Iran part 2

In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what… he would perhaps never have experienced in himself.
Marcel Proust

Since last I posted I’ve been struggling with telling you wh
at has been taking place since our arrival. Many factors featured in my inability to continue writing where I’d left off before. Namely, finding the time in which to write without interruptions, bad, slow or non-existent internet connections (they are still on dial-up here in Iran) but more importantly, and this is where I think I was failing miserably, I was trying to weave you a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. The understatement of this trip is telling you how that wasn’t working out. Yesterday however, I hit upon a solution that bypasses my Sheherezade-like deficiency. I stopped aiming for Technicolor glory with stereophonic sound and settled instead for polaroids. Would you care to see a little bit of my Iran this way?

May 16th, 3:30 am Tehran time (the day of our arrival)

Waiting for new arrivals at Imam Khomeini Airport

I love it when my husband looks at me with admiration. This time around what won me this particular kind of regard was my calm, non-chalant stroll by the x-ray machine as we exited customs. What I should have been doing was loading my carry-on through like everyone else but, to have done so, might have meant being questioned over the 9 ipod shuffles I carried as gifts for the children in M’s family. Understandably, I was afraid the number would raise eyebrows and that they might be confiscated on some pretext so I made a split second decision that ultimately paid off. In the confusion of porters loading our other luggage onto the conveyor belt, and of the customs agents looking through other people’s stuff, without any premeditation, I just walked right on by them, pretending it had already been inspected. M’s eyes widened at my audacity as he waited for me with our son beyond the checking point. I kept on strolling and thankfully, no hand fell upon my shoulder, no one stopped me. If I might say so, it was done with true Persian panache.

A view of the highway from inside our car as we leave the Airport

Afterwards, still basking in the flush of my ninja-like feat, I nearly missed the by-play of emotions on M’s face as he chatted happily with his Aunt Maryam and his cousin Saeed. Both had braved the early morning hours to come and greet us at Imam Khomeini International Airport. The kindness of their action went double not only for the ungodly hour but for the distance they had travelled to come see us arrive. The last time I was here, we came into Mehrabad. What to say about the predecessor to Imam Khomeini Airport? Small, ill-equipped for international travelers, clearly showing the decades since its inaugural ribbon had been cut. In short, nothing like the newly opened and sleek Imam Khomeini International Airport, so un-Iranian in its steel and glass glory; so spanking clean and resplendently new but with one unfortunate drawback, it is much.
further. away. It took more than 50 minutes of emptied out highway driving (can’t imagine how long it would take in rush hour) to make our way to our hostess’ home. It was time enough however to realize that M was once again like a chick come back to the nest. All the while we sped through to our destination, rapid-fire conversations in Farsi flew over my head. Every little while my husband would stop to translate for me but I did not mind what I couldn’t understand. It gave me much pleasure just watching him reconnect with two people who had seen him grow and in whose presence he somehow, unknown to him, re-blooms into his Persianness.

We arrived at Aunt Maryam’s house just in time for breakfast. Our suitcases were temporarily stashed in a spare bedroom as we shed enough of the dust of our travels to allow us to sit comfortably down to the table and eat. I wasn’t hungry really but there is something truly inviting about the simplicity of Persian breakfasts: hot tea, bread, cheese and home-made jams. Tea
chai, bread-nan, cheese-panir, jams-moraba. The words float out to me from the memory of when last I was in Iran. Everything tasted as good as I remembered. I ate for pleasure if not from need and it was all good. Satisfied that she had seen to us as much as she could for the moment, Aunt Maryam settled us into the bedroom we would occupy while at her house and left us to sleep. But for a brief waking at noon-time to eat once more, we slept the whole of that long Saturday. Truly jet-lagged but happy to have finally arrived in Iran.

The next three days were something of a blur for me. The incipient cold that R and I had caught right before we had left Houston, developed into something more severe. An inflammation of the left ear and a sinusitis for me. Inflamed lymph nodes and some chest congestion for R. Between sleeping bouts, and sneezes we greeted close family members who steadily trooped in to say
hello. They brought boxes of Persian sweets. Little cakes with cream fillings, saffron gaz adorned with pistachios in their centers. Napoleons and soft cookies and then of course, lots of curiosity and more than that, kind regards.

