My name is Alena Moshir and I am an Iranian American student at Fresno State University. I am a junior majoring in Civil Engineering. Several months ago, due to an accident that happened for my dad during the Iranian Presidential election. My dad was attacked by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s guards and suffered from a brain hemorrhage and his scull was broken in three different places. After I was informed of his accident, I dropped out of my classes at the university and immediately came to Iran. My intentions of coming to Iran were not for travel but were for assisting my parents while my dad was in recovery.
While in Iran, I decided to get a job teaching English. I was employed by a foreign language institute almost immediately due to my fluency in English. Since my Farsi (the native tongue of Persians) was not very good, I became very favored by my students immediately. They thought that they would have more fun teaching me Farsi rather than me teaching them English. And so the adventures began. My students were having a lot of fun attempting to teach me Farsi so they decided to take me along on their one day trips to surrounding towns and villages.
One of the trips that I accompanied them was a trip to a small village of Abyaneh in the province of Isfahan. Abyaneh is an old and historical village with a lot of Iranian history. The village is not very affected by the Iranian revolution that occurred 30 years ago. The Abyunaki people have been able to keep their custos and clothing the same as it had always been. The only thing that has changed a great deal for them was their religion. During the time of the Saffavid Shahs, they were forced to convert from Zoroastrianism to Shi’ite Islam. The dirt in Abyaneh is red and so all of the houses and huts are red in the village. It is an amazing village full of color and culture. Unfortunately though, our purpose of this trip was not for culture and scenery. Since Abyaneh is in the desert, we went there for star watching.
The young college students in Iran are extremely restricted. There are only a few things that they can do without getting harassed by the police or by their parents. And everytime they do something for fun, they must be extremely careful not to get harassed or even worse, caught. When girls leave their homes, they must cover their hair with a scarf and they must cover their clothing with a long overcoat so that one may not see the form of their body. Although girls have found ways of being very fashionable while covered up under their Islamic wear, they are always running the risk of beig harrased by the police for having a part of their hair showing, or having too few buttons on their manteaus (the long overcoats). Apart from all the clothing restrictions, it is against Islam to drink alcohol, gamble, listen to music, dance, and have a boyfriend without being legally engaged. So when high school or college students get together, they start to break many laws and so they have to hide all of their actions. Although it seems like a tough and impossible lifestyle, one can have so much fun breaking all of these rules while living in Iran.
The biggest reason why students go on one day tours to nearby villages is because they can dance on the bus, listen to loud music, and laugh and have fun with their friends while on the road. The point of our trip to Abyaneh was just this. We left Tehran at around noon and arrived at Abyaneh at about 7 in the evening. On the way to our destination, we danced and sang and played cards. My students attempted to teach me how to dance to persian music and they taught me a few Farsi idioms and jokes.
Even though I am completely free to do anything I want in California, I hadn’t felt what it was like to be free from restrictions for the 5 months that I had been in Iran so that bus ride was extremely enjoyable for me. I was able to talk to the boys without fear of anyone and I was able to laugh with them; something I was not able to do freely in public.
When we arrived at the village of Abyaneh, we were told trhat we could go explore the village until it was dark and then we were to go to the open field to look at the stars. While My students and I were walking down the brick path to the cneter of the village, it started raining really hard. We were not prepared for the rain at all. We were told to bring a light jacket because the weather was not going to be cold. Nobody was prepared for the rainy and cold weather. Our group of fifteen ran to the nearest covered area. The closest covered area that we found was a small landing between two houses. We all barely fit under there. So we all huddled together like a group of penguins, trying to keep one another warm and dry. We were stuck there for about an hour and 45 minutes until the rain slowed to a sprinkle. While in the covered area, my students started to sing whatever tunes they knew to keep us entertained. After a while though, we were all really cold, hungry, wet, and had started to complain. When the rain slowed we headed back to find our tour guide to let him know that we needed a warm place to rest. Mustafa, our tour guide, found us a room in a house where we could go and change and rest and pray. (In Islam, it is important that one prays 5 times a day at the right times. However none of the people in my group prayed.) I forgot to mention that apart from our group of 15 boys and girls, there were also 80 other girls on our tour. So when 86 girls were directed into a small room to change, rest and pray, you can robably imagine how I started to feel. In America, we have maximum capacity rules but in Iran, there’s no such thing as maximum capacity. As I started to complain, so did the other girls in my group. We told Mustafa that we were not going to be shoved into a room with 80 people we didn’t know like a herd of sheep. After much complaining, our tour guide took pity in the fact that I’m a foreigner and understood that where I’m from, this was not acceptable. Thankfully, his pity worked to my advantage and he found another room for us where all 15 of our boys and girls could be together.
After we were fully fed and rested, we got on the bus and headed for the dark and quiet area where we were going to do our star watching. The sky there was filled with stars. It was the most magnifiscent sight I’ve ever seen. Something one can only see in astronomy books. The only bad part was that the person who was pointing out the different planets and stars was explaining things in Farsi and I was having a very hard time understanding. Therefore, I feel like I missed a great deal of the informaion that he was giving everyone.
After the star explanations were over, we were all just standing huddled around and very cold. The tempatrure was below freezing and nobody was dressed warmly enough. So, my students started to do what they do best: sing and dance. They all started singing whatever songs they knew and we all started to dance to keep ourselves warm.
Taking this trip was the most fun I’ve had so far during my stay in Iran. I saw so many beautiful people and scenery and I was introduced to a culture that I had never known. Most importantly though I got to appreciate my freedom. The young peope here have to go through so much trouble just to be able to have fun. They have to endure sleepless nights and extreme cold just to be able to hang out with one another freely. I am so glad that I had the priviledge of experiencing life as one of them. Because now I will never take my freedom for granted.
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