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Moving to Iran

Here we are. The whirlwind of Covid is in full flow still and for many, including us, time stood still for a long, long time. And yet, now is when one of the most life-changing events has place for us: We got married and are moving to Iran together.
Because we wanted to, because we had no other choice in today’s world, because there was no reason to stay in Belgium without a job, without seeing friends, without being able to be together with my life partner. Of course, this move has multiple implications for life itself as well as for this blog and what you will see here. Bear with me as I delve into this theme and introduce you a little to all the changes. 

Ovan lake in Alamut, northern Iran. One of my favourite sights and the ancestral home of my partner.

Today we are sitting in our living room in a rented flat in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s a saturday, which means that the country is in full lockdown and we cannot really go outside except for some essential groceries. We have gone through these weekend lockdowns already six times now while waiting and getting things in order, and they remind me of how time is steadily going forward while every single week escapes to the archives of ‘the past’.

We are waiting. Waiting for my passport and Iranian birth certificate “Shenasnameh” finally arrive. And it feels like we have done so since March 2020 when Covid started and my trip to Iran during Nowruz (Iranian New Year) was cancelled. The blur of the next nine months, months of job applications, months of checking travel requirements for Iran, months of trying to read novels to spend just a little time in a different world, months where even my thesis defense was a 5-minute online session, still feels more real than anything that is about to happen. Maybe it will hit as soon as it actually does happen? When we arrive in Tehran and I suddenly cry upon the sight of the mega city on the flank of the magnificent Alborz mountains, like I did last time I saw this familiar sight? Strange to think that, from now on, I will travel there as an Iranian woman. Easy for visa purposes, but how will it affect life in the next decades? Influence identity and choices and circumstances? Maybe it’s better not to ask these questions in advance.

Despite the numbness and the feeling that an entire year was ‘wasted’, I realise today that the waiting was worth it. Even cancelling my offer from a prestigious university for a dreamy masters programme, at the time a risky and uncertain decision, turned out to be worth it. If things had been “normal”, we would not have made the decision to live in Iran together and try out something completely new, completely different. We would have postponed marriage and moving in together for a while longer, at least until I had a stable job in Belgium that could support the both of us.
Today I am very happy that this did not happen. Instead, I am excited for the upcoming year and our prevailing  ‘let’s see what’ll happen and just enjoy the ride’ mind set.

I realised playing safe is not always the correct, or desirable decision especially when it comes to the big decisions in life. What we think is ‘a safe option’, might in fact hit back hard or turn out not to make you any happier. I was applying for jobs non-stop for months on end to no avail, and have spent too much energy and too many hours on trying to get jobs “just for the sake of earning money and having a work contract.” I am sure many of my fellow 2020 graduates experienced something similar.

There was, in fact, no reason to keep going that way. Covid showed us how unpredictable this world is, and there is no way to make sure the regular, safe path, will work out for you. We therefore decided now is the time to take a big leap and try something new. When else would we do it! So very quickly after that, we got married in Turkey, exactly in between Brussels and Tehran. Our goal? To close our eyes, jump and start off this life’s journey together in a completely new way.

I dream to expand Ehsan’s carpet business and bring the true art of woolen, naturally dyed, hand-knotted Persian rugs to the world. I dream of the simple pleasure of pursuing a life together at home and outside, rather than only meeting in far places on holiday. I dream of experiencing excitement again, whether about buying a porcelain tea pot together, making a risky business investment or travel around the country with our tent in search of something new and beautiful.

Novelty, discovery, forward-moving energy. But this time as an end in itself and a central theme in the coming years.

Snapshot of our wedding day in Istanbul

Soon, inshallah, after receiving my documents from the Iranian consulate here in Istanbul, my partner Ehsan and I are packing our bags and moving to Tehran, Iran. It is his home city, a place I have visited many times and therefore not entirely new to me. Yet it’s a place that, aside of being very different, comes with certain connotations and assumptions. These, as you may guess, aren’t always positive.

