I returned from Tehran without having achieved anything. Once in Isfahan, we boarded a minibus in the darkness that would take us to the south of the country. When the roof was loaded, the backpacks tied and all men were on board, we closed the curtains, turned up the music, and the party began. One by one the others got up from their seats and danced in the narrow hallway while the bus roared through the night. Only with difficulty (and a bit of rudeness), I managed to avoid the dance requests. Dancing in Iran is unpleasant. Once again, I am in a situation I would love to run away from, fast. But here there was just one way out. I closed my eyes and pulled myself back into my head. There it was peaceful, far away from bad jokes and overbearing personalities. I had lost my tolerance and the ever-present desire to openly welcome cultural encounters. Something in me had died during the past weeks, and I couldn't connect to my innate curiosity for strangers and other cultures anymore.
From the desert, I had to return to Tehran to meet up with J., my travel partner for Pakistan. We had to apply for the appropriate visa. We both didn't like the capital for different reasons, so we decided to hitchhike to Alamut Valley, breathe mountain air and try if we loved travelling together or not.
In Yazd, I was pretty exhausted, and my nerves lay bare. If I could have beamed myself out of Iran, I would have done it then and there. But since I still had the hope of travelling to India through Pakistan at the time, I clenched my teeth and ventured on. I planned to write and somehow forget that last night in Tehran.
I would not have survived my time in Iran without the knowledge that there is a world where women like me exist. Much of what I describe here, I've read or heard many times before. It's nothing new, but I have understood it in Iran on an emotional level like never before. Iran has made me a masculinity hater. I can spend hours talking about how dreadful men are and merely hint that I do know great ones as well (but most of them not here). I met exactly one trustworthy Iranian. A single one. Everyone else thought sooner or later I would have to sleep with them, that they had a right to my body. Even writing this makes me angry, and the hatred rises in hot waves up my neck.
Isfahan is rightly one of the principal attractions of Iran and a vital part of my experience, not because of the magnificent palaces, the beautiful fire temple or the prominent mosques, but because I got to know M. & M. They offered me room and shelter in exchange for English language training. They were different from the other Iranians I had met so far. They were living full lives and tried to live according to the rules of their country. They were not overly religious, but they were believers, still.