A chador is a large, half- moon-shaped cloth entwined around the shoulders, forehead, and chin to reveal only eyes, nose, and mouth. The effect is reminiscent of a nun's habit in times past. The more devout Iranian women allowed only a single eye to poke through.
Moody brightened. Surreptitiously he pulled our American passports from his pocket. "What should we do with these?" he asked. "We do not want them confiscated."
I opened it to find a large coat that would reach down nearly to my ankles. There was no hint of tailoring in it, no sign of a waistline. […] "The coat is called a montoe This is what we wear.
Sitting on the floor cross-legged or perched on one knee, the Iranians attacked the meal like a herd of untamed animals desperate for food. The only utensils provided were large ladle like spoons. Some used these in tandem with their hands or a portion of bread folded into a scoop; others did not bother with spoons. Within seconds there was food everywhere. It was shoveled indiscriminately into chattering mouths that spilled and dribbled bits and pieces all over the so frays and carpets and back into the serving bowls. The unappetizing scene was accompanied by a cacophony of Farsi. Every sentence seemed to end with the phrase "Ensha Allah," "God willing." There seemed to be no disrespect in invoking the holy name of Allah while Unwittingly spitting bits of food all about. No one spoke English. No one paid any attention to Mahtob and me.
But this life was not his style. He was a doctor. He knew the value of hygiene and he appreciated a healthful diet. His personality was far more genteel than this. He was also a great believer in comfort, enjoying conversation, or an afternoon nap, while sitting in his favorite swivel rocking chair. Here, on the floor, he was fidgety, unused to a cross-legged position. There was no way, I knew now, that he could prefer Iran over America. Mahtob and I exchanged glances, reading each other's mind. This vacation was a brief interruption of our otherwise normal American lives. We could endure it, but we did not have to like it. From that very moment we began counting the days until we could go home.
The bread we were served was unleavened, tasteless, flat, and dry, with the consistency of limp cardboard. The cheese was a strong Danish feta. Mahtob and I both like Danish feta, but Ameh Bozorg did not know that it must be stored covered in liquid in order to retain flavor. This cheese smelled like dirty feet. Mahtob and I choked down what we could.
There was, therefore, no opportunity to object to Moody's demand that I wear a chador but as I donned the cumbersome robe I realized that it was filthy. The veil that covers the lower part of the face was caked with dried spittle. I had seen no handkerchiefs or tissues in the household. What I had seen was the women using these veils instead. The smell was repulsive. I sat through the visit, trying not to retch. After the guests had gone, I threw off the chad or and told Moody that I was disgusted at how filthy it was. "These women wipe their noses on it," I complained.
"You cannot take showers every day," she said."We have to take showers every day," Moody replied. "No," she said. "You wash all of the cells off of your skin and you will get a cold in your stomach and be sick." The argument ended in a draw. We continued to shower daily; Ameh Bozorg and her family continued to stink.
"There are bugs in the rice," I complained. "It is not true," he said. "You have just made up your mind not to like it here." At dinner that night I surreptitiously spooned through the rice, gathering up several black bugs in one helping, which I piled onto Moody's plate. It is not polite to leave a morsel of food on your plate so, unwilling to offend, Moody ate the bugs. He got my point.
How much more enjoyable this would be, I thought, if I could get rid of this ridiculous coat and scarf. How I hated the heat and the overpowering stench of unwashed humanity that invaded even this Eden. How I loathed Iran!
He was born in Shushtar, in southwestern Iran, but upon the death of his parents he moved to his sister's home in Khorramshahr, in the same province. Iran is typical of third-world nations in that there is a pronounced disparity between the upper and lower classes.
"Both of our families should help us with our problems," I said to Moody, showing him the verse. "Your family is not Moslem." Moody replied. "They do not count." He added: "And it is your problem, not ours."
In English, the baker said immediately, "Would you like to work here?" "No," I snapped. I wanted nothing resembling work in Iran.
"You are Iranian," she repeated, "and you have to abide by Iranian law." Not unkindly, but firmly, she explained that from the moment I married an Iranian I became a citizen under Iranian law. Legally, both Mahtob and I were, indeed, Iranian. A cold chill settled over me. "I don't want to be Iranian," I said. "I was born an American. I want to be an American citizen."
Tasks such as this filled the dreary days of October 1984, but I noticed progress. Moody, bit by bit, relaxed his surveillance. As far as he was concerned, I was a better Iranian cook than any Iranian, and he knew that I had to shop carefully each day at the local markets to find the freshest meats, fruits, vegetables, and breads. Bundling Mahtob and Amir against the cool autumn air, we trekked each morning to various shops. I found a combination pizzeria and hamburger shop that, because I was American, agreed to sell me two kilos of rare Iranian cheese that resembled mozzarella. Using this, I created a fairly good imitation of American-style pizza.
In America Moody was an osteopathic anesthesiologist, a respected professional with an annual income approaching one hundred thousand dollars.