flickr  View my photo journal

I don't like watching people die and during nearly 28-years pumping blood through my body I've only witnessed two people's hearts cease before my eyes. I feel I have been sheltered from death in my life and imagine that the law of Sod (or simply averages) will one day compensate by bringing an intense period of loss. This last week I've been wondering whether I am entering into such a period.

Whilst attempting to go for a "big toilet" in the sports complex's only western toilet I was alerted to the sight of a gentleman being carried out of the jacuzzi face down and seemingly unconscious. It is at moments like these that ones body floods with something near to adrenaline, the mind instantly spills over with years of first-aid knowledge (that one hopes never to use) and things seem rather linear. But however these years of first-aid knowledge are yet to be translated into Farsi and my arrival on the scene was a little superfluous in the presence of other lifeguards, whom, not only are considerably more experienced than I but were also able to understand the explanation of bystanders. With a mixture of Farsi and sign language I was reassured that there was a pulse and also breathing and I was asked to help by substituting the lifeguards, yet the people in the pool who were only interested in watching us.

As the situation descended from bad to worse, CPR begun. In between my having one eye on the pool and one eye on the fading gentleman, I attempted to decipher who was with him. A man who later seemed to have accompanied the gentleman was calmly pacing back and forth which led me to believe he was a casual acquaintance - if that. He seemed not at all concerned that we had been conducting CPR for roughly 5-minutes at this point.

By my understanding 10-minutes of CPR is denial, yet we continued, and at roughly this point the acquaintance excepted the fact that we were not able to revive the gentleman - maybe it was the change in skin colour. My eyes fizzed and a swelling developed in my neck as the acquaintance - in tears - groaned loudly. A member of staff went to comfort this man, whom I then learned was in fact his father. Fathers shouldn't see their children die - we know that.

I resented the fact that the incident was in fact making me late for my lifeguard classes and this was a cruel reminder of the seriousness of the qualification. But I was cleanly aware of this and especially more so as a friends son drowned in a private pool only days before. He was 5-years old. He was left alone. He couldn't swim. They knew that. Mothers shouldn't see their children die - we know that.



The pool-side scene.

 flickr  View my photo journal

A total of nine years separate my former semi-serious swimming stint with the lifeguard training I am currently attempting to complete here in Iran. Typically this course was brought to my attention the night before, and so - not too long after - I was standing before 60 other candidates to begin the preliminary timed events. Although I have previously completed this qualification (once in England and once in America) these are now outdated and as I'm back on the pool-side scene, my family - more so than I - are keen to drag me through this status claiming process.

To my surprise I managed to be the fastest person during the timed events and by a comfortable margin, but my times were a long way off my peak performance some years ago and the suffering was worse than I can remember. This was especially amusing for me due to me appearing like the worst equipped: wearing a pair of baggy beach-shorts which proved far from helpful in the water. Although my family seemed rather proud of the aforementioned achievement it must be said that it's a lame victory.

Much unlike my previous training in England and America, the Iranian course - at least thus far - is concerned more with physical competence, were as previously a larger proportion was given to theory and first aid. The industrial-strength theory that pained me all those years ago seems to be nowhere in site - for now at least - but the pain can be felt in my body each following morning. I have heard from many sources here that the level of Iranian lifeguard quality is high, and thus far I can see why - so many techniques are new to me, for which has been a little embarrassing at times.

My ability to understand what is being requested of me during the training is made up for in previous experience, yet amusingly I have to wait, watch and follow the movements of my fellow trainees. This was rather amusing for the group when we were conducting the timed events - I would stand watching others start-off, as instructed, then shortly follow.

The group currently stand at 18 people where many have failed to keep up to the standard required. I am happy to report that I'm within this group still, which is at least a step closer to my desired status of champion of some small town somewhere - well kind of.



Typographical witticism.

 flickr  View my photo journal

Being an English visitor to other lands is often frustration and at times embarrassing as being English can often means being uni-lingual, yet not necessarily through desire. The English language has a dominance in important international arenas - be it through computing, aviation or pop-culture - and due to this I am often not far away from people who speak my mother tongue regardless of where I may be in the world. As helpful and as comforting as this may be, it makes my will to learn new languages a little more difficult by simply providing me with a lazy get out plan for expression.

