A Thousand and One Nights in Persia - My Family Travels
Persian Family
Sunset on the Caspian Sea

              You are not supposed to break into a Mosque from a second story window – especially not in Iran. I scamper across the hand-woven carpets, soft beneath my dust covered bare feet, which disguise the concrete just beneath. Glimpses of the blue patterned walls are caught in my periphery as I run by. It looked as if I was encased in an eighteen century snuff box, with Arabic scriptures lining the trims.  Even on the run, one can appreciate the beauty and curiosity of the world. Alas, no matter the number of murals built of mirrors and lavish curtains strung from the ceiling, there was no safe heaven to be found in the house of God (or Allah as the case may be). I was found out. 

                It is a strange thing to be scolded in a foreign language. It’s hard to understand because your brain is doing summersaults to get from input to output without messing up the ones and zeros in between.

                I didn’t understand the significance of the dark colored, nearly abandoned building that was adjacent to my grandparents’ house in Babolsar. Back home, a church can be a child’s daycare and can blast rock-n-roll. Here there was a whole other, more defined, set of formalities. Those first couple of weeks in Iran I got in more trouble than Dennis the Menace. I was not supposed to take the hijab off outside ever; even if no one was around and I was in the middle of a very important soccer match. I was never supposed to roll up my sleeves; never mind that it’s over one hundred degrees outside. They were mostly small idiosyncrasies that I overstepped, which made it seem as if I was a lion who escaped the New York City Zoo. I was fully conscious of where I was but very unsure of how everything worked. Meanwhile, everyone around me was slightly weary in case I caused a scene. 

                Unlike an animal however, I never fought against my circumstances. I learned from them. I was immensely interested in learning the culture. To connect with my loved ones I made it an objective to become part of their culture. Why the women decorated their eyes in lavish colors, but dressed plainly or how to drink tea with a sugar cube. Every morning I walk to the bakery and bought Nänn, the bread cooked on hot stones.

                Three months passed. The desert night is warm by the Caspian Sea. A perfume of Belle de la Nuit, hangs over the night air as over one hundred Persian men and women dance, hands raised toward the sky like fire. The thousands of bangles on the women’s’ arms play like a tambourine to the minor key as they twist their wrist and jump to the offbeat. It is the end of the summer, and the time for weddings. Here the women let their hair loose and wear dresses in celebration. I join. I fumble but not for long. I began in Iran as an outsider – doomed to trample across the delicate balance of culture – and became a Persian over the course of my stay. In Persia the women wear bangles of gold and the people dance with their hands instead of their hips. Being thrown into a culture, however, taught me to walk with it, and I see more than one perspective, to be part of more than one society.  I carry Persia with me. Whether my dust-covered feet hit the ground in a dance, or walk up the steps to school – bangles playing as I sway my arms.


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