Why Write?

Originally, I created this blog to document my trip to India. Upon my return, I realized that I couldn't shake the writing bug.
So, feel free to read about my adventures in India and stay tuned for my traveling updates!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lunch Break in Iran?

Who doesn't enjoy eating lunch, right? If you are at all like Miss Amy, a lover of food, you look forward to kicking back, slipping your shoes off, and eating something delicious during your lunch break at work. Miss Amy is the type of person who starts thinking about lunch within an hour of her arrival to work. Her co-workers often chide her for being able to eat like a man. But Miss Amy is from Dutch ancestry and we all know how they like good food, especially cheese and chocolate.

So one Thursday in November, Miss Amy set about her normal schedule. Having stayed up a little too late the previous night, she arrived to work without her lunch bag, which had fortuitously been left on the kitchen counter at home.

Like clockwork, the lunch hour arrived and she was food-less and ravenous. As a teacher of English in Bahrain, Miss Amy found herself rotating back and forth between two tutoring centers. On this particular Thursday, the monumental day that she forgot her lunch, she happened to be at the remote center, located near the Saudi Arabian border. 

Surely, she concluded, if she ventured into the nearby walled village, she would be able to find a suitable place to appease her appetite. This is how she found herself in her car, headed away from the safety of the tutoring center, alone. 

As she drove down the narrow, half hazardous, unpaved streets, she noted the black flags flying from each doorway, ominously reminding her that it was the week of Ashura, which marks the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali (the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad). In the Islamic religion, there are two sects, Shias and Sunnis. After speaking with her students, Miss Amy had discovered that Ashura is solely celebrated by the Shi’a population. In some countries, like Bahrain, this holiday is often observed by self mutilation, as a way to avenge the death of Husayn, the last true blood line to the Prophet Mohammad. The black flags posted on every corner, signaled to Amy that she was entering a Shi’a neighborhood and it was clear that the people of this village were in mourning. 

Spurred on by her growling stomach, she carried on down the narrow street in search of food. She located a sorry looking cafe with a sign that read “Hot Burger” and concluded that this was no time to think about gourmet food; it was simply “business.” This was going to be, “as good as it would get.” 

She parked the car, locked the door, and strolled up to the cafe take-out window. The man at the counter, stared at Miss Amy with wide, buggy eyes. She concluded that little eye contact would be best and she thanked the heavens that she had worn a long skirt that day.  After several attempts of asking for a menu, she was given a crinkled looking sheet of paper with words written in Arabic and English. She placed her order, or so she thought, and was shooed inside to wait. 

Shocked to see that she had been issued into a small waiting area with a frontal view of the kitchen, she waited. And she waited. And she waited. One, two, three men came in after her. All of them seemed to know what they were doing. Order, wait, get your food. Feeling her stomach growling, she sighed a simple sigh of frustration. Why was no one looking at her? Why wasn’t the cook saying something like, “your order will be next.” 

Finally, the light bulb went on, “I am a woman.” And this simple conclusion sent her racing out of the cafe, back to the safety of her car. The workers, probably not quite sure what to do, simply had ignored her because she was a woman and they could not serve her food! 

She abandoned all hopes of getting lunch and switched gears to “getting out of dodge.” Miss Amy, shaken by her cafe experience, made a wrong turn, and then another wrong turn. Each turn somehow led her deeper and deeper into the village. She passed an Iranian mosque. She passed frisky looking teenage boys moseying down the side walk. She passed several women, with pots of food in their hands. 

At this point, she lost all sense of direction and found herself stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. Cars were coming at her at all sides and people were crowded on the street corners. Panic rose in her throat and she cursed the fact that she was a white, female, lost in a Shi’a village. 

Not entirely immune to dangerous situations, she reminded herself of the time her well water was poisoned, while living in Haiti. Miss Amy and her roommate at the time, were cooped up in their house for two days, with armed guards outside. They waited until the police could catch the culprit, a disgruntled grounds keeper who had been fired six months prior. Surely, she thought to herself, if she had survived that experience, she could get through this as well. 
Just when all hope seemed lost, a man dressed in a white throbe, took control of the traffic dilemma. He parted the sea of cars, like Moses did when he parted the Red Sea and pointed Miss Amy in the right direction. All eyes were on her at this moment and she tried to give a friendly wave as she exited the scene.  After a few more turns and plenty of horn honking (not on Miss Amy’s part), she found herself on a familiar road, leading her back to work. No food. A bit shaken up. Starving! But, she had survived! Lesson learned: ALWAYS PACK YOUR LUNCH OR YOU COULD WIND UP IN IRAN!