Home is where your heart breaks

I was overwhelmed at hearing hardship stories


Home is where your heart breaks
by Azam Nemati

The year 2010 flew by for me. I am certain the fact that I left my house at 6:00 each morning and got home after 6:00 p.m. each day was a major part of it. I also read a great deal of books about Iran. Some were from the 1830s to 1930s time frame, written by foreigners who had worked in Iran or visited >>> See photo essay

The stick up their ass British writers who went to Iran even taking their own jam and canned food thing Iranians were uncivilized or backward, ended up as we say in Farsi, gohkhkhordan (ate shit or simply ate their words) by admitting that the warm and wonderful people of Iran and its sunshiny climates was preferred over the rainy and gloomy h weather and the cold and civilized people back at their boring England!

The best book from the Iranian writers abroad was Tehran Rooftops. I loved it and can not wait for the sequel. In addition to being an unusual love story, it gives the readers a glimpse into political landscape prior to the revolution as well.

My first flight out of Fort Lauderdale was a huge ordeal because my tickets read 2:25 and when I got to the airport at 11:30, I was told my flight was actually at 12:25! You guessed it, the one time I did not check my flight 24 hours before, was the time my flight had changed.

This year the KLM counter person was a nasty one and I kept having to take things out of my suitcase and almost missed the flight. The nearly eight hours wait in New York JFK was unbearable and I hate that airport. The few hours wait in Amsterdam was not that bad and I got to Iran Saturday, March 5th.

I went to Khorramshahr by train and took my nephew’s wife because her mom is from Abadan and she had never seen that area. My cabin had all Abadanis which included a police woman. When she took off layer of black clothing the true Dokhtar Abadani was revealed. I was shocked to see latest skinny jeans, revealing top with English writings, and a fancy belt. I chuckled because looking at her chador and the head covering, I would have never guessed such fasionista existed underneath all that clothing.

I only had two days to spend there which was not enough so instead of snapping pictures I just wanted o enjoy the sight and sounds. My nephew’s wife who grew up in Tehran and goes there to visit her family once a month, was shocked at how courageous the Abadani girls where in ignoring the required dress codes. All I saw was girls in colorful peep toe heels (really high), with skinny jeans, and short (and vey tight) dresses in bold colors with their hair practically all out (mostly died blond or red), and colorful loose scarves draped over the back of their head. There were no women police in sight (in other cities they are everywhere telling girls to cover their head or warn them if their hejab is not appropriate.

In Abadan I went to buy gears for my favorite football team Sanat Naft ( or Brazil of Iran as its called by others) and wanted to buy a Ray Ban sunglasses but it was twice the price in the U.S. so I passed.
In khorramshahr, one late night we watched the Egyptian Diva in and old Concert (black and white of course) and it took me back to when I was very young and used to watch the Diva (mostly when Iranian TV had religious programs because it was an Imam’s death or it was Ashura, etc.).

Khroramshar streets were dug up for gas pipeline and because there are no signs, there have been some major injuries from kids on motorcycle or, bikes at night falling into the ditches. One of them was my neighbor’s grandson who needs many surgeries.

Everyone complained about the government not doing anything for the two cities who scarifies and fought for eight bloody years. Now that the subsidies have been taken away, there is more hardship and each time I rode a taxi, I had to fight back my tears or pretend wind had caused my eyes to water. The stories of sufferings are endless.

Meantime, many people from other parts of Iran reward Iraq by going there. I was told by many who had gone there (mostly older people) despite Iran’s propaganda of portraying American soldiers as bad people, how kind and friendly the Americans were.

In Abadan, I had the best cheeseburger even though I never eat that here in the U.S.

The Caravan of light (or Caravan of graves as I call them), where there and I walked by them making faces and nasty noise and when they looked at me I stared at them trying to provoke them so I could in a fight with them. I guess they had enough brains to remain quiet and just look surprised. I went so far as saying loudly that my trip was paid from my pocket unlike the Caravan of graves, who were there for free food (the best of everything money can buy, I have been told).

Everyone in Khorramshahr and Abadan cursed them and wished the government would spend the money instead on town’s people. I wished they all get stomach cancer but oe of their busses was in an accident and twenty of them died. I am not ashamed to say I was not sad at finding out.

