Waiting to be seen in one of the many corridors of official buildings.
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Not for the first time have I been assured of help by some "reputable" source, a friend of the family, high up I'm assured, and not for the first time has this resulting in nothing but a loss of time and money. The arrangement of the purchasing of my national army service is an ongoing matter that is restricting my exit from Iran and causing much frustration."I know somebody who can help you", is becoming a phrase of determent and many promises are broken and boasters unmasked. My family seem confident that their war veteran friends of regimes gone have some weight in levering some more attractive arrangement, yet we keep arriving back to my preferred, straight-down-the-middle route.
It is compulsory for Iranian males to forgo 2-years of army service with a few exception. I fall into one of these exceptions by having lived roughly 97% of my life in the UK and being a dual national – that I have flat feet, a small eye deficiency and am far from fluent in Farsi however is irrelevant. This privilege however, comes at a price, a year's salary equivalent to that of a teacher (pre-tax), a price that was to be gifted by my dear father as part of some loose arrangement before my 'emigration' if you will. Yet things seemed to have changed in the unnecessarily long 8-months it has taken to get to the current stage of unfinishedness and I am now having to source generosity beyond the unfulfilled promises of my father. Oddly enough my father was also exempt from the army service yet it wasn't due to his short arms and deep pockets.
This episode is helping come to terms with the Iranian definition of time. I've worked out that at least 150% – infinite% should be added to any given estimate, my Dad seems to side with the latter where money is concerned – intentions count for a lot here. Thankfully with a fair amount of chasing, the "friend-of-a-friend", "I-know-somebody-who-can...", "my-uncle's-cousin's-cousin's-dad", eventually respond to my repeated calls, confirming what I already knew – there's little they can do.
"You should be taking care of these matters yourself", said the man in room 123 of the Iranian Foreign Office, disappointed of how weak my Farsi was and troubled by my needing the help of my father. This was possibly 6-months ago now and I had to return the other week – going alone – to pickup some paperwork from the Iranian Embassy in London, which had arrived 4-weeks later than the 3-weeks estimate with an additional 3-weeks applied where my father was prompted with my, "we should have the letter back from the Embassy now", only to respond with, "oh yes, you remind me, I must send it". Without an English word to be heard I ran between offices collecting signatures, stamps, counter signatures, photocopies, more forms and further more stamps. Room 102, 123, 103, 102, 110, 103, 123 and then 103 before lastly saying goodbye to 102. I smiled as I left the building – room 123 had not noticed my lack of English and father, "Dast e shoma dard nakoneh, kheili lotf kardi".
an organic gathering of people in no perceived order, possibly heading in a particular direction, for a similar purpose, see 'mosh pit'Things were much the same today, yet with the all important elbows of my uncle. We raced around on another paperwork run collecting all the above but in different numbered temporarily fabricated rooms of the Tehran army office. The terrain this time being far more volatile, with us being one of a great many persons seeking to attend to our individual situations. Whilst there I was reminded that, like with 'time', the translation for 'queue' doesn't quite correlate in Iran, one might use the army offices as the Iranian definition: an organic gathering of people in no perceived order, possibly heading in a particular direction, for a similar purpose, see 'mosh pit'. A vague understanding of order could be observed in the huddle of people but it was easily subject to change as people drifted in and out, offices closed or computers failed. With a lot of strategic queuing we'd managed to cover a large amount of ground within the 3-hours leading up to 1230hrs where the place closed for the day. Yet there is still more to be done.
As of now I have been assured that money is to pass hands, further undisclosed time waited and more passport photos of me added to the already 40-plus that exist in various offices around, gathered in just 10-months or so. "10-20-days time", I've been assured, yet I've learned to be pessimistic – I'm hoping for a very early Christmas present.