Our new tour guide is not exactly what any of us expected. Since our last two guides were in their 20’s we somehow had the assumption that our 3rd would be the same. He isn’t. He’s in his 60’s minimum, probably 70’s and is delightful. He moves at a quick pace and really wants to keep us moving. We hit the bird park in the morning and then a few other sites that he had us moving in and out of the car at record pace.
The whole time at the bird park he kept telling the girls, “Hurry up, let’s go.” I’m really not used to moving at someone else’s pace.
The last two guides moved at our pace but this guide wants us to keep up with him and it’s well, a different experience for me.
I mostly smile and ignore him and keep at my own pace.
He drops us off at our hotel at noon and says he’ll be back at 4pm. I am surprised by this since our last guides spent all day with us so this drop off at noon is unexpected but I must say greatly appreciated. Except our hotel room is shockingly horrible. All our other accommodations have been quite nice but now that we’ve had two days in a row with time to actually spend in our room it figures that it is a depressing, cold, stinky nightmare.
He is back at 4 and our itinerary says we will go to the covered bridges. The guide books are full of the praise for the ambient tea houses along the bridges and I am excited for this adventure. Just as we are driving to the bridge the clouds begin to part for the first time in more than 4 days.
The sun is low and glowing on the bridge beautifully. We cross the bridge and he is telling us again to hurry up.
I mention something about the tea houses and he says, “No, no tea houses. Come on- hurry up the driver is waiting.” I do my best to linger and take some photos.
We get back into the car and he says, “Now we will go to Coffee Net.” This is what internet cafes are called here. This morning I told him I’d like to go to one to check in since I cannot access it with my American laptop.
I protest, “Oh, but the light is so beautiful now. Can we please stop at another bridge or mosque?”
“Yes, to Coffee Net.”
We pass Imam Square and I can see the dome aglow in the setting sun. It takes my breath away. I say, “Oh, can we please stop here quickly. The light is so beautiful.”
“Yes, yes, tomorrow we will go there.”
“No, now. Can we please stop?”
“No, not now. To coffee net now.”
So with the best light and most spectacular scenery since arriving in this country we head underground to -not a coffee net -but one of his friend’s, who is a carpet salesman with a computer. We are dressed in umpteen layers of warm clothing expecting to be outside for hours tonight since the bridges are most beautiful at night. Now we are downstairs being served tea by a bunch of carpet salesmen in a toasty room with the strong scent of butane in the air. They are offering to give us a good deal on a Persian rug that we don’t even need money to buy! WOW!! This is too good to be true. We only need to charge it – Master Card or Visa- anything ok! And we can have a $5000 rug for free! The internet takes about 6 tries to connect and all my hopes of writing a quick email to family saying, “Still alive and having fun” and running back upstairs to the light have disappeared. I am now sweating into my layers and tired of saying, “Thank you, they are beautiful, but I’m not interested in purchasing a carpet or a rug.” We go back upstairs to a dark night sky.
He drives us straight back to our hotel and says we can get dinner here. I feel like I’m in a bad joke now and say, “I thought the bridges are most beautiful at night?”
“Yes, yes. They are.”
“So why aren’t we going to them?”
“Yes, yes.” He replies.
I then say, “Please drive us back to the last bridge and drop us off. We will walk home after.” It is over 3 miles away but he is fine dropping us off. We are relieved to be on our own but then he says, “You should put your camera away because my last tourist got his stolen here at night from him even though it was around his neck. But he was a man, maybe you will have no problem because you look strong so can fight.”
“Yes, yes.” I say and get out of the car. We walk around a bit and there are tons of people out as it is their weekend. Then we go to a hotel for dinner and ask the hotel to call a taxi for us to take us back to our own hotel.
We also met two other men today. One, a Bush supporter. No ordinary supporter, either. This man in his late 20’s was moved to tears when he spoke of what Bush has attempted to do in the Middle East. He was saying that he really respects Americans and the whole world can really learn from us about how to function. He says he knows many Americans do not support President Bush because we’ve lost so many American lives to try to help the Middle East so he can understand my anger. I say, “It’s all lives lost most Americans are mad about- not just American.” He looks confused. I say, “An Iraqi life lost is as sad as an American life lost.” “No, no.” he says. “Not true.” “American life is more important because they are helping.” I think this goes along with their whole martyr thing here. It’s a difficult concept for me to grasp. But all over the country there are still pictures of martyrs- soldiers who lost their lives fighting in a war 20 yrs ago.
The next man was a father and husband in his early 30’s. He will be going to grad school in the states next year and befriended us in a restaurant. “When I will go to your country next year my daughter will have the same rights as your children. I can’t believe this. It is so incredible to me.” He looks over at his little daughter in a pink snow suit with bunny ears on top and is now choked up so much he can no longer speak. He taps his chest and says, “I’m sorry. I really love your country.” He wonders why I am traveling here with my children. He then invites us to dinner tomorrow night but says, “I understand if you’re worried about accepting such an invitation because of hostage situation.” Um… since Americans have not been taken hostage in roughly 29 years in this country it is not an active concern of mine- to be taken hostage by a family with a pink bunny. We accept our invitation and they will pick us up at our hotel at 5 tomorrow.