I do not want to be ‘your average travel blogger’ here that tries to convince you Iran is the most awesome place on earth and that everything you thought or heard about it is wrong. In fact, the main reason I quit travel blogging is because it tends to glorify places, people and cultures without taking into account the social, cultural, political and economic context of each place that is shown. It also tends to dismiss the privilege of a traveller (often, the white young traveller with few responsibilities outside of themselves and with sufficient cash reserves) in the context and deliberately erases experiences, places, words, people that do not fit the aesthetic that the blogger is after.

Instead, I want to share with you my daily experiences of living in Iran, with my Iranian husband and Iranian family, in a little house with a beautiful garden in the middle of the city, with a normal job and (for now) little but growing knowledge of the language.
My goal with this blog is therefore to provide a more intimate image of what Iran is, to unlearn some of my own assumptions, to learn to be a functional part of a country and culture I do not (yet) perceive as my own but that will forever be a big part of my life and experiences. Also, and most importantly, to just live my best life whatever comes on the way and seek beauty in it all.
What can you, the reader of this blog, expect from now on?
For sure a lot of pictures and meditations.
For sure a lot of Persian carpets and stories of awkward language mistakes.
For example, did you know that ‘bah bah’ is a saying in Farsi meaning ‘nice, delicious’ (for example, you’d say it at the sight of a delicious plate of food), but that it means “ew, gross” in Dutch? The first time I made food and Ehsan said ‘bah, bah’, you can imagine how the next few minutes of conversation went! 😉
Lastly, and hopefully, an abundance of art, design and descriptions of the sweet scents of roses and saffron.
In the first few articles, I will slowly introduce the different aspects of our life in Iran together. Our company, our house, the bazaar, our friends, ….

As for now, I am packing, counting my blessings and gratefully preparing to hop onto a plane with my spouse, my hamsar, to a new chapter in life.

Felan, see you later.

Daydreaming of seeing the inside of the Shaykh Lotfollah Mosque again soon. The colour palette is already serving as an inspiration for my office space design. Isfahan, Iran

10 thoughts on “Moving to Iran

  1. bah bah Andrea and Ehsan. What a nice story.
    I look forward to the sequel. Keep writing, keep dreaming, keep daring. Love ! x ilona (& family)

  2. Dear Andrea and Ehsan, thanks for sharing this! It brings Iran, his people and culture into our livingroom (where we all sit & wait until lockdown is over😉). Already looking forward to your next post! Take care of each other.

  3. Well done Andrea for this huge step you have taken in your life. You certainly surprised us all in your courageous choices, but I am sure things will turn out well, even if different to what you expect now. Happy to read you in your adventurous life, take care.

  4. Hi Andrea. Both of you look very happy. And what a step both of you took together. Hope your journey will inspire lot of people to look from the same spot. I believe that where ever you travel, people and families want to live a happy life. So please share! And show as much as possible pictures of Iran and daily family life.
    I understand why you add so much new insights to Marianke – and in second phase me as well. Keep up your journey. Mariek

  5. Veel geluk samen in Iran. Ik heb er 2 jaar gewerkt en gewoond en heel veel gereisd… Prachtig land, een heel leuk en gastvrij volk, lekker eten,…

  6. Love your story and the adventure you have chosen. I totally understand you passion for Iran… and carpets!

    My father is a retired carpet businessman in Denmark and I grew up with carpets everywhere, on the flour and walls!!! As a child I swore that I wouldn’t have carpets in my home…now I can’t have enough! I always had a little dream to continue the business I Denmark, but really never had the courage to say it loud.

    It has always been a dream for me to have the opportunity to settle down a life in Iran. After high school graduation I lived there for 1 year and my parents had to drag me out of Iran back to Denmark to study at the university.

    Looking forward to read your experience and your thoughts of your new journey.

    Big congratulations on your marriage❤️🙏

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