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Nokhod farangee
I wonder what it would feel like to live in a place that hot dog stands are replaced with balaal and gerdoo vendors

By Mazda Aghamohammadi
March 28, 2002
The Iranian

Recently I have thought a lot about whether I will ever go back to Iran. When my family and I first arrived in America 18 years ago, we all believed that we would go back in a few years. Years and years past and now I can say that I have lived less than a quarter of my life in Iran.

Although I love Iran, her land, culture, people and history, to a certain extent I have become very "Amerikaaee". It's like Iran and America are both my parents. Can you imagine choosing one parent over the other?

My friends and I have become so Westernized that everyone around us remarks that we will never be able to live in Iran even if we wanted to. To someone who grew up with bedtime stories of Iranian mythology and history, you can imagine how discouraging it is to hear such things.

The reasoning behind such an argument is that I have become to accustomed to the freedoms and opportunities of the West. And just as my father will never fully grasp the English language and Western culture, I will that same problem with Farsi and Iranian culture.

I am told to stop day dreaming and wake up to the fact that I will never have a home in Iran. So it seems like I have two options, to live in the West for the rest of my life and deal with the inevitability that my children or grandchildren will have nothing connecting them to Iran or move back to Iran despite the difficulties.

If I stay then my grandchildren will feel as Iranian as third generation Italian-Americans feel Italian. They have an Italian last name and grandpa rants and raves about the old country endlessly (despite the fact that grandpa only lived in Italy during his early childhood), but nothing more.

They do not speak Italian and know as much about Italian culture and history as any other American. This seems to have happened to every immigrant group, regardless of the strength of their culture. What makes me think that it will be any different for Iranians living abroad?

Of course, this is a historical precedent and their is no shame or tragedy in this. At least I will know that my future children will live in a free and advanced country that gives them the opportunity to do as well as they want to do, provided they work hard. One of them could become the President of the United States. They will never worry about censorship, oppression, hunger, or war. That is a pretty good life.

On the other hand, I could move to Iran. The life I would lead there depends on Iran's situation. There are three possibilities; it will be better, the same, or worse.

Lets go with the best case scenario. Even if it becomes a better place to live and raise children, their is no way it could be better than here in terms of financial wealth and opportunity for success. I will still be a foreigner, just in a new country. I will always have difficulty with the language and customs, despite my parents' best efforts.

Due to my deficiencies, I may never do as well financially as I could here. Growing up in America, I know the customs here and can relate to Americans easily. I can go to a country club and schmooze with other physicians in order to get referrals (I am currently in medical school) or form a group practice.

Such arrangements will be much more difficult in Iran. Heck, my children will regard me as a "nokhod farangee". But at least I will know that my children will grow up more Iranian than me. The culture will not be forsaken and their Iranian identity will be as strong as my forefathers.

Also, every day I will experience the feeling that I have longed for since the first time I noticed I was different in America. It is the feeling of belonging. I can only imagine how it would feel to walk down a street filled with people that look like me, speak Farsi, celebrate the New Year on the first day of Spring, and prefer noon o' paneer for breakfast over pancakes.

I wonder what it would feel like to live in a place that hot dog stands are replaced with balaal and gerdoo vendors. A place were malls are replaced by bazaars. A place were my children's best friends will be their cousins, thanks to the abundance of family, just like how it was for me when I was there. A place were I can not only teach my children about Kourosh and Dariush, but I can take them to their ancient palaces in Isfahan and Takht-e-Jamshid several times a year. How wonderful it would be.

Now, it would be great for me, but what about my family? My parents' left their families in Iran to give us a better and safer life here. Due to the fact that the move left us with very, very little family here, we became very close. Would I be able to make such a move? How could I expect my future wife to make such a move?

How could I expect her and my children to give up the freedoms and security of the West? Would I be able to take the advantages and opportunities that my children will have in America (thanks mainly to the hard work and sacrifice of my mother and father) away from them? All of these point towards a single question.

Although it pains me greatly to have to even think about this; just how important is my Iranian heritage and culture to me? This is a question that we all have to deal with one day. Personally, I have no idea what my decision will be.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to writer
Mazda Aghamohammadi

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