Month One

Tehran, Iran

A month ago I’ve arrived in Iran. Things are quite different than I had expected. At the one hand I perceive this country quite differently to what Western media wants to make us believe this country is like. At the other I didn’t plan to stay in Tehran for so long!


After having meet family members including close ones like the daughter of my grandfather’s nice’s nice (I guess that makes me her 2nd or 3rd grade uncle) and my great-grandfather’s nephew I thank god that the majority of my family lives abroad…

So most of these people I met the first two weeks. I’m almost through with my obligatory invitations and visits. Here in Iran the system of these visits/invitations is ritualized and it is an obligation to meet all these people… making some of these events a bit stiff and boring.

But I don’t complain. It was good that I was forced to stay in Tehran for some time. In the meantime I learned to enjoy the city so much that I don’t really want to leave too soon.

I’ve encountered some real good people here (including family members) I can connect to really well.

And I was lucky with my timing to arrive. I experienced Ashura, the 28. Birthday of the Islamic Revolution (these being two of four major yearly events in Iran with the next one coming up in a month) and moreover my best friend had two weeks off just after I finished my first round of obligatory invitations… so we went on a trip.

I love this experience!

At the moment I experience three different worlds. One is my grandmother’s and the world of those who have lost a lot during the revolution… most of all their social status. It is interesting to see how different people around her coped with what had happened then. For her and her friends the revolution was a true trauma, as they had never expected a revolution to the “god-like” king.

Another world I experience is that of Iranian artists. This world is also really interesting as, of course, in a dictatorship artist usually live a life between conforming and rebelling.

And finally, I experience the world of two 20 year old students. This life is real fun. Well, college is supposed to be the best time of your life and these to guys really push it 😉

So over the last four weeks I had a lot of impressions. There are so many that I don’t find time to reflect.

My reflections are mostly on truth and perception, identity, social and cultural influences, socioeconomic and political developments, propaganda and manipulation here as well as in the West, religion, spirituality, human relationships and, of course, love.


So I hope to manage to find the opportunity to share at least a bit of that…

vox

3000 km in a Week

Tehran, Iran

Saturday a week ago I went on a trip with two friends. We hit the road at 4.30 a.m. heading south towards Esfahan. At first we just planned to travel for two days but we enjoyed travelling so much that we extended our trip to a week.

As we had our own car we had the freedom to move on whenever and wherever to. So sometimes we got up early in the morning before sunrise to hit the road and sometimes we decided to move on the very next moment.


We saw a lot but we didn’t particularly travel to see… so most of the time we spent in the car moving on to whereever… enjoying the beauty of nature and life… listening to Hafez, reading Hafez, singingHafez

vox

Experiencing Ashura

Tehran, Iran

I arrived in Iran on the first of Muharram (the first month in the Islamic calendar). At first I didn’t know what that meant.

The moment to come to Iran was perfect. The first 10 days ofMuharram Shia Muslims mourn for Imam Hussain – one ofMohammend’s grandchildren – who was killed by his political and religious rival Yesid near Kerbala.

This incident eventually lead to the split of Islam into Shia and Sunni sects and seems to have an impact not only on the region, but from today’s perspective, on the entire world.

For now there are two important aspects that I can identify.

Firstly, there is the rivalry between the sects which at times is quite bloody, as, for example, we can see in Iraq today.

But more importantly: A cult developed around this incident: For almost 1400 years every year the Shia Muslims mourn for ten days (those ten days Hussain was trapped in the desert before being killed) and castigate themselves because supposedly they have betrayed the Prophets grandson. This castigation starts with hitting yourself and even goes on to “suicide”… to die a martyr like Hussain… going straight to paradise!

So what’s the impact of that: Religious leaders abuse that cult! Ayatollah Khomeini definitely has taken advantage of this cult for his sake, like the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which has a much bigger impact on international relations and world politics than mostWesterners today realize. And more importantly, this cult can be exploited to excess, potentially having an even bigger impact on world politics.

So much for the politics…


This whole cult has also a strong influence on Iranian culture. Iranians like to “sacrifice” themselves in daily life. It manifests in simple things. For example if you accidentally hit someone and say “sorry” the answer is “please” whereas in English you would say “no problem” or whatever. “Please hit me!” This is something very Iranian and perhaps even one of the most essential aspects of Iranian culture, and therefore their whole life. It starts with simple things like language and ends with things like children walking through minefields sacrificing their lives like Hussain.

One lesson learned is: Iranian psyche is very masochistic!

So for ten days people spend on the streets following the processions or taking part, hitting themselves on their chests with their fists or with chains on their back, mourning for Hussain and that their failure to help him. Some people hit their heads with knifes (in closed rooms as it is legally forbidden nowadays). And you have people in public rooms having some type of ritual dances, reminding you rather of a discotheque than a religious ritual. In fact the “Hussain”-chanting sounds a bit like Ragga Dancehall at times.

