I have dedicated uncountable hours to wondering what it would be like to go to Iran. It’s where my parents were born, where my Middle Eastern features wouldn’t cause confusion (“Are you Indian? Greek? Jewish? Hinjew?”), and where my compulsive tendency to knock on wood would be inherently understood (inshallah). I imagined that, within minutes of arrival, a sense of self I never knew existed— some secret, tucked-away part of me—would finally get a chance to breathe. (Thanks, Joy Luck Club, for filling my head with crap like this.)
Now, after twenty-seven years of wondering what my motherland is like, I’m sitting in a plane somewhere over Turkey, headed for Tehran. My dad has come with me, because without his superior Farsi and guidance, I’d feel more like a tourist than I’d care to. He has only been back twice, alone, since leaving thirty years ago. My mom: never.