In the fall of 1974 when I was ten years old, my family moved to Tehran, Iran. My parents were teachers and wanted to travel, so they signed up with International School Services, a placement service for international schools, and we chose the Tehran American School (TAS).
Prior to moving to Iran, my father was an assistant professor at Denver University, my mother taught 5th grade at North Lakewood Elementary, and we lived in a nice suburban ranch house in Lakewood, Colorado. Mom went ahead of us to find a house and get us settled. She did not have much choice, as my father got sick that summer and had surgery to remove his gall bladder. Mom was very brave.
I remember the flight over was very long. I think it took a day or more with layovers and such. When we deplaned at Mehrabad Airport, I was struck with massive culture shock, as everything was different than anything I had ever seen before. The most shocking thing to me, was the sight of women clad from head to toe in black chadors.
In 1974, the chador was not mandatory and in fact, the Shah was trying to get rid of them. Since 1979, things are different.
I am not sure how long it took to adjust to living in Iran. We had little bits of the States. TAS had over 4.000 students and around 50,000 Americans made Tehran their home. We were very fortunate in that we were stateside hire, meaning we had military privileges such as the commissary and PX (military supplied American shopping goods) and base access. These small benefits made living in Iran easier.
Some things were very difficult at first. Within a few days of drinking the local water, every foreigner got a case of the Tehran Trots. Another term for traveler’s diarrhea. I was sick for a couple of weeks and distinctly remember wishing for death. All we could do was take meds that were recommended by others who had been through the experience. All contained opiates and relieved the cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. My family was not aware that the over the counter drugs were actually narcotics. We found out when my Mom tried to get some Donnagel-PG in Germany once, and was advised by the pharmacist to dispose of the bottle, and not ask again without a prescription. It was a funny and frightening experience.
Iran was very different than anything we had ever experienced and yet we were somewhat prepared. Our family had moved every few years as my father completed his masters and PhD. We also spent every summer at our lake cabin on Pine Island in Lake Vermilion. We had no electricity and only a hand pump for water. We had an outhouse. And though we had many neighbors, any need for any services meant a long trip across the lake and then into town.
Mom brought us home from the airport and I can hardly remember everything as it was night and everything was new. Most of the streets are lined with six or seven ft high walls that enclose every yard and home. In 1974, Tehran had approximately 4 million people living in the city. So I remember cars, walls, lights and buildings, radically varying from small, large, and everything in between.
We arrived at our new house in the Gheytarieh district and the Shemiran district. Our house was on a little street called Najir, just a block off Gheytarieh street. Najir was about a half mile from Old Shemiran Road (now called Dr. Shariaty Avenue). I tried to locate it on Google Earth, but got confused because Gheytarieh street no longer crosses Old Shemiran Road.