The lifeguards and instructors explaining the rules on day one of the season's swimming lessons.

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"Cock!". "What did you say?!", I replied, slightly unsure as to whether this tubby 4-year old said what I heard. "Nothing", he responded following up by spitting water in my face.

It is not uncommon for the directors at the sports complex I work at to present requests without specifics, to ask me to do something without clear targets and no discussion of methods. A request to "help out" with the season's swimming classes was no exception to the long list of vague biddings put my way. I'd been reluctantly drawn in under the guise of, "helping hand", yet with a preferred role of observation for quality-control, but as expected, things didn't quite follow as planned. Thankfully however, the season's swimming lessons have now come to a welcomed end and many lies have been told to mothers about their children's progress and behavior.

During the lessons much project creep occurred, I gravitated towards the non-swimmers group, roughly aging from 4-6-years old, they varied between having a fear of water, laziness or delinquency. Between the four classes available I'd managed to collect roughly 6-students in each, all of which failed to keep up with the pace. These outcasts were a testing bunch with a non-existent attention-span, made no easier by the excitement of being in the water. Distractions were easily found or made, mostly fighting brought about by unintentional splashing or knocking, the escalation of which was always too rapid for me to attend to – these children seemed to not be unable to turn the other cheek, choosing to punch an eye where one was splashed. Their variation of inability was as difficult for me as my inability to communicate, this slowed progress as I catered to individual weaknesses while the rest of the class drifted of into fights. The distance between the wider groups' skills and my subdivision grew, I couldn't help but think I was part of the problem, my pandering to their individual weaknesses prolonged their learning. This became apparent when we moved to the bigger pool in the latter classes, any child that avoided entering the deep waters was thrown in by our group instructor – Uncle Abraheim – to which they seemed to make rapid progress. "Use your hands!", Uncle Abraheim would scream as they splashed about grabbing at anything available – their faces bright with horror before I plucked them out to safety.

The lessons were as much to my benefit as they were for the children, both with Farsi and with teaching techniques. I was both confused by the children's requests and protests as much as they seemed to be with mine. Unaware of more appropriate wording I knowingly constructed poor sentences and coupled them with animated gestures, "like this", I would indicate, "like that" and "not like this". "When your head is under water, breath" I erroneously instructed, unable to find the words to ask them to only breath out. "Put the air outside of you", I went on.

Children were being screamed at, whipped with string from whistles, thrown in the water or slapped about

I was once again reminded of my soft English manner as I looked around the pool at other classes, struggling for clues. Children were being screamed at, whipped with string from whistles, thrown in the water or slapped about – scenes of children, quietly laughing as their class-mates took the harsh discipline. Although I struggled to digest these boot-camp like scenes I couldn't help but notice the effectiveness – certainly in comparison with my efforts. I toughened up, making a compromise between methods and ideology and it seemed to go some way in getting six pairs of eyes in my direction.

In an effort to increase the quality of service for our little customers, I had asked early on that I be replaced from this assumed role, explaining that my ability is not what is required. "Don't worry about it, they're kids, so long as they are not afraid of water it's OK", I was reassured – I can't help but think it wasn't only the children that had been thrown in at the deep-end.



A few graphically interesting observations found on BBC World. Click the link below for an explanation of what I deem as subtle propaganda.

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[Reply to Zachery Fannin, producer with ABC News]

Dear Zach,

Thanks for contacting me and also for expressing an interest in my "reaction".

I have previously declined similar such requests regarding Iran/America perspectives from American news agencies based on my lack of faith in the corporate media and my own personal safty in Iran. Therefore in this case, if you would not mind, I might summarise my thoughts in written words and should you have any questions then please email them and I shall reply as soon as I can. This is also better for me as I will be away from the office during the times you suggested.

"...your reaction to Israel's alligation that Iran is suppling weapons and possibly troops to Hezbollah in Lebanon"

Firstly, in my mind alligations are simply that, without evidence they have little credibility. That these alligations come from a people conducting aggressive war activities is far from surprising.

how might this differ from the massive assistance America supplies to Israel, given as gifts annually and paid for by the American tax payer?

Let's say for example that Iran is supplying weapons and personnel to Herzbollah/Lebanon then how might this differ from the massive assistance* America supplies to Israel, given as gifts annually and paid for by the American tax payer? One might argue that Herzbollah are not a recognised – as-in democratically elected – body, yet there are recognised and accepted states within the Middle East that have this situation, with no protest from Washington. Yet interestingly, when the Palestinians elected Hamas they were punished by Israel for making the wrong choice, a sentiment share by Washington.