Thankfully though, Iran is a far cry from other countries I've visited in that there are fewer folk for me to be lazy with and I am forced to adopt the new tongue rapidly. My time in Iran has not been totally void of English speaking due to a large amount of my immediate family here comfortably speaking English, yet, the difference has been larger than anything previously experienced. I am however enjoying the frequent moments where I'm being thrown in at the deep end and have been happy to indulge taxi drivers with the smallest of small talk with my limited football banter.

I feel I am currently at a stage of knowing practical Farsi - I can transport myself, get food, make loose arrangements and say which football team I support. With the Farsi script being unfamilar to me (of which I'm very slowly learning) I have a more difficult task from my European language tuition back in the skool dayz where the learning was made easier by the relatively similar alphabet and corresponding sounds to that of English. With that being said I have a lot that is hidden from me until I grasp the new alphabet and structure where I hope I can increase my pace of learning through self tuition.

This new language - in its spoken form - is very familiar to me though. The sounds and accompanying gestures are like mathematical equations - I know the numbers but am yet to learn new symbols for me to understand the results. Or similarly, if you are to hear a sequence of numbers (a person talking to you) and are to repeat back to yourself the sequence (working out the translation), you might only recall a small volume of what was initially said. My time in Iran is like a mathematician's convention therefore and although I wasn't half bad at maths, schools was a long time ago and it's tough to get back into the learning mindset. 



Me making kebabs.

 flickr  View my photo journal

Water fell from the sky yesterday and the mountain tops became white once again as a sharp introduction to winter weather arrived. This has coincided with the passing of another year's Ramazam of which I'm proud to have completed with only 3-days off.

I usually pride myself on indulging cultures and customs as well as not being shy to try new things yet Ramazam is a far cry from eating sheep tongue. In my ignorance I flippantly took late decision to join many Muslims around the world in daily starvation. And if there ever was a novelty in this practice then it wore off on morning two.

Many adaptations to daily life are made during Ramazam and in Iran - an Islamic state - it's the law to observe these religious requirements. This simply entails no public eating, drinking or smoking during the unusually long 30-days as it was this year. Amazingly it is a punishable offense to publicly neglect these observations as my uncle appreciated last year as he was dragged off to the local police station for smoking in public. In some respects, Ramazam resembles a long holiday due to its limitation on work, and with many religious events scattered through the month it can be a nice escape from the day-to-day life. One such occasion is of great importance to the dominant Shai Muslims of Iran. This is the anniversary of the death of Imam Ali. Importantly he is the first Imam as well as Mohammad's cousin and son in law. By excepting Ali as an Imam you distinguish yourself from the Sunni Muslims who fail to recognise Imams. The ceremony related to his death (lasting a total of 3-days) is conducted in the lunar calendar like Ramazam and thus migrates through the seasons. The remembrance is deeply serious as I was to witness to during two event hosted by my uncle. Many noteworthy guests were invited to his house for a long haul praying session followed by the customary dinner before dawn. Head-to-toe in black, the guests sat in a quiet and thoughtful state before the marathon 2-hour prayer begun. Grown men were folded over on the persian rugs, in tears, at times muttering independent phrases to themselves. Following this I became the focus of much attention as I relayed a dream from the night before where I was having dinner with Imam Ali. Many people sought to read there own conclusions into this, which, even though they were immensely flattering I chose a more logical reasoning.

The following day was to once again leave me impressed with my ambitious uncle who is single handedly highjacking my writings by his activities. As a charitable gesture for the remembrance he set about preparing a meal for all the staff at the sports complex and their immediate family totaling just shy of 470 people. This event was to be the first time I broke my long lasting record of not lifting a finger in food preparation - which ended with 7-weeks of being cooked for and cleaned up after! This record was broken with my making of 10-kebabs semi successfully.

Whilst happily breaking my fast for the last time I questioned what I might have learned from such an experience and whether I might go through this again. Still some days after I have to think twice about eating of drinking as I had adapted to the practice. Amusingly this is a 24-hour occurrence - staring at food or drink without considering it as edible. I don't feel stronger for it, nor more appreciative of food; I have not lost nor gained weight yet I do however feel very happy to have concluded the episode as well as a tad proud.