I left Iran when I was 16 years old, after getting my high school diploma in math and physics. The name of my high school was (is) Kooshesh (which translates to “hard work” or “effort”) and it was located in Jordan Street, at the intersection of Ghobadian and Jordan Ave. It seems like a different life when I think about it, the memories are awfully distant. However, there are some images and feelings during those high school days that are as fresh in my mind as ever. I lived in Niavaran, north of Tehran, which meant a long drive or bus ride to school every day. My best friend, Samira, lived on Yakhchal St., which was on my way to school. We usually walked together for a while before taking a taxi or the bus home every day. There was a pastry shop on our way on Mirdamad that sold delicious “Noon Khamei’s” and cups of chocolate mousse. I still remember the taste; how lovely it was to spend the little money that we had on those pastries. Some times we got a slice of pizza on our way home too, which usually drove our mothers crazy as they had prepared a meal and were waiting for us at home while we would arrive a bit late with ketchup all over our uniforms and not too hungry!
Image courtesy of Mohammadali
I remember clearly that one day as Samira and I were walking on the Shariati Avenue with a mouthful of chocolate mousse, I told her how much I wanted to come to the U.S. to go to college. I told her that if a miracle happened and I ended up in the U.S., I would finish my Ph.D. and would return to Iran to teach. She didn’t understand why I would want to leave Iran; everything seemed to be great, we had an amazing group of friends, and our parents were doing well. We had hopes of studying engineering in a top university and didn’t worry too much about the future. We would probably get married at some point and have kids and we’d be friends, always. Why leave? Why change?
To this day, I don’t know why I so desperately wanted to leave my country and come to the U.S. It seems I always felt the urge to travel and see other places. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know much about my own land, culture, and traditions. I was mesmerized by the differences I saw in foreign movies and wanted to experience them. As soon as our plane landed at the O’Hare airport in Chicago in August of 1999, I realized for the first time how much I missed Iran and how much I loved to learn about the land I had grown to call my country.
I have gone through a few distinct phases in my life since I came to the U.S., starting with a strong desire to understand American history, politics, media, movies, … I lived in 3 different states in the U.S. during the first 3 years, and each time was eager to learn about the distinct characteristics of each city and state. This phase was followed by a few other obsessive interests in a handful of other countries and cultures, like Egypt, Italy, India, and Japan (unrelated ha?), and finally a strong passion to learn about Iran’s history (the greater Iran, free of the political boundaries today, considering the entire region with Iranian languages and customs).
Going through these phases, I have come to this point in my life: why do we limit our thoughts and emotions to a certain area or region in the world, calling that region our home and not the others? Some of this has to do with our childhood memories and how we were raised. However, I have been in the United States for about 8 years now and I never called this country my home. I have come to love America and respect many aspects of the American society, but it never felt like home to me, or perhaps I never allowed it to be called “home”. May be it’s time for me to stop defining boundaries for my home and feel at home, any where I go. May be its time for me to stay away from nationalistic thoughts that divide us into groups and separate us from each other. May be it is time now (even though it was suggested by many others in previous years), in the age of information technology and what I perceive to become the age of knowledge, to think more globally about our goals and the services we can offer to our world or the larger universe – or our bigger home.