Sunday, December 10, 2006

From Sofia Fog to VOA Studios in London

This week I made a short trip to Sofia, Bulgaria, with a very good friend of mine. Our plane was due to land in Sofia, but the fog was so strong that the plane had to be diverted to another airport in Plovdiv. We were then huddled on to a coach and drove all the way back to Sofia. No wonder the plane couldn't land in Sofia. Not only Bulgaria's main airport does not have adequate runway flood lighting, but we realised how dense the fog really was as the coach approached Sofia. No motorway lighting either by the way, and the road from Sofia to Plovdiv apparently is the best road in the country.

Despite the fog, the coach driver seemed quite happy to overtake other cars, making some passengers nervous but personally I wanted him to get us to Sofia as quickly as possible. I was dying to take a leak. The gents at the Plovdiv airport only had one urinal and there was a large queue outside it. So when we got to Sofia, I asked my friend to get my bag, while I quickly rushed off to the gents for a much welcomed relief.

When I came back, my friend was talking to this old Bulgarian guy. He was one of those unofficial taxis hanging outside the airports. I asked my friend why he didnt get a normal taxi? "I felt sorry for him, seeing him hustling for an extra Lev in his old age." was my friend's justification.

The old man took us to his ancient Skoda two door car, with our light luggage barely fitting in the small boot, we struggled to get in the car, which was covered with old blankets, hiding the wear and tear on the seats. My friend sat at the back next to his bag and I sat in the front. Finally the car managed to start, and we got going. The heater in the car wasn't working and the windscreen kept steaming up. The fog and the constant build up of the steam made a mockery of the term "driving vision", but the old Bulgarian had a solution for all this. He used an old vest to frequently wipe the windscreen which enabled us to temporarily see the few inches ahead. I kept turning back and looked at my friend everytime we had a close shave with another car on the road which seemed to appear from nowhere. I didnt say anything, but he kept repeating "I felt sorry for the poor old boy."

Our driver said he spoke many languages. He knew a few words in Persian, and a few words in Turkish. He said his German was better than his English, but when I tried to speak to him in German, I realised his German was even more limited than mine.
"What you do in Bulgaria?" He asked me as he wiped the screen with the vest. I felt confident enough to say whatever I liked just to make the situation a bit more lighthearted. "We are here to kill someone. If its ok we would like to then blame you for it. Is that ok?" I said to him. "Yes, ok, good!" He gave me the thumbs up.

When we got to the heart of the city, we realised the driver did not know where our hotel was! "eine moment!" He kept saying as he switched his car off, got out of the car, taking the car keys with him, and asked other drivers or pedestrians for directions. Everytime he stopped and got out to ask for directions, I turned around and looked at my friend, questioning his judgement with my looks only. "I felt sorry for the poor old boy" was the usual reply from the back.

Taxi drivers, who presumably saw him as a threat to their livelihood, seemed to give him the wrong directions all the time, and the pedestrians had never heard of our hotel.
Finally I got fed up, and got out of the car myself, asking younger female pedestrians where the hotel was, and eventually we did arrive. The "poor old boy" asked us for what we later found out was double the usual cab fare from the airport. I looked at my friend, when the driver asked for the fare. "I pay him, don't worry" My friend said as he got his Lev notes out.

The fog lingered on all day for the next day too. In fact our Bulgarian host said the fog had been around for two weeks, which was extremely unusual phenomenon. Prior to our flight, I had looked at the BBC weather report which predicted sunny 10 degrees for the next two days in Sofia. Its not just BBC reports from Iran that are inaccurate then, I thought to myself.

We came back to London from Bulgaria never seeing the sun. Our plane was delayed but while planes couldnt land in the fog, they could eventually take off. I was worried about getting back to London in time. I had an interview with VOA in the evening, and while in Bulgaria I had not updated myself with any news about Iran. When I got back, I jumped straight into bed and nodded off almost immediately, catching up with some much needed sleep, only to be woken up by Behnood Mokri from VOA, who had rang to remind me about the interview. I was so tired, I almost wanted to ask Behnood for a postponement, but I like Behnood, and didn't want to let him down. So quickly got dressed and drove to VOA studios in Fleet street, London. This was the interview:
Part I:
Part II:

I felt I did too much umming and erring, and at times I struggled to find the right words. I seemed to have the Sofia fog in my brain, my thinking was not as clear as it should be. I also forgot to mention a lot of things that I should have said. For example the demo outside the Russian embassy in London, to condemn Putin's support for the Islamic Republic on Tuesday, 12th Dec, between 13:00 - 16:00.


Anonymous said...

Your interview was great. One can always do better but what you said was very informative and consistent.
keep it up!

Anonymous said...

اگر شرايط بلغارستان پس از بيش از يک دهه رهايی از شر کمونيسم کماکان اين اندازه وخيم است، اين پرسش پيش می آيد که پس اوضاع و احوال در زمان اقتدار کمونيستها چه بوده است. شرم و ننگ بر تمام حکومتهای ايدئولوژيک.ـ

مصاحبة خوبی با تلويزيون صدای آمريکا داشـتيد. درود بر شما.ـ

Azarmehr said...

پاشای گرامی، نکته جالبی را گوشزد کردید. این مهد پرلتاریا پس از این همه سال سوسیالیزم یک جاده درست حسابی ندارد. چند عکس جالب دارم که شاید در فرصت مناسب در وبلاگ قرار دهم. یکی یک نقاشی تبلیغاتی هست و دیگری یک عکس از واقعیت چگونه زیستن کارمندان و کارگران یک کارخانه. حکومت های ایدیولژیک البته در کارهای تبلیغاتی خیلی خبره هستند.!

E. Frank van Persie said...

Your interview was excellent. Good show.

Anonymous said...

پتکين عزيز، ماجرای جاده و خيابان خراب در کشورهای کمونيستی از داستان های مفرح ذات است. آقای اتابک فتح الله زاده که از کمونيستهای فدايی بوده است و مدتی پس از کودتای بيست و دوم بهمن به همراه تنی چند از ديگر فداييان خلق از ايران فرار می کند چند سال پيش کتاب خاطرات خود را به نام « خانة دائی يوسف» منتشر کرده است. او در اين کتاب به شرح فرار خود و ديگر رفقا نيز پرداخته است. آقای فتح الله زاده می نويسد که هنگامی که خاک ايران را ترک کرده و وارد جاده های اتحاد جماهير سوسياليستی شوروی که اکنون قلمرو جمهوری آذربايجان می باشد، شده بودند به ناگه وضع جاده خراب می شود. رفقای فدايی ولی بر اين عقيده بوده اند که کماکان در خاک ايران می باشند و آن جادة ويران
نمی تواند در کشور دولت پرولتريا باشد. سرانجام آن رفقا البته متوجه اشتباه خود می شوند.ـ

به نظر می رسد که دولتهای کمونيستی در تمام دنيا نمونة بارز بی لياقتی و عقب ماندگی هستند. خوشحالم که دست استالينيستهای کمونيست هيچ گاه به خاک مقدس ايران نرسيد و نخواهد رسيد. دست استالينيستهای اسلامی حاکم بر ايران را هم بزودی قطع می کنيم.ـ

از فرصت استفاده می کنم و روز نجات آذربايجان، سر وطن عزيزمان را به همة ايران دوستان و بويژه آذربايجانی های غيور شادباش می گويم. ۲۱ آذر روزی است که ارتش ايران به رهبری شاه وطن پرست خود و به تدبير نخست وزير لايق خود آذربايجان را به ايران بر گرداند. ۲۱ آذر از روزهای درخشان تاريخ ايران است. اين روز گرامی باد.ـ