Array ( [total] => 6 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [483] => Array ( [iID] => 483 [tTitle] => From Turkey to Tehran [tSlug] => from-turkey-to-tehran [iTime] => 1162508400 [iUpdate] => 1162508400 [tDescription] => So it wasn't my last day in Turkey. Waiting for my promised ride to Tabriz, I showed up half an hour before the agreed time, expected departure to be much later than suggested, but 5 hours afterwards threw in the towel. I was starting to have hysterical visions of being forever stuck in this border town in Turkey, waited a bit longer, and walked back to the hotel, checking in where I, in the morning, had checked out. Crossing the border turned out to be a complete breeze. The guidebooks talk of the busiest border crossing in Asia, but far from it. Together with a German, travelling the world for 18 months with the money he inherited from his grandfather, we walked to the bus stop, to be picked up by a roving bus driver before getting there. A 15 minute wait, and we were off to the border. Walked some 250 meters to the Turkish check point, a quick scan, a remark I hadn't an Iranian visa, a rebuff, and that was one half done. Then, we stepped through a minute opening in a huge gate. A friendly Iranian asked for our passports and, after accepting them, closed the gate and thus the border and walked with us to inside a building, where our passports were quickly checked. Then, moving on, a lovely young Iranian girl working for the tourist board, spotted us and came over to direct us from one place to the next. First registering the foreigner (not me), then with us to the bank to change money, then on to customs control, which was skipped when Sven, the German, said he had film (old school photography) in his backpack, and ending with walking us to the outside door, where she arranged a cab for us to Tabriz (30 dollars for the car), a three hour ride away. Maybe we were the first tourists of the day and she was happy to finally have some work. Maybe it's related to the recent government drive to offer financial incentives to tourist agencies, offering cash bonuses for every tourist which is brought in, 20 dollars for American tourists, 10 dollars for others. Ahmedinejad might be vilified in the western press, Iran, through Ahmedinejad, is also offering several friendly hands as a basis for bringing Iran's and America's countries closer together on a personal level. Getting of the Turkish bus, walking to the Turkish checkpoint, there's a bend in the road. The walls on the side of the road don't allow you to see around the bend. Some 20 guys were, right before the corner, busy taping themselves in with all sorts of stuff, sticking goods as close against their bodies as possible, wearing multiple shirts and, more importantly, several layers of trousers. One of the guys went through the checkpoints directly behind us and we could see his passport. Iranian, stamped from front to back with Turkish stamps. In Tabriz We arrived in Tabriz on a very rainy day. The hotel we chose, Hotel Iran, close to the train station, was cheap and decent, but very far from town. After a good night's sleep, it was off to see the sights of Tabriz. Only one day, because Sven and I had gotten a train ticket for the journey to Tehran for the very same evening. The Bazaar, some 3.5km of alleyways, constitution house, with pleasant pictures of mass hangings dating from the early years of the 20th century, the inaccessible Kalisa-ye Maryam-e Moqaddas (Church of St Mary), the Arg-e Tabriz (the Ark of Tabriz), a huge brick citadel, the Kabud Mosque, an enjoyable 500 year old mosque, strangely enough closed on Fridays (Islam's Sunday), and the lovely Park Elgoli. The train ride, a 12 hour drive from Tabriz to Tehran, was good too. Train rides in Iran are cheap and good. The 12 hour ride, over some 600 or 700 kilometres, cost only 12 euros, first class. You get to stay in a roomy, mixed(!), four person cabin, food and drinks provided. Two LCD screens were showing movies. First Burn Hollywood Burn, indeed an interesting choice, then some Iranian comedy. The screen our two companions were facing was broken, but both couldn't ride 'backwards'. Instead, I had to explain to the two Iranians in our compartment, for the 10th time in two days, what my background was, in Farsi. Every time the same questions. And one has to stay friendly. Spending the two days with Sven was good and bad. Good because it's always nice to travel with like minded companions. And it also infused me with more confidence in Iran, since people here see me as Iranian, I was now at least more knowledgeable than Sven, on Iranian matters. But it was also bad, in the sense that I was constantly forced to be the middle man. Sven went into some copy shop in Tabriz to make copies of