I cant remember exactly, but it was a few years after the revolution, right when the “begir begir” (mass arrests) started, the passport office in tehran started issuing new IRI passports so we went and stood in line for days and got them. The swiss embassy in tehran had a USA desk and I was able to get exit visas for my wife and baby son. We flew to bern with the $500 dollars we were allowed to take with us, and had to stay at the jugenhostel (youth hostel) for a week while the US consulate there processed our visas. There were three ex-hostages working at the US consulate and they werent very friendly to iranians, yet we were able to get our papers.
The lady at the reception desk at the jugenhostel was very rude and condescending to the iranians there, as well as to the arabs and africans. She put all of us in uncarpeted rooms without toiletsin an unfinished part of the hostel, while the european guests stayed in “luxury” rooms. We had to be out of the rooms from 9am until 5pm and without money we would just sit around the lunch table and chat. One day we had our swaddled baby boy sleeping in his carrier on the table and she yelled at us that we were animals and ordered us to get the filth of the tables, they were for eating, not sleeping. She made many other impolite comments during our stay there and on the day we got our stamps and called a taxi to go to the airport and fly to chicago, as we were checking out, I told her she was a racist. She went red with anger, said she had had enough of these arabs, called the police and kicked out all the iranians staying there, as well as the other arabs and people of color. I remember getting in the taxi and looking back at the line of people streaming out of the jugenhostel under police supervision (they had arrived in less than two minutes). The poor people looked back at me, not in anger, they just shook their heads in disbelief that such an idiot as I could exist in this world.
We flew to chicago and went to sawyer michagan, about a 90 minute drive, to stay with grampa larson in his log cabin near the beach. It was a boring 6 months, just teevee and rednecks. When summer came around we would go to the beach everyday, and I would take this opportunity to look for iranians. We were so close to chicago I was sure that I would be able to find an iranian on the beach. We had left our friends and families in iran, and the constant visits and friends dropping over, and sitting around telling the same jokes over and over, and drinking homemade spirits and laughing until we cried to come to the land of teevee and rednecks. I so wanted to find an iranian to talk to and maybe even invite over for a cup tea. Then one day I saw him. He was sitting on a blanket with three american girls in bikinis and he looked so iranian; hairy, brown, arrogant and happy to be on a blanket with three girls. I was kicking a ball around with my son, so I kicked it over by the guy and yelled loudly to my son, “behrang, boro tupo begir (go get the ball)” and the guy looked over right at me. There was panic on his face as I walked toward him, but I didnt notice it, and with a big smile said, “salaam!”, as his eyebrows pleaded for mercy, he said in the thickest iranain accent I have ever heard, “ayy don't underrrstand.” so I asked him where he was from and he said, “ayy am, uh, uh, ayy am yoonani (the farsi word for greek)”, it was then I realized it was still too near to the hostage crisis for iranians to get laid in the states, so I said, “sorry, I thought you were from kharkosde island.” he looked at me, pleading with his eyes for me to leave him alone and just pitifully shrugged his shoulders. I walkd away.
We wouldnt see iranians until we bought a 73 michigan-rusted-out ford maveric for $300 and drove across country in a snow blizzard to california to camp at bella and nersi's berkeley “refugee center” for a couple months until we could get jobs and an apartment of our own.
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