March 23, 2004
With the Halloween debacle behind me I decided to
the month of November my issue-free month. Around the
middle of November, my dad got a clean bill of health
from his army of doctors and was feeling pretty good
if not a bit tired from all the probing and
testing and what not. And now with his good health,
he decided that it was time for us to go back to Iran.
At the time our family
urged him to leave me in the US even if he was intent on going back. In accordance
of Iranian law, in a couple of years I would be banned from traveling
abroad and would
serve in the military. The Iran-Iraq war was still
raging with no end in sight. Plus, having had the
experience of a shaved head during winter I knew I
wasn't ready to be a soldier. I was 12-years old for
God's sake, I was supposed to be collecting baseball
cards and playing around -- not carrying a
My dad's reasoning was that we were a family, either
we all stayed in the US or we all went back to Iran.
There was no middle ground. He strongly believed that
children needed to be raised by their parents. He had
seen the struggle and hardship that many children left parentless in foreign
countries went through and wasn't ready for me to go through that.
He rationalized everything with me somehow falling
into the wrong crowd and becoming a drug user or even
worse -- not going to college! So since he had no
intention of staying in the States it was decided that
we pack up and head back to Iran. Before we left, my
uncle Mahmood took us to Toys R Us and allowed us to
purchase any toy we wanted.
Being a greedy little jerk, I picked the largest
train set I could find, which was so huge that I could
barely carry it. The mind of a child is easy to
understand -- bigger is better, simple as that. I was
so excited about my train and was dying to show it off
to my friends in Iran, but with my luck I was informed
that my train set was way too big to take with us to
Iran. This meant no showing the train off
to my friends, and worse, watching
Mahan play with all of his reasonably sized He-Man
action figures for the duration of our trip back while
I sat there bored out of my mind.
Going back to Iran was a bittersweet event. I was
happy to go back to my old friends but also sad about
leaving the US -- with all of its safety, freedom and
endless cartoons on television -- and I also didn't
want to leave my newfound friends behind, even though
we could hardly communicate with each other.
flight back was quite subdued compared to our trip to
the US. Agitation washed over the passengers on the
plane as soon as our Swiss Air flight crossed into
Iranian territory and it was announced on the PA that
all women needed to cover themselves. I felt really
angry at the time that my dad would take me back to
Iran and didn't care if I served in the military.
Looking back, though, I really admire him for his
wisdom to make sure that the family stayed together no
We arrived in Tehran and on our second day back,
my mom registered us for school. The school year had
already started three months before that so we didn't
realize that the 1st trimester exams were only a week
away. My soulless principal said that I would be
responsible for taking the exams and didn't care that
I had just gotten back from the US and that I didn't
know what the hell was going on.
On the other hand,
my brother's principal told my mom to bring Mahan back
in two weeks after the exams were over. I was now
very upset at my mom, my dad and Mahan for good
measure. I was upset at everybody who crossed my
path. Here I come back to Iran after being gone for
three months and now I had to study 14 different
subject matters for exams that were only a week away.
All that while Mahan got a two-week vacation to hang
out and play around. Unacceptable.
Needless to say my first trimester grades
were nothing to brag about and I felt that I had now sealed
my entry into the military with my miserable grades.
Perhaps the most embarrassing part of these exams
was that I barely even passed my English exam. Having
been in the United States for the past 3 months would
lead one to believe that I could at least pass this
exam with flying colors. Especially since the
questions on the exam were as basic as stuff on Sesame Street. My mom was so
amazed that I did so poorly that she actually went to see the
teacher but was informed that there was no mistake; I
had simply blown the exam.
School was usually pretty normal for most of the
day until our final class when the infamous rolling
blackouts of Tehran would hit us. It was kind of like
the lottery nobody wanted to win. My parents had
started a good communications network to warn others
that the blackout was heading their way. Basically
once the black out hit you, you'd call and warn all
the relatives that lived in the various grids of the
approaching black out.
Now the blackouts we could get
used to, but the water rations were another story. You
could be in the middle of a shower and they would turn
off the water. Then you were stuck washing yourself
with the little water that was in the tub before it
went down the drain.
On the bright side of things,
though, when the blackouts occurred during school, we
were let out early and sent home. The trouble was
that the roads were also affected by the blackouts
since none of the street lights would work. So we had
to be careful not to get run over by the lunatics who
are allowed to drive their cars on the streets of
Tehran (think Frogger but with cars aiming for you). And in case you are
wondering, Tehran is the official breeding ground for NASCAR. Sort
of like a farm
system or minor leagues for insane drivers.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the blackouts
happened during my 3rd trimester finals. Anyone who
has gone to school in Iran knows how nerve racking the
3rd trimester finals can be. I mean, finals are
stressful no matter what grade you are in or in which
country you are in but in Iran, there is the added
issue of family shame. Not only do you need to make
sure you get good grades but most of all you just want
to pass. If you don't then you were stuck going to
summer school. Perhaps nothing is more as
embarrassing in Iran than going to summer school.
While it's pretty standard here in the US, and is
even encouraged so that you can get ahead in school, I have
known parents who in public deny they even have
children if the poor child should happen to attend
summer school in Iran. Parents likewise began
speaking in hushed tones when talking about a
relative's child if he or she should happen to be
attending summer school. "Did you hear that Amir's
son is in summer school? How could things have gone so
far? He used to be such a good kid... "
Anyway, at 5 PM I was sitting
at my desk ready to take the exam when the cursed electricity went out. So
we sat in the dark for a while until our teacher came in
and told everyone to go to the basement, which had
some windows at the top that let in light and air.
The principal then, along with our science teacher,
drove two Paykans (the Iranian-made car which,
technologically speaking, is still stuck in the horse-and-buggy era) into the
courtyard and turned their lights on. That gave us enough light
to allow us to
take our exams. I passed my exams with flying colors
and was ready to have a school-free summer break where
all I had to worry about were the occasional bombings,
avoiding heat stroke (Iran summers can reach 120
degree farenheit), and my fathers ailing health.
One of the issues the doctors had with my dad was the fact that he smoked. They
told him repeatedly that for his health to improve
he had to quit smoking. The problem is that in Iran
the only form of "legal" entertainment is smoking. And 99% of the
sure felt like that) smoked. And the other 1% were
infants who would begin smoking as soon as they
learned to walk.
With the passing of days and months we got used
to our daily routine but my dad's inability or unwillingness
to quit smoking caused his health to
deteriorate again. Around June of 1986 my father once again
headed to Los Angeles for medical treatment. In
August of 1986 we followed him to LA and left Iran for
the last time. >>> To
be continued >>> Index