Wave pool filled with fiberglass slide parts.

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"We're gonna put them with you, they can stay at your place for the two weeks", announced my father regarding an impending visit from two English engineers. Searching his face for cracks that would eventually bare a punch-line, I paused, waiting with a knowing smile, "Great, Hotel Hesarak", I jokingly replied referring to a downtown place I deliberately confuse with my neighborhood. With token acknowledgment of my joke, he continued, deepening the plans and lowering my smile in the process. No witty punch-line arrived, the English were coming and my father was corroborating in the invasion.

It was a practical decision, presented under the guise of an opportunity for me to be around "people of my background". I wasn't biting however and responded in kind by suggesting that we are looking cheap before our guests, demanding that the planners rethink this strategy. My protest was half hearted, although I knew from previous experience that I have little in common with these chaps I silently concluded it might be beneficial to both the occupier and occupied with each party filling some indirect role of comfort.

Chef, maid, cleaner, travel guide and translator were the roles I reminded the planners I would have to fill. All this on top of my usual nondescript daily duties. Beds, duvets, sheets and towels – my hotel needed to be equipped. Fruit, vegetables, juice and bread too – do I really live this badly? Clean, tidy, rearrange and repair – my hotel took a lot of work.

Not a sign of excitement could be found on my face, no matter how hard my colleagues searched. I wasn't upset, but then I also wasn't eager like they expected I might be. "Daveed, are you excited?", they seemed to rhetorically ask before following up with questions that would fit better if I was related to these engineers. When I arrived on-site, a little after my travel-worn fellow countrymen, it was like walking down the steps from the audience at a poor game show. The gate-keeper gaves me a knowing a smile, "are you excited?", he indicated with his nod. The laborers, one-by-one gave me a knowing smile, "they're here!", they indicated by nodding in a certain direction. The directors gave me a knowing smile, "over there", they indicated by leading me in the direction of two men darting around a swimming pool filled with water-slide parts, matching the tops with the bottoms, "Number 3?", ask one engineer, "Got it" replies the other. "Hello and welcome to Iran", I bellow over several orange and blue fiberglass half-tube curves later following with further courteous questions. Our mutual excitement was clear as their quick responses were ended with a, "Number 4?".

I was reminded of when I once did this, when I remarked on the overwhelming supply of traffic offenses and pointed out every hole in the pavement. I am blind now, I see only prices.

A rapid morning of assembly concluded, with my contribution being that of my usual nonessential role of site photographer, only once being topped by my taking 20-minutes to find the translation for 'screwdriver' after much failed miming. Over lunch we traded news of our residence, mostly led by me asking for the latest on popular culture and parting with titbits about regional politics, there was little common ground as subjects expired after short exposure. For the evening we took to a fancy part of town for some window shopping and some window shopping. The engineers seem to lead the way with their heads twisting and twitching to the unfamiliar terrain. I was reminded of when I once did this, when I remarked on the overwhelming supply of traffic offenses and pointed out every hole in the pavement. I am blind now, I see only prices.

We arrived at the hotel, with me carrying the bags. I fussed over beverages, washed the cups and gave a brief lesson on the several actions needed to be undertook for a hot shower. I set up my laptop, opened my music player and asked that they select a track – 'I did it my way', Sinatra – I was relieved. We slipped into a game of guessing the year as we double-clicked periods of our lives, iterating accompanying stories. I was reminded of how laborious a task it is to describe the subtle details from my time in England for the Iranian ears, first having to set the context, then providing a brief history of how things relate, after which it seems that any humorous content has lost its jiz and I'm being stared at in an odd way.

"Rick Astley, '87? No! It was the year I had my kidney out – that was '84", he protested after I corrected him from Wikipedia. "This is like a pub quiz back home", I joyfully noted, halting in depressing realisation, "But with no beer". There were also no smiles, not even knowing ones as we were silenced in the knowledge that this hotel had no mini-bar.



One of the smallest lifeguards stands beside a customer of apparently 2.10m.

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"Henry, Ronaldinho, Beckham – Mr, no diving in the shallow end – Rooney, very nice, Rooney, very very nice", he confirmed as he bit his bottom lip and tilted his head to the side like an over animated children's TV presenter. This opinion has unknowingly been repeated a few times to me, with altering interruptions brought about by the customers as we sit side-by-side on the pool-side during my daily lifeguard stint.

