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Haley Cohen is a journalist based in Buenos Aires, where she is The Economist’s correspondent for Argentina and Uruguay.

“After elbowing my way through Tajrish Bazaar, where Tehran’s residents jostle for the best pistachios, steaks and advieh, I crossed the street to Imāmzādeh Sāleh Mausoleum. I was nine days into an 11-day educational tour of Iran, and as I stuffed my shoes into a plastic bag, draped myself in a chador and stepped across the threshold into the women’s prayer space, it occurred to me that it was the first time since arriving that I had been alone.”

“Modern Iranians have inherited this resourceful spirit, creatively adapting to their circumstances. The result, like the glassy walls, is a hodgepodge — a multifaceted realm where the leadership’s harsh ideology is often at odds with the beliefs and behaviors of regular Iranians, but somehow, the thing continues to work.”

“When asked where I was from, I was timid. Eyes downcast, I would softly respond, “America,” as if it were a dirty confession.”

“So at first, when Iranians asked where I was from, I was timid. Eyes downcast, I would softly respond, “America,” as if it were a dirty confession. Then I would look up, waiting for their faces to crinkle with anger or disdain, bracing for a diatribe about American imperialism.”

“It never came.”

“In Shiraz, a dusty city in Iran’s south, elementary school girls with Despicable Me backpacks and Barbie lunch boxes shouted, “We love you!” as we jointly walked through a tiled shrine to 13th-century poet Sa’di. A wizened grocer filled bags with orange sodas for our parched crew, and repeatedly refused to let us pay him a cent. In Tehran’s Laleh Park, young Iranians in polo shirts and skinny jeans lured some of our group’s members into a pingpong match by insisting, “America? We love America!” before gleefully trouncing us.”

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