June 22, 2003 - Arizona State University: Charlie and Marie Mitchell headed to Iran, where, before being posted to Mahallat, they learned Farsi

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: June 22, 2003 - Arizona State University: Charlie and Marie Mitchell headed to Iran, where, before being posted to Mahallat, they learned Farsi

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 12:34 pm: Edit Post

Charlie and Marie Mitchell headed to Iran, where, before being posted to Mahallat, they learned Farsi

Charlie and Marie Mitchell headed to Iran, where, before being posted to Mahallat, they learned Farsi


The Sidebar Café by Charlie is easy to know: a coffee house inside the The College of Law serving rich coffees, bagels and scones, great sandwiches, tucked inside the Cohen Center where students, faculty and staff meet and exchange thoughts, both high and low. Everything that Vice Dean Patrick McKinley Brennan and Assistant Dean Michael Bossone, themselves coffee house habituates, had hoped for when they proposed the idea more than a year ago.

Then there’s Charlie, the guy with the sandy colored hair and bushiest light colored mustache the world has ever seen, who runs around in a stained apron making sure the coffee is rich enough and the bagels, scones and sandwiches are fresh. He’s the guy who likes to sit out under the trees in the courtyard between Armstrong Hall and the Ross Blakely Law Library, smoking cigarettes, sipping espresso. He’s the guy who also owns Charlie’s in the College of Architecture and at the Barrett Honors College. He’s the guy who owned a very-very successful coffee house on Mill Avenue during the 90’s.

But who is Charlie really? Just a boy from Kansas with a bad case of wanderlust, a facility with languages and a love of coffee houses. He grew up in the milo fields of Hugoton Kansas, a hardscrabble place to spend childhood. The principle vocation for a young man was wheat harvester. The principle avocation was trying to figure how to get out of Kansas. The first step wasn’t very far: Fort Hays Kansas State University. But Charlie soon became a party animal, amassing a whopping 0.67 GPA in three semesters, and the administration decided he needed to take a break. Taking his wheat harvester savings, he hitched to New York City and bought a $165 one-way Icelandic Airlines ticket to Luxembourg.

In the late ‘60’s, the place to be, internationally, was Munich. Charlie found a garret on the outskirts of the city that provided a room with breakfast and dinner for $50 a month. The quarters weren’t spacious, so what would he do with his days? Language had always fascinated him, so he headed to the local German school.

The same what-to-do problem arose when he wasn’t in school. The garret was near a coffee house where everyone worth meeting spent some part of the day. He fell in love with the coffee house, spending every available hour there, amassing not only the love for such places that would later propel him into the business, but also much of the knowledge of their operations that would make him a success.

The harvester money ran out in a year and he decided to return to Fort Hays. This time he seemed to be on the right track, even making the Dean’s List. In 1969 Charlie met Marie in French class and they’ve been soul mates ever since. Marie shared Charlie’s love of traveling and languages, so after graduation, they took off for Europe. Marie went to Madrid for a year, while Charlie spent the year in Paris, Munich, and Madrid.

After postgraduate work in Fort Hays, the couple applied to the Peace Corps. They wanted to go to Iran or Latin America. The Peace Corps offered Korea. They went to Lancaster, California as high school teachers instead. Finally in 1974, the Peace Corps came around. Charlie and Marie headed to Iran, where, before being posted to Mahallat, they learned Farsi.

To this day, Charlie remains in love with Mahallat, a village on the side of a mountain, 200 kilometers south of Tehran, where spring water is channeled to each home, the streets are lined with Sycamore trees and carnations are grown for distribution countrywide. Charlie and Marie taught English to Farsi speaking children. It was an idyllic life. Charlie loved the culture, very artistic he says, and the language, very poetic.

After two years the couple returned to the United States. Charlie and Marie enrolled in the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont. They emerged with Masters’ degrees in Teaching. Charlie and Marie took their degrees back to Iran where they taught English, the language of international flight, to Iranian Army Air Corps officers under a contract with Bell Helicopter. Marie concentrated on starting a family and their first son, Michael, was born in Iran.

