Having lived in Delft only for a few months makes our mom of the week, Shadi, one of our newest members. She’s a mother of two boys: Parsa who is 12 and a 6-year-old Samia. Funnily enough, having been a part of an expat family ever since he was only a few months old makes the youngest member of the family also the most experienced.
Shadi was a young university student who was eager to see the world beyond Iran’s borders. But because applying for a visa is a difficult process with no guarantees for Iranians, Shadi and her husband, Bahman, started by visiting some of the neighboring countries. Only when Bahman got a chance to study in Malaysia, the family moved to the unknown. Their friends and families thought the young family was taking a huge risk by moving to Malaysia with two small children, but Shadi was determined to go through with the plan even if it was the hardest thing she ever had to do.
The time in Malaysia liberated Shadi in profound ways. She learned to build an online business – or two in this case – and employed herself as a freelance translator of Malaysian news and events from English to Persian for the local expat Iranian community. However, nothing compared with finding the joy of dancing. “In Iran you cannot really do that. Many people have talents, but you can only dance at home or at parties, but those are always separated between genders”, she describes. Shadi found a dance school in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, where she attended classes of Chinese line dancing, hip hop and her favorite: belly dancing. Dancing was the best time of her day, as it was the moment where she felt most like herself and she can’t wait to continue her hobby in Delft as well.
Settling in the Netherlands hasn’t been a breeze for the family though. In July Shadi and her sons were meant to go to Iran to see their extended family before moving in the Netherlands, but Bahman talked Shadi over to follow him at once to make the search of the house easier for the whole family. The expectations of soon finding a place to stay weren’t met and the first month turned out to be much harder than they had anticipated. One week staying in a hotel turned into three. House hunting in particular was shaping up to be very challenging, but little by little Shadi also let go of certain requirements, such as not having a staircase in the house. “At first we didn’t realize the stairs are almost in every Dutch house”, she laughs about it now. In the end the family found their current house through a real estate agent who had shown them a house before and who knew the current tenants would be moving away soon. To their luck, the tenants turned out to be members of the Delft MaMa family and so Shadi was taken under their wing. She got invited to a party where she met her neighbors and more local, international mothers at once. “The previous tenant of the house had been in a similar situation and really wanted to help us. They even moved out a week earlier, which was a huge favor to us. Further, she and her husband gave us a lot of information about the basic things”, Shadi says with a deep gratitude in her voice.
When Shadi arrived to the Netherlands she immediately made the effort to try to understand the Dutch culture as much as possible. “I want to know the society I’m living in. My experience in Malaysia is that you shouldn’t isolate yourself. To integrate I even tried to make stamppot. It turned out horrible, but at least I tried”, she laughs. Shadi is often daring herself to go over her comfort zone and because of this she feels like a flexible human being. “My life was tough. It’s no use to make it harder for myself, so I make an effort to be flexible. When something happens I scale the importance of it”, she says and through this practice has come to realize it’s no use to be bothered about the little things in life. Somehow, she also has an ability to really see the silver lining even on a gray cloud. For example when her bike got stolen, she was upset for a few days, but then came to understand she’s now sharing something that happens to most Dutch people. In the end having her bike stolen made her feel more integrated. “I think everything happens for a reason. Sometimes you never know the reason, other times you get to know the reason after a while”, Shadi says. She tells me how her father needed to have an emergency surgery when she had been in Delft for a month. If she had stuck to her original plan of first going to Iran before coming to Europe, she would’ve just been reuniting with her husband in Delft and wouldn’t missed the chance to go see her father. “I was complaining to my husband about having to come to Delft too early, but when my mom called about my dad’s surgery I realized all the change of plans were for a reason”, she says sounding very relieved.
Listening to her stories about expat life makes it clear that Shadi truly is a people person. She’s curious about other people’s customs and wants to learn the world through the people she meets. “Most people flock together with like-minded and that’s okay, but I can easily mingle with different types of people”, she tells me. The way she has been pulled into the community in Delft at this point is a further evidence of her warm approach to those around her.
I have had the pleasure of meeting this kind, enthusiast, adventurous woman for a few times now. She has offered me Iranian cookies that turned out to be some of the best cookies that I have ever tried. This time when I was interviewing her, she broadened my horizons by making me a lovely cup of Malaysian tea. At the end of the talk I have a revelation that not only she likes learning about the world through others, but that she also is a big spokesperson of the world to the rest of us.