Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A Harem fantasy, or if I were a sultan I would have 3 wives...

Esli b ya bil sultan, ya b imel treh jen...
i troynoy krasotoy bil bi okrujen....

(words from an old Soviet movie)
If I were a sultan, I would have three wives. And I would then be surrounded by a tripple beauty!

I have recently decided, that harem is not such a bad concept, after all.

Tonight, I shared this somewhat unorthodox idea of mine with a couple of friends and their (Turkish) husbands.
As we shared a desert at the dinner table, I tried to deliver (in my broken Turkish) the benefits of such arrangement-in response to them making their old jokes about pretty girls.

Look, I said. What is really so bad about it? Just think: As my husband's first, and therefore, most senior and important wife, I would accept a managerial role. My, so far wasted, MBA could add weight to my status. I would slap the newcomers about (so they knew their place) and issue out the tasks. One of the wives could be cooking dinner, another-looking after the children... one more to take care of the cleaning, while someone else could satisfy our husband that night. We could even get one more (a smart one)- to go to work full time to make some extra cash.

And me..........well, I would enjoy endless hours in a spa nearby, do some painting, write a book, or simply read under a shady tree. Because,in my harem dreams there are sunny days and shady trees, of course. Like in any proper harem. Just think as well, what a relaxed,patient,beautifully groomed, loving and caring wife and mother I would then become. Because surely, all of the above mentioned tasks were never meant to be accomplished by one wife, but at least 5.

Everyone laughed, and one of the Turkish husbands got so exited, he turned his piece of cake into a mush with a fork. Look,-I said,-You clearly think that is a good idea. I mean, just look at your cake! How does that sound, I said-to you, a Turkish man, to be such a sultan?

No, -he replied, - You don't understand. Why would one buy a cow if all you needed was a glass of milk?

There you go. Typical men for you, eh. Turkish or not. You give them this idyllic picture, and they ruin it with their pragmatism .

Monday, 27 April 2009

Shashlik brain syndrome

I have noticed, and please don't start reassuring me it is not true, as I know the best, that my writing has gone (remarkably!) down in quality since I arrived in Baku.
I blame endless shashliks, Georgian khingalis, and sweets my mother baked for Russian Easter for this drowsiness of my otherwise quick and witty brain.
Not quite sure how to explain this Easter baking business of my mother, by the way, since we are not Russian. She and her neighbour friend (not a Russian either) actively compared recipes for Kuliches, and discussed whose poppy seed cake was nicer. Very strange. Not that I mind, you know me I will celebrate anything, as long as there is tasty food involved. I think it is sweet though, this lingering tradition to accept and celebrate other cultures- something that Baku used to be famous for in its Soviet days.

So here I am, fatter than a week ago, with a slow and relaxed brain, full of lamb fat and beer. Therefore, not going to bore you all with anything long and painfully slow. Will just share a rather weird, but totally typical during this visit, conversation I had in a local food shop today.

Saleswoman (about my toddler's outfit):
- Is she not cold? Put a hat on her head!
- No, she is fine.

(My child says in English she wants a chocolate egg.)

Saleswoman (leaning over the counter to scrutinize my child):
- Is she English or something?
-Is she yours??
-Yes, she is mine.
-You English too?
-No, but I live there
-Really? Are you Azeri?
-Does your child speak Azeri?
-No, unfortunately.
-No... she should, but she does not. Can we have that chocolate egg now please?
-OK, yeah....but put a hat on her head, yes?

I must have indeed, lived in the UK far too long now.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Fountains, lights and garbage

What is not much fun is that the pound is so low right now. On top of that, the local currency (manat) is suspiciosly high and stable.

My trip to Baku therefore, is turning out a lot more expensive than ever. I used to come here and feel rich. But the combination of the pound falling off its pedestal, coped with manat staying high is deadly. I even did something today that I had not done in this country for about 15 years- took a bus.

