Jumat, 26 Februari 2016

The Unsung Story of Iran: Journey to the “little Afghanistan” in northern Iran

The journey began when I started asking about “hookah” to one of Iranian friend here. He interpreted the hookah as a pipe to smoke opium. There was a misunderstanding between us, I assumed it was Shisha, not an opium pipe. Then we agreed to go somewhere during the night for hookah.

He called his cousin and friend to join. We had four people. They were really nice, like other Iranians. At that moment, I realized that we would smoke Opium, not a shisha as I had thought. They told me many things about how to do it for the first-timer. I was in the middle of excitement and scare. 

The journey took about 1 hour to reach to very small village, predominantly by The Kurds. We had to pass the road nobody travelled. It was covered by heavy snow and no road lights. We drove slowly as it was foggy too.

One of the friends, Naveed, went to the local shop to get some dates and sugars. I had no idea what for those. After the risky journey we arrived in one of the house. At first, the village was like other villages in Iran. However, this village was notorious for its cheap opium, 1gram pure opium for 1 USD only. 

We entered on of the houses; it was quite big with several houses. The gate was open and our car entered. We ventured one of the houses. There were two men there already. The older one, about 60+ years old was preparing for opium, and another one just greeted us friendlily. The Kurds are among the friendlies people to the foreigners. 

Naveed supposedly had called them before we reached there. We sat on the nice carpet inside shady house. The middle-age Kurd prepared for the hookah (pipe) for us. My friends introduced me to them and they seemed to be very happy to have foreigner there. That was my very first time to see Opium and the traditional way to prepare for opium.

Based on my observation, here is the opium preparation traditionally by the Iranian Kurds (and probably it is same elsewhere traditionally)

1.      Opium is cooked (or boiled) until it gets very saturated.
2.       One it becomes very thick, the “chef” keeps stirring it until it is very glutinous.
3.       The opium becomes wax and time to cool it down then it will become a latex-like form ready to consume.

These were my observation during my stay for about two hours

This was very first to consume opium and I am probably not going to take this anymore, once is enough, hopefully. While the man was preparing our hookah, we chatted and I was warned to not take a lot for the first time. Naveed prepared for the tea and he took a drum of charcoal. We agreed to buy 20 grams of Opium for four of us. 

The man heated the charcoal and also cleaned the pipe. The hookah pipe looked so cute for me. As a would-be smoker, I observed deeply to the man while he was preparing for us.

The pipe has bowl form the bottom with small hollow to place the slice of ready-opium. He made sure that the hollow was clear so we could smoke with no problem. At first, he tried for himself to check how it worked. He put the slice of ready-opium on the hole, and then another held with a charcoal to vaporize the opium. He did it very easily.

I didn’t take my first inhalation; I just wanted to observe them sucking the pipe. The first was the cousin of my friend’s turn. He did it not like a pro as he told me that he rarely did this unless somebody he knew really well asked him to go, but it was definitely not his first time, he did it several time, in Iran and surprisingly in Myanmar, he knew the place for opium in Myanmar. In fact, He and his brother have Bitumen Company in Myanmar where he frequently pays a visit.

The Kurd held the hookah and Ali (pseudo name) ready to suck the opium. At first Ali blew the pipe while the opium was just hairbreadth to the burning coal. He blew to make sure the opium vaporized, once it vaporized, the Kurd asked him to suck the vapor inside the pipe.

The smell was really irritating me, and they told me that it was normal for the would-be first timer to encounter that. Then my friend, Hamid (another pseudo name) was ready for his opium. He did it more easily. He sucked few times and then the small slice of opium on the hookah was already finished. The Kurd prepared for another slice.

I kept watching how to do it and also prayed hard for the “sin” that I would do. Hamid was done with his turn and the Kurd was ready to plunge me into opium world, and I just called it that The Opium war was just about to begin. My heart beat faster than usual, and it kept racing until I was just as closed as the relationship between China and Iran to the hookah. I took a few deep breaths before my turn. Ali translated the Kurd’s instructions to me. I blew the hookah mildly, no need strong blowing, the opium would detach from the hookah if I did. When the opium started melting and began to vaporize, he asked me to suck, as hard as possible. On the other hand, Hamid just warned me to not keep the smoke. I just kept for few seconds then voluntarily I exhaled it with great happiness. Then I thought it would be my first and last, but they insisted me to finish the small slice myself because they made it just for me specially. Okay, my first suck was great, good enough for first timer. I thought that I would cough after the inhalation, but I didn’t. I, furthermore, was ready for next turn for the second time. Then it was failed for the second time, not as well as before. The aftertaste was strongly attached on my epiglottis; I suddenly required tea and qorma, dates in Farsi. 

The other guys continued the ritual to suck the opium crystal and I just finished, I couldn’t do any longer. It took about 2 hours for this activity. Hamid asked me to leave the room as he and Naveed would take care of all the payments and its related activities. I went out bending myself over the small door to the white snow cold outside. I asked for one cigarette to warm myself. It was about 5 minutes waiting and all was well. Hamid took the car and we were ready to go back to the city. The kurd guy was smiling happily to me as if he was profoundly happy to see foreigner in his hookah house (I hope this is not the last I visit). He run after the car and knocked the car’s window

“Merci!” He said to me. I just smiled as I was blank out. He kept smiling on us until we officially couldn’t be seen from that place.

The journey back home was more challenging than before as none of us at our stably sober condition. We asked Hamid to drive slowly over the turns as not a single street lights beaming to the street and also the road was icy and white of snow. He drove very slowly to make sure we were safe to be at highway again. 

We were safe and the highway waited. Now, Hamid speeded up the car and he stopped somewhere to smoke weed, well yes once was not enough for him and Naveed. I just stayed inside the car and tried to sleep. Having finished the weed, we went home and drop everybody to their desired place to stop. Hamid and I continued home.

Hamid perfumed me with very strong scent to disguise the opium smell. Yes, the smell of the opium was very strong and it seemed that Hamid already had prepared for this, as he stocked the perfume in the car. As we were confident about our smell, we ventured home as we just told everybody in the house we had played snooker. This journey will remain at me and I hope I cant refuse to do it again anywhere I go.

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