5/7 Day 3
This morning is more emotionally intense than I was expecting. Shahrokh sleeps in so he is missing out on visiting Iman Khomeini Shrine, the huge unfinished multi-million dollar building where the Ayatollah Khomeini’s body is interned. On the subway out we are getting more stares than we have the last few days. The way people look you get the sense that extraterrestrial life would be slightly less unusual than 5 Americans visiting the shrine. But again, most folks are really nice. A man my Dad’s age offers to give up his seat for me on the subway. II respectfully declined.) We have some nice conversations with folks who are fascinated by us and want to practice English. It’s not uncommon for Iranians to ask us what we thought of Iran before we came. Do all Americans think Iran is bad? No, no, no. (But some of us are still sore about the ’98 world cup.)
Fate takes revenge on me for all the nice things I said about women wearing scarves yesterday. I am wearing a much too sheer yellow shirt with not enough buttons that feels like it is going to blow off in the high wind does and eventualy does rip. I feel very awkward. I’m not dressed properly and the shrine is not what I expected. The atmosphere is somewhat loud and social: half prayer room, half family picnic, with main activity being stuffing money into the Ayatollah’s crypt and making a wish. Sounds crass it does not appear that way at all. It doesn’t feel somber.
We pass a couple of funerals walking over to the Cemetery of Martyrs. People keep coming up to us and giving us food and candy. Our guide says it is tradition that when you are in mourning you hand out treats to complete strangers. This is an intense contrast to the seeing the rows and rows of graves of the matyrs. Over 40,000 Iranian casualties from the Iran/Iraq War, about one tenth of all the soldiers killed, are buried here, and each grave has a large framed photo of the deceased. It is a staggering monument of a nation’s loss. Eating the treats, which it is rude to refuse, only magnifies the sadness. I’m glad I came and also glad to depart.
The evening brings us to a marathon dinner with Sharokh’s Uncle’s family in North Tehran. We enjoy their amazing view of the city. We trade gifts. We have a ten-course dinner on the floor. It is a delightful end to the day because the family is a wonderful group who are happy to see us. They obviously adore Shahrokh and we are treated as family as well. And now they have some brand new Spokane Indians baseball hats.