They didn’t lie when they said that Iranians are the nicest people ever. Not even kidding.
For future reference to anyone flying out of Dubai’s Terminal Two and thinking about metroing, take a taxi, because if you metro to terminal 1 or 3, you will still have to take a taxi to terminal 2 and they’ll charge you as much as you would have paid to get there from your original destination. Hmph.
Not once was I asked while checking in or boarding my flight if I had a visa. I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t. I’m not going to try it, but. I suppose I did check that box agreeing that I had all the necessary travel documents.
I got off the plane in Esfahan and immediately the lady sitting behind me struck up a conversation. She’s Iranian-American–she was born and raised in Iran and moved to the US when she was 24 knowing no one and knowing no English. She gave me her mother’s number and told me to call.
The Esfahan airport is tiny. There was a line for immigration officers and a small window off to my right for visas. One other person and I went to that window–he was Taiwanese and excited to hear that I’d worked with Taiwanese people in Zion.
The visa officer examined my New Zealand passport and handed me a form asking me the dates of and reason for my visit and contact information–I put my hotel. Then he billed me 120USD–what! My Taiwanese friend was only billed $60, the amount I had been expecting. I was pretty annoyed since that dug into my backup US money, but what could I do but pay? But though that was annoying, there was no hassle whatsoever, no questions asked, no Spanish Inquisition, nothing. Seriously, every Kiwi should go to Iran. Right now.
Ten minutes later, I had a shiny Iranian visa on my passport. I then went and talked to the immigration officers and a member of the Iranian military, who was the only one of the group who spoke English. They took quite a bit longer with me–as it turned out, Mr. Visa Officer had written on my visa that I was born in Australia, though my passport very clearly says New Zealand. Like I haven’t been mistaken for an Aussie before. At least he knows where New Zealand is, I guess?
While they cleared up that mistake (with white-out. Very grown up, Iranian authorities…) I chatted with Mr. Iranian Military Dude–again, super friendly! He’s serving his time in the military but when he’s done, he wants to teach English here–he has his masters in teaching English as a second language. He was really excited that I was here and seemed amused about how I picked Iran of all places. I’m way too honest and told him without thinking that I’m a US citizen as well, but they didn’t care thankfully. (My US passport also did not emit any beams, for anyone who was wondering.)
He asked me if I had a way he could keep in contact and I was like sure let me give you my email and to my surprise he was like how about social networking sites? I gave him my Facebook and email, but told him I probably wouldn’t have Facebook for the week, because I needed a VPN, right? He couldn’t, of course, endorse VPNs, but I was amused by how it seemed to him to be a given that I’d be using one. He helped me learn how to pronounce ‘have a nice day’ (“ruje choob dashte basheed”) and the immigration officers laughed when I practiced on them.
In line waiting to go through customs, another lady struck up conversation with me (and insisted upon giving me her number and telling me that I must call her.) She had two girls, a five-year-old and a ten-year-old, who I befriended immediately. She helped me get a taxi and explained to the driver where to go, which made our lives easier! He tried to ask me to pay him ten USD and I was like yeah no, let’s try rial. He would have taken 200,000 rial as I haggled, but I gave him 300,000 for no good reason other than that I felt bad since that’s like four or five USD.
I’m struggling with the hotel wifi, but managed to get an email to my parents to let them know I’m alive. (I’m horrible to them.) I also can’t manage to turn off the big light…life’s a struggle. And nowhere in Dubai had power adaptors so thank goodness for my portable battery because me without my kindle would be a bad thing.
Now, to sleep. I might actually get some here!