19 October 2008
I am so sorry that I have not written a long, long email in a while. I am trying to compose these emails on my computer at home and then bring them to the Internet café with me. I just cannot concentrate with all the little boys running around. I am now three weeks into living with my host family. I really adore the family I am living with because they are so wonderful. Normally, my host mom does not serve me meat. Sometimes, if she feels like she is in a jam to feed me she might. Ata is still trying to convince me to eat fish. Good for the eyes, he tells me. I do not doubt that, but I am picky about my fish. Plus I hate the little bones.
Life here in M___ maintains a status quo. The rain has surprisingly dried up, but now we must deal with dust. It is so dry out here; it never takes very long for the puddle to start evaporating. So I thought in this edition, I would give y’all some local flavor of Azerbaijan. I will start with the base changes I have made, so we can all end on an upbeat note.
First up are toilets. As I have said, I am fortunate to have a real western toilet. It even flushes toilet paper! Of course, Azerbaijanis do not use toilet paper. They have this water pot or hose thing that they use. I do not think any PCT or PCV have figured out how to use this thing. So we all keep a supply of toilet paper in our houses and tissues on us when we go out. While I have a real toilet at my house, most places we frequent have the squat/Turkish style toilets. So, roll up your pant legs, take your cell phone from your pocket, and pop that squat. Aim comes with time. Also you just accept that splatter is a fact of life. But I will move on, because there is more to say about so many other things.
Showers. I have probably have 5 since moving in with my host family. So you can do the math. I get two showers a week. Roughly. Luckily I have trained my hair not to be washed daily, and I can put it up in braids on days that it is oily. It takes two hours for the water heater to heat up the water. Sometimes the electricity is fickle, so sometimes the idea of a shower takes a couple of days of incubation before it becomes a reality. From the shower, I can lead you into some fun customs here.
There is actually a reason why I have not gotten my second shower this week. I have a sore throat. Being sick has one source here: it stems from being cold! I think you underestimate the all encompassing evil nature and omnipresence of COLDNESS. I jest, but it can be amusing. Wet hair will make one sick. My host mom is very insistent that I cover my head after a shower. As the PCT’s joke, as a girl, coldness will freeze my ovaries. When I came home from TDLA’s in Sumgayit on Thursday with a cold, Ana was horrified. She rushed me in the kitchen to eat HOT soup, drink HOT tea. When I wasn’t hungry, she pushed me into my room and gave me more tea with cherries (it was really yummy). I thought the spectacle was done. But, nope, she bursts in again with a bucket of hot, salty water. She shuts my window scolding me for leaving it open, takes off my socks and sticks my feet in the water. I guess trying her best to warm me up. Now, I do adore my Ana. She is great. But this is too much. After the foot bath and massage, she tells me to lay down, tucks me into bed (like I’m five) and tells me good night as she leaves the room. It is 8pm.
To fight against the cold threat that is apparently everywhere, I must always be bundled up within an inch of my life. No day is complete without a scarf or hat. Even if I am sweating, I put it on, wave goodbye, and take off the extra clothing as soon as I turn the corner. I am not allowed to sit on the bare floor. As I type this, I am sitting on two pillows. I must protect my rear from the coldness in the floor. I cannot drink cold water (room temperature is ok). Remember: cold is the enemy.
Hot tea is always a must here, but this is definitely a custom I can get used to. If I cannot have my coffee, I can drink tea at all hours of the day. Every couple of hours, Ana will walk into wherever I am and say, “Emi, cay icirsen?” (Amy, you drink tea?). There really is only one response. “Ha.” (Yes.) Mainly because I do not have the vocabulary to explain why I would not want tea.
Along with tea, the other constant in life is being fed. Oh my goodness, I am fed ALL the time here. Good food too. My ana is an excellent cook, and she really respects that I do not eat meat. The main reason for this is my little brother also has kidney stones and his doctor says no meat. So, while this may not be the reason I do not eat meat, I will take this excuse and run with it. Her homemade soup when one is sick is the most amazing soup! Bread is also sacred it. I eat so much bread. A couple of chunks with every meal is mandatory.
My family cracks me up. We all laugh a lot. Sometimes I am not allowed to walk places by myself. I feel like I am a little kid again, but I do appreciate their protectiveness. Even if it is suffocating at times. They tell me that I will not leave after three months and that I will stay in Azerbaijan forever. I just kind of laugh. I am their stupid American child that they always wanted but could never have until now. I believe at times that they really think I am too stupid to function in Azeri life without them. At this moment this is completely true.
Monday starts our teaching practicum. I am so excited. We will get to experience what it is like to be an English teacher in the Azerbaijani school system.
Yesterday, AZ06 went to Qobustan. It is an area in Azerbaijan south of Baku where there are prehistoric lithographs. The cave drawings are so amazing. Plus it was amazing to hike around. I could have explored the region the whole day. But there was not enough time. The cave drawings were so abundant. Along the main stretch, almost every rock had one. Some dated from prehistoric times and others from Roman conquests. After Qobustan, we all hiked towards Azerbaijan’s famous mud volcanoes. I cannot express how amusing these are.
Basically, imagine a very sludgy, clay-like soup in a pit. Then a bubble deep within the earth begins to rise and forces itself to the earth’s surface. To escape its earthly prison, the bubble belches its way through the mud. They are simply fascinating. I even tried on the therapeutic qualities of the mud. Ok, so my friend Corey put some mud on my nose. The mud is surprisingly cold, not hot.
I think this is probably more than enough to keep y’all reading for a week, and hoping I do not send any more long emails.