December 26, 2003 - Brownwood Bulletin: Pamela Dean Spencer was posted in Abadan, Iran, by the United States Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: December 26, 2003 - Brownwood Bulletin: Pamela Dean Spencer was posted in Abadan, Iran, by the United States Peace Corps

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 10:45 am: Edit Post

Pamela Dean Spencer was posted in Abadan, Iran, by the United States Peace Corps

Pamela Dean Spencer was posted in Abadan, Iran, by the United States Peace Corps

Oh, my, yes, Virginia, there's a Santa Claus
By Pamela Dean Spencer -- Special to the Bulletin

I've seen Santa in the strangest places. In September of 1965, I trotted off blithely to the Mideast. I had been posted in Abadan, Iran, by the United States Peace Corps.

I do understand for all those very young military personnel in Iraq, or just parents alone in Brownwood, what a first Christmas from home really means. Three other volunteers in my province had been in Iran for a year-and-a-half. Since I was the fresh person, I said I would 'do' Christmas for them because they were feeling low. An Armenian Christian brought me a nice tree from the mountains. I decorated the tree with national Iranian lights (red, white, green) borrowed from Muslim neighbors. For Advent, I got the local Catholic missionary to invite all four of us for dinner. I was 22 years old and quite proud of my efforts. It just wasn't enough.

Here's where Santa comes in. A recent U.T. graduate came 'home' to visit her parents in Mashjidsuleiman (Sultan's mosque), Iran. One of her professors knew me and told her I might be in the country somewhere. Linda's parents had been with the National Iranian Oil Company for 12 years. They found me immediately and with Texas-style warmth, contacted me through a Presbyterian missionary to invite me up for Christmas. I was overjoyed of course and when asked, told them that I wanted red beans and cornbread. Ah, but, I declined when I remembered my promise to Lynn, Blaine and Brad.

The next day, I received an even better offer. All four of us were invited. We wouldn't even have to risk our lives on Iranian buses which drove without headlights at dark to conserve battery power(?). We were flown by the company plane. Like West Texas, dozens of natural gas fires burning off greeted us in the night as we arrived. We felt like potentates of yore. In fact a nearby city, Hamadan, claims to be the home of the Magi.

What luxury: heat, bathrooms, etc. Linda's mom had made a six-foot Christmas tree of chicken wire, covered by paper 'needles' made by tightly- rolled paper slashed and fluffed. She had made us each a stocking. Santa found us there and filled each stocking with tooth brushes, etc., and in the toe of each one was a solid gold Pahlavi coin. What a feast -- it included (even) cornbread and beans. And there were gifts galore: toilet paper, peanut butter and Hershey bars.

Our happiness must have astonished Linda's family. They didn't know that the U. S. government did not allow Peace Corps volunteers' families to send us money and with only our $75-a-month salaries, we could not afford goods imported to Iran from America. (I cried once when my little sister, Penny, sent me a magazine with tiny earrings glued in the spine.)

Christmas Eve, we all went to the Oil Company Club. It was freezing and clear. Masjidsuleiman is in the Zagros Mountains. The lights from the gas fires were our "street lamps."

Ah, what exhilaration -- youth, adventure, in such an exotic setting. After a Christmas service and a small party, someone started playing the old grand piano. The next thing I knew I was asked to sing a song. All I could think of was the old Bing Crosby standby, "I'll be home for Christmas." Since I was the only entertainment, I gave it my all and proudly belted out the song until I got to that part. You know, the words that make hardened soldiers cry, "if only in my dreams."

I hope those dear folks from Clearwater, Texas, always remembered giving us a home -- even for a few, brief, glorious nights.

And thanks, Santa, for finding us..

So odd -- I'm back in Brownwood this Christmas after 40 years of camel riding and school teaching. I'm wondering if anyone else from here ever took off for the Peace Corps and a Christmas with a paper tree.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Brownwood Bulletin

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



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.