Thursday, May 20, 2010

CouchSurfing - Iran

Firstly, I must say: WOW! Amazing. Between the historical sites and the friendly people, Iran is an amazing place. Information that I collected from Iranian locals during my trip. As always, take it with a grain of salt. Travel was from May 10th to May 20th 2010

We all need it. It keeps the money going round, even in secluded Iran. To open an account and get an ATM card, is difficult and you need to have a local do it for you. Furthermore, it takes a few days to get the ATM card and you'll likely be gone then. You can get prepaid Iranian debit gift cards is some shops, but not all places accept them.

When dealing with cash, I found that it was easier to peg a bill to the dollar. The yellow 50,000 is $5. Just remember that and go from there. I ran into these 500,000 ($50) and 1,000,000 ($100) bank checks. Don't be worried, I found that people accept them.

Try to take larger bills. $5 for food is enough, but try to carry larger bills, instead of a large wad of $5. It will be easier for you. Be careful of how people present costs to you. $1 is known as 1 toman or 10 toman or 10,000 toman or 100,000 riyals. I’ve been told that there is talk about removing 4 zeros from the currency. We’ll see if that happens, considering the Z$ inflation crisis.

Inflation is always an issue here. Apparently, it is more like 40%. Food at a local restaurant on the main strip is about $3 to $5. If you go off the beaten path, it's more like $2 to $4, but keep in mind cleanliness. If you eat in a hotel, it's more like $8 to $15.

Taxis are inexpensive. A short jaunt around the city will cost you anywhere from 50¢ to $2 (for 2 people). Taxi from Kermanshah to Hamedan on a shared taxi is $10 and in your own taxi is $35 - $50, depending on your negotiation skills. Taxi from Hamedan to Imam Kohmeini International Airport (IKIA or IKA) is $35.

There are different buses that you can take between cities. Cheap – no amenities for $2 to $5. Medium – $4 to $7. Ultra luxurious with reclining seats - $6 to $12. Prices depend on distances. Types of buses depends on travel segments. Take a night bus from Esfahan to Tehran on the ultra luxurious bus and save on the hotel room. Just a thought.

Flights are inexpensive, but North American standards. Prices are charged by segments and distance traveled. Beware of the availability of direct flights. For example:
Esfahan to Shiraz $35
Shiraz to Ahvaz $35
Ahvaz to Kermanshah $78 (Ahvaz – Tehran – Kermanshah) no direct flights
If you choose to fly with IranAir, expect delays. My flights were delayed up to 3 hours, each time. I chose to fly with them for the old planes. I flew on the Fokker 100s, A300s and A310s.

Water is supplied everywhere, free of charge. I refrained from drinking that water, for fear of contamination to my system. Locals can handle it; they’ve been doing it their whole lives. Bottled water costs 50¢ for 1.5L. I wasn’t going to risk getting sick on my trip.
Air quality is poooooooooor. If you have asthma, do not come. My friend’s aunt is a doctor at a private clinic in Esfahan and tells me that breathing problems are a big issue here. Bring a mask and be prepared that your hair, skin and lungs will be covered by a oily, tar. Locals may not notice it, but I sure did. I found the air to get worse as my trip progressed. In Esfahan, on Soffeh Mountain, the air was the best. Kermanshah was the worst. Across from Bisotun, there is a large power plant that spews exhaust 24/7. It’s a haze all around. Trucks and cars are old and do not have the modern exhaust that Westerners have come accustom to.

Despite my warning about cleanliness, the food is amazing. Be prepared that lamb/sheep is used in a lot of cooking. I took a translation of “I don’t eat lamb or sheep” written in Farsi. It helps a lot.

Do you speak Farsi? If not, be prepared to have one hell of a time gesturing to everyone you encounter. Simply put, most people don’t speak English here. Taxi drivers, travel agents, restaurant, hotels. Some have one or two staff that do, but it’s hit and miss when they are working. Practice your Farsi before you arrive. I brought my iPhone with a translator on it and it was okay. It didn’t translate sentences. I really felt that I was teaching ESL again.
Shaking your head is not no. No is Na. The motion for Na is to raise your head up. Confused? I’m still confused and I’ve returned.

Friendly or Patronizing?
People are naturally curious and Iranians are no different. People will talk about you in groups and look at you and point and laugh. You have no idea what they are saying, but you know they’re talking about you. It’s best to ignore it. Iranians make it BLATENTLY obvious that they are. I’ve been approached by army men, groups of girls, random individual guys and girls to take pictures with. I don’t know them, but I guess it’s the novelty that there is a visitor in the country. I’ve been told that Esfahnis believe that Guests are a gift from God. Perhaps this extends beyond the tree lined streets of Esfahan?

