Orientalism

May 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s days like today that I indulge in fantasy. But not the usual escapist fare, rather something quite unusual, that I can’t recognize. When day-to-day routines fall into disappointment, I dream of something that can’t disappoint: something I don’t know. I fall, into the most Said-est of rabbit holes, where calls to prayer wake cities, where newspapers are read from right to left, where I don’t recognize anything. But I fall into the same trap I despise: I romanticize, dreaming of how different “the Middle East” must be, how much more meaningful, old, even authentic, life must be that far away. Fuck life, how much more authentic I could be that far away. If you can travel to a place unknown, a place where each aspect of the environment–language, signs, dress, look, every tangible part of the physical space–is so exotic, musn’t there be a part of you that is inherently unchanging, that can survive and pulse in any surroundings?

In a little more than a month I will board a plane to Tehran, Iran, on my first visit to the Middle East. I want to go to Iran, I want to go so badly. I’ve studied the country, it’s history, it’s culture and language, I understand how different Iran is from Persia, how different Iran is from its surroundings, and at least some of the subtleties of what it means to be an Iranian. My passport, my royal blue little booklet, is currently with the Pakistanis. Due to the lack of any diplomatic relations between America and Iran, the only way to gain a tourist visa as an American is to send your passport to the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy. So here we go.

On the left is the passport photo for my Iranian Tourist Visa; and on the right is my Jordanian Student Visa picture. I've been told I look both much older, and much more diabolical, without hair.

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