33 bridge in Isfahan, Iran

I Ran From Iran

This is my story in my 12-15 year old voice. My impressions and an attempt at portraying the story of the life of an American child of the mid 1970’s and our family’s move to a whole new world, the Middle East.

Minarettes of the Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

Long Island, New York, 1975. Dad tells me we are moving to the other side of the world. His company has offered him work in the ancient capital of Persia,  Isfahan, Iran. It may be like going back 500 years in time. Our family of six are leaving the United States of America into the unknown…..

The secure life as I knew it: comfortable and stable home in the suburbs of America, convenient and ever ready food and drink, indoor plumbing, cozy home, loving family, playing tennis with Mom and Dad, efficient transportation and infrastructure, great schools, like minded neighbors and friends, cultural sameness, mall shopping, bowling, going to the movie’s, listening to Beatles records, swimming in the Long Island Sound, fun parties on the beach,  fast food restaurants, democratic and stable government, freedom…

Now we are to prepare for a new lifestyle, a different world as we know it and an adventure on the other side of the globe.

This is my story in the voice of my 15 year old self back in time. Using the words and experiences of my childhood.

It’s 1975 and we are moving to Iran. My father has been asked if he would relocate to the Middle East for 4 years with his company, Grumman Aerospace. The Shah ( King) of Iran and the Iranian government are trying to improve the country by building up their Air Force, establish social security and form good relations with the West. My  Dad’s company sold F-14 fighter jets to Iran and they need to be there to teach the pilots, maintain the F-14’s and other work at the airbases. We had to prepare for the move by packing up our home in New York and putting our belongings in storage. Until returning my parents rented out our home and we said goodbye to all our friends and family. Our one pet, Bonnie the German Shepard, moved in my Aunt ,Uncle and cousins.

I knew I would miss everyone and the U.S.A., but I was so excited. I was 12 years old. We went to New York City before we left to visit the Iranian Embassy and we learned about the country and culture to get an idea of what to expect. We went to get our passports and about 12 immunizations to protect us from foreign diseases. Ouch! I wondered what I was being injected with. I packed up a few belongings to bring with us. At the time, instead of a doll or teddy bear, my comfort item was a down feathered pillow. It took up most of the space in my hard cased pink Samsonite suitcase.

December 1975 we flew from JFK airport in New York City to London, England. On the plane I started a journal. I was so excited and really had no idea what my life was going to be like in the years to come. We landed in Heathrow airport, London after an 8 hour flight. The airplane was huge and we got to watch movies, listen to music and had some hot meals.

London was so beautiful. It was winter, so it was cold, but fascinating to walk through the streets of London before we got settled into our hotel. My younger sister and I got our own room . The key that was given to us was one of those big antique types. We  were mesmerized by the snowy scene outside our window overlooking the city streets. Later in the night we were awoken by hiccuping, burping sounds and realized that someone was trying to open our door! We got scared and assumed it was some drunken person. Luckily, my parents were in the adjoining room and they kept us secure.

The next day we got to do some touring before our flight to Iran. I remember the beautiful architecture, big taxi cabs driving on the wrong side of the road and knowing we were definitely somewhere else! I was hoping that we could spend more time in London, but it was time to leave for Iran.

Our long flight to Iran landed us in the city of Abadan, which is in the south west of Iran near Iraq. It was dark when we got off the plane and warm and humid out. I was so excited to see palm trees there! Big difference from cold London from the day before. We take a shuttle bus to our hotel and check in. The first room I walked into had a horrible nauseating smell! Quickly my parents requested another room for us. This was our first introduction to life in the Middle East. The following day we flew on a small airplane to Isfahan, the old capital when Iran was called Persia. After going through customs, we caught a taxi cab to a hotel that would be called our home for a few months. My fathers company had this all planned out for us, so he did not have to be so concerned about all the details and arrangements. The Park Pol Hotel in the city overlooked a beautiful river and park ( the above photo shows the 33 bridge that spans the river). It was clean and comfortable and we were divided up into three hotel rooms to live in until our new home was finished being built. During that time we were introduced to the Iranian lifestyle. Touring the old and new parts of the city, learning the language, figuring out the currency ( rials), meeting the Iranians and getting to know all the other Americans and foreigners who were getting settled also.

While living in the Park Hotel, we bought most of our food from a small local grocery store called the Super Pol. It was very different from American food. Most of it was very fresh and natural, no preservatives or chemicals used. The main diet of the Iranians was lamb, rice, vegetables, soup, freshly baked flat bread called “noon”, pomegranates, pistachio nuts, barley , ground meat roasted into kebabs and chicken. It was all delicious. We also had interesting choices from England and Germany in the stores. There was not a McDonalds, Pizza Hut or Taco Bell in sight.  The bread was my favorite! They bake the flat bread in a pit in the ground! There’s a fire at the bottom and they slap on the fresh made dough onto the sides onto hooks and let it bake. Sometimes we would find little stones in our bread!

We also shopped at the beautiful and ancient Bazaar. It was part of a large square that also held the an old palace and a mosque ( the Muslim place of worship), various shops and markets all surrounding a large rectangular fountain pool. It was a busy and popular part of Isfahan and held so much history. Inside the Bazaar was amazing! There were individual merchants set up in little booths inside and out, selling so many incredible items and foods. The building itself was beautiful and fascinating. The ancient structure had 40 foot ceilings in some places and was a maze of corridors and rooms. It was very easy to get lost in this ancient “shopping mall”.  Open windows in the roof allowed sunbeams to shine down on the dusty dirt floor. Individual shop owners had there wares out on display for us to bargain for. No set prices! We found burlap bags filled with grains and  spices, nuts, fruits, fresh and dried, butchers selling meats, fragrant Basmati rice, shining gold jewelry like I have never seen, hand worked copper plates, lamps, shoes, fabrics, clothing, Persian carpets, inlaid mosaic art, miniature style paintings and so many more exotic and hand crafted items. This place was nothing like I had ever seen before. Easily we could have gotten lost. The smells were intoxicating..spices, lamb kebabs cooking over a fire, fresh corn on the cob and the most delicious flat bread baking.

The Iranians were so gracious and friendly to all of us . They were happy that we were in their country. Always curious and hospitable. Most of the women wore large fabric coverings called chadors” over their regular clothing . It is part of their religious traditions and beliefs to be modest and cover their entire bodies and even hair. Not all women dressed like this in Iran. In the 1970’s while we were there, many women dressed more western. The men wore mostly dress shirts and pants and even though it could be very hot and dry in Iran, they wore dark colored clothing. The people that we eventually met in the countryside and villages, wore farmer and peasant type clothing. Most all of the women in the areas away from the city wore chadors. So we could see that the people had freedom in their lifestyles, even though most of the country was Islamic. We really stood out though, being fair skinned and light haired. I was not used to others staring at me and reaching out to grab my hair and face.  That took some getting used to and I was uncomfortable about all that. My parents explained to me why they did that and I just learned to ignore most of it, but would push away when grown men were grabbing my face to kiss my cheeks!

So much for my 12 year old self to take in. My first introduction into Iran was exciting and so different from anything I had ever experienced. This was to be my new life for the next few years.

to be continued….. please read I Ran from Iran ( part II )

I Ran From Iran ( part 1)


24 responses »

  1. Great story from Iran, and seems better than I expected when I first read the tittle.
    It’s a place so far from me, and everything is a mystery to me.
    I hope to read the rest of your memory soon. cheers

    • Hello Kathy,
      thanks for the nice note. I am new at blogging, so please bear with me. We had an incredible experience in Iran and I hope to finish the story this week. I saw some of your blogs and it seems that you have an amazing life traveling ! I am afraid that my writings are too long on the page ( but I have a lot to tell ! ). How are you able to insert the “read more” to finish reading your descriptions ? I like that you can read on on another page. Is that because you upgraded and paid for that capability on WordPress, or can I do the same thing with my free page?
      Thanks for the tips if you get a chance to write back. I will be adding more travel stories when I get the chance ( we have 7 kids and homeschool..so I can not sit on the computer for too long ! : )

      • Haha I know how hard it is to edit it down when you have so much wonderful story to tell! I just went on a trip to Europe with my mother for about 20 days, and so I’m currently in the process of sharing all the interesting bits and pieces on my blog.

        about the “read more” , it’s called “the more tag” , it’s available for free accounts. You can insert it this tag when you’re writing your blog in the visual mode. I love this tag, so I can keep my front page neat with one image per post 😉
        for the details, you may refer to http://en.support.wordpress.com/splitting-content/more-tag/

        wow, 7 kids must be hard work! but i’m sure it’s full of fun and joy at your house!

      • Thanks so much Kath !

        I suppose I could just spend the time and go through the tutorial, but I do like getting tips from other bloggers who’s pages I like. I read that you are a fashion designer. I am one too ! I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC back in the early 80’s and worked as a designer in Manhattan for 10 years ! When were you living in NY ?

        That is awesome that you got to be in Europe with your Mom. My parents are going to Germany and maybe Hungary next year. I think we should follow them !

        Peace, Susan

      • OH wow. I was living in NYC from 2003 to 2008, and I graduated from Parsons in 2007 🙂 I was always so jealous on the FIT students far they have such a great museum on campus! and they got tons of good facilities too! Working in fashion in Manhattan was definitely an amazing experience, and i’ll always cherish those moment even it was quite tough.

        my Euro trip included a few days in Berlin and Dresden, which I’ll blog about soon, maybe you can get some inspiration for your parents 🙂

  2. Parsons is a great school ! I went there to take a few classes when I was in High School on the weekends ! FIT was awesome too. I got to live right there on campus and after graduation ( held at Radio City Music Hall ), I went right into women’s wear design. Eventually I switched over to children’s wear ( and loved it ). It was a tough field ( competitive) and I learned so much.
    Maybe I will one day write a short story about those days..”New York Fashion in the late 1900’s” : ) Are you still designing now ?

    I just got the Conde Nast Traveler in the mail yesterday. They had a really cool article about the Fairy Tale Trail in Germany. All about the Brothers Grimm forest backdrop for their scary children’s tales. I am going to read it to my kids today. Did you see that area , Hesse and Lower Saxony( near Frankfurt) ? Many old castles and medieval villages. Looks beautiful !

    • After I graduated, I worked for a bridal designer in Tribeca. It was a great experience, as I get to learn so much about pattern making and even how to connect with clients. Currently I’m back in Hong Kong, and worked for a designer who came back from London’s Saint Martin’s. I helped with some design stuff, but mainly managing the pattern and production. All places I worked for are small operation. I get hands on experience on every details !

      Wow, sounds like I need to get my hands on that Conde Nast! I only stopped by Dresden and Berlin. Didn’t get the chance to explore much of the Bavaria. However I intended to go ack again during summer time to see those fairytale castle under beautiful sunshine!

      • Hong Kong ! Nee How ma !

        I am sure you will always have many designing opportunities living there ! I worked for a few design firms and learned so much also as I worked. After I had my first child, I stayed home and did freelance designing . Now I help raise our kids, raise organic food and make soaps, herbal teas and lavender filled eye pillows and neck rolls. “From Fashion to Farming”, my new stage in life : )

        Looking forward to reading all about your adventures and I would love to go to Asia some
        day !

  3. Very interesting Susan. We’ve experienced a little of the “fair skin/fair hair/blue eyes” amazement here in Costa Rica. And the little ones have gotten used to all the touching by strangers on the street. Funny how it’s these little things that stick out in a new culture.

    Can’t wait to read the rest of your story.

    • thanks Susan . After a while i got tired of it and actually elbowed a grown man and told him to get lost ! He just laughed. Make sure you have your older kids keep a journal of their own observations living outside of the USA ( although I am sure you have already encouraged them to do so). I started my journal on that first flight headed out !
      i just posted the second part if you’d like to read it to the ending : )

    • thanks!
      I need to ask my parents and siblings more about their side of the story. It pulls it all together when we get many other details about that time in our family history !
      You can read the second part of our story now . It’s on my blog as “part II”

  4. Fantastic article! Can’t wait to read more about your experience! Also, I ‘m wondering if you and/or previous poster would be willing to have a quick phone call about your experiences at Parsons and/or FIT. My daughter definitely wants to pursue design so I want to understand that world as much as possible!

  5. Such an amazing adventure for a 12 year old to experience. Not sure that I could get my kids to agree to such a big move.
    How amazing that you were excited, and that you started a journal. The plane trip would have been huge to say the least, and then the culture changes would have been even bigger.
    I cant imagine what it would have been like to have your face grabbed and kissed! I so would have freaked out…looking forward to reading part 2.

    • Lisa, at first I felt like I was dropped on the moon ! It was a big adjustment in the beginning, but because I had loving and caring parents, I felt secure. This experience really taught me appreciation and understanding. I am so grateful for that time in my life ! It helped me become the person that I am. I hope never to feel jaded about anything and desire for my own children to have a life outside of our comfort zone ( America) to be able to have a similar foundation!

  6. Pingback: Persian Pomegranate Chicken and other Fantastic Foods of Iran « Grow In Grace Life

  7. This is a very interesting story, I can relate to it, since I had to move out of Iran myself with my three years old son, living in a different society is a big challenge! needs lots of dedications and efforts to adjust well and go with the flow, I love traveling and I think it’s part of education which is fun too, my both sons encourage me to write my own stories that is so fascinating to them and I recently started writing in Farsi, I will post some of it if I can translate them in English. I enjoyed your story! keep up the good work!

    • I would love to hear of your experiences of leaving Iran! I think you should write them down. Start in Farsi first to be able to share with your family. Then you can have it translated through a computer program ( or with help from your sons! ) Thanks for taking the time to read the story and I hope it brought back good memories of beautiful Iran! Hoda hafez : )

  8. looks like post comments didn’t work!!!! i just left a comment as soon as I click on post comment it just disappeared!!!!

    • It does work once I see the comment and approve of it. I have it set that way so no one can write offensive things for others to see ( My writings are always family friendly and respectful )

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