Nevertheless, I have heard news (I forget the source) and have had many discussions with friends in Iran that the Iranian government indeed supply weapons/finacial aid to Herzbollah. This doesn't surprise me and I can see the strategic reason for such help. Again, we only need look at the Taliban to see that this same activity is excepted practice by Washington – the Taliban, like many other such outfits, armed and trained (by the CIA) as a proxy army. I could recite many more examples around the globe where Washington has backed oppressive militants to lever an advantage. In fact I would not be surprised if the CIA have been indirectly assisting, or at least not interupting a possible flow of arms to Herzbollah. Ultimatly Herzbollah will not match the material might of Israel (also aided by the American veto at the UN) and an escalation only serves to help the wider interests of America/corporations in the Middle East.

I hope that this is of help to you and, as I say, if you have any questions then please email me and I shall endeavor to respond.


Good luck with the article.

Kind regards,


[Letter from Zachery Fannin, producer with ABC News, 17th July 2006]

:: Hello from ABC News in New York USA


My name is Zach Fannin and I am a producer with ABC News in New York City. I am writing you because I would love to talk to you about your reaction to Israel's alligation that Iran is suppling weapons and possibly troops to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Could I talk to you on the phone sometime tomorrow afternoon say 4pm or 5pm your time? [...].





*Frida Berrigan, Senior Research Associate with the Arms Trade Resource Center at the World Policy Institute: "Military aid stands at about $3 billion a year. That’s about $500 for every Israeli citizen that the United States provides on an annual basis."

Rep. Ron Paul: Underwriting the Taliban

BBC: How democratic is the Middle East?

Chomsky: "Israel and the United States at once announced that they were going to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election. And the punishment has been severe."



How the table looked at the time I managed to get to the food.

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"Where's your father?", enquired one of the senior males sitting around the garden table, indicating that – unlike the week before – I actually had been invited to the event I'd turned up to. Yet somewhat annoyingly, my father had failed to inform me this was the case, making me assume I was gate-crashing the second wedding within one week.

This time around I had accompanied an uncle, once again, to a family wedding – a consolation from the previous week's wedding where, if there was the all-important after-party – I wasn't invited. This occasion however, was to be that all-important after-party – the mixed-sex, go-wild and dance-because-it's-generally-forbidden part.

"Mr. Daveed, hello, how are you?", smiled another senior as I struggled to remember how I knew her or even if I was related. This was one of the many warm greetings I received during the evening, yet I was embarrassed as I failed to recognise most faces or associations. It troubled me that they knew me and asked knowing questions while I tried to not let my amnesic moment notice by making calculated guesses, "Yes, when was it now? I saw you at that funeral?".

I met the bride and groom mid photo-shoot and again was surprised that they knew me whereas I drew blank, generalising my questions. The all-female camera-crew of 3-DV camera-persons and 2-photographers interrupted me, circling the newly weds and demanding cliched poses. It seemed that another of the impressively over-produced wedding DVDs was under construction.

I joined the pulsing dance floor, with silhouettes of bouncing Iranians singing along to the contemporary tunes played by the band on the stage before them. The perimeter of the room was lined with chudored ladies watching on as hair was not only on display but fully let down. A young female cousin took my hand and led me to dance, her giggling friends surprised that I'd picked up a few moves whereas I was surprise at how close she danced. The music variety was as mixed as the dance-floor, with a blend of regional traditional-tones played at a higher tempo. I could not remember atmospheres as good as this, nightclubs in other lands cannot compete with such moments in Iran – what is gained in ability is made up for with intoxication, I pondered.

A line of angled tables ran up the roofed drive way, decorated with flame torches and many exuberantly presented dishes. Rice spilled from the torso of a stuffed sheep, as the head of which sat to the side and little forward. Neighbouring the steaming remains stood creme caramels, sharing the tables with the usual main courses and mixed salads. The area was sectioned off while the camera crew took care of business, asking the newly weds to parade and take the occasional sample.

