Tag Archives: armed guards
National flag of Iran

Traveling Iran in a mini-skirt, 1968

As a group of AFSers we were taken on a bus trip to Isfahan and Shiraz, which are more southerly cities, and very ancient and fascinating.  We stopped at Persepolis, which was an ancient Persian ruin, and we stopped at Qom which is the holy city.

At the time all of us girls were wearing mini-skirts.  We got off the bus to go in search of a particular mosque, and a crowd of people from Qom, the religious city came, ran after us to trying to stone us, but we ran back to the security of the bus and zoomed off into the night, because this is a religious city and we were insulting them by not wearing chador.  They were throwing rocks at us.


Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran.

Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran – Image via Wikipedia

And you know, I’m sitting there on the bus thinking: “What is with these two AFS organizers, these women, where’s their head that they put us in such danger?”

Isfahan and Shiraz were absolutely stunning, beautiful cities.  I think it was when we were coming — I can’t remember whether it was Isfahan or Shiraz, I’ll never forget this — we round the bend and overlooking the side of mountain are soldiers with rifles pointed out at anyone about to make this entrance into the city.


Perspolis ,Shiraz

Perspolis ,Shiraz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know for a sixteen-year-old from suburban Massachusetts, it was very different.  The cities are so ancient, so beautiful.  I just remember the white of the desert and the blue of the tile from the mosque.  The sky was blue.  The tile was blue.  There was gold trim, and the white of the desert, and it was just beautiful.  Beautiful!

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A Year in Egypt

I went to Egypt only one year after Anwar Sadat was assassinated.  Security was very tight.  I remember walking down the steps from the plane to the tarmac and seeing soldiers with guns at the bottom!  On the drive to the pension where we spent our first night in the country, more armed soldiers were positioned behind sandbags in windows along the thoroughfare.  I remember wondering if I could handle living in such a place.  That memory overshadows actually meeting my host family the next morning.

Flag of Hungary

Reflexive ‘holy shit’ moment

It was a little disconcerting.  As you probably know, all the exchange students travelled from the US together.  We landed in Budapest not knowing what to expect.  We saw army men on the ground with machine guns through the windows of the airplane.  We had to walk down a ladder to deplane and get onto a bus.  There were people on top of the airport watching the planes come in waiving at us.  One of the US girls from Alaska started crying.  We waited together for our luggage in a holding pen for a while and heard Hungarian over the airport intercom.  The exchange students from New Zealand joined us.  Finally, they opened these two-way-mirrored sliding doors and let us out of the holding pen after we got our luggage.  This scary lady with crazy blue and silver eyeshadow ran up to me and started kissing me on my cheek.  Turned out she was my first host-mother.  I was absolutely speechless.  My soon to be host-father grabbed my luggage and whisked me off to a bus.  A girl my age sat next to me and asked me questions in English and German for the three hour bus ride to the town where we would be living.  Then we took a taxi to the apartment where we would be staying — they took me to my room and I went to sleep.  I think I slept for almost two days.  I definitely had a reflective “holy shit” moment.