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Happy anniversary?
"Was it the right move to come to America?"

December 1, 2004
iranian.com

November 24th, 1978. Twenty-six years ago. Can't help but relive that day every November 24th. That was the day I left Iran.

I was only 17. Hadn't shaved yet! I was attached to my family, very strongly. It was and still is a very tight knit family. Perhaps the only one, that I know, where aunts and uncles on both father's and mother's side get along well.

My parents have been a strong glue that keeps everyone together. I loved them and hated to separate. I wasn't one of those young men who was eager to get out of Iran. I had no desire or dream of going to America. I remember my lack of excitement very well.

It was Dad's decision and for the most part; it was final. I remember the night before the flight how I cried and how my sister, Laleh, told me that I couldn't say no to Dad.

The night before, all of my aunts, uncles and cousins were there, I mean all! The next morning some 30 people came to the airport with us and more joined us there. I was the first member of our family to ever leave Iran. I was the eldest male cousin on my father's side, and a very visible one on my mother's. Everyone was looking up to me.

I couldn't bear to see so many crying eyes in the airport. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I never forget the loud voice of a girl in the crowd, "ger-ye nakon hamsafar" (don't cry fellow traveler). I didn't want to go.

The moments after I said goodbye to everyone and went to the departure gate are still very vivid. The small, brown, heavy carry-on bag (full of pistachios and gaz) was hurting my shoulder. I was wearing a very nice leather coat, which my sister's boyfriend had given me. Italian pants and thick, high-heel shoes. I may have looked cool, but dying inside.

The trip was eventless. Kind of numbing. I talked to an old father sitting next to me who was going to see his daughter after many years and was very happy. Talked to a young girl, perhaps my age; she was crying because she was already missing her parents. The plane was full of young people, who weren't sure about the life ahead. It was one of the saddest moments I can remember.

I remember how I thought JFK airport was New York City. Never seen an airport so big. It was amazing. Because of the many delays caused (as usual) by Iran Air, we went to a local hotel and flew to Kansas City the next day. 

By the time I arrived in my new high school in Hays, Kansas, it was after Thanksgiving and I had no idea what the hell had just happened. One of the staff asked me if I was home-sick. I answered, "NO, I'm not sick." I was visibly disturbed and shaken.

Moments later Kianoosh, another Iranian student at theschool, showed up. What an ass! First thing he told me was, "Khareh, 'home-sick' yani deltangi", (home-sick means missing your home). "Oh, in that case, yes, I'm home-sick," I said. I don't remember if he translated that or not.

I sat in the TV room. It was 6am. Students started pouring in, watching TV, which I did not understand very well. It was a cold Kansas morning. The hallways and the TV room of the old Military Academy building were nice and toasty.

Minutes later a loud bell went off and I started following the kids. Kianoosh said, "breakfast." That I understood! I was hungry.

Went down to the dining room. Huge area with about 20 tables. I sat next to Kianoosh and with my head bowed, I started looking around while everybody was praying. 

Thomas More was a Catholic prep school. Big, old, stone buildings, quite nice, actually. But I hated all the walls, doors, windows, and the smell of it. It was not a home away from home. Breakfast was a collection of weird smells of sausage and bacon, totally unfamiliar to me. I remember I had some milk and cereal that morning, corn flakes, which I also recognized!

Days, months and years have gone by and I still remember the first days. Did my father make the right decision? Would I have been involved in the revolution or the war if I had stayed in Iran? Would I have managed to stay alive? So many of my friends lost their lives; would I have had the same fate?

In my last trip to Iran, just a few months ago, my cousin, whom I'm very close to, told me for the first time, all about his involvement in the war with Iraq in the 1980s. I remember the family had tried to get him a desk job in Tehran, so he wouldn't go to the war front. He told me he wanted to!

He said most fought in the war, at least for the first couple of years, because they wanted to. It was a matter of national pride, defending our soil. He said kids our age would happily put their lives up to defend every inch of Iran from aggression.

With that, I came back with even more questions. With a huge question, "Why wasn't I there?"

So, every Thanksgiving, I am unsure: Should I give thanks or not. Yes, I am thankful for a wonderful wife, a happy life, wonderful friends, good health, and so on. But I still miss home. I have asked myself this question, at least 26 times, "Was it the right move to come to America?"

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