Without protest I accepted a less than part-time role as lifeguard in one of the pools in our family owned sports complex. Having completed my lifeguard certification some time before I reluctantly sit for a daily reminder of how time can pass so painfully slow. Although I grumble, the gossiping group of vanity ridden lifeguards provides me with much practice in Farsi, even if most of it is unrepeatable to any family members. As we ineffectively sit huddled together tea is poured, biscuits shared and whistles frequently blown, "Mr, No backflips!", "Mr, Non-swimmers go back to the shallow end!", "Mr, take a shower!". Hands rub other's legs and arms are held round shoulders as tips on clothing and personal hygiene are shared while we hawk the pool. "Daveed, it's very bad, very very bad" they remind me as I stretch before a swim during my tea breaks. "But shaving armpits is mostly a female practice where I come from", I protest to a wall of disgusted faces. "You must shave your chest and also down below" they insist. I don't want to believe this is true but I've seen the evidence. Their advice extends to my clothing also, I am often made to parade in my clothes as they pull on the material and guess manufacturers while suggesting clothing boutiques in Tehran, "very nice, very very nice" they say as I am made to spin before them.

Unlike my experience many years ago as a lifeguard in the UK and USA I have a greater challenge, the Iranian ability to swim is weak, yet the perception of their ability is something else. One such example still resonates among friends: like many visitors, the excitement of entering a pool leads them to carelessly race to the water. This one chap – forgetting he was unable to swim – jumped into the deep-end where we were quick to recover his flapping body. Oddly, it was but 10-minutes later that he repeated his error leading us to once again retrieve him. At the time we jokingly concluded that such a person doesn't deserved to live if they were to do this a third time. Yet joking aside, I have never been off my seat so much, these visitors are dangerously fearless and are also dangerously behaved to one another, laughing as they hold their friend's heads under water, repeatedly swimming into one another and often wrestling for the entirety of their visit.

The entrance brings many stories: war veterans with missing parts, scarred work-worn laborers and dodgy folk with hand-made tattoos

For me this the most level Iran gets, I am exposed to a variety of people and a wide spectrum of life. The entrance brings many stories, these can be seen branded on the skin as the customers exit the showers: war veterans with missing parts, scarred work-worn laborers and dodgy folk with hand-made tattoos. As our eyes make laps of the pool I share stories with the lifeguards. This is the stuff poor comedy is made of, a collection of partly amusing conversations rotating between girls, football and hygiene, broken by the frequent whistle blows and occasional rescues. From time to time we share insights into one another's cultural backgrounds with me often correcting strange perceptions of what life is like outside of Iran and them often leaving me cross-eyed with unfamiliar and seemingly perverse activities inside Iran.

There is however one subject mostly outside of Iran that I am unable to make corrections about, with the up coming football world cup I have been practically given a diary of game times, a list of players and predictions for every stage. "Brazil, very nice, very very nice" I am assured as the bottom lip is once again bitten before being released to blow the the whistle, "Mr, leave your pool-shoes outside!".



Worker edits a photography book by blacking masking tape then covering offending images.

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"Tell him he's fucked the book", I lazily requested of my translator - "You've ruined the book, we will not pay the full price" my translator politely stated while I pointed at one of the many blacked-out illustrations of women. This was not to be a good case to haggle with however - "I'll get you an unmarked one from the back, you can pay full price for that one" the sales man replied. We both laughed knowing full well that the Islamic editing was the only reason I was purchasing the book in the first place.

The previous Friday at the 19th Tehran book fair I'd visited the same stall, frantically photographing pages of a blacked-out fashion photography book. I wanted to purchase this now unique specimen as I watched a female worker laboriously take a black pen to masking tape before shielding offending skin parts from the Islamic audience. "Can I photograph you editing" I asked her, not expecting a positive response - I was wrong however. She carelessly attended to the pages as I silently observed, fascinated at what did and didn't survive, I struggled to see patterns though. Some legs survived; shoulders were acceptable in one shot but not another; arms wore black scribbles while others wore black masking tape; short sleeves were given to some women while others were fine in just their vests.

Even a kissing couple were met with the marker

A black and white photo of a woman's naked torso became a black square on the page, being clothed in three sections of masking tape from the waist up. Men were not excluded in this process, irregular black attire found its way to problematic areas of male bodies. Even a kissing couple were met with the marker. No, no, and no - how can so much of the world have it so wrong? I was dumbstruck, yet hooked, I wanted more and feasted on these now one-off anthropological artifacts. With every mark I saw the value increase, with every inconsistency I saw a story in the making, was it outsider art or a found object and how might one exhibit such a piece?