I got inside the crowded vehicle, and stood there, balancing bravely, as the vehicle bounced its way through uneven roads. An older Azeri lady sitting on the seat just below, asked me in Russian if I would like her to hold my handbag for me. And I thought- that is just so Baku. It is something I could never imagine anyone ask me back in London. I would love to try it on the tube one day, just to see the reaction. But here, it was a genuine gesture- an offer of help.

It is impossible for me to be here again, after 2 years, and not talk about all the changes. But it also is impossible to describe in one posting, everything that is going through my head as I look around. I guess, I could summarize it in one word- contrast.
The contrast is overwhelming, and is everywhere. Between the rich and the poor. Between the polished up front streets with their lit up and cleaned up buildings, and the back yards- filthy with garbage, flying plastic bags, and holes in roads. Millions of pounds worth of cars- a selection more impressive than anywhere I have seen before, and the old-fashioned buses, packed with the poor.

The locals complain that the construction dust penetrates their lungs. They complain about the works all over the city, new buildings, the polishing of the old ones, and everything else. But I have to admit, I personally kind of like the new look. It looks beautiful. Parks with fountains that light up at nights, new (and expensive looking) benches everywhere...But of course, there is a sad element to it all. I miss the old Baku I knew as a child. And as all the buildings and streets get a face lift, I miss the history and the character of the old stones. But I am just getting too sentimental.

And yet, there are things that remained the same. The massage I had today was still as brutal as I remember them being. And the chushkas still blow their noses in their fingers and flick the result off on pavements. There still is no notion of the personal space or queuing in shops.
And there are still nice ladies who will offer to hold my bag. And the youngsters will always get up so my child could take their seat on a bus. New facade. Old Baku. It is fun to be back.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Back again, thanks to Azal

Scary Azeri is on holiday! In Baku! (well desired, therefore- justified)

NB: This is my excuse for the lack of sketching by the way, as my access to a scanner is limited at the moment. (And before some of my super sensitive readers get all sweaty with fury again, I did not mean there are no scanners in Baku. I meant my access to them is limited.)

I am curious, whether my imagination (when it comes to the number of disasters I think might happen to me while traveling) is normal.

You see, if I were a New Yorker, I would probably have a shrink. We would analyze my weird imagination, and confirm it was probably something to do with my father. Perhaps, it is the fact that as I child, I often fell asleep on a sofa in front of the TV with Soviet propaganda on. While my father chain smoked in an armchair next to me. That alone could make anyone grow up crazy.

But I noticed, as I get older, and especially since I became a mother, I am a lot more paranoid. It definitely is related to motherhood, somehow. (Or old age?) I used to drive faster, smoke fags, eat lots of fat, and never particularly worry about own mortality. These days, as I drive to work I think how quickly it might happen. Bum, splat - gone. Because some cretin makes a wrong move (obviously, it never is my fault, is it) And then I get sad thinking of my child without her mummy. See? By reading this blog, you opened a door into my mind, and now I bet, you wish you hadn't!

So of course, flying to Baku on an Azerbaijan Airlines(Azal)plane, (being a real patriot that I am, or just because it is pretty decent and there isn't that much to chose from anyway) I kept fighting all sorts of thoughts. About our plane suddenly crashing, and my child screaming, and me hugging her for the last time...that kind of stuff. The problem is, the pictures in my head are so vivid, I can almost feel the plane going down. Unfortunately, because of the recession they removed movies from Azal planes. That is a true disaster, as for 5 hours I had to be working pretty hard on focusing on something else but the possible ways of me and my toddler tragically dying together on our way to my motherland.

But now we are here, and it is... different. It has been two years since my last visit, and things changed quite a lot. It reminded me something I already knew: when I miss home, I miss home of the 90's. Which isn't there anymore. But hey, shashliks are still pretty good.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

"Natashas" and some other stereotypes

So, I am thinking….What makes someone a whore? I have been wondering about that since I came across that blog where a clearly frustrated expat lady talked about every girl in Baku (who is out after 9pm) being a prostitute. Also, as my mate Atilla the troll claimed, I was a woman of "corrupt morality". Which made me wonder-Am I? And if not, what makes me any different from some others?

