Pre NaNoWriMo 2009

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Just one day before the start of NaNoWriMo 2009 and to tell you the truth, I have yet to firm up the plot for this year’s writing month. I have some plots in mind but yet to decide which of it will allow me to write at least 50,000 words.

In the meantime, for the last one week, I have been busy polishing up my NaNoWriMo 2008’s piece titled “The Malayan U Boat”. I have managed to clean up the spelling errors, grammar mistakes, the loopholes in the plot, define proper chapters for the sub-plots and more importantly define proper names for the characters in the plot – for the whole 97 pages of it.

After laying the re-write for almost 1 year, I finally found the inspiration and time to do the re-write. Hope to finalise the plot for this year’s NaNoWriMo by today before embarking on a very interesting writing days this month.

NaNoWriMo 2009

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71,285 authors and counting already registered for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

The event that provides the whole of November for aspiring and sometimes crazy writers to write a 50,000 words novel within a month is back and is due to start in the next 6 days or so. If you have not registered, please drop by the NaNoWriMo website and register for free.

The response from Malaysians last year was not that appealing. Hopefully it is better this year especially from fellow bloggers.

If you have registered and wish to ‘join-forces’ as writing buddies, please let me know your username or author name that you have registered as and I will add you in (search ‘balajoe’ for mine).

Having undue peer pressure is one best way to continue writing to meet the 50,000 words limit under pressure for one month. For starters, read here on how NaNoWriMo works.

Good luck!

Persian Language

rial

Photos – Iranian currency of rial

The name Iran means the Land of the Aryans (source: Wikipedia) and it is not a big surprise when we find common Hindi words in Farsi (or rather common Farsi words in Hindi).

There are couple of Hindi words that we use here quite often – dosth (friend), yek (one), panj (five) and chai (tea). So who ever can speak Urdu or Hindi, can learn Farsi quite fast. We, the non-speaking Hindi / Urdu Malaysians on the other hand are learning Farsi on rather slower pace – probably one word one day. Words like:-

Boro boro – go go (used by cab driver when wanted the car in front to speed up before the light turns red)

Tatil – holiday (our favourite word on Wednesdays – Thursdays and Fridays are off days here in Tehran)

Chetori – how are you? (for which the answer to this would be khubam or good even though one is not feeling well)

And of the favourite of my colleague here – dus say ta ram (I love you) and he is learning new ones too – panjshambe berim cinema (on Thursday, let’s go for cinema).

(To be continued)

Fine Persian Dining in Tehran

The Iranian shopkeeper near to our Tehran apartment often hear me saying “Morq…morq….” and he would laugh. Morq is one of the few Persian words that I know to communicate when we are hunting for our sundry for a cook out at the apartment. By the way, Morq means chicken in Farsi and one need to know this so that one doesn’t end up getting beef or mutton or unknown meat for food.

Language is a big, big problem when it comes to ordering food here in Tehran especially if you are talking to the locals in English.

tehran lunch

The good thing however is that some of the newer ‘fast food’ restaurants near our place has menu in English (some with broken English but we can make out the menu items) and the young guy at the counter has some idea on what we wanted to order. The problem comes when asking what kind of meat used – even the local Iranians have problem letting us know what type of meat used in the food.

I guess before us coming over, the locals had no problem with the issue of halal & non halal. Finding out some of us don’t eat beef was an eye opener to some of the Iranians.

Sometimes meat stands for beef or mutton or in usual case, a mixture of beef and mutton. We therefore take the safe side and just order chicken or salmon (pronounced as just fish here in Tehran). Soft drinks especially American brands (like Coke, Sprite, etc) surprisingly are plentiful on all restaurants (so is non alcoholic drinks imported from Germany!!).

For lunch, we usually avoid fast food (pizza or fried chicken) and go for real Persian cuisine – usually rice and kebab. Their rice itself is good enough to be eaten on its own. Lunch is usually accompanied by semi fried tomatoes (which we use the juices as gravy) and plain yogurt.

One thing about the yogurts here is that majority of it is of original plain taste (unlike in Malaysia where we can get the fruit flavored versions). So it does take some ‘fear factor’ a like guts to finish a small bowl of plain yogurt. If one likes, one can also order a bowl of salad as side dish. Personally I had no issues with yogurt (used to eat plain ones back in Malaysia) and I was more than happy to get extra yogurts from my team members who not used to it.

