The time had come for me to depart from Iran. Into my duffel bag I crammed my memories, thoughts and souvenirs of the nooks and crannies of the country. My sneakers still held the dust of Persepolis, Darake and Shomal. My face was still red from the midday summer sun.
Throughout my final day, members of my host-family stopped by to say their goodbyes and each arrived with a few items for me to take back to the States for myself and for their family members living in the States.
That night I watched the sun set through the smog that hung over the western part of the city and as I surveyed the capital, a white dove that belonged to a local bird collector landed on the TV aerial on my roof. A few moments later, it took flight and continued to circle the neighborhood. I hoped it was good omen for my trip back.
The mother of the host-family filled a bowl with water, picked some leaves from the peach tree in the hayat, or courtyard, and put them in the water. As I crossed the threshold of the house and out the gates into the kooche (alley), I walked under the bowl and a Qoran. Once off the premises, the water and leaves were poured on the ground. The ritual is done with the hopes that the visitor will return soon.
It was a rather solemn and emotion-filled moment, one I will not forget easily. The entire family piled into two cars and we headed toward Mehrabad airport. For some Iranians, such a trip reminds them of a time when members of their own families said farewell. It was at that same time that I began to understand the attachment Iranians have for their family members, both near and far.
When I departed, I was treated like family. It didn't seem to matter much that I had been born into a different family, in a different country with a different mother tongue. The leaves that lay in the kooche said more than any of us could put into words.
Before visiting Iran, I had run into several Americans and Europeans who had lived in Iran for various lengths of time. Most loved the time they spent there and fondly recalled their experiences. Some even told me that had it not been for the great upheaval the country experienced, they would have retired in Iran.
The extremely unfortunate part of the story is that most in America and in other parts of the world received violent events after 1979 as their introduction to Iran and its people. A most unfortunate introduction indeed.
I can recall the impression those events imprinted on my memory at a young age, and the impact it made on the way I viewed Iran. Fortunately, like many things in life, once you get to know something and see it from a new perspective, one's opinions can change.
Although many will draw their own conclusions about Iran, I, and for that matter anyone, can adjust views and opinions with experience. After all, isn't that what experience is for? I doubt that experience is gathered and revered by many for the sole purpose of reinforcing negative impressions.
Upon reflection, one point that I should have made in an earlier article for