Saturday, 8 October 2011

One month in Iran

So, I just left Iran and now I'm sittin in Dubai airport waitin for my next flight, even though it's in 18 hours :(

Well. What an amazing experience! My bestie sam and I left Istanbul after waiting a week for our visas to be ready, and we took a 40 hour train to Erzurum (200km from the Iran border) from which we went to Iran by a few buses. 30km from the border some kid smoking a cigarette flicked his knife and pointed it at my stomach and said "money!" I was genuinely scared (he seemed tough cos he was smoking a cigarette) but luckily sam called his bluff and told him to fuck off! Anyone who knows sam pierce would find this out of character for him, and that's why I feel it necessary to write it here. Turns out he had the knife cos he was cutting onions! Ha what a shit job! Enjoy, you little shit.

Anyway, we crossed the border and went to Maku, Tehran, Esfahan, Khur, Yazd, then sam left. From there I went to kermon, bandar Abbas and qeshm island. I'm not expecting any of you to know these places, but in case anyone has a map or anything you could have a look.

Anyway, some of the things I accomplished:
Saw wild camels, rode camels, ate camel, swam in a salt lake (like the dead sea where you're always floating), slept on peoples roofs for free, went to a party in the desert and drank alcohol! (in a country where alcohol is strictly forbidden), danced with 2 girls which is also forbidden (they forced me to). Had many political discussions, countless free cups of tea (most from people who couldn't speak English), was woken up by the prayer at sunrise echoing through all cities, etc, etc..

What I liked:

-despite everything we see in the news, the people are amazingly friendly and hospitable (Islamic law claims it necessary to be hospitable to guests).
- People will always invite you in to their houses, give you free tea, directions etc. I did not meet a single unfriendly person there. I also received free Internet in Internet cafes, free food, accommodation etc etc.
-most people, and not just the young people, are open minded and seriously hate the government due to all the restrictions they impose. I can't tell you how many people told me how much they "fucking hate our fucking government" and some told me they could get me alcohol if I wanted.
- young people always seemed to be pushing the rules, for example girls wearing tight jeans and the headscarf really loosely, plus young couples subtly holding hands in public.
-Girls would always tell me how much they hate wearing the headscarf and stuff. I was quite shocked at this.
- the people, even older conservative ones are super tolerant about beliefs other to their own. I said I was Christian or atheist a number of times and people were welcoming to that (contrary to what the media says)
- Iran has a super low crime rate and thus you can always feel safe wherever you go, once again, contrary to what the media tells us.
- travel is really cheap, given that Iran has heaps of
- hitchhiking is the easiest ever and always safe. You will get a ride within a few minutes of waiting from just random cars, despite that many make you pay.
- there is extremely low homelessness, Islamic law bans begging. I guess that's one way of fixing poverty, right?

Things I disliked

-the fucking government and all their stupid rules! Girls have to have their heads covered always and men have to wear pants, even in 40 degree heat. One time I rolled my pants up to my shins cos it was so hot and a policeman made me roll them back down.
-the government will publicly homosexuals because the Koran says homosexuality is immoral or whatever. Iran is a religious state and hence the laws are determined by the Koran. I'm not trying to say Islam is backward or anything like that, but running a country in the 21st century on it's laws is completely backward. It would be the same as if Australia based all it's laws on the bible.
-it's taboo to talk with/ sit next to/ smile at/ make eye contact with women. Super annoying given that it's half the population you're not supposed to communicate with. You're not allowed to shake hands with women either, which is evident when the president goes on diplomatic missions he refuses to shake hands with any female leaders
- Iran has been cut off from the intl banking system, and thus none of the ATMs take foreign cards, so you have to take out enough money for your entire trip before arriving.
- it's hard to get fresh fruit/veges (most of Iran is desert).

Overall a very great experience, and I would definitely recommend going there given how easy it is to travel and also how different it is. Just don't get caught by the Gestapo doing anything illegal. I'm off to Kenya next for 5 weeks to work on a microfinance project, will write again in a month or something!

Healthcare in iran

It seems every time I go traveling I get sick to the point that I have to goto the hospital, to which one worries about the hospital bills. Of course I always have travel insurance, yet those companies will always do their best to wiesel out of paying/find a loophole, plus there are excesses and whatever. Just recently in Iran in hospital I was put on a drip for 2 hours, consulted 2 doctors, total bill =$10.

In Bangladesh, a doctor came to my hotel, did some tests and prescribed me medicine all for about $5. In Nicaragua, I received several injections, was on a drip, and received medication all for free.

Iran has terrible relations with the west, Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere, and Bangladesh is one of the world's poorest countries, yet all three can provide healthcare for extremely cheap or free to their own citizens (let alone foreigners). Governments providing free/cheap healthcare for their citizens is the same within western Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada etc.

Yet, within the USA, one of the wealthiest countries on earth, the government wont provide healthcare for all it's citizens, because the rhetoric is "we can't afford it." The result is a hugely inefficient and expensive private health system and an even more unequal society. Not to mention the fact that the average American citizen spends more on healthcare than any other in the world, despite it's shitness. And yet we have people like Tony Abbott who think this is the ideal system, "removing the red tape" he claims. Anyone who sees him or president Obama please pass this note on to them. Thx.