We left Esfahan in the morning for Abyane up in the mountains. This is a small village halfway to our next destination, Dizin. The scenery was beautiful most of the way as we followed along a range of snowy mountains. The contrast between the desert and snow has a stark kind of beauty that looks a whole lot like Arizona.
Once we arrived in the small village our guide took us for a walk. He kept telling the girls to be careful and, “Don’t walk there- you’ll crack your head!” “Don’t fall. It’s slippery!”
It was pretty funny and quite ineffective. They came up to me a few times and asked why he keeps telling them what to do.
We stopped again at a woman selling her goods, where he directs me, “Take her picture.” So I do.
She is lovely. Then he says, “Now please buy something from her.” So again, I end up reluctantly buying something. I’m not at all opposed to supporting local artists but do enjoy choosing myself what and whom I’d like to support. He stops at one woman who is selling dried apples. He takes a whole handful and says, “It’s free. She wants to give to you. Please take it.” At this point I feel like saying to him, “Stop telling me things are free and then to pay for it!” but I don’t. He thrusts a big handful at the little sister who shakes her head. He says, “Take it” So she shakes harder. I tell her that she can say, “No, thank you.” if she doesn’t want any so she says, “No, thank you.” He says, “Yes! Take it!” and she hides behind me. I tell him that she doesn’t want any and he tells me, “You should tell her to take it.” Now he’s pushing things. I’m still smiling on the outside but am ready to end our walk together. I’m thinking how different my account of this country would be if I had a guide like this the entire time. I wonder if I would’ve made it till the end. Seriously.
He told us we were meeting our new guide at this city at noon that would take us up to our next destination and stay with us the rest of the time. It is apparently another man. This time the girls have just said, “We hope it’s someone fun!” They no longer care if it’s a man or woman. He dropped us at our hotel at 2pm and then said the guide would be here in the morning. This is how all of our days have gone. Within minutes of each other the stories are quite different and we have no idea which one is correct until it happens. We say our goodbyes at the elevator and I thank him for everything. He then says, “It is our custom for you to tip us.” I understand tipping and all of that but I really like tipping people when I feel like they’ve done a good job. I know he did his job in a way that he thought was good, but we are paying a private tour guide rate in Euros that is competitive with rates in Europe and Japan- they are not in anyway cheap. Our last guide spent up to 10 hours with us a day. His maximum has been 4. Every single place he took us to put high pressure on us to buy things and it just wasn’t very relaxing. I think the working rate is plenty for working only 4 hours a day. So I really did not want to give him a big tip on top of it. He tells me to pay the driver $50 tip because that’s, “so little and he has many children.” He says, “Give me your wallet and I will pay him.” I say, “I will pay him.” And keep my wallet in my hand but this does not stop him from reaching over into my wallet and pulling bills out. I pay the driver the $50 tip, as he’s already been paid for the trip. I hand it to him and say, “It’s not a little bit of money in my country. It’s a lot so please stop saying it’s so little.” He says again to me, “It’s nothing.” I say, “It is a lot for me.” And get into the elevator giving him exactly what he keeps telling me my money is worth- nothing. I don’t feel particularly good about it on my ride up the elevator but am glad the interaction is over. I should’ve probably given him something and chocked it up to cultural differences in language and expectations. Suddenly I’m keenly aware again of my womanhood in this country and probably didn’t give him anything just because he’s a man demanding something from me, a woman. I’m not an Iranian girl and he can’t make me give him a tip so I don’t. Feeling defiant and as rebellious as if I were 16 again I find myself quite irritated. I feel guilty for not having given him a tip but at the same time cannot imagine feeling good about giving him one either. Maybe it’s just one of those situations that has no good solution. But I like to imagine all situations can have a happy and peaceful resolution. Maybe that’s my lesson from this country. Maybe there really are no good solutions to the problems that currently exist in this part of the world. Or maybe I’m just tired and need a good night’s rest.
We are the only guests in this whole hotel right now as it is very off season. We are alone here in the middle of the mountains and there is only one woman on staff here and the rest are men. At dinner we are alone in a huge dining room with 3 men repairing window cracks next to us so we enjoy the delicious scent of silicone caulking as we eat our soup. The one young man who has a wild crush on the little sister and keeps making googoo faces at her and little clicking noises with his tongue, has told me to remove my hejab. No one is here he says and you don’t have to worry. Suddenly, I’m feeling like I might like to keep it on! I do untie it from under my chin as eating with it on does drive me crazy but leave it loosely on the back of my head. I feel weird being in front of these 3 men without my head fully covered. Weird.