The more feeble guests eventually joined me in swimming a spoon around in search of meat, I poked at the bones of a sheep, lifted rice and ran the cutlery through the more stew like dishes - no flesh remained

Following the 2nd take the visitor were set free with mostly women in the forward position. Mothers made for the plates and cutlery, screaming instructions to their immediate family while amassing plates with the meat from any dish present. With my arms above my head holding a plate in the right hand and cutlery in left, I drifted downstream, unable to access the tables. Forced along by elbows, hands and plates as I contemplated my soft English manner, "excuse me", "I'm sorry, can I just...?", "please, you first!". The more feeble guests eventually joined me in swimming a spoon around in search of meat, I poked at the bones of a sheep, lifted rice and ran the cutlery through the more stew like dishes - no flesh remained.

Having found my cousins in the garden I shuffle plates around their table to make room for my vegetarian option. Possibly 12-plates towered with food between these 6-people, each one possibly half containing parts of animals congealing with creme caramel and salad dressing. "Here Daveed, I can't eat any more chicken", offered a cousin to my right as I stared on at the Jenga-like display of flesh on the centre plate.

"Have you found a girl to be your wife?", discretely asked the cousin to my left before adding that she thought those available at the wedding were below average. "Your dad doesn't want you to marry", interrupted another cousin, explaining that he could do without the expense. The subsequent communal laughter explained a few things. Further comments were made by non-relatives that I failed to understand, putting me on the defensive – shamefully I resorted to cutting the topic short by remarking on advice from a senior, "our grandmother says that Iranian girls are not good and I should find an English bride". I wasn't proud when I saw the jaws of my three female cousins drop, yet the desire effect came about as I made a sharp exit back to the dance floor choosing the warmer company of distant blood.



The foyer. Men enter the hall on the left and women on the right.

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"Commas follow words and spaces follow commas", I instructed. "Thank you, so I'll see you at the wedding on Thursday then", typed my cousin's husband following a brief messenger English lesson. "Who's wedding?", I replied, "They're already married", I later spelled out after hearing of this not too distant relative about to tie the proverbial knot – this however was the first I'd heard. Why I was hearing this from a more distant relative baffled me and why my father also knew nothing about this was more intriguing. After consulting the slightly deficient, all-seeing-eye of my grandmother, it became clear that the ever relentless family-politics were very much alive. "You can have my invite", she kindly offered, neglecting to elaborate on what I think she knew.

I got an answer regarding my confusion about why I thought this couple were already married – apparently engagements are often seen as the definitive commitment, where dowries (the sum – normally in gold coins – asked as an insurance policy by the daughter's side) are set between families among other important matters. I have frequently seen engaged couples publicly embraced and even nights shared, whether this is fully acceptable, I'm still not sure – yet with this couple I am convinced I've been told they were fully married. Quite what the issue was with my father and his clan – myself included of course – I did not know, sadly it could have been one of a great many things. I protested as calmly as I could that it was not my grandmother's invite I wanted, but answers and of course the opportunity to freely go to a wedding – one of few occasions where communal joy is legally allowed.

A troubled face befell the father of the bride as he looked into the distance searching for some thought that would trigger his memory as to why he thought that my father and appendages would be out of town. It was a convincing display, probably rehearsed too. I stood before him, dressed for a funeral – which was more in keeping with preference than in protest – accompanied by my uncle who responded with a witty English phrase before leaving me to translate. Surprise befell my cousins and their husbands as they arrived – I struggled to remain objective as they coldly reminded me that I wasn't invited and didn't venture beyond this in our brief foyer encounter.

The non-groom element must simulate the bride in some uncomfortably close gyrating

Surprise also befell the grooms face as I greeted him on the dance floor in the all-male hall. As we circled the groom waving tissues up and down, ducking under the three video cameras, I leant forward and passed a token sum of money like the others around me. This gesture indicated that it was my turn to dance with the groom – such moments trouble me, as it seems as if the non-groom element must simulate the bride in some uncomfortably close gyrating. It was around this time that my attention was stolen as screams of joy were traveling through the curtain that divided the sexes within the hall – just how exactly were the women simulating the groom I thought?

Between the usual buffet dinner of traditional Iranian dishes consisting mostly of rice, I engaged in conversation with the husbands of my cousins. One would pry and the other ignored all subjects except the World Cup. His 3-year old son did much the same, "How are you?", I asked with no answer, "Do you like swimming?", I asked, in an attempt to invite a related topic, yet no answer again. "Can you swim?", blank, "Can you talk?" nothing.

