Apples littering the streets of Miandoab
flickr View my photo journal
"So what's the itinerary?", I ask my father the night before we were to head off. "We're going to rest, then get up then pick up my brothers in the morning" came the response. "And then what?", I enquired. "Then we will go to Miandoab", he informed me, confirming the only part of the plan I was sure of. "And when we get there, what will we do?", I asked carefully, not wanting to agitate my father yet perturbed by his usual vagary. "There is some business to take care of and we'll see some family", it was slow but clarity was coming. We continued like this for a bit longer before I gave up.
With a car full of brothers I'd traveled to the north-west of Iran to Miandoab, the home-city of my grandmother, a trip for unspecified business and family visits. This visit had been long anticipated due to a running joke with an auntie as well as an interest in exploring my roots. As way of a compliment to my dear auntie I repeatedly ask of my uncle, "Dear uncle, find me a wife like yours", referring to my his wife's unrelenting hospitality. I usually layer the shmarm with vague plans to pay a visit to her home-city – also Miandoab – where I will find my wife, "among the best girls in the world". Between my auntie's modest blushes, dear uncle puts it to me that, "they don't make these models any more – the production's finished".
"Why is the outside of your house not finished?", I asked while the family of this young Miandoaban girl watched on having put her on the spot to test her English. "I'm sorry, can you repeat what you said again please?", she replied nervously. "The outside of your house, why is it not finished?", I slowly sounded out, unable to think of a more simple way to put it. She looked at me for a short while. Her family looked at her for a short while. Together we watched her stand up and leave the room and I guess that ended the test.
The entire city, bar eight houses (I counted), stood in some state of completion
Following our first night in Miandoab – in the light of day – I'd learned that our distant relatives were not alone in having an unfinished exterior to their building, the entire city, bar eight houses (I counted), stood in some state of completion. It was like I was walking between giant clothing turned inside-out. Although this 'some-stage-of-completion' is not an uncommon site in Iran, the choccy brickwork and exposed frames of the Miandoab buildings seemed so shapely and so ready to wear marble, what were they waiting for?
There was little to distinguish Miandoab, maybe a mass of antique looking bicycles, 'Made in Shanghai', a common form of transport when not casually left on the street. Other than this a giant apple sculpture stood in the middle of a sizable roundabout which seemed to indicate the city's association and as it turned out, a reason for our visit. We'd visited the family apple orchid where discussion was intermittent with picking. Between the unspecified business my father indulged my many questions concerning the family history, "He said he was going to the capital city", he explained of his then young father, "They expected him to return shortly with his tail between his legs". As we walk among part of the evidence disproving those expectations I enjoyed, as ever, seeing the gifts that come each year from the trees he'd planted, even in his absence.
While returning to the capital city, having apparently at some point taken care of the unspecified business, I joked about our unsuccessful visit, "Dear uncle, we have an empty seat, you didn't find me a wife!". But I didn't feel I was going home empty handed, I still had the gifts from my grandfather – his apples and my family.