part of my Iranian Lonely Planet. When the owner found out I was Iranian too, living abroad, he started talking like a waterfall, non-stop for twenty minutes, forcing me to try and understand the jabbering. Very tiring, particularly when that happens several times a day. I had the feeling that on several occasions, people saw me as the Iranian guide to the lonely tourist. In the bazaar, a young lad walked up to us, small plastic bag filled with cheese on a piece of bread in his hand, and started talking to Sven, who's about two meters tall, in decent English, in an extremely civilised manner. At first it seemed he really just wanted to make conversation, until he invited us to his, of all things, shoe shop. Earlier, he had asked what kind of sports Sven liked. "Soccer". Sven asked the same question. "Gymnastics and swimming". Only then we really noticed the wavy hair and the feminine characteristics. We made a quick getaway. In Tehran, the next morning, tired from having to get up at 4:30 because of the early arrival of the train, I sit at my uncle and aunt's apartment, happily chatting away, listening to the street musicians down below, sipping my tea and sliding into life here as if not having been away for 11 months. Budapest to Tehran, thousands of kilometres in 18 days. Not too bad. Next time in summer, allowing me to see more of the out-of-the-way sites in both Turkey and north western Iran. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061103 ) [352] => Array ( [iID] => 352 [tTitle] => Business or not [tSlug] => business-or-not [iTime] => 1118181600 [iUpdate] => 1118181600 [tDescription] => Before having dinner at what might just be the best restaurant in town, Jaisalmar (what is it anyway, that so many of these restaurants also operate tourist guest houses?), I spent three hours at the Dutch embassy. Earlier this week, I had received a call, asking me if I could please attend a meeting, at the Dutch embassy, with 'people like me'. There was going to be coffee and tea and there would be talk of 'things that would be of concern to me'. Intrigued, but assuming the subject would be security, I agreed and so went over to the embassy today. I found some 10 Afghans with a Dutch connection, most, if not all, having been refugees living in Holland, some from as early as 27 years ago. All were working in the private sector, which was convenient, as the acting ambassador told us that she called the informal meeting to start something of an informal network of Afghan businesses with a Dutch connection to bring together Dutch businesses and Afghan businesses. I was intrigued, and thought of First Fridays and First Tuesdays. Mostly everyone else, however, mostly speaking only in Dari, was more interested in the rampant and incorrect spending of Dutch aid money and really felt like commenting on that. Indeed, I was something of an odd one out, having no structural relationship with Afghanistan. But we were a colorful collection anyway, with one guy running for parliament in the upcoming elections and another being in charge of urban planning in Kabul. It'd be interesting to see if this evolves into something of a real businesses-meet-businesses network. However, I'm pretty sure I won't be there to see it happen since I'll be gone before the end of August. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6407 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 303 [iOldID] => 650 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462223663 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 34.5355 [fLongitude] => 69.1617 [tLocation] => Dutch embassy [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20050608 ) [294] => Array ( [iID] => 294 [tTitle] => Small things [tSlug] => small-things [iTime] => 1106607600 [iUpdate] => 1106607600 [tDescription] => Slowly, I'm starting to begin to slowly commence with preparing for my trip to Afghanistan. Slowly, my projects are wrapping up. I'm now more than halfway with my Farsi lessons and Vahid presented me with a small exam today. I did reasonably well, but not too great. Meanwhile, I finished up a quick redesign on North of France, the last travelogue that needed retouching. Also the very first real travelogue I ever created. Extensions Also, you might have noticed the Flickr 'thing', down on the right. It's something I'm experimenting with at the moment. Another way of including pictures in this blog. And possibly a more convenient method when traveling around the globe. We, as they say, shall see. If anything, including pictures through Flickr also gives my blog more coverage through the tags Technorati supports. If this is gibberish to you, forget it. Police state Meanwhile, the Dutch minister of Justice, Piet Hein Donner, is trying to change Holland into an authoritarian