Wednesday, July 09, 2003
I went to graduate school in the fall of 1979. There were twelve entering students in the economics program, with three of us American. A Chinese woman, a Korean, and seven Arab students, including at least four Iranians. First year graduate school is of course a battle for survival, and for me it was the first time away from home, having lived with my parents through my college years. I also had gone from right to left coast, so it was all new.
I had an American roommate, but the other economics students closest to us were the Iranians, and the food they ate was close to the food I had (my mom, not Armenian, had learned how to cook for my dad from his mother, and Mom is better at Armenian cooking than any other type.) They also played cards, chess, and backgammon, so they were natural friends for me, and we studied and ate dinner together often. So when the hostages were taken, I -- sheltered youth of New Hampshire -- am puzzled by what to do. I ask these guys, what do you think? One of them named Farzad takes off his shirt, right there outside his apartment. His left shoulder is puckered and looks slightly out of kilter to his right. What happened? "I was driving with my father, who was an officer in the army," he said. "We got shot."
It's worth remembering this: These kids were told to come home or else they would receive no money and no help from the new government in Iran. They chose to stay, even though it could not be easy for them to go out at night. They were a delightfully funny bunch -- they did not drink, but Farzad had a hairbrained scheme for making money at the blackjack tables (I watched it fail), they were the model for Two Wild and Crazy Guys at bad clubs in Pomona, and they'd spend hours fixing a dinner with spaghetti only to fight over the burned pasta at the bottom of the pan -- burnt starch is apparently a Persian delicacy, de gustibus and all that.
As far as I know, all of these fellows are still here in America, all finished their degrees, and are all teaching at places very much like my SCSU. Farzad married another Persian economist -- God knows they'll have many beautiful but seriously disturbed children. (Economists should not intermarry, btw.) Reza moved to Wisconisn, Masoud and his brothers still call Claremont home, but it is my wish for them is to have back the country they came from, some day, to see as it was once if they wish (and not, if they prefer).
If any of them are reading: Shoma koja, inja koja. Long time no see.