Tuesday, December 19, 2006


When I reached my destination, a future construction site, there was a French construction camp, fully built, right alongside. They were there to build a damn which they hadn’t started on yet, being too busy building their camp. I noticed a beauty shop while driving through their camp. They have quite a different culture.

I had to go and pay my respects to the French project manager so he would know what I was doing in the area and so he could anticipate the huge influx that would follow me. It was also in my mind that we might be treated as chance visitors to American construction camps were treated. In the American camps we would greet and treat lowly backpackers as if they were royalty, providing them with food and housing for as long as they wished to stay. Crazy Americans.

In contrast, French were quite reserved. They hesitantly said they could put me up but not my Greek companion. Being an American that, of course, left me no choice. We were both thrown on the local economy.

The local civilization was a village called Rudbar. It can be found on the map below to the west-northwest of Qazvin. Luckily the village had a hotel. Many villages that size did not, but it was on a route to the Caspian Sea used by truckers. The hotel was located at the bottom of a deep canyon. (Years later I heard that much of Rudbar was wiped out by an earthquake. No doubt it was that portion in the bottom of that canyon. Iran was the worst place for earth tremblers I had ever been, and I was raised in San Francisco.)

It was a two story hotel with perhaps eight rooms. We were given a large room on the bottom that had a dirt floor. The “rest room” was a hole in the ground outside. I noticed squashed bed bugs on the bed linen and asked for clean sheets.

“But these are clean,” the hotel manager protested. “They have only been slept on once.” He reluctantly changed them.

There was only one place we could park our vehicle: the police compound. Every police outpost in these kinds of villages was surrounded by walls. Our equipment and supplies would be safe there. We gave them food and money in exchange.

My orders were to phone our headquarters in Tehran if and when we found the construction site. When I asked to use ‘the’ phone, I was directed to a building close by. This was the phone building. It contained the only phone in the village. The entire function of that building was to house that one phone. The phone sat on a table in the middle of a large room as if it was some kind of an idol.

We actually got through to our main office. The connection was pretty bad. They seemed amazed that I really called. They had never heard of Rudbar but thought that was a funny name. That was the extent of our conversation.

I finished my site survey in a week and headed back to Tehran. That was the first one I had done. They were so pleased at the result that I was given the job of site investigation for keeps. I went out first and alone to every new construction site to do surveys and scout around.

Lucky me.


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