Monday, December 15, 2008


After a delayed flight out of India, then not finding a stand-by seat out of London, I finally made it back to Calgary on Saturday. I was welcomed by the warm arms of my wife and the icy embrace of a Calgary cold snap. It was nearly 30 degrees when I got on the plane in Kolkata. When I got off the plane in Calgary it was minus 40 degrees with the wind-chill. Who needs anything like as amorphous as 'culture shock' when the landscape offers you actual physical shock.

My time home, however, will be short. I will be abroad again by mid-February visiting the West Bank Security barrier, the fencing around the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and the fallen wall on the divided island of Cyprus. I've been to Israel and Palestine several times and I am excited to return, but I am most looking forward to Cyprus. Aside from a little history, I don't know very much about the place, but I can't imagine a Greek and Turk-populated island in the Mediterranean can be anything less than beautiful. Certainly the weather will be better.

I will spend the next couple of months writing down the material I managed to glean from my time in India. As I mentioned before, I will have to return to Kashmir - and visit the Pakistan side - in the spring or summer of 2009 to do my research on the Line of Control, but I probably have enough material on the Indo-Bangladesh border fencing. I won't know for sure until I get writing.

Another task I have to accomplish before I leave is to prepare a lecture for a monthly gathering of the Canadian Author's Association in Edmonton. I was honoured when they invited me to address their membership in January and speak about travel writing. Still, I am nervous. I have no problem reading from my work in front of a crowd, in fact I really enjoy it, but I have never stood before an audience and talked about my own writing process and philosophy. I am sure it will be a useful exercise but I am feeling rather jittery.


Algis said...

Hello Marcello. My name is Algis and I live on Manitoulin Island. I am almost finished your book about travels in Iran and mentioned the fact to my daughter, Medeine. She told me you and her were at Banff together.
I have a new respect and outlook on wrestling because of your writing, and you have kindled an interest in Iranian poetry. Thank you.

Philip on the Down Tempo said...

Hello Marcello,

How are things? Are you well into your scheduled travels? I posted a comment on your blog several months ago about teaching Poets & Pahlevans in my Travel Writing course. I am in the process of preparing my course for the winter semester, and I going to begin with Poets & Pahlevans.

I am curious, if you do not mind me asking, how did your talk about travel writing go last month?

All the best in 2009- looking forward to reading more of your work.


Philip D.


Marcello Di cintio said...

Hi Algis. Thanks for your kind words, and please say hello to Medeine for me. I am trying to figure out when I am heading to Lithuania so I can employ her as a translator.

Marcello Di cintio said...

Hi Phillip.

Good to hear from you (and happy that you are still using P&P for your class.)

The travel writing talk is at the end of January. I am still worried about it. I am sure that you, as an educator, have some insights into the genre that I don't. Would you be willing to chat on the phone someday soon?


Subtopia said...


Nice to catch up here. Sounds like you had a very fruitful trip, really hope it serves your project well. Man, excellent. Can't wait to read more. Keep in touch. When you swing through Cal. let me know. Congrats, keep it up.
Will you still be headed over to the West Bank given the current situation?
Crazy time to be in India. Cyprus will be very interesting I am sure. Anyway, be safe, and stay in touch.

Marcello Di cintio said...

Hi Bryan. Thanks for writing.

The India trip went alright, but my research was frustrated by both the Kashmiri elections and the Mumbai bombings. Hopefully things will go smoother in the summer when I return.

As for Israel and Palestine, unless things go sour in the West Bank as well as Gaza, and at this point I doubt it, the trip will go as planned.

I will eventually make my way to California, along with Arizona and Mexico, but perhaps not until the end of this year. As you know, there are dozens of issues related to the US-Mexico border fence: political, economic, cultural, environmental and, in the case of a Native America group near the Arizona border, religious. And then there are the artists using the border fence to inspire their work. It will be a challenge to decide which stories to write, but I am looking forward to my visit.


Paniz said...

Salam Marcello,

My name is Paniz. I'm a Persian-soon to be- Canadian 16 year old. (well, 17 in less than a month!) This Christmas I was looking at some books in Indigo to get my friend (for a last minute present) who had shown interest in Iran when -among all the books selling Iranians as blood-thirsty terrorists- I saw Poets and Pahlevans and so that's how after 2 hours of “flipping through” your book in the busy Indigo among the last minute shoppers like myself, I ended up buying two copies of it, one for myself and one for my friend (who made a joke how Pahlevan rhymes with Taleban the moment she looked at the cover!)

What I found in your book, though, made me so emotional. After all what Iranian isn’t patriotic!?! It made me realise how much I miss Iran and that there are just some things I will never ever find anywhere but there. At the time of your two visits to Iran I still hadn’t moved to Canada, and so I know how it must have been like experiencing Laleh and Ladan’s story, Zahra Kazemi’s death, or Bam’s Earth quick. And even though growing up in northern Tehran while attending an expensive private school didn’t leave me much chance to know as much as I wanted about people living in simple villages in Iran, I did do my own share of travelling in my country thanks to my adventurous dad and school field trips to Chahar mahal va bakhtiati! And God, I know what you mean when you talk about going for a walk by si-o-se-pol at night!

So thank you so much for the book you wrote. Because not only it reminded me that I’m forgetting all the poems I memorized in the first 9 grades of school in Iran, (which made me freak out and run to my mom while she was cooking to ask her help me remember this poem I was thinking of!) but also it gave a right picture of my country to the people who think it is a country in war somewhere on the moon! (Ok! That was a bit exaggerated but I’ve heard the most bizarre theories about Iran from the most random people in my two years of living in Canada, who by the way are 100% positive, they’ve got it right!) It was time for Poets and Pahlevans.

Khayli mamnun!!

- Paniz

P.S: If you considering going back to Iran again, there are a couple of AMAZING, must-see places you left out in your first two visits, so I might be able to help!(even though I think you are extremely busy now with your other projects so good luck!)

Marcello Di Cintio said...

Hello Paniz.

Thank you for your message. I am honoured that the book meant something to you. Poets and Pahlevans has gotten some good 'official' reviews and won an award or two, but it is the responses from Iranian readers that mean the most to me.

With the intense amount of travel I will be doing for my current project, I don't think I will be getting back to Iran anytime soon. But I would love to return. I'll hit you up for your suggestions if that happens, and I will have to sharpen my forgotten Farsi as well.

Warm regards,