1 December 2008
Happy late Thanksgiving! And can you believe that it is already December? I know that December has snuck up on me. It has been weird to read about some people’s Black Friday experiences because such a thing does not exist here. I am guessing it is a sad statement about American consumerism that it does not really feel like Christmas without the commercials telling me that it is Christmas. On the flip side, I know that I have also been running from the idea that Christmas is coming. This will be my first Christmas away from my family. Frankly, I know that this will be a hard holiday for me, so not really acknowledging it is coming makes it easier sometimes.
The same can be said about leaving my M_____ host family. These people have become my second family. As Ata always tells me, I can come home whenever. Little does he know that he may regret that statement because I plan on coming home once every four months or so. I would definitely like to come home around my birthday. Ana and I have discussed coming back on for New Year. New Years is a big holiday here. It is there equivalent to Christmas, and so I guess in some ways I will be able to go home for the holidays.
Ana and I have lately had some extensive conversations, which reminds me what a smart woman she is. One evening she tells me that her aunt’s granddaughter’s husband recently passed away. She is 21 and has 3 small kids. Apparently she married when she was 17 years old. Ana is very opposed to women marrying that young. She said that a woman should be 25 when she marries. (Ana was 25 when she married Ata). The reason behind this she says is that at 25 a woman has studied and worked. This way she can support herself should something happens to her husband. In some rayons, girls as young as 15 will be married. Ana became very animated discussing this topic. She asks how can girls be expected to fulfil a woman’s task. She said they are just children.
BREAKING NEWS: Ata just served me tea! Tea serving is traditionally a woman’s duty soley. So I am really shocked that Ata is doing this me and didn’t call Ana in to do it for me. I am completely blown away, and for once in my wordy life, I am a bit speechless. But don’t worry, I will recover well enough to continue my email. There is so much to tell about my life in Azerbaijan.
Another topic, Ana and I have recently discussed is religion. Next week is the Islamic holiday Eid Al-Adha:
“Eid Al-Adha ("The Feast of the Sacrifice") commemorates Abraham's willingness and obedience to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God (and God's mercy in substituting a lamb for Ishmael). This feast is part of the Haj, and takes place on the tenth of Dhu Al-Hijja of the Islamic calendar. For those on the Hajj and for many others the day begins with the sacrifice of an animal in commemoration of the Angel Gabriel's substitution of a lamb as Abraham’s sacrificial obligation. One-third of the meat is given to the poor, with the remainder shared with neighbours and family members.
This holiday is then celebrated in much the same way as Eid Al-Fitr - with good food, gifts for children and general merrymaking.”
I was enjoying her telling me the story of Eid when she turns to Tunar and tells him that while I am Christian and they are Muslim, we believe in the same god. She tells him that there is only one god and we worship the same god. I was frankly shocked with how blunt she was about this idea. She then turns to me and tells me that a good person in her/his heart know it is the same god.
Ana never ceases to blow me away. She also has told me that she give me all my favourite preserves to bring down to Lerik with me. Oh Ana. She likes to keep me well fed. Ata and I have reached an understanding tonight. He was eating his late night snack of baked potatoes, and as always he tells me that I should eat one. I tell him that I am full. To which he always responds that doctors say that it will help my digestion or help me sleep. I know I have told you this numerous times. Tonight it is different because I finally told him that he always tells me this. He always says it is good for me. He just laughs at me and I believe a bit at himself. I always feel that we have this mutual understanding and general comfort around each other.
Thanksgiving was a fun adventure. It was nice to celebrate with all the M_____ crew. I made pumpkin mash with brown sugar. Quite tasty if I can brag a bit. I was originally in charge of green bean casserole; however, green beans are now out of season. So I could not find them anywhere. When I came home on Thursday, I was planning to cook the pumpkin myself. But Ana would have none of that. She is always so interested in learning new recipes. When I was struggling cutting open my pumpkins, she asked to help. I sheepishly agree, and knife in hand, she sharply plunges it into the pumpkin and rips it open. It was amazing. She helps me clean and peel the pumpkins. The task she lets me do is chop the pumpkin into tiny pieces so it will cook faster. I also took it upon myself to separate the seeds from the pumpkin innards, so we could roast them.
Ana and I place the pumpkin in a large pot and let the water and heat do its job. Within an hour the pumpkin was a thick delicious mash. I told her we were going to add sugar to the pumpkin. She was very intrigued by this idea. I think she likes anything else that she can add sugar to. She tries to get out the pesok (granulated sugar), but I tell her no, I want to add brown sugar. She has never heard of brown sugar. So I let her try it. She loves it. She kept asking me where I bought it, how much was it, and where can she get some. I couldn’t really explain CitiMart to her, so I will just have to buy her some next time I am in Baki.
CitiMart is this wonderful store run by an Indian man. He imports grocery items from all over the world, so you can find British Digestives, Cote D’Or Chocolate, and Libby’s canned pumpkin. It’s not a huge store, but small tastes of home are always appreciated.
After I finished my mash, I walked with Sara and her super large apple pie to Jacqlyn’s house. There we added our goodies to the Thanksgiving feast. There was an abundance of food: curry, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce (made of apples, mandarins, and hazelnuts), pumpkin gnocchi, Russian salad (made by Khalig and Polad), plov (made by Jacqlyn’s host family), mashed potatoes, pecan pie, apple pie, and cookies. It was all so delicious. Before eating we all said what we were thankful for (even the Azerbaijanis eating with us). Overall, we were all grateful for each other. Like I’ve said, I am thankful for the families we make.
Saturday M_____ 1 learned how to make dolma. Liar dolma is what my host mom calls it because it has no meat. My host mom is a really patient teacher. I can now say that I can make grape leaf dolma like a pro. Just ask my host mom, she will tell you I was the best one. Nothing like a mom’s blind love, eh? I think she was amused that we wanted to learn, but even more amused that Josh wanted to help us. She kindly but firmly told Josh that boys were not allowed to make dolma. So he got to sit on the couch and drink tea. It was amusing.
This is the last week of language classes. I will miss seeing everyone every day. But I am excited to get started in Lerik. Polad is frankly the best LCF ever. We are scheming to get him to move to the United States. He is a very smart and accomplished man. For as poised as he can be, the man is honestly goofy. But I enjoy his approach to teaching foreign languages and admire his ability to deal with us day after day. He is ridiculously smooth. We laugh at him in his aviator sunglasses and nice suit as he waits for the bus in M_____. He just looks so out of place, but luckily for him, he can speak the language. He has been so helpful sorting out cultural misunderstandings between the PCTs and the host families. I would be lost without Polad.
Lately, I have taken to watching Turkish soap operas with my family. It is fun to try to figure out the plot. I am usually very wrong, but I enjoy the challenge. I am also enjoying dissecting the gender roles portrayed in these soaps. It does not take long to find out who is the good girl, bad girl, bad man, etc. Normally, it has to do with some hair dye and tight clothing.
I have had some requests for my new address. As of right now, I just have my new host family’s address. I would like to try to get a P.O. box in Lerik (if at all possible). This may cause a slight delay in me delivering to you my new address so please bear with me.
I guess that is it for me tonight. Take care! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!