Life in Iran

What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted in quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.

In the weeks leading up to Rosemary and Bill’s move to Sicily and during their months there, Rosemary spent time trying to learn the language. It was difficult and she wasn’t particularly good with language learning, but she still tried. That was, until one day when she went into the shops and instead of asking the shopkeeper for ‘six eggs’, she asked him for ‘six men’.

Everybody laughed (it was funny, after all). But Rosemary, in a different world to her own and not realising what she had done – the shopkeeper had to explain it to her –, was utterly mortified.

Learning a new language is never easy and embarrassments are always nearby. But she was young and embarrassment like this was too much. So when it came time to journey to Iran, her self-conscious mind kept her from taking the time to try and learn the language.

It also didn’t help that neither she nor Bill thought they would be there for long. They expected something not dissimilar to Sicily; maybe a year at most. So why bother learning the language? Especially with risks of such embarrassment.

But not long turned into four years and in that time Rosemary learned much about Iran. She learned about the incredible history of the country as she and Bill travelled to places like Isfahan and Alexander’s Bridge to see the ancient civilisations there, with buildings so well preserved in the hot sand. She learned how to cook rice the Iranian way and to love Iranian food. When Rosemary had her third child, she and Bill hired a local girl to help out around the house and with the shopping. Once a week she would cook for Rosemary and the family. It was a different dish each week and each week it was delicious.

Yes, there were many things Rosemary learned about Iran. But she never learned the language.

It is one of her regrets as she looks back. The four years in Iran were not easy for Rosemary, especially in the latter years when Bill’s work took him away for five weeks at a time with only a week back home with his family. Life in Iran was different to life that she knew. Women were treated differently to what she knew, and as a woman who was foreign to Iran – and who had no grasp of the language –, Rosemary was not in the highest of social standings.

No, it was not an easy time for Rosemary. And now with three children to look after, life got all the more difficult. When she was out with her children she was alone. If something happened she was unable to ask for help. Occasionally she found that a woman would take pity on her and lend a hand but never a man. It was a different world to what Rosemary knew.

She did have a number of friends to help shake her feeling of isolation, but these friends were all American and British. Very few of the people she knew were Iranian. So again, she never truly felt part of the city, always just a temporary figure walking its streets.

As Rosemary and I chat about her time, there is a definite feeling of missed opportunities. She talks with passion about seeing the ancient cities and the incredible history of the country, she loves the food, and there are many fond memories of life during those four years.

But there are also many difficult memories, times of immense sadness and loneliness. After all, Rosemary was an outsider. She remembers being laughed at as a wheel from her pram fell off and she had to fight by herself to lift the pram (with a child in it) and two other children over a two-foot wide ditch near her house. She remembers feeling worthless whenever she was pushed to the back of the queue at the shops, or when she couldn’t explain to the butcher what she wanted and just had to hope it was what she got.

“You get used to it,” she told me, “but it’s something you always notice and dislike.”

For four years, Rosemary was an outsider.

Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. They are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.

Photo Credit: The photo in the logo was provided by Mana Nabavian on Unsplash. It is a photo of a sand dune in Isfahan, Iran. If you would like to see more of their work, click here.