Can we really live a fingerprint on the lives that we touch?

In early June, I had a party at my place. I invited many people and I made them Iranian food. There were 14 people and I cooked everything on my own. There were Russians, Italians, Brazilians, Ukrainian, Malaysian, and one Iranian person. I guess they all liked the food a lot. I also had so much fun.

I ended up talking to an Italian guy for 2 hours continuously after everyone left. I can’t believe that we talked for hours without even realizing time passing by. He showed me his diary. Much as it was in Italian and I didn’t understand even a word, the fact that he occasionally writes drew my attention to itelself. I somehow believe that people who write usually think about topics that could be some level deeper than the ordinary life, (unlike most of the people). He cared enough to think a lot and ask himself questions. For him, it took two years to figure out what he wants to study at university level. He didn’t just want to go to university as everyone else does, he was overly curious to find out why.

photo by Hannah Busing

I was born and raised in Iran where is remarkably different from Italy. I started living in another country at the age of 24. He lived in the US when he was 18 or so. He is a bartender, and I don’t drink. He speaks Italian and I speak Farsi. He is 21, I am 25. He is studying bachelor in psychology and I am studying a master’s in astrophysics. He smokes weed and I don’t. God, there are many huge differences here. But Although my life is a far cry from his, I’ve kind of gone through the same thing. I felt him unexpectedly so similar to me. He left his lasting impression when he challenged me by asking about the thing here in Italy that I am not willing to bring it back home when I leave. I still don’t know the respond to that question honestly.

The story that I just mentioned happened a few months ago, but surprisingly I still remember my Italian friend. As today is my birthday and did not get any happy birthday from the people that I know abroad, I can’t help but wonder how do we get ourselves unforgettable in one’s life? Can we really live a fingerprint on the lives that we touch? If it’s that so, how do we know?

I guess I pretty know how someone can touch my life in a way that won’t easily fade away: it’s when they care about me, or when they make feel understood. It can also happen if they teach me something or make me think about something. These all normally imply good effects on my life that probably last. But I still need to think about the bad impacts as well.

I celebrated my birthday this year in my country with a few of my friends in a desert lying down under the night sky, waiting to see the shooting stars. Every year a meteor shower occurs the night of my birthday. And I have always been so eager to watch them. But this year, I realized that even going to desert to watch the shower is not that important to me anymore. There are real stars in my life that I like to be around them. There is absolutely no need to drive far away to watch the sky night. They are just there, right beside me. And I have never been happier to have them shine in my life. This time I know that my friends and family are like stars that make my life much brighter. Sometimes I don’t see them, but I know that they are just there.

Summer 2021 …

What color is your passport?

Living in a cosmopolitan atmosphere has led me to notice a few differences between nations. Never can I generalize people only by their nationality. But undoubtedly only an Iranian can understand what it feels like to be nervous for several months in a row just worrying about a visa. How it feels like when your passport lets you only visit a handful number of places just because you were born in Iran. I don’t sit on judgment here. I’ve done my experiment talking to an Italian about this for example. And getting the response: “What do you exactly mean when you say it is hard to get a visa? How is it possible that a student’s visa get rejected while he has an acceptance letter from a university?”

That’s what I am talking about. Surely someone holding a Schengen passport would not get it at all!!!

When you’re Iranian, going abroad is kind of fancy. Not only is it usually hard but also expensive. And that’s all because you were born there. This always reminds me of what George Orwell once said: “all animals are equal but some of them are more equal than others.” It is a fact that we are all alike but some of us, for instance, can’t get vaccinated because there is no Covid vaccine while at the same moment some others are protesting against the government for making a green pass mandatory in their country.

According to my nine-month experience living abroad, people are prone to see my country worse than what it really is, which is truly disappointing. I don’t normally attempt to glamorize my country. I just sometimes want them to know how it really is other than believing in the illusion that the media has fed them with. It seems unfair to blame what they think as they are just unaware and I have no idea how I would have been if I were in their shoes. But it still feels so sad sometimes and it is hard to explain the truth to every single individual that I meet. 

I have seen many American celebrities pointing out inequalities which makes them seem cool and adored. On the contrary, I can’t complain about these inequalities without making other people taking pity on me! The truth is that I might even have a better life compared to some of my international friends in terms of having a very good family, good financial status, or social level, but when it comes to visas or national discrimination, I would probably be on top of the worst conditions. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. It is bothering if another person looks down on me for the bad things that happened to me because of my nationality. I just don’t want to be ashamed of something which is not my choice. What I want is to speak up the reality and to do something for it, if that’s possible. For this reason, I don’t understand when I am put in shame after sharing these things.

I think I still can’t accept the fact that my rights as a person who was born in Iran differ greatly from the one who was born in a western country. I don’t get why this has to be this way. Why should I struggle for getting my residence permit after 7 months of being here while someone with the same major, same abilities, same gender, and even same age do not need to go through these bureaucracies just because of having a different color passport than mine?