Well, this is perhaps a major aspect of this whole cult today. Of course there are many that are really into this ritual. But most people seem to take advantage of the fact that they can go on the streets, meeting people and partying, let’s say, “the Iranian way”!
This is as good as it gets, partying publicly in a country where dancing and music are forbidden in public.

And the same seems to be true for demonstrations… more people here seem to go to demonstrations because they like to gather with people in public rather than supporting anything of what that guy with his beard is yelling into the microphone.

Some seem to be really into it with their heart (much less than it might seem when watching Western TV). Most seem to enjoy the party 😉

So I have to stop here… this is it for today… of course I’d like to write more as there is so much more going on inside and outside of me… but I have to leave for now…

vox

From Istanbul to Tehran

Tehran, Iran

I liked Istanbul. I took it really easy checking out two Turkish baths, the bazaar, the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya in two and a half days.


It was interesting how Turkish people perceive Iranians. Almost all of them think Iranians are Arabs… personally I don’t care too much but for most Iranians that’s a bold insult! Well, Iranians are not Arabs as most Westerners don’t know either – but their ignorance may be forgiven… they also think Alexander the Great was the first “civilized” emperor of the world.

Anyway, at least the Turkish should know what their neighbor’s ethnicity is. Then again, many Turks don’t even know that Kurds are not solely some rebelling mountain-Turks but an ethnic minority. So their ignorance may also be forgiven.

The other stereotype some Turkish seem to have about Iranians is: “Oh it’s the country of Kalle-Pache”… whatever that is supposed to mean 😉

So after two days in Istanbul I took the Trans Asian Express from Istanbul to Tehran.


I liked it! It was my first time on a train for three full days.

I shared my cabin with two Tehranis. One was a young rebel who entertained the whole wagon by expressing all of his frustration with the current situation in Iran. The other one was gay but tried to deny it, which was funny since it was so obvious that he was gay. It was a bit unfortunate for me that he wasn’t open about it as it would have been interesting to get an insight into the life of homosexuals in that regime and into the Tehrani gay-scene.

At the border the trip became even more interesting!

On the Turkish side I had no problems at all and everything was easy.

When we arrived on the Iranian side I soon realized that I was not in a free country anymore!

The whole train was locked down with soldiers guarding the train outside. A border officer came into our cabine and checked our passports. He didn’t exactly have a very friendly nature!

When he saw my passport at first he seemed to be confused. Then he mumbled something about “You have only two days left!” and finally left with my passport saying he would be back in a second.

The second turned out to be an hour…

In a way I expected something like that to happen. Let’s say, my family history doesn’t potentially make me a friend of this regime. So with the current political situation and the US trying to infiltrate the country with young exile-Iranians like me, I could potentially be an American sleeper.

After an hour another guy came back telling me to go to the dining car.

From that moment onwards I felt a bit like in a movie scene:

When I entered the dining car I could clearly feel a strange atmosphere. I sat down in a chair. To my right were two uniformed immigration officers. In front of me sat two plainclothes officers… I figured they were from the secret police. To my left sat a train attendant.

At first they all starred at me. I was a bit irritated. Then, finally, one of the immigration officers wanted to confirm my name. As I confirmed it the officer slowly repeated my name looking onto his lap-top’s screen. I don’t have a Muslim name, which could be, I thought, irritating. Non-Muslim names are less common for my generation… and even worse, I have a king’s name, which can be considered to be political confession.

After the officer had repeated my name it was silent for a few minutes. Everybody in the room looked at me. One of the secret police officers had a very negative aura around him. And of course it had to be him who would stare at me not looking away for a single moment. I could feel how he observed every single move I made. I figured they tried to provoke some type of nervous reaction off me.

But I remained calm!

For a strange reason I felt really relaxed. And when I realized that the weird guy starred at me thoroughly I relaxed even more. I almost had to laugh out loudly as I found that situation too unreal.

After a while another Iranian traveler entered the dining car. He sat down next to me. He was a about 60 and lived in Canada. The officers asked him some questions. He had to fill out a form and was allowed to go back to his cabin.

After a while, one of the secret police officers told me to follow him. We left the train to enter the border station. Two soldiers guarded outside with four more standing around inside. We entered a filthy room with a table, a laptop and two chairs. I was told to sit down while he would check out something with his computer.

I was a bit confused about the special treatment!

After I was waiting for a while he started asking me some questions. Since my Persian is not fluent he got a bit irritated.

He would ask me the same questions over and over again, trying to figure out if I had something to hide. Again I found this whole scene a bit funny as I was in a similar type of situation once before, trying to enter the US as a teen – having a “special security check” there too after the immigration officer was convinced I didn’t speak German. Then, I also had to go to a special room to be questioned.

