November 17, 2003 - Philadelphia Inquirer: RPCV reunites with Iranian 'mom'

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: November 17, 2003 - Philadelphia Inquirer: RPCV reunites with Iranian 'mom'

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RPCV reunites with Iranian 'mom'

RPCV reunites with Iranian 'mom'

Reuniting with Iranian 'mom'

By Jennifer B-C Seaver
For The Inquirer

"Guests: Hijab - Islamic Veil - is a magnificent reflection of the Iranian Muslim women so we appreciate your respect to our own Islamic civilization and culture."

- Sign in Iranian hotels

When we entered Iranian airspace on October 20, 2002, I grew excited as I put on a head scarf and raincoat. At last, I was about to return to the country in which I had served as a Peace Corps volunteer.

For weeks, I had listened to Farsi tapes, purchased a long raincoat, dyed it black, chosen and packed a conservative wardrobe, and told my family that our group of 22 would be safe traveling under the auspices of the National Peace Corps Association and Friendship Force, International.

We landed in Tehran at midnight and met our tour guide, Pejman. When I tried to shake his hand, he announced, "Men are not allowed to shake hands with women."

Whoops, first mistake. What else would be different from the 1960s? How would Iranians treat Americans now?

Of course, our freedom to move around independently was limited because we hoped to cover a lot of territory in two weeks. We had prearranged hotel accommodations and ate in restaurants that could accommodate large parties. But many ordinary citizens sought us out to converse in English and Farsi in bazaars, museums, hotels, and other public places.

Near the end of our journey, we passed through Rasht, the provincial capital where Peg von Briesen and I had taught English for two years. While it was not on our official itinerary, we were in for a wonderful surprise.

When Pejman learned that Peg and I had managed to telephone our friend, Parmis Bazghalaie, during our stay at a Caspian Sea resort, he arranged for a quick detour the following morning so we could have a joyful reunion in "the oldest park in Rasht."

In the early '60s, Parmis studied public health in North Carolina. When we arrived in her Iranian city, she quickly adopted us because she knew it was difficult for unmarried women to live in a foreign country. Ten years later, her daughter came to the United States to enroll in an English-language program and we exchanged family news. But after that, we had no further contact. Peg had sent Parmis a letter before our trip, but it had been returned undelivered.

Now, in the park, two American roommates from Iran and our foster mother watched the years melt away as we hugged. Parmis has retired from a distinguished nursing career. I live in Pennsylvania and Peg lives in Wisconsin.

As we posed for photographs, I wore the blue body veil Parmis had given me as a going-away present in 1968. I may have been mistaken to try to shake hands with Pejman, but carrying that chador back to Iran was the right thing to do.

We laughed and cried together before we had to say goodbye again.

And as before, Parmis teased: "We're not sad. We're not crying. It's just hay fever."

Jennifer B-C Seaver now lives in Chester County.

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Story Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; Return to our COS - Iran



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