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January 3, 2003

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Jetlagged we slept in the lobby of the Iranian Consul at Baku, Azerbaijan. Here we waited for our visa. When it came, no one was more surprised than the consul himself that we received one. Iranian embassies grant visas if an approval code arrives by fax from the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, and the Ministry wasn't handing out tourist visas to Americans because of our country's imminent invasion of Iraq. We tried several travel agencies. All failed to obtain an approval code. At the last minute Iran Discovery tours wrangled an approval from the Foreign Ministry and we rushed to the Iran Embassy in downtown Baku. The Consul didn't put a visa sticker in Jill's passport; he simply wrote in my passport that my wife would accompany me on my visa. Jill took this as a bad sign for how she'll be treated in Iran. We walked out of the consul's office by noon and hopped on a bus for the border. Three minutes out of Baku and our bus broke down. After three hours we resumed our journey on a repaired bus and made a torturously slow route to Astara, the bordertown between Iran and Azerbaijan, arriving at 3:00 am. Of course we asked our bus driver if we could sleep at his house. He accepted so we caught a few winks at dorm room accommodations for out of town bus drivers.