So for the Iranians I could potentially be a American sleeper and for the Americans I could potentially be a Iranian terrorist 😉

Anyway, the officer was a bit confused as I couldn’t specify my grandmother’s address (where I would stay in Tehran) and furthermore didn’t know her last name by heart (in Iran women keep their maiden name after marriage)… well, I just call her grandma!

When he asked me how I would get to her place, I just replied that I would call her on arrival, which again is a bit strange as it is quite unusual for Iranians not to be welcomed by the whole family at the train-station/airport.

Finally, after more than 30 minutes of questioning he asked me eventually the most important question:

What is your religion?

Unfortunately I don’t know the Persian term for “religion” so I couldn’t answer at first!

It was the last question as perhaps it made two things very clear:

Quite likely I am a god-damn pagan!

But more importantly, I’m not very likely to be a sleeper if I don’t even know the Persian term for religion!

He gave me my papers, told me that I could stay for three months – no day longer – and asked a soldier to escort me back to the train.

Back in the train my cabin members enjoyed the story…

The next evening we arrived in Tehran and fared-well.

So this is it… I’m finally in Iran.

I’ll have almost three months to find (out) something… whatever it might be…

Perhaps I’m here to see what my original culture is like.

And of course I also want to know what this talk about the axis of evil, terrorism, anti-Semitism and evil evil Islam is all about.


I’m here to see how evil my roots really are 😉

vox

The Vienna Experience

Istanbul, Turkey

It’s a bit strange: Now that I am in Istanbul I write about the “Vienna experience”. I should get in sync again…

Vienna was an interesting experience!

It’s funny: Many people consider me to be on a holiday… me travelling to Asia, not to Vienna. I myself considered Vienna to be some kind of holiday compared to the rest of my trip…

Though that’s not exactly true either… only relatively seen. In reality I was not too exited to go back to Vienna as I wasn’t sure what I would have to face there.

So what does that mean?

Coming back to Vienna was a real challenge! Coming back means facing myself, especially those aspects of my character and life I preferred not to face in the past. Therefore, coming back means facing the past… facing my life there… my reality there!

So coming back to Vienna is part of that whole trip… although the stopover was not planned…

One thing about this city is: supposedly it is my home! I grew up there, yet, I never felt at home there!

Arriving in Vienna was much easier than I had expected… apart form the temperature! But I won’t complain… my maple-leaf friend had a 70 degree Celsius drop… anyway…

I had a warm welcome from one of my closest friends and I felt at home in the city I never did.

My first night in Vienna was a very special one!


But in the end I had a tough time in Vienna. It was very cold! And I don’t only talk about temperature. There was a reason why I wasn’t exactly exited about coming back.

I see it positively! Vienna is like a “reality-check” for me. So what’s my reality back home?

There was something with Plato and a cave… but maybe I can recall that another time… anyway…

Blood is thicker than water!

I have a few good friends there!

Conflicts don’t solve if you don’t go right at their roots but only their manifestations!

It is easy to dislike this city when you are in it for too long and it is easy to become nostalgic about it when you are out of it for some time!

People in Vienna drink a lot of alcohol!

Vienna is “Valium-City”!

Vienna is like Babylon!

I hate that city!

I love that city!

I seem to be confused, no?!?

Perhaps I have to come back for some more reality-checks…

But maybe the following explains something:

Vienna is the city with the fourth highest quality of life in the world.

Vienna is the city with the second highest suicide rate in the world!

?!?

Perhaps people there are a bit confused, no?!?

So maybe people there drink a lot of alcohol so they have less suicide thoughts?

Alcohol seems to be a true bliss 😉

Cheers!

vox

Christmas

Vienna, Austria
About 2010 years ago a man was born who inspired some people to found a religion. I guess this man must have been quite powerful and charismatic!

So more than two thousand years later millions of people around the world, Christians as well as non-Christians, celebrate this man’s birthday.

And some Christians wonder why some non-Christians do.

That’s a good question!

Why do millions of people celebrate the birthday of a man who is the founder of a religion that is responsible for some of the biggest crimes in human history like the Inquisitions?

Why do some Muslims celebrate the birthday of a man who kicked-off a religion that would fight them in the Crusades?

I cannot answer this question!

I can only tell you what I feel about Christmas and Jesus of Nazareth.

Every year, again and again people are surprised that me and my family celebrate Christmas… being Muslims.

My perception of Jesus of Nazareth is a man who proclaimed unconditional love for all beings! No Inquisitions, no Crusades!

Unconditional love for all beings!

This is, I believe, independent of any religion!

Love is independent of religion!

