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Am in the monastery to learn something about Buddhism. Radio silence for ten days. Soon I will continue with my experiences in India. When in Rome! Namasté.

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PAUSE

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From the Persian Golf, United Arabic Emirates

The full extent of my two months in Iran only becomes clear to me in Dubai. First, I spend five days in a third-rate hotel. I feed on chips, cola and brioche. Everything to not have to go into the street. I sleep and watch Netflix. I cherish my isolation and am hard at work building up my defences. I find it hard to put into words how my head looks from the inside until the tennis-training-metaphor comes to mind. Travel is like a successful tennis lesson. I react quickly and spontaneously to the balls coming towards me. At best, I meet and smash them back to the other side of the net. Now and then I let one bounce into mine, but rarely does the tennis ball hit my own body. In Iran, too many tennis balls hit me. I stood there with my arms crossed over my head. A position of defence that doesn't do anything against the balls that rush at me. I was helpless and still am. A damn uncomfortable feeling.

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QESHM AND DESERT WELLS

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Qeshm is not like Hormuz. It's much bigger. You could almost call it industrial. Almost is the operative word here. Like in Hormuz, women walk around wearing traditional masks as part of their hijab and are dressed as colourful as in India. It's the outward differences that make it possible for me to forget the mainland.

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HORMUZ ISLAND

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Watching over the sea, Hormuz, Iran

The wind is blowing in our faces. Hormuz harbour is brimming with life. Once again, J. has made friends with a young Iranian who has so little interest in me that I find myself judging him following Iranian standards. More than thirty, not married, interested in the handsome, blonde J., who, to make matters worse, also wears an earring. For Iranians that is proof of his sexual orientation. A circumstance that at first makes me smile, but when he spontaneously decides to come with us, I start thinking. Will this be another unspoken promise that will never be fulfilled? They keep adding up. Together we take one of the converted Vespas to the most beautiful corner of the island. That he pays, because we would prefer to walk, but he says, it's too long. Despite all my misgivings and doubts about J.'s way of travelling, I can't help but appreciate how quickly he brings us to where we dream of going. Of course, everything is unpredictable, luck and coincidence, but there are a few moments when I have to pinch my arm in disbelief.

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BANDA ABBAS AND THE OTHERS

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The first palm tree on our way to Banda Abbas, Iran

Hitchhiking is easy and adventurous. We continue telling our fake origin stories we tested in Alamut, but I can't avoid feeling like we are exploiting the people. It's not about making a financial profit. I feel uncomfortable because people only help us if we give them specific narratives. Besides, people don't know what hitchhiking is here, nor do they know anyone who travels around the world. Traveling is always the equivalent of holidays and tourism. In their minds, we have to be infinitely wealthy to afford it. As a couple, all this may be acceptable, but it's unimaginable that we could be doing it on our own. Especially as a woman. For men, however, it's not much different. It's against nature. Don't you have to think about marriage? For only those who marry are allowed to be sexually active. How can you stand staying single? A valid question and a dilemma that drives boys into marriage. The truth, therefore, isn't an option.

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