I was outside in the bright sun and surrounded by eager moneychangers.