I ran into a playmate from childhood by total coincident. I went in a store near noon time to ask for an old address and asked if the fifty something year old looking guy was a native. He raised his head and when I asked him about the street, he looked at me carefully and then told me I looked familiar and asked what my last name was. He nearly fell off his chair after I told him and he recognized me as the girl who played football with him and other the boys and remembered me having beaten one of the boys (he did not remember the kid’s name but I told him that I actually plan to write about that episode where I beat up Arman, whom we all hated). The guy remembered my brothers, and our neighbors and many more details. He was thrilled that I was educated and successful because he told me that when we were kids some of the parents had doubts about me because I was a tomboy who broke all the rules and did not act like a girl. He also invited us to his house to meet his family but I had to decline because of time restraint.

I was really resentful that I had to leave my favorite cities so soon but we had plans to go to Shiraz.

I had been told that the van we were renting would charge $110 per day for taking us to Shiraz (about ten hours drive) and then bringing us back. I told my sister to get it in writing but no such luck. The day before we left, we had to sign the contract at $125 per day and he had to be with us for the 4 days trip. It turned out good since my parents needed assistant and the place we were staying had many steps.

There is no wheelchair access anywhere except in the Shrine of course. There are no resources for old people as though they do not exist in Iran. At Persepolis I cried when a translator to a Russian group told me his heart was filled with pain because government is deliberately letting Iranian monuments deteriorate. I was appalled at the condition of the bathrooms there when I took my mother. It was horrifying to see that government did not spend any money to have decent washrooms for the tourist. I did meet some Japanese and German tourist. I kept sighing that we had such great engineering more than 2,500 years ago and now many cities are built without any plans or zoning codes.

We visited the Hafez and Sadi’s tombs and the Moshir bazaar and I was able to find a traditional outfit at very good price and loved the fact that women were sewing them at the store where the fabric was being sold.

This year, I saw a lot more women store owners everywhere.

On our way back, we stopped in Isfahan and I was really impressed at how well the parks, the shopping plazas, and the roads were built. We ate at the most popular restaurant and the owner who was really nice (did not have Isfahani accent) told me he visits U.S. at least once a year and liked Florida very much specially the Biltmore hotel (for the record, I have never been there because I am sure it is way above my paycheck).

We got back to Arak and had to prepare for the New Year, which was less than two days away. During the first week of Norooz, I only went to the country side where one of my brother in law’s friends and his family had invited us to eat the most delicious fresh grilled meat, which we ate under the Korsi ( a square wooden table where a coal (now electric one) brazier is placed underneath it and a huge blanket is draped over it. You stick your feet under it while you chat with the others sitting around.

I just went to town twice and felt like a real coward because I was overwhelmed at hearing hardship stories from the widow in wheelchair who had not been paid her measly allowance by the government so she could not buy a new dress for her child, to seeing images of homeless people splashing on the screen (Iranian TV). I was angry and constantly compared how much more charitable people in the U.S. are in comparison to people in Iran who think pouring money in the shrines, or the well where they are told Mahdi the messiah is hiding, is charitable act.

I told my family that I would not retire in Iran but will go for a visit each year. I could not bear to see one of the richest countries in the world, spends its money on Lebanon, Syria and Iraq (which not long ago raped and tortured women and children in my hometown during their occupation of Khorrmshar in 1982) and yet its own citizens are ignored. Everyone who can is trying to leave the country because they feel there is no future for them in Iran. It was heart breaking to see how expensive everything was in Iran considering their income is not much to begin with, and the cost of medicine and food is astronomical. A little bottle of Fish oil sold here for a few dollars is sold for $50 in Iran and a pound of chicken is nearly $4 dollars. As much as I love seeing my family, I could not sleep at night going over all the complaints I heard during the day and all the sad images of people who felt trapped and helpless, in my head. I felt guilty at the fact that I live in a country where I have freedom to do what I want and feel hopeful for the future.

The Persian year 1390 (this year) is supposed to be the year focused on creating job and improving economy so fro the people’s sake, let’s hope it does take place >>> See photo essay


Recently by Azam NematiCommentsDate
Home bittersweet home
May 07, 2012
Mixed Feelings
Apr 10, 2011
Oh no you did not say that!
Jul 13, 2010
more from Azam Nemati


by yolanda on

It is sad to hear government is deliberately letting Iranian monuments deteriorate.

Hopefully when I go there, the monuments still stand!

hamsade ghadimi

thanks for the story ms.

by hamsade ghadimi on

thanks for the story ms. nemati.  i had similar experience visiting tehran.  people told me stories of hardship and you can plainly see the high prices of food everywhere.  the price of meat and nuts are higher than what i'm used to here in the u.s. homelessness and poverty are also rampant with many child beggars all over tajrish square (among many other places).  from time to time, i could escape their realities and just enjoy being in my homeland and then i would hear someone pouring their heart out.