Oddly enough, at one side of the exhibition hall I was selling items partly of my creation, pages of digitally blacked-out text made to look like hand editing, demanding the reader to question the words further. Yet, across the hall I stood keen, willing to part with much money for similar yet more RealWorld™ questions. I requested the sales staff to find me further books that were edited, keen to pick a prize and one that would sit among other unique works within an independent book shop I help out with back in the UK.

I found my prize, a book of contemporary illustrators. Pages soiled with black marker pen, so much so that some pages stuck together. This was an authentic Islamic edited book, invested with much attention and ready for all humanity to view without fear of mental pollution. From a collection of artworks, a new artwork had been made, I did not see this book as being ruin but rather embellished, having added value or just fucked as one might say.



Photo of a photography book blacked-out for the Book Fair. Further examples can be found at my Flickr photo journal.

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"What is it?", "What do they do?", "Why would somebody want to buy this?", were some of the frequently asked questions as I hovered around the stall of the UK book representative in building 41 during the 19th Tehran Book Fair. During the 3-days that I was present I'd managed to successfully baffle many visitors, who in turn baffled me with such strange questions. Like an underexposed pair of eyes looking at conjoined children with penises for noses, I'm convinced that it wasn't words that were confusing us but rather expectations.

With surprisingly little effort on my part yet considerable help, I'd managed to arrange small corner of space to officially represent a publishing house I work with back in England. The very few surviving copies from the limited stock available were depleted further by the suspicious knives of the Iranian postal service, yet, a not too embarrassing display was formed. What was lost in volume though, was gain in presentation, as I managed to rustle together a various printed-matter from a multitude of sources to create an ad-hoc display within the 2-half-shelves that were nicely exposed. With translators in position and newly created explanations for Iranian ears, I preyed on what turned out to be an abundance of female interest.

Things took a twist however: I was introduced to a dangerously attractive young student. She leant forward, tilted her head with a brazen smile and paused briefly before asking me in a possibly sarcastic tone, "But, why might I buy this?". Giving no time to answer, she turned to my friend in equally close proximity, giving a slight laugh-like, nasal exhale with her growing smile, as if to seek reassurance that she wasn't alone in confusion. As I opened my mouth she dropped her smile, leaned in - close enough for me to smell her - demanded my eyes and seemed to half listened to my attempt of an answer. Like a chat show host, she confidently fired questions at me midway through sentences, often engaging my friend while not caring to pay attention to the content of my reply. The artifacts I presented seemed to make a convenient decoy for all parties to explore one another - things were not as they seemed.

With an almighty crash, possibly around a thousand copies of this one book met the floor in a not so ordered fashion

Later, whilst remarking about the Palestinian badge purchased in the Hamas stall minutes before, a vaguely familiar Arab face enter the conversation. Wearing a Herzbola scarf similar to the one also purchased by me at the same stall (for a friend I should carefully add), he invited his tall bearded figure into our otherwise cherpy group. After edging his way into conversation he steered the conversation on to Islam, often fingering at my chest to emphasise his point. He played somewhere between generous and informative yet pushy and righteous, mostly agitating the friendly circle, leaving just the bigger mouths to rough it out. Between a friend and I, we played roles in providing alternative perspectives to inform the simmering debate. I reflexively presented the good yet confused Muslim while my friend went for quite the opposite. Referring to an earlier moment where a ladies headscarf caught on the shelving thus exposing her hair, our incumbent stated that this is forgivable, yet, if done intentionally she would be perverting society and must ask god for forgiveness. At that time my concerns lay with the well-being of the visitor yet our Islamic student seemed concerned that he would have bad thoughts and possibly have the desire to kiss her, thus corrupting society. We toiled over responsibilities as the volume increased, with repetitive fingering rotating our positions. The logic baffled me, leaving me half listening as my friend felt it worth continuing. I looked between the shoulders of the tall men remaining, watching a nearby stall, one seemingly housing an Iraqi publisher of a certain noteworthy book. A worker stood on the back shelf fixing a light. With miraculous timing the worker managed to kick out the back shelf creating a domino effect across the entire 15m x 5m stall. With an almighty crash, possibly around a thousand copies of this one book met the floor in a not so ordered fashion. Breaking the deadlock in debate, we rushed to investigate with the many others who ran to help. Luckily the stall was empty of visitors leaving only an embarrassed worker holding his head in one hand and a bulb in the other. During the next 24-hours trollies would pass by me at the stall, loaded with spoiled books, packed in cigarette boxes labeled "Made in USA".