And let’s clarify here. I am not talking about professionals, who take a fee for their services. I am talking about certain girls back home, who are often indeed, hunting for foreign husbands. (But would often settle for some comfortable temporary arrangement, foreign or local).
I like to call them amateurs. Because, technically speaking, they are not whores, are they.

At university, we never really went out much. Our entertainment finished before dinner time, and if we had a party, it would be at someone’s flat, with dishes prepared by the girls, alcohol bought by the boys, and some slow dancing with a bit of intimate touching. (And when I say intimate touching I mean hands moving a few centimeters below the official waistline.)

After the university I got a job with an oil company and started meeting expats through work. Made some good friends, both locals and expats. We started going to (at that time) the only two clubs in town. However, what was the norm for us, was outrageous for the majority of locals. And the local police were convinced most of us were prostitutes.
And of course, some of the girls who went out at nights and went to the same clubs were indeed, either professionals or amateurs. To me, it was always very obvious who was who. But perhaps, not to the local police. To such a traditional local man, any woman out at night was of course, a prostitute-what else could she be? To someone living on the outside of this whole expat community circle, we surely all looked like some axes of evil sent by the demons to corrupt local traditions.

I still have no idea whether those men, who chased taxis after 12 at night, and asked for documents (read: money) were plain clothes policemen, or just some self-proclaimed gangsters. At some point, going out at night got really unpleasant. If you were out late, and if you had a male companion in the taxi with you, you knew you could be stopped any minute. We were all worried, as we heard scary tales about girls being taken to Romani- a women’s jail outside the city for alleged prostitution. And getting locked up in Romani, trust me, is NOT something you want to happen. Luckily, you could always either drop a few ochen vajniy (VIP) names, or pay a few bucks to be left alone. (Or pretend to be foreign- works a treat if your English is good enough.)

But I have to admit, I judge people. I tend to jump to conclusions when I see certain types of women from back home. How can I blame that expat lady blogger, or Atilla the troll for assuming things, when I myself make assumptions? It is just too easy, isn’t it: Goes out at night back in Baku? Oh, must be a prostitute. Short skirt and bleached hair? Oh, definitely one of those. Eastern-European girl with a foreign husband? No doubt, she married him for his passport. So many stereotypes, so easily applied.

And trust me, not only by the trolls.

Once, when I just moved here, I took my baby girl to a local Mother and Baby group. As we all introduced ourselves, a lady next to me exclaimed:
-Oh, Baku! My friend’s husband worked there for a few years. I heard, all women in Baku are prostitutes- is that true?

What can you say when someone asks you something like that?

I smiled back, and told her I was sorry her friend obviously had problems in her marriage. In a few days, when I ran into her on the street, I pretended I did not recognise the bitch.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Material Girl

I have this girlfriend who I met while working together back in Baku. She is bizarrely outspoken for a Brit. She does not even bother to dress it up. I find her company refreshing, as she would often say things that others probably think about me, but would never tell. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that she is not English, but (as she proudly insists) Irish. But I suspect it has more to do with the amount of a substance she smokes on regular basis.

The other day, we had quite a fascinating conversation. She pointed out that I often talk about money.

How’s that?- I asked, curious.

Well, - she continued, taking another drag,- I noticed that about all of you, Eastern European girls. (She knows about 3)

She explained that as a British person, she finds it really shocking that we seem to openly place importance of material things.

-You are so materialistic! -She exclaimed with outrage.

You don’t make it a secret that you think money is important, she added.

That is a fascinating point. Because I do think money is important. And I find it incredibly irritating when people say it is not.

And people just love saying that, don’t they? They smile generously and announce:
-Oh, but money is not important!

Oh, but it is.

I witnessed local ladies discussing how awful it was that Madonna wanted to adopt yet another African baby. What childhood will this poor baby have? - they questioned. Especially when Madonna and Guy Richie are now sadly, divorced. This is not a proper family life for a child, they said.

Of course! It is terrible, isn’t it, that this child will be taken away from poverty and hunger, right into one of the richest families in the world. What an awfully cruel thing to do to a poor little African baby! He of course, is much better off struggling to survive, but have a father figure in his life.

