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Part 9

February 12, 2004
The Iranian

Our arrival into LAX was really exciting. We got off the plane and went down to the luggage area where my dad immediately noticed his uncle standing there. It was great to see him except for the fact that my grandparents were supposed to pick us up, not him. We shrugged it off and ran up to him and we all hugged and kissed for what seemed like an hour.

We then asked him where his car was parked so that we could get all of our luggage in there and head off to Orange County where we were going to stay with my grandparents. He had no idea what we were talking about and it turned out that he was randomly there to pick someone else up and was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him.

This brought about two theories with my brother and me. Either LA must be a really small town if we are randomly running into family members at the airport or we must have a lot of family members in southern California and we were going to be running into them everywhere. Passage of time proved the latter to be true.

We have so much family in southern California that you could go to the grocery store and on the way there, see your uncle in the car next to you at the stop light, then get to the grocery store and see your aunt with her kids in the checkout line and go to a restaurant afterwards where at least two of the tables are occupied by various cousins and other relatives. It's actually pretty cool.

Anyway, after we finally decided that my dad's uncle wasn't pulling our leg and he actually wasn't there to pick us up, my uncle Mahmood showed up a few minutes later to pick us up and to drive us to our new home in Irvine, California.

The drive on the 405 freeway took forever but was overshadowed by the driving exhibition that we were all witnessing. We were mesmerized by the absolute conformity with traffic laws. People were staying in their lanes, no trash was being thrown out of any windows and we didn't hear anybody honking their horn for the entire span of the drive.

We were completely perplexed. After all, we were from a land where lanes on the highway and stop signs were purely decorative -- actually, I think I laughed the first time I saw someone stop at a stop sign in America before I found out that stopping at stop signs is actually the norm, not the exception.

What a country.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived at my grand parents' house and found that nobody was there. We certainly weren't expecting a ticker tape parade when we arrived but we figured that a couple of people being home wasn't asking too much.

Apparently, though, we had taken so long to get to their house that they got worried and thought that my uncle had missed us at the airport, so naturally they decided to drive an hour up to LAX to look for us. I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Since my uncle did not have a key to the house, we had to look for a partially opened window where my eight-year-old brother was called into action to squeeze inside and open the door. A few seconds later we were in the house and were finally able to relax in the United States.

The very next day, my grand parents threw a welcome party for us. Due to lack of space in their house, they decided to invite only the closest relatives -- all 150 of them. As the cavalry of Jazayeris arrived at the house, we were quickly introduced to them and just as quickly I forgot their names and their relation to me.

It was great to see everyone but impossible to keep track as my mom would say things like "Houman, this is your dad's second cousin's wife's brother, do you remember him when he came to visit us in Iran when you were two?" At that point of the day, I had already been in the U.S. for almost 24 hours and had not yet been to Disneyland, which was a complete injustice if I'd ever heard of one.

During the innumerous pinching of my cheeks and patting of my head, the noises coming out of everyone mouth sounded like the parents in Charlie Brown cartoons: "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah."

I was fixated with the thought of Disneyland, bordering on obsessive some might say. Judging by the crowd, however, I was sure that we were not going to go that day.

The next day my uncle Mehrdad, my dad's youngest brother, decided to take us to the swimming pool which in itself was fun since we got a chance to see the town. Irvine is notorious for its plethora of community swimming pools, tennis courts and other family-related suburban destinations of interest.

While in the car, my brother was eating a slice of cheese courtesy of Kraft. When he was done, conforming to standard operating procedures in Iran, he rolled down his window and threw away the plastic wrapper. My uncle looked at him with concern and informed him that he could be fined a lot of money for throwing away trash and introduced us to the concept of "littering."

I had never heard of the word or the concept in my life.

I swear that there were times in Iran where people would throw entire crates of orange peels and trash out of the windows of their cars with no regard for the vehicles behind them. Driving a car in Tehran, or in general, Iran, was like an obstacle course where the point was to get from point A to point B while dodging the various pieces of garbage flying from the car in front of you.

When we got back from the pool, my uncle Mehdi and his family (Mary, Darius and Ryan) arrived from Palo Alto in northern California and I finally got to meet my American cousins for the first time. The problem was that my brother and I didn't speak any English and they couldn't speak any Farsi. But we all got along really well anyway. When you're a kid, the language barrier doesn't really prevent you from kicking a soccer ball around and just generally goofing around.

Finally, on our fourth day in America, my dream was finally realized when Mary and my mom took us all to Disneyland. We got there at the crack of dawn and didn't leave until the cleanup crew kicked us out at the end of the night. Our voracious appetite for all things Disney not satiated by only a day's activities, Mary took us for a second serving the following day. By the end, we had ridden Pirates of the Carribean so many times that we were saying our good-byes to the ride operators on a first name basis >>> To be continued >>> Index

Comedy & Satire in San Jose on February 27 >>> Details

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By Houman Jazaeri
Escape from Abadan





Book of the day

Funny in Farsi
A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
By Firoozeh Dumas
>>> Excerpt

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