"Hello, you must be Mr Yaghoobi?", asked a warm face in English with only the softest of Iranian accents. "I spoke with your colleagues in England, I am the manager of [book company I was linked through]". I had had the pleasure of meeting the first gentleman I spoke to regarding my presence at the fair. Following our meeting I imagined that a day might come when I feel this much at ease, that I feel I have achieved what I wanted in life, that I am living in bonus time only to virtuously attend to others with no agenda - if this day comes then I will be like this gentleman. His attention was exclusive and manner so calming as we raced through the usual topics between dual national Iranians. I enjoyed his life's story as much as he must of and with each coincidence I grew fonder.

We sought shelter in a neighboring stall, empty of the Arabs that had their name written above. As we tucked into the poly-packed Iranian food we were continually interrupted by Arabic questions: "can I pray here?", "which way is Mecca?", were the few we were able to understand. Bodies rose and fell, facing diagonal to the stall as further Arabs arrived to set up a picnic. "[Arabic question]?", "I'm sorry I don't understand you", I replied in Farsi. "[Arabic question]?", "I don't know", I replied again in Farsi. "[Arabic question]?", "I haven't a clue what you're saying" I then replied in English to a frustrated couple who left upset. I was then found by our Islamic student, who had made my food go cold with his kind offers of Islamic books. "I'm reading several Islamic books, 'Islamic Republic' by Imam Khomeini for example", I told him. He paused partly in confusion before continuing, "I will give you some Islamic books".



Our special guests: two European students representing France and Italy.

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"They would do nothing more than stare at you" she repeated. "And this would be symbolic - it would indicate that they would kill you?" I responded in confusion. "My father was on the blacklist, he could not enter nor leave the country - they were to kill him if found" she went on, translating to me as her father rapidly relayed stories from after the [edited] to our friend sitting beside him in the front of the car as we made good ground in convoy to a mountainous area outside of Tehran. My friend's father attended to the road in much the same fashion he did in his stories, a seemingly emotionless account, mostly factual, keeping four wheels on the ground and very much aware of the poor road conditions. "He was working in America when he heard about the event, watching looters on the TV claiming a factory, before turning to his friends in shock realisation that he indeed owned the factory", she said evoking an awkward laugh from me. These episodes joined the many other I've been accumulating, contributing to a fractured chronology that I dare not repeat - so many people, so many stories, so much pain.

"What ze phuk are you doing 'ere?" was the opening question shouted by the French fella

A friend's birthday had united us for a day's break outside of the city. For a rare occasion we were to play host to special guests: two European students representing France and Italy. I had had the pleasure of meeting these chaps before over coffee, "What ze phuk are you doing 'ere?" was the opening question shouted by the French fella - "exactly!" I unwittingly responded. On that day we had jumped between languages, laughing at each other's pronunciation as we discovered how we came to be before one another.

English when spoken with a French accent is something I'm fond of - for all the pleasant images it invokes. I enjoy the mispronunciation and find it perfectly forgivable for all that it reminds me of. Yet, as impressed as I was to hear these chaps talk in Farsi, it just wasn't working. The French accent had managed to combine four or five not too uncommon sounds in Farsi, bleeding into one another like a dodgy Inkjet creation, resulting in near incomprehensible print. Our French friend was squatting, repeatedly curling his words out, presenting a confusing sculpture for us to observe with fascination.

Our outing was to be confusing for all parties, yet more so the full Iranians who swallowed any language passed their way. There was no consistency to the choice as we sat between meals and tea digesting many of international topics. "What economy?", we replied after being informed that our French friend is here studying Iranian economics. "Iran is not strong, they have to import their oil as they do not have the technology to refine it - sure they can extract it, lots of it, but they must export this for refinement", stated our French friend. The day was to coincide with the deadline presented by the UN regarding the external desire for Iran to stop uranium enrichment. He went on to present his perspective about future events, "I'm certain there will be diplomatic sanctions within a year - embassies calling back their staff and such". Frustratingly he said that such moves would also conclude his time in Iran. We moved on in heated discussion, speculating as to the whys, whens, and hows, discussing energy issues and hegemonic desires. Our conclusions were not pretty, bringing a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day. We'd silenced the full Iranians in the way that they had silenced me with the morning stories, I look in horror at the past and they look in horror for the future.