And looking at the time of the year it is celebrated we see that his birthday “coincides” with the winter-solstice… when darkness is overpowered by light… when light finally succeeds over darkness…

And I personally prefer light over darkness…

For me, Christmas is a celebration of unconditional love and light… and this is why I celebrate Christmas!

So with this message I want to send all beings around the world, independent of religion, race and entity…

…universal love, light and peace…

vox

Reflections on Love

Vienna, Austria

Yesterday I had an inspiring conversation about love and what it could be. It made me reflect on my past relationships and, of course, what I believe love to be.

I had a few relationships and I always believed my feelings to be love.

Looking back being honest with myself my feelings were always influenced by need and desire.

Some I loved, I needed, not to feel alone.

Others as I had lacked affection in a while.

Some I loved to overcome a previous relationship.

Others as they gave me a future perspective.

Some I loved simply because I got used to them.

Others because I was in fear… in fear to be alone (again) or not to find anyone “better” or not to be loved by someone else as much.

Some I loved as I learned a lot from them.

Others because I wanted to teach or inspire them.

Most of them because I needed them for something!

So I wonder if I ever truly loved one of them!

Don’t misunderstand me: I respect all of my former girlfriends and I highly value all of my previous relationships.

Yet, being honest, at last all these relationships broke up when either I didn’t need them anymore or they didn’t need me no more.

Each and every single relationship would break up the moment the conditions why we loved each other changed or fulfilled.

So I wonder if that truly is love!

Does love depend on these typ of conditions?

“I love you ’cause I need you!”

“I love you ’cause I’m (my happiness) is dependent on you!”

“I love you ’cause I learn a lot from you!”

“I love you ’cause I fear being alone without you!”

“I love you ’cause I fear nobody else will “love” me like you!”

And there are many more sentences like that…

So what happens if I don’t need that person anymore? If I’m not dependent anymore? If I don’t learn from that person anymore? If I don’t fear being alone without that person anymore?

Do I still love that person without these conditions?

I guess it really depends!

If I really love that person I will still do so… So these conditions must have supported a deeper love! But if these conditions “create” love…

Well… I’m not too sure!

It feels like ill-motivated love to me!

I’m not sure if I truly love someone if it is only based on these type of conditions.

So I come to conclude that I only truly love if that love is not based on some ill-motivated conditions! If it is not dependent on various factors but rather if it is detached… detached from ill-motivated desires and needs.

I believe that I can only truly love if I love myself and am happy with myself… if I don’t need my partner to do so.

Of course that doesn’t imply that I may not need my partner at times, may not learn from my partner, may not be more happy being with my partner, may not…

It just means that I’m not dependent on my partner to live my life, to feel good, to be happy!

And of course I’m far away from that state and I need to work a lot to grow personally and reach that state. And of course it doesn’t mean that I won’t have relationships until I have reached that state. Quite the opposite is the case: every single relationship will help me to get even closer.

But at least I want to try to be honest with myself…

…not to fool myself…

…not to clown myself…

and look at what it really is that makes me feel affection for a person!

By doing that I do grow, being honest not only with myself but also with my partner and giving every partner I feel affection for the chance to love that person truly and not ill-motivated!

So this is my personal perception, my personal truth, my personal reality about love… today…

So let’s see what I will have to say in two decades from now about this entry 😉

vox

Back to the Roots?!?

Bangkok, Thailand

So maybe it wasn’t supposed to be the first time…

And this time it was a good experience! Real good! I couldn’t do a silent retreat as it wasn’t possible at the moment at the temple I stayed and yet I learned a lot. A lot about myself, a lot about Thai culture and something about Buddhism and Thai temples.

So now it is really time to move on!

Where should I head next?

If I follow my heart I have to go back to my roots… finally…

Sri Lanka was supposed to be next… but i have no roots to find there! At least not that I knew…

Well, going to Iran is not that easy a task though. I cannot just go there. In my case the only other places harder to enter are perhaps Bhutan and the States… at least with that picture in my passport 😉

So the first thing I would need to do is to get my father’s blessing.

Maybe that’s the thing to do next…

vox

 

A God’s Birthday

Bangkok, Thailand

Yesterday was the Thai King’s 79th birthday and Thailand was all in yellow (the king’s colour). People here love their king. He seems to be very wise and caring. So it was nice to experience this day with the Thais in Bangkok.

So now I will move on to a monastery nearby to do a short retreat. If they let me in this time 😉

There is a lot on my mind these days. I reflect upon my friends and friendships in general. Sometimes I wonder how many true friends I have. Perhaps it depends simply on my definition of a friendship.

I believe a true friendship to hold even if I share an unpleasant perception. By this definition I do not even have a handful of true friends!

Most people cannot take my perception…

… but than again maybe I cannot take most people 😉

vox