When I came back from my trip to Iran in October 2009, I was not sure if I could go there for Iranian New year but late in December my dad suffered a stroke. He was in ICU for a week and I was not told until he was released. [Photo essay]
I was devastated at first because he could only repeat the same few words with heavy stuttering and I knew he was being told I was his daughter without recognizing who I really was.
I decided I had to go to Iran so seeing me would help my dad since I was his favorite child.
I began calling every other day and he made remarkable improvement thanks to my big family being around him all the time.
Three weeks before I left, he answered the phone and said, “it is my daughter Azam”. I wept and a few days later he asked about my son and my sister who lives in Mississippi.
His stuttering stopped and I was so grateful that he was feeding himself and walked and talked fine.
Of course he was asking every time how many more days before I would get there.
Thanks to the young professional and very pleasant young lady at Delta my baggage check in was very easy and, so was my boarding. I sat a few hours ion Detroit doing Iranian crossword puzzles.
The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful and despite the very uncomfortable seats I managed to catch some sleep.
My flight from Amsterdam as usual was interesting because on y left was a university professor who had been in Texas for 42 years and lived on a ranch with her Texan husband. She was very cool and quite confident and joked about the fact that she and I were the only one without nose jobs and Botox!
I loved hearing her stories about feeding her three motherless baby goats and other animals on the ranch and we also spek about the environment which mattered to both of us.
On my right was a man who was the personification of an uneducated, unsophisticated Iranian man with big ego.
He owned a mechanic shop somewhere in Mississippi where he fixes totaled cars and sells them to people (whom I am sure do not have money or credit to get better cars).
The lady and I were both polite but when he mentioned he goes to Mexican restaurants (which we know are the least expensive) and tells them the food is not good or that he gives girls prepaid debit cards telling them it is a credit card, we were done listening to his bullshit because obviously he was one of those low class people who thought he was very clever. That never sits well with me.
I loved it when she cut him off and told him “didn’t you hear what Azam said? She does not look at men less than 6 feet tall”.
He again interrupted dour conversation to tell us that in Tehran his family had lined up some candidates for marriage. The Texan lady said “God help those poor souls”.
Then the lady and I somehow got around talking about not liking Isfahanis and sure enough a young man (24 years old) showed up and wanted to know why (you guessed it he was an Isfahani with a thick accent who claimed he was a Columbia graduate!).
I simply told him that I was 54 year old and had tried hard all my life not to stereotype Isfahanis but they never seemed to prove me wrong. The obnoxious Isfahani in him decided to intimate me by implying that perhaps in my younger days an Isfahani had broken my heart!
I said loud so most of people on the plane could hear “ sweetheart, in my younger days I was a goddess who had no time for men, then and now I did not even look at Isfahani men because they are not only ugly but hearing their accent made me noxious so hell as to freeze over for me to even notice one of your kind.”
He kept insisting that I could not lump all Isfahanis together and I agreed but until I have a good experience and can be proven wrong (which will be never), I am unanimous in my feelings. By the way, he scared me by telling me that my suitcases would be opened and I would be subject to a large charge because I had been in Iran 6 months ago and my luggage contents would be considered items I had brought to sell.
On the contrary, my luggage did not go through the custom and three men dressed in gray suit were asking politely where everyone had come from and all the ones from America were told, “welcome and please proceed”. I was so surprised so I asked if they mean I could leave and they said yes. I was really pleased that once again I was right about Isfahan and the young jerk had provide me right.
I was really pleased that so many people were spared the long line of having their luggage going through scanners and custom.
The weather was cold and the wind was brutal. I got to Arak at 3:00 but could not sleep and stayed up talking to my nephew and his wife.
At 7:00 everyone was awake and my dad was so excited to see me and loved his shirt from America (my dad loves to dress up in suits and shirts since he was young so he loves western made clothes). He recognized that I had cut my hair short and was really touched when I told him I had donated it to Locks of love and told me that he always told everyone I was an angle with the devil’s mind but my mischievous behavior did not hurt anyone. I got teary eyed not because of the compliment but because I realized I had made the right decision going to Iran to help my dad get back some of his long term memory.
On a few hours the Iranian New Year would arrive so I helped out mixing nuts and managed to eat most of the Hazelnuts because they were the way I remember they should taste.
We gathered around the spread and when the music announcing the arrival of the New Year played, it was euphoric moment for me.
The first three days I just stayed in to welcome my relatives who had not left town.
The fourth day I boarded the train with my sister Betty and had to reassure my dad that I was not going back to the U.S. yet, and would be coming back in a few days.
I think I am a magnet for people with problems because they manage to find me. Sure enough among the passengers in our cabin was a lady who happened to be my sister’s old case. I found out she had been lucky to divorce her husband in time because he had cut the head of his next wife!
Then a beautiful young lady and a small child joined us and it turned out she and her husband were janitors at a building and even though she loved her husband she had poured benzene all over herself attempting to set herself on fire due to life’s hardship.
