There were hundreds of olive drab Huey and Cobra helicopters parked in row upon row on the tarmac at a military base in Isfahan, Iran. Those helicopters were awaiting Iranian pilots and mechanics to be trained by Americans to make them soar over the desert with vast reservoirs of oil hidden beneath. The domed mosques in Isfahan were a beacon of color and intricate design amidst a desolate landscape surrounding the city. The ancient city of Isfahan had once been a capital of Persia with a vibrant history as a trading and commercial center for crafts and art.
The slate sky was crushing him as he hurried to get on the bus. Jack Dakasian was sitting on an Iranian bus behind the driver in a seat that faced the aisle with a rifle pointed directly at his abdomen. The seats on the bus had firm cushions something akin to an American school bus, nothing plush and luxuriant like tourist excursion buses. Opposite him was a youthful conscript of the Iranian Army, asleep with his rifle cradled carelessly aimed at him. It was the early morning trip to the military base. Jack was teaching technical English, which meant he was teaching in English all parts of the Bell Helicopter called the Huey, the workhorse of the U.S. Army’s chopper force. The hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts were for hundreds of helicopters and the training of Iranian pilots and mechanics. The Americans had a mission: train the technologically inferior Iranians.
He kept thinking how did I get here? But he knew. They were all there for those salaries. He had first gone to Thailand for two years because he wanted to be in Southeast Asia, near Vietnam where his older brother David had been killed in the war. The noblest calling in life was fighting injustice David said to his younger brother before he went off to war.
Now Jack was sitting on a bus in Iran going to teach at a military base for pay that was like attracting fruit flies to open fruit. He embraced the salary before he embraced the job. The high pay was security and refuge as he sat there with that compensation comforting him. Those wages consoled him when he was in Belmedia’s headquarters watching a movie on Iran on how the Shah was building up his military, his navy and air force to be the protector of the Persian Gulf.
Jack was thinking of those colorful Thai shirts he had collected while in Thailand for the two previous years. He had purchased nearly a dozen of the shirts. He relished and savored the spicy hot Thai food as much as he liked those shirts. He had not wanted to leave the land of wonderful food and colorful shirts and the land of the tuk-tuk, the colloquial name for the three-wheeled taxi called the samlor. While in Thailand he felt the soothing kindness of the place, despite all the cacophony of sounds in such a large city as Bangkok. The vibrant colors and the vivid sun in Thailand reminded him of the Blanket flower with its bright red center surrounded by yellow creating a flower petal of red and yellow.
Now a lucrative paycheck had been a magnet for him, taking him to a new place, a different country. He did not have the lush countryside and the coastal beaches and towns to view the ocean. He thought about Amara with her smile so beautiful and captivating. There was the time when they had been traveling together on the long tail boat to the ancient capital. They ate spicy food on the way and enjoyed all the sights and sounds. The Thai dishes were delectable and colorful matching the bright, sunny days and blue skies.
That large salary in Iran was an enticement to him as well as to nearly fifty thousand other Americans to work in Iran, a country where his knowledge was restricted to knowing the name of its largest city, Tehran. Few of his colleagues had ever earned so much income. Some of them started imagining those sums accumulating in their bank accounts, sitting very tidy in neat rows and columns. That money sitting in bank accounts was comforting and soothing, but Dakasian did not go as far as thinking about a swelling bank account.
Neither Jack nor his colleagues gave a thought to the fact that the vast oil revenues of Iran were paying for those high salaries. No doubt, the Iranian people were well aware of that fact, for their government paid for the military build-up on land, sea and air with Dakasian’s country providing the hardware, software and training to fulfill the Shah’s grandiose vision of a new Persian Empire. The former Persian Empire and Farsi were not part of Jack’s or his colleagues’ vocabulary. The history and language of the country were no more than gibberish to many of his compatriots.
When Jack first arrived by van to his hotel in Isfahan he was amazed at the intricate designs and beautiful mosaic patterns of mosque domes. The Zayandeh-Rood River passing through Isfahan permitted thriving gardens in an oasis nourishing generations of Persians. The lack of vegetation was noticeable from the airport to the hotel. Growing up among forests and thick vegetation near the Adirondacks made Jack yearn for such a landscape and lament the lack of trees and bushes. He liked the tropics because the foliage was lush and forever green.
The word bazaar is a Persian word universally used to mean marketplace. The vast size of the Bazaar of Isfahan made it one of the earliest and largest covered “malls” in the world. Neither Jack nor his colleagues had any knowledge of these things; they were there to teach to the modern day Persians. They were there to teach the Iranians weapons of war. The Americans were instructors, experts, and Iranians were pupils and students who needed to learn the new technology of war. Out with the old and in with the new was in the minds of the newcomers arriving in Iran, but not necessarily on their lips.
The helicopter manufacturer was headquartered in Texas. The young Iranian military students first needed to learn English and most of them had never heard of Texas. Each lesson incorporated all the parts, tools and aviation terminology for helicopters. The Shah of Iran was poised to become, in his eyes, the mightiest military power in his part of the world. The Shah would resuscitate the ancient Persian Empire into the Twentieth Century. Those helicopters were part of the military arsenal he was building up. Before Dakasian departed for Iran, the company Belmedia, based in Chicago, showed all employees a documentary film of the Iranian military guarding the Persian Gulf by sea and air from any potential aggressors.
But now that might and power of the Shah was directed at Dakasian who winced as he moved to another seat in the back of the bus away from one of the trusted guardians of the Shah’s fledgling empire in the making, who was asleep with his weapon. A week before, a pipe bomb had damaged one of the many buses taking Americans to the army base. Now, Iranian Army guards were assigned to all buses with Americans traveling to Bagh-e-Shah helicopter base in Isfahan, Iran.
At the school the American teachers were all dressed alike in gray pants, light blue shirts and navy neckties, a uniform they were issued and required to wear soon after their arrival. Jack always found neckties uncomfortable and it was like a precursor to strangling as he fiddled to loosen it. He sometimes tugged on his necktie only to tighten it. He then had to use both hands to loosen the knot.
The daily bus to the military base was full of young American instructors in their uniforms of pale blue shirts, gray pants and navy ties. The bus passed through the Iranian checkpoint to the base and then stopped in the parking lot next to the light colored brick buildings. The teachers quickly made their way to the squat brick classroom buildings.