The Islamic Revolution started early in 1978, but that summer it didn’t seem too threatening, so Charlie, Marie and Michael took a six- week round the world trip. When they returned to Tehran, Michael became ill and died two weeks later Caught in the full throes of revolution, the couple had a hard time leaving Iran, particularly as they wanted to take their son’s remains with them. Finally, they got out by checking Michael’s coffin through as “excess baggage”, an indignity at which Charlie still bristles.

They returned to Kansas and took jobs teaching English at Wichita State University. Marie became pregnant again and soon after their arrival a daughter, Amber, was born. While in Iran, they had purchased a home in Tempe, where Marie’s sister taught music at an elementary school and her brother-in-law taught environmental science at ASU.

When ASU offered Charlie a chance to teach in the English as a Second Language Program, they came to Tempe. But Charlie’s wanderlust remained strong. After a few years, he returned to the Middle East, this time to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as Assistant Coordinator of the training program at King Khaled International Airport, teaching English to Arabic speakers. Their last child, Nathan, was born in Tempe, just before leaving for Riyadh.

After four years, Charlie and Marie concluded they needed to stop wandering and find a place to raise their family. They loved Tempe and Marie could go back to teaching at the University, so they headed back to Arizona.

Charlie, however, could still smell the aroma from the coffee houses in Munich, Paris, and Madrid, and hear the murmur of conversations on the patios in so many beautiful languages. He didn’t want to teach. He wanted to continue to pursue his love of languages by bringing diverse people to him.

He opened Charlie’s Espresso on Mill just as the coffeehouse craze of the early ‘90’s was beginning. It lasted for 10 years, ultimately ended by demographic changes, high rent, and parking meters along Mill Avenue. In the meantime he opened at the architecture school and later at the honors college. He loved the business, the chance to befriend people from all over the world (one evening, he counted 30 nationalities sitting in the courtyard on Mill Avenue), and the chance to gain a knowledge of their languages and cultures.

But where does he go from here, the boy from Kansas with the facility for languages and a terrible case of wanderlust. Amber and Nathan are pretty much on their way now and the Islamic Revolution seems to be winding down. The little village on the side of the mountain with its wandering spring water, Sycamore trees and flowering carnations play heavy on a wandering heart: Mahallat?

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Story Source: Arizona State University

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; Coffee Houses



By mehdi ( on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 9:41 am: Edit Post

Dear all,

How can I achieve a position in peace corps?

By mehdi ( on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 9:47 am: Edit Post

Dear all,

How can I achieve a position in peace corps?

By sadri arab (nott-cache-5.server.ntli.net - on Sunday, August 28, 2005 - 9:49 am: Edit Post

I would like to say hello to Charlie and Marie whom I have not met but I have heard alot about them from Mr Rezaee and his late wife Afagh khanoom. Please pass this message to them. please have a look at www.mahallat.co.uk

By Lu Ann Rivera (cache-ntc-ac07.proxy.aol.com - on Thursday, February 23, 2006 - 7:48 pm: Edit Post

I have an interpreting agency here in Wichita, and occasionally I get requests for Farsi interpreters. If you would be interested in helping me once in awhile, I would greatly appreciate your reply.

Thank you,Lu Ann Rivera, Interlingual Services

By Anonymous (p5084e451.dip.t-dialin.net - on Friday, December 08, 2006 - 7:25 am: Edit Post

and also did you know the first american iranian was a man from mahallat?
please check the link

By Anonymous (p5084e451.dip.t-dialin.net - on Friday, December 08, 2006 - 7:14 am: Edit Post

how wonderful,
the world is such a small place dear Charlie and Marie Mitchell
i am a persian born in mahallat lived in paris then munich and now in köln in germany,
your story was lovely,beautiful
its shame that although there is such a strong bound between persian and americans the politics of the day shows otherwise,
did you know in a recent survey it was proven the the migrants from mashaalat are the most Successful persian migrants in america?
hope one day we all walk hand in hand in the lovely streets of MAHALLAT.

By Anonymous (p5084e451.dip.t-dialin.net - on Friday, December 08, 2006 - 8:43 am: Edit Post

and in case you are planinig on a second visit to MAHALLAT i found this for you,

By Anonymous (p5084e451.dip.t-dialin.net - on Friday, December 08, 2006 - 8:36 am: Edit Post

some more pics of MAHALLAT

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