Breakfast is usually comes in form of a small cake or bread and tea or tetra-packed fruit juice. Tea is usually provided free-flow in the mornings and evenings. Very rarely we see people drinking coffee here. When we pass by bakery shop in the mornings, we usually see a long line of people waiting to buy their local bread known as barbari (huge thin bread with drips of sugar on it). To avoid the long queues in the morning, we usually buy our breads from the various sundry shops or bakery shops at night.

tehran lunch 2

So if one compare to Malaysian food to Iranian food, it looks healthier although one cannot compare the taste between the 2. We for one missed spicy food, soup and heavy breakfast in form of nasi lemak or mee goreng. But since we usually walk 1 – 2 kilometres on almost daily basis to look for restaurants and sometimes find interesting places to dine in, we are in a way also exercising our appetites before we order our food. I guess it is a blessing in disguise.

Photos – Lunch with chicken gravy or colored rice with lemon juice

(To be continued)

Deepavali Abroad

sunset

Photos – (no photo of the restaurant or the food but will take it on the next trip there) Sunset reflected off the window of our apartment. The dust is a major irritation here.

I can’t recall but this is probably the third time I am celebrating Deepavali far from home and family

The first year I did that was quite painful especially when my son had just born and it suppose to be the first year to celebrate it as one family. But work assignment and professional commitment took priority and we had to postpone our celebrations after I came back from abroad. Deepavali was a gloomy day on both ends.

The second time was not that painful as my family had now got accustomed to my travels and long stay abroad. However I miss the moments the night before, cleaning and decorating the house and the morning where one would wake up early, take oil bath and after prayers, sit down for a hot thosai and spicy chicken curry.

My wife has been telling that my son was more excited this year for Deepavali as he wanted to play fireworks. Shopping has been kept to a minimum and probably there will be some visits from friends and other family members. I hope that my son will enjoy his fireworks and without hurting himself. I recall me and my cousins doing crazier things with fireworks when we were young.

Celebrating abroad is painful but it is soften a bit by friends who made the trouble to look for Indian Restaurant here in Tehran. We probably walked 3 kilometres before found one. The restaurant tucked away near a hotel was well furnished with decorations of India. We were greeted by well dressed Punjabi man who we guess was also the manager of the restaurant.

The décors looked expensive and so did the prices on the menu list. We looked for the cheapest item on the menu – briyani and the taste or the portion did not disappoint us. Chicken briyani (plus drink and service tax) went for almost 140,000 rials whilst mutton briyani went for 160,000 rials (1 ringgit is about 2,800 rials). We promised ourselves that we need to dig into their chicken / mutton curries on the next trip.

For those who are celebrating Deepavali, Happy Deepavali and for the rest, I wish Happy Holidays…

(To be continued)

Mega Traffic

If there is one thing that catches ones’ eyes in Tehran would be the traffic jam.

The motorists here use more of their horns and brakes to move along the morning traffic jam. In between we have motorcyclists whom many do not wear helmet and pedestrians who crossing the road. When one is walking and crossing roads in Tehran, one need to look left, right, front and back because you will never know when a fast car can drive towards you. We have seen many incidents of cars being driven on the opposite of the road (we have the same problem with motorcyclists back in Malaysia)

man crossing in traffic

There are plenty of zebra crossings in Tehran but unlike those in Brunei where cars stop long when a pedestrian is sighted, zebra crossings here is almost redundant here during rush hours – despite people are crossing at zebra crossing, the cars continue to be drive fast. The drivers high beam the headlights or sound their horns as if telling the pedestrians to move faster. Some of the better drivers actually slow down to allow the crossings. Some who drive fast sometimes say sorry for not slowing down. The burden is placed on the pedestrians to be more careful.

zebra crossing

We walked to a restaurant and at one point; we had cross a major junction. Looking at the heavy traffic, we decided to wait for the ‘right moment’ but there was no let down of the traffic. One Iranian girl came along us and whilst on the hand phone, started to cross the road. Her concentration was on the conversation rather than the traffic and we were shocked. Somehow she managed to cross to the other side without much problem and continued to walk, still talking on the hand phone.We stood shocked for a moment before deciding that it must be the way of life here when it comes to crossing roads

We finally managed to cross when a large group of Iranians started to cross as well and the cars had no choice but to slow down. We always watch out for traffic here but so far we have not seen any major accidents but then again, being extra careful is always better than being sorry.

Photos – A man crossing a busy road, zebra crossings in Tehran

(To be continued)

Fantastic Trip to Iran: The Eagle Have Landed

Despite the age of the Iran Air’s Jumbo, the landing in Tehran’s newest international airport was surprisingly very smooth but even so, almost everyone clapped when the plane safely landed and that got us worried (clapping means the landing is not smooth most of the time?).

