Experiencing a serious lack of meat in the average mini markets along the road, we had no choice but to cook some veggi spaghooters using potatoes as meat replacement. Luckily we found plenty of other "greenery" yesterday to spice up the dull red sauce. Bellies full, we cycled down to Semnan only twenty kilometers away. A young girl and her father approached us and asked if we needed help. "If you want my dad says you can sleep in our house." We hesitated. "There is also water springs and a lake nearby our house and we can have lunch." Only fifteen years old and already wise enough to know how to tempt us, extraordinary indeed. She clearly didn't only bring knives to this gunfight. "Okay okay you caught us, let's go!" We agreed, and Mahdieh and her little brothers climbed on the car's roof to watch us cycle behind them as they guided us to to their house. They instantly made us feel at home and showed us to the shower to get rid of the 'travelsmell' we brought with us after 4 days of cycling under a searing sun without swimming opportunities. While Mahdieh's mother was in the process of fulfilling the first promise of a free lunch, we took the tree kids on the back of our bikes to check out the nearby lake. We deemed it unworthy of swim, not to their surprise, as the water smelled funny. Expecting this negative answer Mahdieh instantly proposed to fill their small swimming pool for some water fun!
During the extremely delicious homecooked traditional lunch we learned why the girl's English was so good for a fifteen year old. Apparently she was working hard in order to get a scholarship to study in a university abroad later for which she has to prove she knows the tongue. This also explains why she was so happy to be able to speak English to foreigner. She worked double time as she was our translator for every family member in the house.
We spent the rest of the day walking around the city with the father and his three younglings, highlights being an airhockey contest in the shopping mall, the old city gate and enjoying wonderful nightly view over Semnan from the top of the mountain North of the small city. We really appreciated the fact that this family took the time to take us around in this place where we would normally just cycle through, as we never heard of the city before.
We learned in this house that it is rude not to eat as a guest, which resulted in four bellies chock full of eggs, cheese and homemade marmelade. We laughed and joked and thanked the whole family as warmly as we could for their amazing hospitality and helpfulness. It felt right here in this family. Not artificial as it sometimes does when we feel like we are receiving too much. There's one thing we can say for sure: here in Iran we learned how to properly treat a guest of the house.
The father slept with us in the living room to watch over us in the night, which didn't really feel weird, but it took a while before we realized this probably was because it is unusual to host four single men while there are women in the same building.
In the morning we took an ice bath in the swimming pool instead of a shower, fulfilling their third promise, concluding our wonderful stay with a splash!
Time to leave Semnan behind, we have only seven days to reach Mashhad, and we have more than 700 kilometers to cover in this time. To remember Mahdieh's family long after this trip, the girl gifted Stef a new bracelet, upping his and the group's wanderlust to the next level. He returned her generosity gave one of his own to the girl. Better to stay down to earth, too much wanderlust could cloud our goal to reach Shanghai.