Below is an article my husband I wrote for Sydney Morning Herald‘s The Good Weekend. I found it among long-abandoned files and published it here.
Listen to the podcast here.
Her family fled Iran at the height of Iran/Iraq’s war and spent three months in Turkey as refugees before immigrating to Australia. He was from a middle-class family from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Almost thirty years after first meeting, they each reflect on the friendship that turned into a lasting love affair.
I met Mark on the first day of university in 1988. He was blond, shy and looked about 15. In contrast, I have unruly mop of dark curly hair, spoke too loud and was still new to Australian way of life.
Having fled Iran with my family during the Iran/Iraq war, I had arrived in Australia in 1982. At 13 I’d been through a revolution, regime change, and a war. In comparison, Mark was an Australian boy with Irish-Russian ancestors who’d spent his whole life in a leafy, quiet Sydney suburb. I loved clubbing, fashion and resort holidays; he enjoyed pub bands, surfing, and camping. Our differences did not end there. Our families were also poles apart. I came from a large extended family. Our parties were large and loud with feasts of dishes and boisterous dancing. His family lived enjoyed quiet gatherings, socialising primarily with neighbours.
At first glance, we had nothing in common.
However, as we got to know one another better, I grew to appreciate his quick wit, his kind, sensitive nature and sharp intellect. When we started going out in groups, Mark & I often fell behind, too engrossed in conversation to even notice our friends are waiting for us to catch up. We spent hours talking. We talked about everything and anything. Mark’s soft-mannered tone and the respect by which he treated everyone around him, left its impression not just on me, but also on my parents.
Without realising, I was falling in love.
I grew up in Sydney’s Frenchs Forest where I spent my weekends playing rugby and surfing the local beaches. My family (conservative, even-tempered individuals who rarely raised their voices) enjoyed camping up and down NSW coast. My father grew up in rural NSW and worked all his life in banking, retiring as a well-respected bank manager. My mother, a schoolteacher, enjoyed sewing and baking her signature lemon cheesecake. We were middle-class through and through. Living in a predominantly Anglo-Saxon area, and never having travelled overseas, I had little to no contact with other cultures.
At school, I took a keen interest in Modern History and politics. Still, my knowledge did not always extend to the happenings in the Middle East. Before meeting Bonnie, my understanding of Iran was restricted to the occasional footage on 6 o’clock news. And by the look of the people I saw on the screen, Iranians were a highly excitable race that hated Westerners and regularly burned American flags.
We met in 1988 when we attended university. Bonnie’s dark features and unruly curls set her apart but also made her too foreign to my conservative taste. She was too loud, too dark, too… exotic. And upon meeting her, I immediately decided she’d be the least likely person I’d want to start a relationship with.
And yet despite our differences, we discovered in each other values and qualities that we admired. As months passed, our friendship grew and blossomed into love. I love her lively personality, her forthright manner and the abandoned way she dances, her smile never dropping.
On our wedding day in October 1994, the Pastor joked that it took two revolutions to bring us together. Just like Banafsheh’s family, my grandparents fled Soviet Russia during the Civil War to eventually settle in Australia.
It’s been 27 years since we spoke our vows and she’s still my best friend. I couldn’t imagine a more vibrant person to spend the rest of my days with.
Thank You For Visiting!
Click here to listen to the ABC radio program For Better, For Worse, featuring Mark and me.
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For authentic storytelling and articulate communication, you cannot go past Bonnie. She possesses a sense of warmth, sincerity and intrigue that makes you want to keep reading. For articles that have to make an impact – Bonnie is your girl. Proof reading, improving and creativity is her speciality.
Michelle Lee, Solo Ocean Rower, Australian Geographic Adventurer of the year