I’ve been here in Tabriz now for two nights I think. The days are a blur. I can’t even remember which day it is, we’ve been so busy.

The festival started yesterday and I was up at 5:15 rushing to pray and get ready for 6:30 am for breakfast. That’s when my translator told me I was expected to come down.

Came down, hardly anyone was there. I could have really used those few extra hours of sleep!

Judging this competition is exhausting!

I never realized what a big deal this storytelling festival really is.

The group that sponsored me, Kanoon, is a national organization that supplements children’s educational experience here through storytelling. They take storytelling very very seriously!

And there are prizes to be had at this festival! And I’ve got the responsibility as one of the five judges to listen to all 46 storytellers very carefully.

All that concentrating is hard! But mostly I pity my translator! She has to do all that mental work, and tell me the stories, translating them from Farsi or Turkish (because this area of Iran has a lot of Turkish speakers).

She’s wonderful though, masha Allah!

With the hectic schedule there’s been little time to rest, and as my kids know whenever I get super tired, I tend to get super weepy. Or it turns out, kind of giggly.

Yesterday I heard a story about some birds trying to find a king and there was a bad bird, a vulture, but with my translator’s accent I kept hearing ‘Walter’. And an image of that stupid dummy of that comedian Jeff Dunham popped into my head. I asked my translator, “Walter?” “No she said, “wultur”. Oh! “Vulture!”

And then I pictured Walter the puppet as a vulture and I couldn’t stop giggling!

Unfortunately she thought I was laughing at her accent, so I really had to sober up. But I think I was so tired, it was hard for me.

The night before last I was interviewed by an Iranian journalist.

Now I’ve been interviewed by a LOT of journalists!

In Mexico, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, you name it, but I have NEVER been asked such INTERESTING questions before!

This guy was PASSIONATE about his job. He’d been doing it for over twenty years and you could just tell how much he loved it.

He had also written forty books!

And I found myself, in my exhausted stupor, having to really think about my replies.

He asked me questions about storytelling craft!

And I delved deeper into my own process than I’ve ever had to before. I thought of why my methods work for me! It was fascinating!

And my translator, who was doing her dutiful job said that he was very excited about my answers, otherwise he would have cut the interview short at twenty minutes. We went on for about an hour!

Problem is I can hardly remember what I said. I’m pretty sure I said some pretty intelligent things, and I want to keep them for reference later, but darn it! I can’t remember!

The article was published yesterday in their newsfeed, but it’s in Farsi and I asked for a translation.

Basically I’ve noticed that the Iranians I’ve met are unique to the region. Maybe it’s because they had their ‘Arab’ spring in the 1970’s. Just don’t call them Arab!

I made that mistake a little while ago and my translator stated emphatically, “We are NOT Arabs!”

Of course! I meant Middle Eastern!

To us westerners the terms are often synonymous, but that just shows our ignorance.

But what is really weird is how many Iranians keep asking me if I’m Muslim.

I guess it’s understandable because the foreign ladies here wear hijab, but you can tell so easily that they’re not Muslim because they don’t really take pains to cover their hair–and why would they?

Mind you many Iranian ladies don’t cover their hair properly either. It’s more a token gesture.

But I think I definitely look Muslim!

I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be my Canadian accent that throws them off. I guess in their minds I speak too good English.