state. Now, police can search anyone, anytime, for whatever reason. Currently, this, luckily, only applies to Schiphol airport and, soon, other international airports in the Netherlands. What's even worse is that, if the minister gets his way, and most likely he will, persons who MIGHT have contact with people with fundamentalist views can be blocked from having access to Schiphol airport, parliament or 'certain' people. What's more, a person can get bugged if there's a slight notion he might be planning a (terrorist) attack. It's been said often, and has been proven time and again. Holland, indeed, is the most American country in Europe. Goodbye personal freedoms, hello police state. According to Wikipedia, the term authoritarianism is used to describe an organization or a state which enforces strong and sometimes oppressive measures against the population. Having to report, weekly, to the police, only when you KNOW someone who's a 'fundamentalist' easily falls under authoritarianism in my dictionary. It might even be totalitarian. And what's one step up from that? Yes, fascism. You might see I'm probably better off in Afghanistan. At least there won't be many fascists there. Books? Oh, not to forget: the interesting sage that is the (not) receiving of books from Amazon. In the comments section of one of my recent blog updates, this morning, I found a message from an employee at the library of the Technical University Delft (my alma mater). They had received a shipment from Amazon with my name on it. Well, that is, my first name, not my last. The library's post office box is number 92. Mine is 1082. A bit remarkable, but not impossible that a mix-up somehow resulted in 92 changing into 1082. And since I recently ordered several books from Amazon, the shipment could actually indeed be mine. Not so. The shipment contained two books, worth some 70 USD, on Java servlets. I don't 'do' Java servlets. I was puzzled, but let it be. Then, later in the afternoon, I talked this over with Vahid, a friend and my Farsi teacher. Turns out, he actually knows another Babak, studying at the University and working with Java servlets. He's also working at the library. These people... [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3900 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 4 [iVoters] => 1 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 5 [iOldID] => 514 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462113970 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 52.0109 [fLongitude] => 4.33628 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20050125 ) [290] => Array ( [iID] => 290 [tTitle] => A baby is a comin' [tSlug] => a-baby-is-a-comin [iTime] => 1105570800 [iUpdate] => 1105570800 [tDescription] => Yes. It's been a while. So what's the story, morning glory? Well... my good friend Nico Post's girlfriend Julia is PREGNANT! And she's getting twins! Post broke the news tonight, while we were having dinner at Rukun, a Chinese/Surinamese restaurant in The Hague. To celebrate, we played some Dancing Stage, on our return to Delft. Post was cool, not letting go of his glass 'o' port, while dancing. Farsi This week, I really started with my next wave of Farsi lessons. It turns out lots of my knowledge is now passive knowledge. I have to activate it. It's a slow process, but it's happening. Afghanistan is still not finalized. It'll surely happen, but I don't have a visa, nor do I have a ticket. I'll leave for Amsterdam next week, where I'll try to obtain a Afghan visa. Three month visa: 180 euros. After I get my visa, I'll finalize my flight booking. Tomorrow, I'll have a (seemingly unnecessary) intake meeting at PSO, where most of the talks, most likely, will revolve around moneymoneymoney. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 7801 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 279 [iOldID] => 502 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461989243 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 52.0729 [fLongitude] => 4.28214 [tLocation] => Rukun [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20050113 ) [256] => Array ( [iID] => 256 [tTitle] => One year on from 30 [tSlug] => one-year-on-from-30 [iTime] => 1094680800 [iUpdate] => 1094680800 [tDescription] => Yep. 31. It was almost inevitable and it happened. Quite a lot has happened over the past year. Just browse the entries on this site, and you can see for yourself, if you didn't know it already. Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Scotland. Quite a list indeed. Also, my plan of taking one picture every day at noon didn't really work out, although the whole 30yp setup was, I suppose, quite succesful. Now, on the homepage, on the right, you can see the number of times articles have been read (or at least viewed) on this site. The number's close to 35000, wich means an average of 100 articles viewed, per day. If only I had so much to say each day. I think I will tone down a bit on my daily updates. When I'm at home, playing 'Dancing Stage' (I know, I AM a special fellow), there isn't really enough to keep people interested anyway. Maybe some weekends will be interesting enough, and coming weekend might be one, with the Nyama ('meat' in Shona) festival in Delft, but surely, I will post heavily during trips abroad. That's what I like doing and, based on visitor statistics, that's what people, that means you, like to read and view. Struggle This year, I learned that all Zimbabweans struggle all the time, whether they have no food on the table or can't afford to buy a third car and I like to struggle with them. The last couple of weeks, in relation to my computer setup at home, I really have been struggling. Everything slowly but surely stopped working. Frantically, I tried to save my Red Hat 9 installation, but today, I gave up and finally opted for Fedora Core 2 and, thank your god, things go reasonably well. The two PCs (one windows box, one linux box) can finally see each other again and I'm even back to the windows box being able to transfer files to and from the linux box. The linux machine now even is able to see the windows box (a first), but I still can't transfer files through the GUI. Work - no work On the money side, things are bleak. I did secure two paying projects some weeks ago, but progress is slow, very slow. I'm even looking at finding a real job now, which means things are really bad. Farsi And then there's Farsi. Betsy and I started a Farsi language course with the totally friendly mrs Azami whom Betsy met through work. She's Baha'i and already invited us to a unity dinner this weekend. I'm not sure we'll be going. She WILL be making Persian dishes, however. We had our second lesson yesterday, and it's not going all that bad. Betsy is struggling a bit (hey, who isn't - see above), but she's doing fine. We missed our planned second lesson last week, because someone really wanted to go the scenic route in Scotland (yes, that's you, Joost). It seems we enjoy the lessons as much as mrs Azami does, having tought Farsi a long time ago and finally being able, once more, to transfer her skills to some younger folks (she's 69(!) but looks mid-50s, at most). Statues Our Shona sculptures still haven't arrived, although they should be going through customs this week. I did some checks in Delft and Den Haag and it seems there's a significant shortage of Shona sculptures. All arts shops appear to believe you can still easily get them 'there and there', but that's what they all say. They keep on pointing you to the next shop, only to be pointed, well, to the next shop. It's a good thing. If only we can start selling them before the summer's really over. And birthday. Nothing much happening today. My parents are stopping by tonight. No party. I get a day older every day. I celebrate that enough already. In fact, I'll have another whisky right now. Which reminds me, have you voted recently at [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4818 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 5 [iOldID] => 375 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462237683 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 52.0109 [fLongitude] => 4.33628 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20040909 ) [246] => Array ( [iID] => 246 [tTitle] => Language lessons [tSlug] => language-lessons [iTime] => 1093298400 [iUpdate] => 1093298400 [tDescription] => Yes, Betsy and I are doing language lessons again. Not for my next assignment, but because we feel like it. The language? Farsi. Yes, we are learning Farsi. Some weeks ago, Betsy was working at the Oegstgeest branch of the ABN AMRO, when an older Persian lady walked in. They started talking and within minutes, Betsy and myself were invited for language lessons. The lady used to teach, but is now retired. I suppose she's a bit bored, or feels she has some good deeds to do. The lesson today wasn't very hard, although Betsy struggled a bit. We only learned six, or so, letters and four words. Not a very impressive start, but still. Over the past years, I started teaching myself a couple of times, but time and again, I stopped rather quickly. Let's see what happens now. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3765 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 245 [iOldID] => 358 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462119927 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 52.1852 [fLongitude] => 4.46817 [tLocation] => Azami residence [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20040824 ) ) ) Keyword: Farsi ::