Wednesday, October 22, 2003


…means foreigner which is the first word that I could pick up in casual conversation. I hear it just about every single day, several times a day. I hear it from the adults walking by me on the streets, children playing in playgrounds, and 20-somethings curious about me. Everywhere I go, people stare. I will never look Iranian.

The good thing about being a foreigner here is that Iranians treat foreigners really well. They try to be on their best behavior in front of us. Our blond Dutch friend who speaks Farsi better than K does, told us an emblematic story about this. He was in Iran riding on a bus when an argument broke out. People tried to calm down the arguing parties by telling them: "Is this the kind of impression you want to give the foreigner?"

After three months here, I, too, have become completely obsessed with foreigners. Whenever I see them, I openly stare. I make comments to whoever is with me. "Look, a foreigner," I say.

There is one restaurant near us that serves amazing kebabs. Everytime we eat there, there is a foreigner present. The first time we were there, there were two Africans. I was completely mesmerized by their skin. It was as though I had never seen dark skin before. The next time we went, there was a woman who looked Mongolian. Once again, I was completely amazed. I saw a South African man the next time and a whole bevy of people speaking French. One night, the staff of a Lufthansa flight was eating dinner near us. I could not stop staring.

"Mom, Dad, why is my nose so big?"

A whole generation of Iranians is going to grow up wondering where the hell they inherited their big noses from.

Everywhere you go in Iran, you see young men and women with bandages on their noses. One long, white bandage down the front of the nose. Three shorter ones crossing the bridge.

One night we were walking with K's nephews and nieces and sisters when we spotted a man with the bandages on his nose. "How awful does a man's nose have to be for him to get a nose job," I asked?

K's nephew responded, "But I want one."

I thought he was joking. He is a perfectly good-looking man with a bigger than average nose, but one that fits his face very well. His sister also told me that she wanted one. Apparently neither of them were joking. They thought it was pretty funny that their wishes made me laugh.

What can I say? I like an unusual nose. I like big noses. In my whole life I have seen maybe two people I thought should get nose jobs. Only one of them was Iranian...

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