So exactly how did this happen, you ask? How could a hopeless romantic like me (and an “under wraps” flamenco dancer from the age of four) give up my hard-earned career as a professor of Spanish and follow my best friend (Mahmoud) to live in Iran?
It may not appear to make a whole lot of sense. Yet answering the question “how did this happen?” is really quite simple. Being the “hopeless romantic” I was, I decided to follow Mahmoud out of love (the romantic variety). But in the back of my mind lurked an irksome question: In the end, can Iran really feed the soul of this hopeless romantic? Is there any hope of living the dance of a flamenco dancer?
I wasn’t really a flamenco dancer (or even of Hispanic heritage), but I'd always longed to live a flamenco dance metaphor: to break out of the quiet, routine conventions and express the music and drama welling within me. When I looked toward Iran, I had to wonder. From where I was standing, I saw nothing to inspire me. And If I dared step inside its tightly knit borders, what would happen to the music and rhythms within me? What would happen to the beauty, the drama, the colors? And without these components, could the love that Mahmoud and I shared really “conquer all”?
Of course, inherent to this discussion was a larger question—a whole line of larger questions, in fact: What about differences in our countries’ cultural practices? In our faith traditions? In our racial identities? How might the values attached to each set of differences threaten a lasting love relationship between Mahmoud and me? When marrying across cultures, marrying across races, marrying across faith traditions, would love be enough to keep us together?
If I may, let me open the doors of discussion more widely and invite you, my readers, to share your own thoughts, opinions, and/or experiences: When it comes to romantic relationships across differences of culture, race, faith, is love enough to conquer all? If not, what are the obstacles that make them impossible? If so, what are the factors that make them work?
Dr. Leslie Ahmadi discovered her intercultural calling in her parents’ home at age four--where between the jazz, the spirituals, and the rock ‘n roll music, she heard folk songs in languages from around the world. Thirty years later she had a doctorate in foreign language and culture education--and her folk song guitar never far away.