Esfand Aashena

خانم نعمتی؟

Esfand Aashena

سلام عرض کردم خانم نعمتی، حالتون خوبه؟ بچه ها، خانواده، فامیل همه خوبن؟ ایران خوش گذشت؟ خوب الحمد للّه. بعله.  خانم نعمتی یک عرضی داشتم ...  بعله امر خیره، مرسی‌ متشکرم.

خانم نعمتی، یکی‌ از آشناهای ما پسر خوبیه اسمش فرامرزه، تو کالیفرنیا میشینه، بعله ایشون این عکس این مقاله رو دیده بود بعد خواستیم اگه جسارت نباشه ایشون رو برای این آقا فرامرز خواستگاری کنیم. شاید هم بشناسینش تو این i.com آواتارش عکس یک گربهٔ پرشینِ ... بعله لطف دارید متشکرم.

البته اگه ایشون نامزد دارن با عرض شرمندگی ببخشید، ولی‌ چون ما نمیدونستیم و قصد فرامرز جان هم خیر و جدی بود گفتیم پا پیش بذاریم انشاالله خیر باشه.  بعله متشکرم.

خانم نعمتی، البته اگه دوشیزه تمایل به ایمیل دارن میتونند از طریق همین i.com تماس حاصل کنند.  بعله متشکرم.

 در ضمن جسارت نباشه، از لحاظ سنی‌ ایشون چند سالشونه؟  فرامرز جان خیلی‌ جوون مونده و موهاشم کامل و اصلا طاس نیست.

  بعله... خوب فرامرز جان هم میگم بیاد عرض ادب کنه انشالله قسمت بشه بریم ایران یک چای تازه بخوریم!  خرج و مخارج هم با فرامرز جان  ... 

خیلی‌ ممنون. 

Everything is sacred


Thanks for including the Truth

by Escape on

many people from other parts of Iran reward Iraq by going there. I was told by many who had gone there (mostly older people) despite Iran’s propaganda of portraying American soldiers as bad people, how kind and friendly the Americans were.

Nice to read the truth about the situation,good or bad,not just if it is bad.Of course I prefer to hear the good and expect in my lifetime to see Iraq rise above the other nations in the Middle East.I look forward to rubbing it in some people's faces...Over and Over...


Stories of Hardship?!!

by ariane on

Azam Khanoom,

I read your story and as a person whohas worked ver recently in Abadan, Khorramshahr, Isfahan, and Shiraz I thought I would say the following remarks:

1- Abadan and Khorramshahr is not the fantasy land of the 70s anymore and given, government does not spend much money on it. However, the citizens who are nowadays mainly from the neighbouring villages, are among he most uneducated and lazy people I have ever met. So part of it is on them, if they want a better life, they need to get their own act corected as well. What can the US government could do for you, when you are simply incompetent to do anything with your life?

2- People from Isfahan and shiraz actually has one of the highest incomes that I have encountered in Iran.

3- Stories of hardship are very common in Iran. We are a nagging nation. No matter what we are never contempt with our lives. The average effective time that an Iranian works in  day, that is the time that he or she actually gets something done in work, is about 15 minutes!! Want a btter life, start doing something about it. So don't go around Iran feeling sorry for people, when you are working hard for your paycheck in Florida, Iranians are possibly busy doing nothing.  Plus they heard you've come from the US and theey nagged so that they could get a bob or two out of you.

The same person who cries in front you, waits like a beggar outside a bank for two hours to get the monthly government handout every month. This is the new Iranian culture, begging!!

Sorry but that is the reality of Iranian society these days.... The most dangerous enemy of Iranians are Iranians themselves.


Esfand Aashena

I would consider retiring in Iran. At least half of the year.

by Esfand Aashena on

When and IF I retire, if we can afford it, I would consider retiring in Iran.  Here in US people retire to remote country homes or in a city and don't go around much.

I would consider living in a quiet town near Caspian or Tehran or Shemiran or somewhere nice.  Why not?  Of course I don't know and we don't know what's going to happen in the next 10 - 15 years but it's possible.  I'll have to live there for a few months and then decide.  Maybe 6 months there, 6 months here until we run out of money and then have to choose! 

Everything is sacred

Maryam Hojjat

I also loved the Title of your story

by Maryam Hojjat on

Home is where your heart breaks

Maryam Hojjat

Very Moving & truthful story of your visit

by Maryam Hojjat on

thanks for sharing with us.

Down with IRR/IRI.