Getting a visa or studying in another country are my rights. They are not something that I have to fight for. I feel like the one who is still fighting to get the basic rights and I can’t understand why even do I have to earn my rights?

Let me know about this. What do you think of my country? And how do you feel when I told you a bit about my problems concerning my nationality? Have you ever encountered the same issues because of your nationality?

Differences I have noticed in Italy so far

There is an enormous difference in Italy’s atmosphere when it comes to colours describing the Covid-19 pandemic. Red is always an unpleasant situation. The one that made my life miserable, but now it is the yellow zone and things have changed. Many people are having meals together in bars or restaurants, sitting outside, laughing out loud, and chatting. Even just looking at them while I am passing by makes me feel good. Since I came here, people told me that what I see is not Italy at all. They said the city has such a different atmosphere without the pandemic. Well, now I know it surely does. Even still there is Covid, but the city seems quite new to me. I come up with a list of differences that I found here in Italy compared to where I come from. Follow me!

Eating:

I like the way Italian people care about eating. They spend a lot of time eating and they care about what they eat. Here in Italy you never see people biting a sandwich while walking in a hurry to work or school. They just sit comfortably and eat. No surprise, but the food I have tasted here differs significantly from the ones that I used to eat in Italian restaurants back home. Here pizza is a piece of bread, sauce, a bit of cheese, and a few toppings (if you’re lucky). Whereas, in Iran pizza is the meal after which you can’t even move because you feel too full.

What I found is that Italians are so obsessed with their food. If you tell them you put ketchup on the pizza or make pasta in a different way, they may feel offended. They believe that they have the most perfect food in the world. Well, I guess it’s true. But I don’t understand why they are so obsessed with that! Personally, I don’t care if somebody tells me they put mayonnaise on Iranian Kebab for instance. I mean, who cares!!

Fashion:

People in here are overly well-dressed. I consider almost all of them as being handsome. I like the way they dress up. It’s simple, but elegant. I even saw a few people wearing classical hats, such as the ones in the old movies. There is even a hat shop here in Padua, which is so interesting to me.

Social aspects:

Italians care about being together and having small reunions. I have seen many people, usually the younger generation, who are sitting in a circle of friends, having a small picnic or something. It actually reminds me of my country. However, in my hometown, are mainly families like that!

People here are so friendly and kind. It is possible that you see a stranger talking to you on a bus or someone helps you to find direction if they see you searching for somewhere even without you asking for help. I remember the very first time I went to a lecture in presence, other students asked my name and tried to get to know me. It was so sweet. Like they broke the ice. I am not sure it would have been the same if were in Germany for example (or any other country).

Pets:

Almost everywhere, any time you may come across people walking with their dogs. It is new to me because I did not see the same thing back home. I feel like having pets here is so common. Or maybe it is something cultural in the west. I am not an expert in this, but does this mean people feel more lonely here?

Drinking:

As you might know, alcohol is illegal in my country although there are still people who make and drink it. What is new for me is the fact that there is ALWAYS alcohol around when people want to have some fun here. I mean, I can totally understand that being drunk can help one feel happy for a while, but I believe one can be happy sometimes even without drinking. And it seems to me that alcohol is a sort of cultural thing here, something like a habit I guess other than a necessity for being happy. In my opinion, you can have fun even without being drunk.

English:

I live in a small town in Italy, Padua. There are about 6500 students in this city, or maybe more. I am studying my master’s here in English and at the university almost everyone can speak English. Much as in grocery store, post office, supermarket or maybe some restaurants or cafes, I have encountered language barrier.

In my experience, it is also easier to make friends with other international students than with Italian ones. I have good Italian friends too, but sometimes I feel they are closer to each other because they speak the same language. I guess if you wish to stay here on long terms, you somehow have to learn Italian because it is impossible to feel included without knowing it. It is such a brilliant language, by the way.

Indivudalism:

I have heard a stereotype that individualism is more apparent in the west other than east. Well, I think it is more correct to say that individualism is more evident everywhere in comparison to past. But there are also a few things that I noticed. In parties here, people talk to each other in pairs or maybe with a small group of three or four. Some people might dance, some might not. A few might sing while a few don’t. And I almost never found all people doing the same thing all together. Whereas, in Iranian gatherings, people tend to dance together, drink together, ect. So if you don’t follow the group, you might feel a bit excluded. And maybe that could be interpreted as being more united. Maybe!

Have you ever lived somewhere else for a while and notice differences? or have you ever encountered diffrences at the west and East?

Well, I would love to know…let me know!

Are you alone or lonely?

It’s like that I have lots of ups and downs. I am not sure if it’s normal although I don’t feel my life as normal. There is Covid pandemic, a new university, a new country, a new educational system, new people and a new language. In fact, nothing is quite the same.

