Up at 7 for the long trail out to the visa extension office and fortunately it was some guy called Rob had had the experience of going there to find it had moved, not me. Thankfully Rob had put directions to it on the noticeboard, south side up no less just to confuse matters, and though finding it relatively easily if far away, there was a whole new ordeal to negotiate. With umpteen indistinguishable counters, it transpired that I had to visit 2 unsigned external booths after a management office, practically everywhere except the 2 desks marked in English "Visa Extension and Reception". The previous sensible system of paying on the spot had been replaced with the rigmaroll of traipsing out in search of a branch of the Bank Melli perhaps 2Ks away, where the tellers were as unimpressed as I was but reluctantly accepted my cash eventually, only to head back again and join the melee of mainly Afghans. Some must have been illiterate, they paid to have their forms filled in and had to ask where to put their fingerprint in lieu of a signature. Upon return, bank receipt in hand, I was promptly told to come back the same time the next day which was a bit much. I gave it the unimpressed routine and was ushered back to the management office where my grovelling seemed to do the trick. It had been one queue to buy a folder and 2 forms, another to have them stapled together, they were the same breed of bullshit bureaucrats I had seen in Dohuk, Iraq. Mercifully, it was I who managed to jump the queue for once and I had the extension in the bag after only half an hour. I had needed 11 days in order to catch the fortnightly train to Pakistan but had braced myself to expect the standard minimum 10, it would be sods law. Remarkably though, and despite the boy saying one month, I got the 2 weeks I had asked for without a hitch and was done by noon.
From one lost suburb I excelled myself in tracking down another with the help of an only just sufficiently scaled map, in the course of which I incredibly came across a Christmas shop with a window full of trees and Santas. I was in my element as I walked in the midday sun, surrounded by Huey transport helicopters and Apache gunships throbbing about, more blue tiled domes and minarets, and an impressive angular mountain shaped it seemed like an anvil. The day took on a different complexion however when I reached my goal, the Golestan-e Shohada, or Martyrs Cemetery, where I had come to see the perturbing sight of countless young faces lost in the Iran-Iraq War. Each grave was capped with an inscribed stone and a photo of the unfortunate behind it, many were merely kids. The throb of the helicopters overhead took on a more sinister edge, it was like the opening scene of Apocalypse Now. I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear. On the way back, I made full capital by catching some of Esfehan's famous old bridges with a walk along the river, and then more tea and qalyan was the reward for a successful day.