Outside In: Pantea Tofangchi

outside-in

Mount Damavand, a stratovolcano built up by many layers, is the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East, as well as the highest volcano in Asia. It is in the middle of the Alborz Range, which surrounds the mountainside city of Tehran, the beloved birthplace of Pantea Tofangchi.

fullsizeoutput_1579In Iranian mythology, literature, and folklore it is a very special place. This is how Pantea tells the story:

“When the bloody and long-lasting war between Iran and Turan came to an end, the rulers of both countries decided to make peace and to fix the boundary between their kingdoms. The defeated Iran was ordered to shoot an arrow towards Turan. Where the arrow landed was to mark the border between the two countries. An Iranian super hero, Arash, agreed to shoot the arrow from the peak of the Damavand; on the morning of Tir 13th (July 4th, ironic, right?) Arash climbed Mount Damavand and faced the direction of Turan lands, and pulled his bow. It is said the arrow travelled for days, and 2250 kilometers later it landed on the bank of the Oxus River in what is now Central Asia. The river remained the boundary between Iran and Turan for centuries. Arash’s body was never found. There are still stories from travelers who were lost on the mountain. They say that they heard Arash’s voice helping them finding their way.”

Pantea took this picture on the road few years back. Although she and her husband, a physician, have been in the U.S. 16 going 17 years, they still spend most of their vacation time in Iran with their family. This particular view is from Haraz Road, which travels through Tehran Province and Mazandaran Province, crosses the Alborz mountain range, and then descends northwards down the Haraz River Valley. That’s where a lot of Iranians spend their vacation time, by the beautiful Caspian Sea in the North of Iran.

So, for Pantea, this image means, “Root . . . and maybe hope, or perhaps that I still believe that Arash is out there watching over the mountain and over all the myth, literature, and every tangible thing that is lost in the era of technology, smart phones, and virtual communication.”

She believes it was fate that brought her to America: a combination of green card lottery . . . luck . . . work. When asked why they left Iran, her response is, “Why did we really?” Her husband wanted to get his medical specialty and sub-specialty from the States, and she followed him. “But,” she adds, “we also believed, and still believe, that there are more opportunities here in the U.S.”

The thing Pantea misses most about Iran is family. The most difficult part for her is that, “when I go back “home” I feel that I no longer belong, and when I come back “home” I still don’t “fit” no matter how many years pass!” She adds, “I have two countries but no home . . . that’s the saddest part.”

And yet, she says, the best part is not knowing. Pantea is a writer and a graphic designer. “I think not knowing makes me more creative!”

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