Many of them knew me from before and liked me then as much as now. In this respect, I have much to thank my parents-in-law for paving the way for me. Especially my mother-in-law. The
initial strangeness of their son’s Latin-born and Catholic wife was smoothed over with their kind words and the stories they told of who I am. I like to think though that since then, I’ve won them over with just being me. Not that this is a hard crowd by any means. One quality about my husband’s family that jumped right out, as I met them in all the length and breadth of their familial connections, is how genuine they are, religiously unprejudiced and worldly. Many have traveled and lived outside of Iran. Nearly all speak English as well as other European languages. They are doctors, lawyers, store owners, yoga instructors, students, working mothers and fathers some with children grown and others with little ones at home. They are like much like you and me.

I’m of the view that in the Western world, Iran has been overly demonized. Erroneously lumped in with the Saudis and the Afghanis in their unequal treatment of women and the well-known conditions of their male-centric societies. Iran, like them, is an Islamist country. Ruled by a
religious government and observant of Islamic law but there are vast differences for all those initial commonalities.

I hope before all is said and done, that I might convey to you what I have observed of this country
and its people. Granted, mine is a brief taste, a narrow slice of Persian life that is viewed through the spectrum of my husband’s somewhat above-the-norm family. Nevertheless, for all that, I remain convinced that I can offer you a different look at Iran. A country whose landscape is not wholly sand dunes, whose women do not all dress in burkas, and whose men do not, every one of them, copy the looks of President Ahmadinejad. I hope that I might help you experience something of the kind of people that, for a factor of geographic location, look and sound a lot like everyone I deal with on a daily basis in the United States.

A street corner in Tehran

Coming up in my next posts, slices of Iran.


  1. Glad to hear you made it safely. I hope you and R feel better soon. Looking forward to more of your stories and travels.

  2. Milena, thank you for taking the time from your trip and bearing through the trials of slow internet connections to get this post onto your blog.

    I also want to thank you giving us all another perspective on Iran and all the wonderful people there. I hope that someday it will be a place we can easily include on our travel itineraries, because I know it is a country of important historical significance and beauty.

    All the best on continued safe travels,


  3. very nicely done tribute to your adopted land.

  4. Milena,
    this makes me wonder how many enemies would disappear if they were known. Thanks for the quick trip to Iran. Delightful, thanks,


  5. Follow your Folly: Thanks! It has been impossible to upload photos and such but I cannot wait to get to Houston so that I may post all I've been thinking of posting.

    Suzanne: As the good adopted Azeri that you are, I know how much you mean this. And yes, perhaps someday, Iran will be open for all to see it in the many colors that it. Choc mamnum.

    Chesca: You are the sweetest thing. Thankyou always for your nice words. I can't do it true justice but I can try to come as possible to that state as I may.

    Ron: Exactly. The unknown always lends itself to conjectures that fall far and then farther from the truth. Glad you are liking it. Much more to come.

  6. I like seeing pictures of the normal streets and buildings. I can find pictures of the tourist sites anywhere.

    I'm glad you were able to sneak by security- of course, that means that someone smuggling drugs or bombs could do so just as easily.

  7. It's always hard to capture a place while you're actually there, I mean in words, exactly. Though you've done a darn good job, I've no doubt that you will see your way to sharing more with us once your trip is over and you have the power of hindsight on your side. Happy Trails.

  8. How did I miss that you were in Iran?? How exciting! I've been obsessed with reading and learning about Iran for a couple of years now - any time we declare a place an enemy of the state, I make it my mission to get to know as much as possible about the human beings that inhabit the country so in my heart, I can recognize them as just human- striving to live a good life- just like me.

    In any case, I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip. I am looking forward to seeing more of your pictures!

  9. Thomas: I think that this kind of Iran imagery is what most of us here in the West never get to see. I was glad too that I managed the sneak through. Had I been caught, I'm sure the problem could have been explained away much quicker than a bomb or drugs.

    Cce: That's about right. Not only was it lack of time and the problems I was having with the internet, I was incapable of ordering my thoughts well enough to sound coherent. I posted last night but it is still only the barest minimum in terms of what I should like to say. This is going to take some time.

  10. Why Milena, you brazen girl, you! Very impressive trick! If the love and devotion you show for your husband here shined half as brightly when you were with his family, it's no wonder they love you. I'm sure you have won them over in many ways...


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