wasn't just the whisky
Charshanbeh Soori in Norway
By Sanaz Salehi
March 18, 2004
A mock-up of nature: I, "a desert woman",
arrived in an industrial, little
town called Stavanger in Norway, two years ago and have lived here
since. I am such a "Middle Eastern" at heart, so attached
to my roots, and
yet I decided to move to this lonely Nordic town, of which I knew
and where, I knew not a soul.
The winters, where winter lasts for nine months,
are icy and gloomy. And the
dark mornings? Ever left your home at 8 in the morning only
that it is still pitch-black outside? The wind pierces through
woolen coat and all I want to do is crawl
bed and dream about the sun and the sand dunes of my childhood
On my way to the bus stop, I slip on the ice for
the zillionth time. My stiletto boots are just not meant for Norwegian
At night, there is little to do in terms of nightlife
and entertainment. I
miss my jet-set life in London. It was all glitz and glamour: the
restaurants, the exclusive clubs and all my loud, outgoing, eccentric
friends. Something is amiss in this Scandinavian village. Perhaps
zest for life or the lack of a "je ne sais coix" that
different and interesting. One Swedish politician once said, "Norway
last communist state in Europe."
I have become very domesticated due to the non-existent
nightlife. Thanks to
my mum, I have learnt to make khoroshte bademjoon and zereshk polo,
sometimes my friends and I gather at my place to have a meal and
It's a far cry from my weekends in London when the garbage truck
by my flat before I got home at dawn.
On my really bad days, I
call my friends, who have seen me through thick and thin. I look
the "Names" menu on my mobile. The list is long: Rana,
Elnaz, Ali, Sahel,
Yasi... and depending on what time it is -- they live
all over the
world -- I call one of these poor souls, who has to sympathize
with my never
ending moaning. "I hate it here..." sniff, sniff, "I
want to go back home... It's cold and people are even colder."
These calls can take hours, I kid you
I remember one summer a long-time back, my childhood
friend Rana and I
were sent to Cannes, South of France, to attend summer school and
on our French. We literally lasted there for 30 minutes. One look
school and we decided it was not for us and we wouldn't "have
fun". We left
on the next flight. I realize how far I have come from those days,
was so spoilt and nonor.
A few days ago it was Charshanbeh Soori. I was
not in the mood for
celebrations, but my Iranian colleagues, Pani and Ali, dragged
me out. We
went to this park outside of town, where the small Iranian community
for the first time organizing bonfires. There were 20 or so people
few fires burning on a small strip of land by the fjord. I stood
shaking in the cold, trying to defrost my fingers by the warmth
People I hardly knew, with genuine smiles on their
came over and introduced themselves. Someone was ta'arofing
ajil-e-moshkelgosha and Shajarian was playing from a car stereo
close by. We took our smuggled whisky to a corner
and had a few
glasses each -- it really helps to keep out the cold, temporarily
This was the first time we had joined an Iranian event here and
want to offend any people, who seemed more conservative than us.
know with Iranians...
I jumped over a few fires and chanted the memorized
man zardiye man az to". I said a little prayer for myself,
my loved ones and
Iran. As long as I remember I always make the same wish: "Khodaya,
Inshallah sale dige all of us, all Iranians will
celebrate Charshanbeh Soori in Iran." I know my wish won't
come true, but
it's become some sort of a ritual.
The scene was so surreal. Ali
was standing by the edge of the fjord feeding
a swan with snacks that had been scattered by the wind. Pani had
joined a few other young women, who were
dancing around one of the fires and moving to a bandari rhythm.
the older guys from the group had picked up a plastic bucket and
playing some random beat.
Another guy was singing some danbolidanbol
hardly made sense to me. Initially, I had been reluctant to come
gathering, but at that point I was glad I was there. I was thousands
away from home and my loved ones, but at that moment, I stopped
lonely and sad. There was a certain warmth in my stomach, and
no, it wasn't
just the whisky.
My career circumstances brought me to this place,
but my Nordic experience
is coming to an end. In a month I will pack my bags and leave to
new chapter in my life, never to return here again. Granted, I
spent a fortune on phone bills to Dubai, Black Label whisky and
trips to my beloved London. But I survived.
I don't know where
take me next, but I am prepared. I have learnt an important lesson
You can get through anything and everything is possible,
you have your family, friends like Rana, Pani and Ali and "Johnny
Walker" by your side. Suddenly, I feel like
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