2 days before the departure has been a kind of marathon run on shopping – there were plenty of new clothes and items needed to be bought and that includes the usual packets of 3-in-1 oats and Maggi Mee (the usual suspects for Malaysians traveling abroad). As we are expected to experience winter this time around, there was shopping for winter clothes as well.

plane

(One of the smaller sized jumbo – Boeing 747 SP – it is really, really old)

The flight that we were taking was a direct flight from KLIA to Tehran with a very aging Boeing 747. The flight was not full and we got our seats just nice and right although we did experience delayed departure due to delayed passengers. We left almost 50 minutes late from our scheduled departure.

We already been warned of boredom when using Iran Air – there was no in-flight entertainment and even though there were movies on the large ‘TV’, it was in Persian (we managed to follow the story by using the English sub titles at the bottom).

Iran has been hit with the US led trade embargo and this really shows when one is taking Iran Air – the public announcement system was not working (we hear whispers most of the time), there were traces of aged plane parts (we swear we saw some parts ‘rusting’ away at 12,000 feet), the upper luggage compartment was shaking rather violently during the take off and the seats were old and uncomfortable.

At one point, we even had our doubts on whether we will reach Tehran in one piece. But the pilots were good – they got us through without much incident.

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(The chaos before departure – take a look at the seat covers and mind you that it suppose to be clean ones!)

The in-flight service was not that bad – the stewardesses were kind but they don’t seem to be quick in addressing the service call lights. There was one lighted up for several hours and no one seemed to be bothered. Even request for water took some time to be addressed. Despite the rather slow service, in-flight food was better than the rest although there was plenty of room for improvement.

It was about 8 hours of flight – so we slept most of the time. Whenever I had the time, I tried to watch the Iranian movies on the large screen (which surprisingly was quite easy to follow) or snap photos of the passengers or outside the plane.

Landing was smooth and immigration checking was swift and fast although there was some confusion in addressing the ‘surname’ and ‘family name’ part. We got our luggage quite fast and were grateful that it was not damaged. As we pass through the custom checkpoint, there was some commotion and all we saw was an elderly lady being taken away by custom officials.

Other passengers ignored this commotion and continued with their journey. We did the same. We continued to walk and got out from the airport where we changed our money to the local currency rial and instantly became millionaires (1 USD = 9,900 Rial). We now needed a transport out from the airport situated about 50 km from the city.

Taking taxi was a bit tricky. There were 3 of us and 4 large luggage bags (excluding laptop bags, gift bags, etc). Taxis at the airport are unlike the taxis at KLIA – they are about the same size – small. We talked to one taxi driver but after looking at our luggage, he said that we need to take 2 taxis.

We were about to leave and talk to the next taxi driver when he called back and said it can be done – all the 3 of us and 4 luggage in 1 taxi but he said that he needs additional payment. It was not much by our standards, so we quickly agreed. Last thing we wanted is for us to be split out in some foreign country with unfamiliar language. Somehow the driver managed to squeeze all 3 luggages into the small boot and placed one on the passenger seat.

It was a ride of our life! Reaching almost 140 km/h on the patchy, badly built highway with heavy traffic on the left, right and at the front, the taxi driver did not show any signs of slowing down…

Photos – the ageing 747 SP parked at KLIA and the commotion as passengers getting to their seats

(To be continued)

Comments & Moderation

Sorry guys but approval of moderated comments is offline for now (certain sites have been blocked in this country). I will see whether I can bypass the blockage. In the meantime, please continue with your comments. Thanks

Update 1: Now I have access (not sure it is due to some proxy that I am using or the access been allowed nationwide). Moderated comments approval is enabled for now (but not sure for how long)

Update 2: I have also cleaned up the last few posts done in Tehran

Travelling

2 days of marathon shopping and then flying into a ‘hot’ area in an ageing Boeing 747 is not my idea of flying for overseas job but so far things has been interesting. Internet is a bit patchy at times and there is plenty of ‘official’ work to be done. Hopefully I will have time to upload the photos and write the corresponding story.

Photo Blog Relaunched

Manual

After long stagnant months, the photo blog have been revamped and relaunched thanks to 2 recent events, namely:-

New cameraSony A230 as opposed to the older low function Fuji A210 and allows more opportunity for manual settings with larger file capacity

WordPress’s new templateDePo Square which allows more widget and a cleaner layout whilst still maintaining plenty of space for a larger photo display

Please do hop over to my photo blog (the link is in the sidebar as well) and please do give pointers, comments and tips. Hopefully that will make postings to be more regular in coming months.

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