Unfortunately for me, other’s sorrows affect me and I feel hopeless than I cannot offer any real help and can only be a motivational coach as my son calls me.
Going to Khuzestan I feel like Ellsa in Casablanca movie. Those of you who have seen the movie remember that she knows she will not be staying with Rick and will be leaving him and Casablanca so going to Abadan and Khorramshahr, I open my heart as though there won’t be a tomorrow but I know at the end I have to leave.
Three days was too short so I spent every minute taking in both cities and engraving every image in my memory.
I loved walking at night along Arvand River where tons of young people were walking or sitting on the rails. For the first time in 32 years, I walked on the old bridge and took videos.
I am used to getting up each day at 5:00 so unlike most people there I was up early and one day I went to fish market by myself and bought soboor and for those of you who have not had it, I took pictures of before, during and after it is cooked so you can look at them and remember how they taste.
There was a sandstorm one morning and it was awful. I felt so much love and compassion for my town and its inhabitants. They sacrificed so much and so little has been done for them. Finally, after decades since the war ended, the government had hired people to clean the river of all the bombs and debris and they are talks of outside investors coming to town (probably ex-Khuzestanis).
I had read the book Da (mother in Kurdish) where a young lady captures her experience of Khorramshar during the war. The book has been printed 100 times and it always sells out. I was overjoyed to read an American is negotiating to translate the book into English. Reading that book, gave me a new perspective on my town, its people and life in general. I had nightmares and the scenes where Chelmetri (the boulevard where our home was located) being bombed kept playing in my head
I got back to Arak on the 9th and we had to leave the next day for Mashhad. The 17 hours train ride is not a scenic one but we watched two good movies and watched my parents bicker (I call my mom Hitler because she is so stubborn and would pick on my dad and of course he is just as stubborn so we had fun taking his side.
Mashhad was beautiful, clean, and with really friendly people and many shopping centers. I did not have money so I just looked!
We tasted the best Kababob in that twin. The restaurant has staff of 75 people. I really enjoyed the fact that town’s residents took pride in their town, kept it so clean, and were really friendly.
We left after staying there four days. When I got back the next few days was spent going to some of my relatives and there is never enough time to see them all.
During my stay my dad surprised us everyday with remembering more important stuff from the past and that thrilled us. One day he shaved until his face was really red so my mother said it was enough. He looked at her and told her that he was shaving for her because he loved her and wanted her to love him back.
She is one of those people who bring up the past constantly so she told him “Are you calling me beautiful? Where were you when I was young and beautiful”.
He simply answered; you are more beautiful now!
The last day I got really scared when the bell rang and it was Entezamat (I am sure they are part of the secret police) and I thought they were there for me because I openly complained about the hopeless situation of youngsters without jobs and lack of freedom to ear what I wanted. Well, they were actually there to remove satellite dishes!
A social worker had actually told me that many men divorce their wives because they want the wives to look lie the women on TV! I was not surprised because I see fat, short, bald Iranian men around me who want young, slender, beautiful, educated with Iranian values (which in their vocabulary means being their mother).
I hate goodbyes but did it quick because I was concerned about my dad and sure enough on the way my sister called me to tell me that my dad was crying hard saying that I had gone far away. I called him and told him to stop crying because I would call him every other day and a year would go by really fast and God willing I would be there next year.
Coming back, I had a greater appreciation for everything in my life. I had always been a content and grateful human being but my trips to Iran, encountering people will limited resources, makes me realize how fortunate I am and how thankful I should be. More than ever I am determined to spend my retirement helping people and have this absurd dream that a wealthy fellow Khuzestani will donate an apartment to me so I can work as a volunteer for a few months out of the year once I retire. The ever optimist in me hopes that situation in Iran will improve and there will be job opportunities, economic prosperity and more freedom by the time I can retire. I refuse to abandon hope.
|Recently by Azam Nemati||Comments||Date|
|Home bittersweet home|
|May 07, 2012|
|Apr 10, 2011|
|Home is where your heart breaks|
|Apr 10, 2011|
|نسرین ستوده: زندانی روز||Dec 04|
|Saeed Malekpour: Prisoner of the day||Lawyer says death sentence suspended||Dec 03|
|Majid Tavakoli: Prisoner of the day||Iterview with mother||Dec 02|
|احسان نراقی: جامعه شناس و نویسنده ۱۳۰۵-۱۳۹۱||Dec 02|
|Nasrin Sotoudeh: Prisoner of the day||46 days on hunger strike||Dec 01|
|Nasrin Sotoudeh: Graffiti||In Barcelona||Nov 30|
|گوهر عشقی: مادر ستار بهشتی||Nov 30|
|Abdollah Momeni: Prisoner of the day||Activist denied leave and family visits for 1.5 years||Nov 30|
|محمد کلالی: یکی از حمله کنندگان به سفارت ایران در برلین||Nov 29|
|Habibollah Golparipour: Prisoner of the day||Kurdish Activist on Death Row||Nov 28|