It’s been a little over three months since I’ve been in Azerbaijan, and a little under three weeks since I’ve been sworn in as a volunteer. Before moving to site I was a bit apprehensive about finally moving to site. Stories of volunteers ET’ing (Early Termination) within days of moving into site haunted me. What could possibly be so bad that a person would decide to leave so quickly? Even though some time has passed, I wait with anticipated breath for the three-month mark. Luckily my school, site mates, and host family are all awesome.
What’s been most exciting, if not awkward, experience is life with a conservative Muslim family. The father works in Baku and with the older brother/sister studying in university, many nights it’s just me with the host mother and sister. If that’s the case, I usually have to be in my room unless I’m having meals or tea in the living room. Apparently it’s improper if I’m in the room and the host mom is just lounging on the couch. Also, there have been times when I enter the living room, and the host sister packs up her homework and move into the kitchen. When the host father is there, I try to be more social to “make up” for the time when I can’t be. The host father comes home after dinner, but I’m never sure when he comes home though.
The host father is a very intelligent and funny person, and he is always interested in talking to me when he can, which is a nice change of pace from my old host family. Unlike many of the Muslims in this country, he actually practices it. He prays five times a day, he’s been to Mecca on haj, and because cleanliness is important when praying the hamman (bathroom) is impeccably clean.
He hasn’t talked to me about this, but I know he despises Iran’s brand of Islam, and he believes that politics shouldn’t mix with religion. He also has contempt for men who beat their wives. He neither drinks nor smokes, and when he is at home he’s often helping the younger host sister with homework. It’s a nice change of pace from the typical men of this culture.
I went to Sheki for Christmas and I spent New Years in Shabran and Baku. New Years Eve in Shabran was pretty uneventful. I had to sit in the corner of the house with the host dad because the guests were mostly female, and I was ushered into my room at 8 PM. Super lame, but oh well. I rang in the New Year with my favorite episode of Friends (Season Four, The One with all the Embryos). JM and I headed down to Baku, and we were talked into spending the night, which was pretty nice. I had a few drinks and headed back to the hotel with Sally and Moses, where we watched The Royal Tenenbaums. I passed out early on, but I woke up sober, w00t w00t! Sleeping on the floor was kind of cold, but I snuggled with Sally in the brown monster, so it got quite toasty. Before JM and I went back to Shabran we stopped by the Peace Corps Office and I picked up a few grammar books. I feel inspired to start teaching when the break ends next Thursday.
So for everybody who has complained about the lack of pictures, here’s a non-sequitur photo: