After living a few months in the hotel, we moved to our new home. There was a housing development being built for the Americans about 20 miles out of the city. It was called ” Khaneh” which means “town” in Farsi. Farsi is the official language of Iran. No other country really speaks it and it is not an Arabic language. The houses were each separated by cement walls to divide up the yards. Most of the homes were rectangular shaped , had flat roofs and were connected together in twos. We were one of the first families to move into this community and our street had a funny name, “P 2”. Our yard were just dirt at first and we played badminton and volley ball in the back yard for fun until we got all of our belongings delivered ( a few things from the U.S.). We did not have to buy any furniture, my fathers company supplied everything we needed. Us kids had fun running through the house and claimed our bedrooms upstairs. One of the strange things about the house was the down stairs bathroom. The toilet was in the floor In the Middle east, and many other parts of the world, they just have holes in the dirt or floor. This at least had plumbing and you could flush with a pull chain. Needless to say ( for the girls in the family at least ) we did not use that bathroom. It ended up a place for us to put our bikes and sports equipment. We did not have a garage because we did not have a car. It would have been too dangerous for us to drive ourselves in Iran. At that time, the road laws and speed limits were not too safe for Westerners who were not used to Iranian roads, traffic and drivers. We never saw any stop signs and there were not many traffic lights. So we had buses that came into the community to take us any where we needed to go.
We also had no telephones. All of our communicating was done through writing and delivery. If we wanted to know what was happening in the city or for events in our community, we got notes delivered to our door by some of the workers in the different American companies. My father worked for Grumman and there was also Bell Helicopter, Pratt and Whitney, and other companies to work for the Iranian government. So for mail and phone calls for us, it had to be taken care of at my father’s office at the Khatami Airbase. Khaneh had a big center park where they built a few tennis courts, baseball and soccer field and outdoor movie space. So as far as having community activities, we all would meet up there. There were a few houses that were made into meeting places for the youth, hobbies, classes, a small library and a place to just meet up. So we did have a place to live where we got to be with other Americans. Many other foreigners and Americans lived in the city in their own chosen houses and apartments. We spent a lot of time in the city of Isfahan by taking the bus. What an adventure it was to see all of the sights and meet the interesting and hospitable Iranians!
At first, school for us was close to the city. It was very different from what I was used to in the States. The teachers were from around the world as well as the students. So it was an international education that we got to experience. We had classmates and teachers from many countries like Vietnam, Norway, England, the Netherlands, Iran, and many of the American States. I liked all the people at school, but I did not like the building and school grounds very much. It was sort of dismal for some reason. Eventually a new school was built further out in the country side and we started attending there. New classrooms, library, sports courts and all. More kids started coming into Iran and it was exciting to meet them. Our new life in Iran taught us how to be flexible, appreciative and open to new and very different changes from the normal American society we came out of.
The terrain in Iran in this part of the country is dry and mountainous. The altitude is very high and the climate is similar to a desert. But instead of sand, it was a fine dirt. The landscape was also very lush in many parts. By the river it always green in season and there were beautiful gardens and grasses. The mountains surrounding Isfahan though, were mostly rock. In the North in Tehran ( the new capital of Iran) they had trees in the mountains and snow. Our region had many farms and villages. We saw lots of sheep, goats,donkeys and chickens . In the outskirts of the city we saw many camels that the villagers owned for transportation. It was so cool to see camels. We even got to ride them! It was fascinating to see how these people lived. Many had no electricity. That is something most Americans can not comprehend. Realizing this is just one of the examples of how our experience of living in Iran taught me gratitude. But even though these villagers had so much lees than us westerners had, they were so happy and gracious! When we took trips into the countryside, complete strangers welcomed us into their homes for lunch and tea. One time when my grandmother came to visit us from New York, we took her out to the villages to show her around . My father was asking in Farsi ( they spoke no English ) about the possibility of hiring some one to take us on camel rides. The word for camel sounds just like” chador”, the word for the cloaks that the women wear, and they misunderstood my father’s accent. So they brought us out some fabric! Finally I took out a pen and paper and drew a camel and they got very excited and invited us into their home to meet the camels in their courtyard. The homes are mostly made of straw and mud put together like cement. They have high walls around the houses and it is set up like a big square with the center being open to the sky as a courtyard. The indoor rooms are surrounding the open space where they keep there animals and usually have a small fountain of water in the middle.. The rooms don’t have much furniture, they mostly have beautiful hand-made Persian carpets in all the rooms with big pillows to be used as seats. Even their beds are mats on the floor! For the dining area, that too is just a carpet on the floor with a hand-made table-cloth spread out on it and big pillows around it to sit at. You get to eat on the floor!
On this occasion, we not only got to ride a camel, but we got invited in to have a meal with them. You just don’t see that in America. Imagine some foreigner just driving up to your house in the suburbs and asking if they could go for a ride on your tractor mower and getting their picture taken with you. Then you say “Sure stranger, come on in and have spaghetti and soda with us while you are here.” This is how the Iranians were to us. They were so kind and generous. It is important to them to be hospitable. What a good lesson we learned from these nice people. That day with my Grandma and family, we sat on their dining room rug and were served an incredible meal and tea. Roasted Lamb kebabs, rice with saffron, ( the “spice” they get from the inside of the crocus flower..very expensive and rare here), flat bread, tomatoes, onions, soup, a special candy made with nougat, rose water and pistachio called “Gaz”, and tea served in clear glasses. But the most incredible part of this feast was the bowl of fresh made yogurt that was served to us. It was no ordinary bowl, it was a goats head!! Yes, they carved out the roasted goats head and put yogurt, cucumbers, parsley and onion in it! That was the scariest dish I have ever seen. Of course I could not eat it..but I did love everything else. That was an experience I will never forget.
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