While we waited in the foyer for our respective females I enquired as to where the usual mixed after-ceremony party was. A mumbled response came from the husbands of my cousins, indicating that if there was, they wouldn't bother going. "We'll see you soon, maybe at your wedding, god willing", joked the groom with me as we paced around without a sign of the ladies. "It could be soon if you find me a suitable girl at the after-ceremony party", I planted, but only received silence after his smile of acknowledgment. It was 10.30pm and the foyer filled with the decorative generations of Iranian women, I'd managed to find my aunty whom, although has been in the country for 2-months, I've not seen for nearly two years. It seemed she'd passed me in the foyer along with all three of her daughters – was there something I was missing maybe? A brief natter in the car park was closed short by our waiting cars, it was too early to go home but that's where at least my car was going.

As the dolled-up guests were probably about to find the final event, to mix among more distant blood, I would be going home to find answers among the closest blood after having gate-crashed a family wedding.



The first wave of the 800 attendees to the summer swimming classes.

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"Uncle Mehdi... [inaudible squeal of a young child]?", asked one of the unruly children while another four stood beside also squealing for my attention. "No, I'm Uncle Daveed", I corrected before attempting to decipher the words from the squeal. It was just before this that Uncle Abraheim, one of the many instructors, had palmed-off half of the two-dozen 4-6-year old non-swimmers, as I sat in on the first of the season's swimming lessons in the sport complex I work. Initially I had been asked to "help out" both the instructors and lifeguards (essentially meaning observe, take notes and report back – quality-control or spying by another name) during this one-month period where just over 800-attendees were to sit through the 12-sessions. Although "help out" didn't necessarily indicate my direct involvement, it was when I observed Uncle Abraheim's division that I mucked-in – partly by request – yet to also cool down by taking to the water.

During the initial stages, Uncle Abraheim had asked the children to stand in a circle and hold hands. I saw a crying child – yet to be linked – took his hand and we joined the circle where I then asked him what was wrong. "I cannot", he repeatedly whimpered referring to his reluctance to put his face in the water. My overly animated examples and possibly reassuring words didn't seem to help, nor those of the equally as young child holding his other hand. The circle later broke and chaos ensued, Uncle Abraheim's most unified moment had passed as the children took matters into there own hands. Some carried on the techniques, yet most desolved into playtime as Uncle Abraheim chose to individually attend to his students. The many attempts to later regain control failed and my limited Farsi was unable to stop Uncle Abraheim's mutiny, yet in the anarchic conversion I saw light, "Uncle Mehdi?", requested the child who formerly couldn't put his face in the water, "Uncle Daveed!", I corrected as he placed his full face under the water to blow a fart-noise before lifting it with a grin.

Uncle Abraheim was alone in his difficulties as other instructors nearby confidently led their classes. I pondered the errors of his technique and felt an amount of responsibility in the disorder. Was it maybe the age-range I reasoned or his abnormally large class size, maybe the lack of preparation – either way my debrief with him seemed to raise no concerns as he shrugged and chuckled out, "Kids aren't they?".

circled by his various showering lotions that were one-by-one attended to with a special shower-glove

"Hurry up and get out the shower", screamed a lifeguard to a child, circled by his various showering lotions that were one-by-one attended to with a special shower-glove. The children – although staggered – exited the pool and cramped into the undersized changing rooms, battling for space and struggling to remember where they'd left their belongings. The younger children stood shivering in silence, seemingly incapable of clothing themselves in the absence of their parents before one of our team assumed the role mum. "Dry yourself and put on your clothes, your parents are waiting", I informed one child who stared back at me with no response. "Have you got a towel?" I followed up – partly joking, "no", he replied.

As I tidied up after the children who slowly exited to waiting families I placed baskets and sandals back by the entrance for the second of the three sessions. "Mr., is my son in there?", asked one of the three women inside of the doorway. I dropped a sandal or two in surprise and took a moment to answer. It is strictly forbidden for men to enter when women are in session and vice versa, yet other staff members, also at the entrance, seemed nonplussed. I stood stunned, overly conscious of my legs on display below my shorts as the need to run for cover gradually subsided to a realisation of cultural conditioning.

I chose to take my observations to the ticket office that unfortunately was still buzzing with late-comers hoping to make the next session. My decision for Uncle Daveed to "help out" in a more peaceful environment had led to further chaos as the bulk of parents, in no known order, shouted similar queries. They were as unruly as their children I considered, feeling the need to shrug and repeat the words of Uncle Abraheim, "Kids aren't they?".