At the beginning I thought that maybe there is something wrong with me because I cannot make friends as I used to do in my country. Maybe my abilities are not good enough. But now that the red zone is finally over and I have had the chance to meet new people, I don’t feel the same. I am still sociable and friendly. I just didn’t have a chance!

These new things help me learn more about myself with. For example, the other day I found that sometimes I just need a tiny simple chitchat, asking another person how he/she has been doing, to know about their day, to tell them about my day. As simple as it sounds. It might be weird, but now I even feel grateful for having small talks with the Pakistani salesperson in the grocery store next to my house. Maybe Covid has made me to feel so, or maybe it’s the fact that I am here alone and so distant from everyone that I knew. I have never seen these aspects of myself.

Now that I am writing to you this, I have already experienced how it feels like to be lonely. It did not kill me, but it was not easy as well. Some people say that it has even given me more strength. I still don’t know. It might be too early to judge that. All I knew for now is that it is only me now. I am the one who should take care of myself. I am the one who should be there. The one who never leaves me. The one that I should care about.

It’s a whole new different chapter of my life. So many question marks, so many new things. It’s a mixture of ease and hardness. Now I wonder how I might feel while reading this 5 years from now. I am not scared, though. I feel like I am living within all of my fears. Living it and I still feel alive.

Have you ever felt lonely? What did you do? I am really passionate to know …

(6 months after moving to Europe …. )

My life with Covid-19 pandemic

Currently, that I am writing this, I am suffering from a lockdown here in Italy. When I was coming here; I was hoping to make friends and to engage with a new society. But here I am, no university classes in person, no trips, no cafes, or any other kinds of social or fun activities. What can I do? I am struggling with loneliness, lack of a sense of belonging, homesickness, and anxiety. With having it all, it is difficult not to feel depressed, even so I am trying not to. I don’t want it to happen.

There is no opportunity for me to meet new people and make friends. I feel like I have no friends here. Actually, I thought I have, but I think I was wrong. There are people I am in touch with, but I cannot call them friends. I define friendship as a relationship in which both parties can talk, understand, and be understood while being loyal and honest with each other. And the truth is that I don’t have any here yet. I am really fond of having deep conversations with people to discover their world and to know them better. And Surely I like to be discovered too. I should admit that I need to be discovered and understood.

I don’t know, maybe things get harder when we get older. When I was younger, I used to make friends only by asking if another kid is willing to play with me or asking his/her name. However, I just recently found out that it is very difficult for me to make friends as an adult. Maybe it is because that most of the people have already made their friends. Imagine that I was still in my home country. I didn’t need to meet new people and make friends as much as I feel to do so now. And maybe that’s the case for many Italians here too. I have seen many people gathering together, laughing, and talking. Sometimes it feels like that I am standing on another side of the line, where they are not. How can I move to the other part? What is the secret to being welcomed in their community? Like to be one of them.

It broke me to find out that I couldn’t make good friends during these five months despite all of my efforts. But anyway, I still hope that I can make through this crazy part of my life too. They say powerful people are the ones who adapt themselves to fresh changes in life. I am doing my best. You need to know that I am doing my best. You should know that despite all of my efforts; it is not going easily. I am not just sitting and complaining. I am making efforts but never have I been lonelier than now.

(5 months after moving to Europe …. )

Sense of Belonging

I have been listening to this song repeatedly this week without realizing why I feel it aligns with my mood these days. Now I figured it out. It’s because of its refrain which says:

If you bled, I bleed the same

If you’re scared, I’m on my way

I found out that how much I have missed the safe people I used to have beside myself. Back home, I had some of these people. People who would get in their way if I was in need. They were there for me, even without me asking them for help. Once they looked me in the eye or hear my voice, they knew where they should be. Maybe there were only a handful number of these people back there, but still.

I guess this is the reason that I don’t feel here as home yet, as a place that gives me a sense of belonging. I remember when I was in Iran and hear about other people, who are in other countries, feeling homesick time to time or missing their country although they are overly successful abroad and have lived somewhere out of Iran even for over 30 years, I always thought they just say some bullshit, pretending to have these feelings to get more attention. ”How could someone live somewhere for a very long time and not feel it as home?” I asked myself.

But now I don’t see it the same way as before. You can be somewhere with facilities, qualities and things way better than the one you used to have, but you still suffer. You ‘re in pain because you have a house, but not a home.

For many people sense of belonging is having a kind of sense of nostalgia when they think about their home country, its streets, parks, museums, food, and so on. Whereas, for me, it all defines by people. By relationships that I grow with people in that place, let’s say. I guess that’s why I feel so unconnected here. I literally feel like a foreigner, an outsider, someone who is not included. And to be honest, it is not a good feeling. You don’t mind it if you won’t stay somewhere for a long period, but imagining myself bearing this for 2 years seems to be a nightmare.

Am I ever going to have some safe people here in this town? Am I ever going to feel somewhere at home other than where my family and friends are? They say it gets better after a while. Well, does it?

(3 months after moving to Europe …. )