You can take a girl out of Iran but … you can’t take Iran out of the girl.
After 35 years I’m returning for a visit to Iran. The country where I was born; where my grandparents are laid to rest; where I’ve left my heart since the very moment I was away.
I’m leaving NY in less than two weeks, arriving in Tehran just before Norooz, the Iranian new year. I’m excited to be back at such a special and festive time. I can’t wait to set foot on the soil of Tehran; I can’t wait to peek at the snowy peaks of Damavand mountain; I can’t wait to take a bite out of noneh sangak; and I can’t wait to see family, and old and new friends.
There are so many things I want to do and see and smell and taste and experience and feel. I want to travel a bit to a few cities — the fabled ones and also some that are a bit off the beaten path. I want to go and have a good cry at the graves of my grandparents. I want to see the children of those who where children when I left. I want to jump over a chanshanbeh suri bonfire and tell the fire: your red is mine, my yellow is yours. I want to see everyone’s sofreh ye haft seen. I want to go for a sizdah bedar Persian picnic by a stream. I want to see a shopkeeper’s rows of Norooz goldfish swimming in bowls, I want to feast my eyes on the sight of all the spring flowers and shirini, I want to live dangerously and eat a roasted corn dipped in salty water off a side cart; I want to go skiing in Dizin. I want to talk to people, go to the parks, take the metro, go mountain climbing, go to the coffee shops, go to all the museums, check out the art galleries in Tehran, and go to the holy shrines. I want to eat chaghaleh badoom and gojeh sabz, I want to taste the sour-cherry lavashak, I want to sit on a good Persian rug and take dainty sips from a hot estakan ‘eh chai with yek habeh ghand. I want to go to a public bath and get a good dal ‘luck rubdown. I do! And if circumstances permit, I want to climb a mulberry tree and eat mulberries, white and red, as many as I can grab off the branches, to my heart’s content. I want to say hello hello hello because I never ever wanted to say goodbye.
Of course, I’m also already homesick for this home right here, too. The quandary of hyphenated people. I’ll miss my family, friends, neighborhood, neighbors, and my beloved Brooklyn. And I already miss all of you! I’m thankful to be able to share this with you.
It will be an emotional journey, a sentimental journey, and God willing, an epic, adventurous and wonderful journey. I’ve already drawn buckets of feelings from the deepest wells in my being and I’ve shed cleansing tears of a mixture of joy and nostalgia and all sorts of smorgasbord of emotions when I made the decision to embark on this trip; when I bought my ticket; and whenever I manage to sit quietly and contemplate the by now inevitable fact that in less than 14 days I’ll be stepping on the soil of a place that sometimes feels like it was only the landscape of a dream. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have the butterflies as well. Because I do. I do.
But ultimately, this is a journey that I’m driven with every fiber of my being to make. It’s love. You see. It’s love. And I’ve been away for far too long.
All the photos in this post were taken by and are courtesy of John Thompson.
Edited to add: Here are my own Instagram pix from my #myepictriptoIran! Updated constantly as time/mood permits! 🙂