As you can see, I'm doing a happy dance to see Voluntary Nomads published! The e-book should be ready within ten days.
In case you're waiting for the digital version, here's an excerpt from Chapter 6 to keep you entertained:
In an effort to pry me out of my end-of-Tehran-honeymoon funk, Fred suggested that we volunteer to make the non-pro courier run to Tabriz. The city of Tabriz, the fourth largest city in Iran and a commercial, industrial, and transportation center, had an American consular office that was a one-person outpost. For such a small operation, the embassy recruited volunteers to carry the diplomatic pouch, and designated them "non-pro couriers." Fred hadn't taken a turn because he didn't want to leave the rest of us home alone. After we made friends with the Goffs, though, a couple of months before the Caravanserai trip, we hatched a plan to trade off caring for each other's children occasionally. That gave us the option of evenings out, and, if all went well, an overnight trip. I called Norma for her approval and Fred requested the courier run to Tabriz.
The trip involved flying to Tabriz, delivering the pouch, spending the night at a hotel, and returning to Tehran the next afternoon. I had a few moments of terror when I thought about the distance between my babies and me, but Norma Goff's unfaltering calm quieted my fears. Fred and I took off as excited as a bride and groom embarking on a real honeymoon.
Couriers, even the non-pro, flew first class so they could get off the plane quickly and secure the pouches. First class status also enhanced our honeymoon atmosphere. Once we arrived in Tabriz, an official car met us at the air terminal and took us to the consular office where we delivered the pouch. Mr. Ex, the consular officer, suggested sightseeing possibilities and several restaurants that we might enjoy for our evening meal. He invited us to lunch at his home the following day.
After checking into our hotel, we set out to see the city. We intended to take in all the sights recommended by Mr. Ex, but we spent most of the day wandering in the extensive covered bazaar, admiring the amazing variety of beautiful and precious things for sale. When we stopped at a tea stall for refreshments, a group of older men invited Fred to share their hookah (galyan in Farsi). As the smoke from flavored tobacco leaves burbled through the water pipe, I watched my husband blend into the exotic surroundings and become a romantic figure of mystery and intrigue. It's possible I enjoyed the experience more than he did, struggling as he was to stifle a coughing fit from the harshness of the tobacco.
I don't remember what we ate that night, but I do remember our conversation at dinner. Try as we might to find another subject, we kept coming back to what was foremost on both our minds – yep, our kiddos. We spent the whole evening talking about them, how wonderful and clever they were, and how much we missed them.
The next day we arrived at Ex's home unfashionably early, revealing our eagerness to get home. Ex waxed eloquent through the appetizer, soup, main course, salad, dessert and coffee. He showed off his broad knowledge of all things Iranian and demonstrated his fluency in Farsi. I sneaked peeks at my watch as time plodded on. Shortly after the last bite of dessert, time sped up as I realized we needed to leave for the airport soon. I mentioned the time to Ex, and he said, "Don't worry, my driver is ready and waiting, you won't miss your flight, if that's what you're thinking." He changed the subject to his favorite, carpets, and off he went on a never-ending monologue.
As Ex droned on, I stopped sneaking peeks and began to make exaggerated time-checks. Finally, I stood up and made a direct request to leave for the airport. Fred looked surprised but didn't object. Ex's face showed his exasperation, but he did let us go. When we arrived at the airport, boarding had already completed and we had to scurry across the tarmac in order to make our flight with zero time to spare.
Thirty-some years later, I'm still annoyed with Mr. Ex. When I heard that he had been taken hostage at the embassy during the long siege, I pondered the mysterious workings of karma. One of the popular inside stories of that time described Ex as a constant irritant to his captors. He allegedly harassed them with scathing insults and angered them with frequent escape attempts. We heard that the hostage takers hated him so much they stopped the prisoners' bus on the way to the release point, simply to give Ex one last beating.
Back home in Tehran we reunited with our kids and learned that they had had their own excitement during our absence. After dinner the night before our return, Dakota went to the bathroom by himself. When Norma checked on him a few minutes later, she discovered he had locked the door and couldn't get out. He started to cry. Norma used her best powers of persuasion to get him to calm down. The old-fashioned locks used a large key, the type we used to call a skeleton key, and Norma convinced him to pull the key out of the lock and slide it under the door toward her. She could then unlock the door from her side and free the prisoner. The experience taught Dakota something about locks and keys and foreshadowed an adventure to come years later in another country. ###
Find Voluntary Nomads on Amazon.