Not without my laptop (3)
By Joni Mashti
April 5, 2002
I'm still planning my trip to Iran. We are still celebrating the Aide No Ruz the
Persian New Year. For the past 5 or 6 years now, we have started planning to visit
Iran in the summertime, and for some reason or other we had canceled our plans just
before the No Ruz celebrations. Last year, we very nearly made it. We had gotten
as far as applying for our Iranian passports. Unfortunately, we didn't send the paperwork
in time, and the only passport that was ready, was my husband's. So, before I continue
with telling you the rest of the story about why we didn't go to Iran in 1979, I
want to be sure to mention that if you plan to go, be sure you start early. It can
take as long as 6 months to get your Iranian passport. To be safe, you may want to
give yourself a year.
More about 1979 - Jedee Migee? Na Baba. Rustesheh bogoo.
It was February 1979. Jamsheed had been gone for several months. After graduating,
I managed to find my very first job. As I searched for a job in 1979, I came to understand
why my engineer friends had called my liberal arts degree a 'pre wed' degree. That
year, the only jobs available for people with my skills required the phrase, "Would
you like fries with that?" So I took one of those jobs as an assistant manager
I didn't learn any Farsi at all while Jamsheed was gone. I was too busy accepting
the fact that I was going to have to become an adult. My first big shock was that
I was going to have to learn how to drive a car. Yes, I was a 21 year-old American
woman who had never driven a car. This needs an explanation. My father had been career
military. We moved to a different state, sometimes to a different country every 3
to 5 years. It just so happened that we spent the last 5 years of his career in Europe.
That's where I was when I turned 16, the age when most Americans get their drivers'
licenses. My father left the military to start his second career as a teacher in
a small town. My inability to drive had not been an issue before. The high school
where my dad taught was across the street from the local branch campus of State U.
The main campus had an incredible bus system and impossible parking situation, so
it was actually better not to drive when there. But, now I was a 'career' woman.
Mom and dad just weren't going to be able to drive me around anymore. As a graduation
present, my mom bought me driving lessons.
My other graduation present was a party. I actually dreaded this day. The graduation
party was really more for my parents than for me. They had invited a few of their
friends and neighbors and my uncle's family, the only relatives we had that lived
with in a decent driving distance. I dreaded this day because I had no friends to
invite to my own graduation party.
My lack of friends is something that I also blamed on moving to this small town at
16. Most of the people I met in high school here had never traveled as far as 10
miles to the next town. To give you an idea of the social climate, a few days after
the beginning of school, my little sister was sent to a speech therapist because
she talked differently from the other children. After giving my sister a series of
speech tests, she sent her back to class with a note to the teacher explaining that
my sister's accent was not a speech impediment. We did not have an unusual accent.
English was our first and only language. My sister was in grade school. She actually
blended in much more easily than I did. She even picked up the local accent. But,
I remained an outsider. At 16, I was just unable to connect with the kids at school
who seemed so different from everyone that I had known before.
I had met a few people in college. But, they had all graduated before me and had
gone their separate ways. Jamsheed was gone. Before he left, I had made it clear
that I didn't expect anything lasting with him. I loved Jamsheed but Jamsheed loved
Iran. His dream was to get his education in the U.S. so that he could go back to
Iran and do something good for the people back home. He wanted to start an agriculture
school or help introduce advanced irrigation techniques or something. I wanted to
visit Iran, but I couldn't imagine going there to live. I still wasn't over the culture
shock of having moved from an International community in Europe of mostly Americans
to an American community in Middle America. As interesting as the stories Jamsheed
told me of his home, I knew myself well enough to know that I wouldn't last long
in the rural town that Jamsheed had told me so much about. I didn't see how it would
be possible for me to survive such a big change. Since we hadn't made any promises
to one-another, I didn't think it was a good idea to keep in touch with his friends.
I was very happily surprised when Marjan called that morning. Marjan was one of Jamsheed's
best friends. I had the greatest respect for Marjan. Marjan was one of the first
friends that Jamsheed introduced me to. I felt honored by the introduction. It was
almost as if he were bringing me home to meet his family. Marjan was just a couple
of years older than us an eons wiser. She had worked and supported herself in Iran
before coming to study in the US. I remember being impressed that she had managed
a staff of people in Iran. The only other women in business that I had know of before
meeting her were secretaries. On that particular February morning, as I was feeling
just about as friendless and alone as a person can possibly feel, her voice was a
very welcome surprise. "Joni Guess who's back in town?" It took a few seconds
for her message to sink in. The graduation party my parents were preparing quickly
became Jamsheed's 'Welcome Back' party.
Jamsheed and I spent a lot of time together in the next couple of months. He supplemented
the driving lessons that my mom had set up, by letting me drive his old '68 Mustang
through the country roads. I enjoyed tagging along with him to visit friends and
attend get-togethers. Jamsheed was usually pretty good at translating when the language
switched to Persian, but there was many a time that I was left stranded in my confusion.
After a while, when I got tired of the game of trying to guess where one word ended
and the next began, I got Jamsheed to teach me the most useful phrases of Persian
that I had learned so far. "Jedee Megee? Na Baba.. Rustesheh bogoo... Beh Englisi
lotvan. Farsi balad nistam." (Really? Noooo Tell the truth In English, please
-- I don't speak Persian). This made the get-togethers so much easier. I found that
the best way to use this was to wander up to a group of people who were in mid- conversation.
I watched them as if I were listening intently and actually understood what they
were saying. When I could see that there was a break in the conversation, I made
my statement. First, it was a way to break the ice and get people to speak to me
in English. Second, and probably more importantly, it made me realize that most Iranians
thoroughly enjoyed helping an American in the pursuit of learning their language.
But, my new "Jedee Megee" statement wasn't enough. When we had our first
major argument I was ready to leave Jamsheed forever. He had left me stranded at
a party after we had a small disagreement. When I couldn't find him, I left without
him. The next time I talked to him, I told him it just wasn't going to work between
us. It wasn't just the argument. It wasn't even the fact that he had the guy I left
the party with convinced that if Jamsheed ever found out where he lived, his life
expectancy would be seriously diminished. I just didn't think that I would ever be
able to fit into Jamsheed's life. I knew his plan was still to return to Iran. I
knew that even if I were able to get past the language barriers, there would be other
obstacles I would have to overcome. I knew I wasn't ready.
Shortly after breaking up with Jamsheed forever, I answered an ad in the paper that
asked for a college degree and willingness to travel. I accepted the job and took
off to see America.
So, in the summer of 1979 I had left my Iranian husband to be forever and was still
not ready to visit Iran. More importantly, in the summer of 1979 I didn't have a
suitable computer for the trip.
Next week: "Midonam keh to michai un ra mikhori."