Hotels are priced inexpensive compared to Western World. Hostels are not that easy to find in smaller cities. Hotels usually include breakfast, which was interesting to me. I recommend:
Shiraz – Hotel Hafez - $29/night breakfast included
Ahvaz – Hostel downtown (don’t remember name) - $20/night no breakfast, but really awesome people!

Just my 2¢ on Iran. There are positives and negatives of everywhere you go. I feel that you can mitigate the negatives by preparing. You can read as much as you want about Iran, but your experience will differ slightly, based on your current personal situation. It's a place to go and see. Many have expressed their interested in moving abroad and are curious of the outside world so be prepared for many questions. The people are kind, but like always, be prepared for pick pockets and thieves.

CouchSurfing - Iran

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Viola Spolin's Improvisation for the Theater - translated into Farsi!

The latest edition of the Improvisation for the Theater is to be rendered into Persian by Hussein Fadaei Hussein. In the new edition, exercises have been updated by Viola Spolin's son Sills. IBNA: The book was first published in 1999 by Sills. In the books, he updated as many as 200 of the book's exercises and added 30 others to them.

The first edition of the book was debuted in 1963, said the translator. This new edition of a highly acclaimed handbook, last published in 1983 and widely used by theater teachers and directors, is sure to be welcomed by members of the theater profession.

Iran Book News Agency (IBNA) - Improvisation for the Theater

Sadi Afshar stresses need to teach the youth siah-bazi

TEHRAN, Nov. 8 (Mehr News Agency) -- The veteran Iranian performer of siah-bazi Sadi Afshar said that these traditional types of plays should be taught to the younger generation.

“Unfortunately, I do not have the physical ability to teach siah-bazi but I have heard that there are courses at universities in which these styles are taught to students,” he told ISNA on Saturday.

Siah-bazi, a type of folk play featuring a blackfaced harlequin who stirs the audience to laughter with amusing improvisations, is very difficult to teach and perhaps only two artists per year learn this art form, he said.

He went on to say that he is surprised by the photo exhibit on his recent play “Colic” that opened on Saturday at the Iranian Artists Forum (IAF).

Entitled “Behind the Mask”, a collection of 25 photos taken by Reza Musavi is on display at the exhibit organized to help raise funds for the artist and officials.

He expressed his hope that ritual types of plays would attract more widespread attention by the holding of such exhibits and events. “Although it was hard for me to play the role in ‘Colic’, I am very happy that I had an opportunity to participate in this performance. People warmly welcomed the show since they all need a little fun and laughter,” he mentioned.

In August 2009, Sadi Afshar starred in the ru-hozi performance of “Colic” by Davud Fat’halibeigi at the Sangelaj Hall.

A photo exhibit featuring Sadi Afshar in his recent play “Colic” was opened at the Iranian Artists Forum (IAF) on Saturday November 7.

Beardless Man

The ceremony is performed by a group of actors whose main figures are a kuseh (beardless or thinly bearded man), a bride, and an antagonist.  They all wear special costumes and are joined by a band of musicians (usually a drum and surna [flute] players). Followed by children, they go to visit the houses of the village, performing a dance in front of each house. The dance is a dramatic representation of the death and resurrec tion of the kuseh. The head of each household donates some food, which is shared and eaten by the members of the group.

A variant is Kuseh and Nagaldi This is performed on the 4lst morning of winter. Kuseh wears a felt coat, hangs bells around his legs and arms powders his face with flour, covers his head with a goatskin, and wears a wide belt on which are sewn many bells. On his head he ties two bushes to form a pair of ‘horns,’ and from his waist he hangs an axe. ln his hand he carries a long stick. The second character is Kuseh’s bride, a young boy disguised as a girl, who wears a long robe, artificial breasts, rouge and mascara. She also wears bells on her wrists and neck.  

Turkish-speaking peoples call the ceremony ‘Ne qaldeh,’ and name the first character ‘Male Kuseh ` and the bride “Female Kuseh.’ [ln Pars] Kuseh wears a dress made of felt and walks on stilts, with bells hung about his neck and wearing two horns on his head.   This ceremony as performed _on the fourth Tuesday night preceeding the vernal equinox (March .21 ) which is called the New Year. Among the Turks living in the Caspian sea region, Kuseh wears a coat inside out and has a tail attached to his back.  His face is covered with a mask and his head as ornamented with a high cap to which bells are attached. The second character its doctor aim wears a fantastic dress, a hat inside out, a mask on his face,  he also carries a stick m has hand.