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Oh, sweet home
Revisiting Abadan

By Shahrzad Irani
April 16, 2001
The Iranian
More than 80 photos here

I have dreamt about my hometown for over 22 years. When I have the blues, I escape to my memories of Abadan and try to remember the streets, places, and people. After a while, I started to wonder if my mind was playing tricks on me.

Was my friend's house really down the street from us across from Parvaneh Kindergarten? Yes, it was. I kept reassuring myself that the color of the Shat really did turn golden at sunset. Or maybe, I was just making up these things and nothing was close to what I remembered.

Many friends told me not to go back; that the city was so devastated by the war I would not recognize it. I would be heart broken, they said. But those who know me know how stubborn I am. I had to go home at least one more time. I had to walk the streets and visit our old houses, schools and clubs.

This past November, I was asked to join a business meeting in Tehran. I live in southern California and had not gone to Iran since the revolution. I did not even have a valid Iranian passport or a new birth certificate, required by the Iranian Interests Section in Washington DC. But somehow, everything worked out in a matter of days.

I called my best friend Tannaz in Tehran and asked her to buy a ticket to Abadan. I told my colleagues I was going to Abadan on Tuesday of that week, no matter what.

Tuesday finally came. Tannaz Vasefi, her brother Koroush, my friend Darioush Negahban and I arrived in Abadan. Oh, sweet home. Oh, what a feeling. The sun was shinning. A nice warm breeze came across us. No pollution , no traffic. We kept saying how Abadan was so much nicer that Tehran -- even now.

We hired a taxi. I told the driver that we want to stop at a million places, if he didn't mind. He smiled warmly. I knew we were home. Tannaz told me she had brought many tissues because we would need them. I can easily cry watching the news, commercials or movies.

Tannaz and I screamed with joy at each familiar place but we didn't shed a tear all day. How often did we say, "So and so lived here." "Do you remember who lived there?" "Our English teacher lived there." "This was where we got vaccinated a thousand times." "Oh my God ! This was the store we used to buy aks bargardoon."

We were all smiles. We could not help ourselves. Everything was exactly as we remembered.

We went to Tannaz and Kourosh's house. I also remembered their house in the big square near Iran store. We went to Roya grade and high school. We were greeted by the school headmasters. In the high school, some of the girls asked their headmaster who we were. She said these girls were students here like you. Tannaz quickly followed with "before you were born!" I stopped her with a smack on her hand. "Ay baabaa!" We all laughed.

We went to Golestan Club. Oh, it was there waiting for us. At first we were told the club was only open during the evening. But we pleaded that we had spent much of our youth there, watching movies, playing qaayem mooshak and basketball, flirting with our first love. Haqq-e aab-o-gel daareem. Then they opened up all the rooms and the grounds. Walking in the hallway where there used to be red leather seats, going to the movie room, or outside looking at the basketball court... it was awesome.

We went to the store by Fatemi market. Walked around and reminisced about what we used to buy there. Then we drove to our second house in Beraim, #304. I was not sure, if it would be there. When we got here, I was so happy. It looked just the way I remembered.

There was a guard who did not want to let us in because the house was occupied. I kept on walking and told him that I was not going inside. I just wanted to walk in the garden. He finally stopped protesting. I showed Tannaz where the tree was where my best friend had carved his initials and mine. Only the tree trunk was left, but it was there.

The house looked like it was not kept well inside. Some of the windows were broken but the outside was the same minus some flowers. In my birthday parties my sister and brother used to hide candy in the garden and whoever found the most, got a prize -- kind of like the Easter egg hunt. Tannaz remembered the game. We had a laugh.

Then we went to Beraim swimming pool. An old guard let us in. The pool looked so great and inviting. Then we went to Jahanshah Javid's house down the street. I had spent a few afternoons there playing with his toys, celebrating at birthday parties, or going across the street to his dad's office to watch movies. We also both went to the same Parvaneh Kindergarten across from his house. I wished he was there and could see what I was seeing.

Many parts of Abadan have been rebuilt. That's why it looked like time had stood still. They had only left a few homes by the Naft Club in ruins in remembrance of the war. That meant the last house we lived in was bombed out.

I loved that house. At the end of our garden was the Shat. I would sit for hours and watch the ships go by. I loved the sunsets. I could see Iraqi people walking on the other side. It was peaceful in those days.

My friends were worried about me going through our devastated home. But I was so happy to be in Abadan that I did not mind. I walked through the ruble and found my old room. I also found my parents' room. Then we walked to the edge of the Shat. Oh, I was home again. Nothing was going to take this feeling away from me.

We went to Naft Club and and the Annex. Then I ran back to the edge of the Shat, took some of the soil and put it in a plastic bag and stuck it in my coat pocket.

Then we went to the city and walked around for a while. The driver was so amazed how I remembered every street. I would tell him, "Third falakeh, left." He would say, "How do you know?" I said, "I walked these streets for 16 years. I should know."

The driver took us to Khorramshahr and we hired a small boat. Oh, we were all so happy. The night approached and we had a flight to catch back to Tehran. Everything went so fast. Next time I go home, I want to stay longer. Now, that I know my memories were true. I can sit quietly by the Shat and wait for a sunset.

At the airport security check a woman was padding me down. She asked what was in my pocket. I was afraid to talk. I thought if I told her, she would take the bag of soil away from me. But I did not have much choice. I slowly pulled out the bag and showed it to her. She asked what it was. "Khaak-e Abadan," I said. She looked at me with amazement and asked,"Bacheh-ye eenjaaee?" Tears rolled down my face. I could not speak. I just shook my head, "Yes." I felt like a deer staring at its hunter. She said, "Khosh aamadee," and let me go with a warm smile.

If you have not been home for a long time, please go, even if it is for a few hours. You will be glad that you did.

More than 80 photos here

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