Across Continents

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Shades of the Eighties

January 8th, 2012

In the corner a small television. Mexican news channel. Police manning a road block, their faces obscured by balaclavas, despite the obvious heat. I joked to the woman on the adjacent table that this must surely be a profession as accident prone as being an Iranian nuclear scientist. Quickly adding I meant those working on their peaceful weapons programme. The sort who seem – not infrequently – to fall victim to drive-by shootings or other unfortunate events. She smiled.

These supposedly random events, I suggested, were a fine alternative to well.. thermonuclear war. Got my vote I said. Grinning. And the Iranians were raising the stakes. Threatening to close off the Straits of Hormuz. Block a sizeable chunk of the West’s oil supply. Shades of the Eighties. The Tanker War. She looked bemused. Left wondering how good a grasp of English she had.

I’d stopped in a small Mexican cafe in Cedar Creek. Small intersection town thirty or so miles east of Austin. Few houses, gas station and a bright white wooden Methodist church. I’d left the city three hours earlier, waved off by fellow cyclist Francis. He’d suggested various routes towards Bastrop, my destination for the night. I’d declined, citing I preferred to stick with what was on my strip map. Retracing my steps from the hostel back to 7th Avenue.

A largely uneventful journey. Brief coffee stop under what quickly transpired to be the busy flight path of Austin’s international airport. And a driver who’s behaviour I found as baffling as it was bizarre. Ample room to pass me on the quiet two-lane highway, not least because I was riding in the adjacent cycle lane. But instead she chose to sit in my port quarter. Pressing on the horn. Presumably wanting me to move still further over. Simply couldn’t oblige. It’d be rewarding stupidity. Which I never did. Ran contrary to Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection.

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Cash for Karzai

November 19th, 2010

Back in Xi’an I’d met Jesse, originally from Delaware in the US. We’d chatted about various things on the tour bus, and whilst wandering around the many souvenir shops we’d been taken to. Much to the irritation of our guide. Inevitably, visas came up in conversation. As did Iran.

Explained I’d chosen not to attempt to pass through the Islamic Republic, preferring instead to head for Central Asia. Nothing against the people themselves I added, just the idea of handing over around two hundred US dollars to apply for a visa, only to have my request denied. Just didn’t appeal.

Jesse seemed to share the same reluctance to visit. We imagined the scene at the Iranian Consulate if he’d sought to apply for entry. “This is the Iranian Consulate – surely you want the Israeli one?” a bemused official might ask. “No, this one. I’d like to apply for a visa”. Struggling to regain his composure, to hide his consternation, the chap would eventually dust down an old box file and produce an application form.

The paperwork complete, they’d be just one question left. “And the application fee, where do I pay that?”. A smile from the official. “Just drop it in the bag by the door. The one marked “Cash for Karzai“. Crisp notes only please”.

[The author hopes to visit Iran one day. Waiting first until Israel have established direct flights into the country. Rumour is that’ll be to Bushehr]

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