And that’s what I think it comes down to: unless you have struggled, you have not got a clue. And the more comfortable your life has been, the easier it is for you to deliberate how unimportant money is.

I had a happy childhood, and not going to claim to have suffered like some people in this world. But what I do know, is when my mother needed an urgent surgery, we had to produce money. And when my father was ill back in Baku, it was me who had to help. And I needed my oil company job to pay those nurses to take a proper care of him.
So money is important. Oh, money can’t buy you love, blah-blah. But it can buy you pretty much everything else; including a healthier and longer life for you, your elderly relatives and children. So yes, it is pretty damn important.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Living my nightmare (and loving it).

A foreword: People started asking me why and when I blog. As I am sitting here on my favorite sofa, having had my dinner, with my laptop resting on my lap, my husband is watching yet another Steven Seagal movie. Everyone is happy. I am allowed to blog, and he is allowed to watch the movies I would otherwise divorce him for.

I am not a baby person. I am not a very child friendly person either. In order to appreciate how child-unfriendly I used to be, you just need to know that once, completely fed up with my mother’s remarks about me aging and not wanting to breed, I said I would just have my ovaries removed to end this pointless debate.

It is not just that I did not want any kids; I actually did not like them.
Children were my nightmare. Everywhere I went they were waiting for me. When I went for a quiet romantic dinner, they would be running around my table. Every time I got on a plane, I knew they would be there to spoil my journey. If it was not the screaming, it was kicking my seat from the back. If it was not the kicking, it was puking near me. Needless to say, when I met my future husband and he expressed his lack of enthusiasm for having babies, I knew we were meant for each other.

For the first five years of our married life, we remained true to our original intentions.
We already had a dog, and that was a good insight of the commitment and patience involved. We also kept seeing badly behaved children wherever we looked, and that worked better than any contraception. Until a cool couple we both liked had children. And they did not become boring as we expected them to. Their kids were surprisingly nice. They were well behaved and pleasant. We both started suspecting having children does not have to be the end of fun. Managed carefully, it could contribute to it.

I can still remember going to Whitstable for a day. We were discussing moving to the seaside (we occasionally do). As we sat there in a café on the beach, husband pointed out a group of yummy mummies with their babies having coffee in the corner. Look at them, he said. We will move here, and that will be you one day.
I swear I broke into a cold sweat. Just the thought of sitting there with a baby, surrounded by other mothers and 5 babies, breastfeeding and discussing the colour of baby excrements was enough to make me want to run all the way back to my mummy in Baku. That picture was my idea of hell.

And just look at me now. Today was one of the hardest days I had for a while: It was my turn to host an NCT coffee at my place.
I have to explain for those who never heard of this wonderful organization, that NCT (National Childbirth Trust) is a fantastic thing. Without it, I would probably end up in a mental institution ages ago. First of all, they put you together with other local pregnant women who are due around the same date as you. You attend classes where a (always slightly odd) teacher explains to you everything you need to know about how babies will forever change your life. Bonded by a shared fear of what is about to happen to our lives and bodies, we make quite good friends.

Having crossed over to the breeder’s side, I decided to make the most of it. I took a year off work and, without any family near me, I needed any human contact I could find.
So suddenly, the picture of mummies hanging out together was not scary, but quite useful and enjoyable.
And even on the days like today, exhausted both physically and psychologically by 8 noisy toddlers in my house, I remind myself about benefits of this group.

Only a few years ago, if anyone told me that I would welcome not just one, but eight little children at my place, cook dinner for them all, tidy up toys and clean the mess afterwards, I would laugh so loud they would hear me back in Baku.

But, as Michael Jackson said to Bashir, when he insisted he had never had any plastic surgery…People change!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

You can take the girl out of Baku.....

Will keep it short: something very worrying happened to me yesterday.
The day started as usual. It was one of my working days of the week, so I got up at 6am, drove to the office. Had a coffee, woke up, checked personal emails….Did a bit of work for a change, and took off to get a sandwich. That was the plan anyway. As I walked past this little boutique shop, I saw it. And it was beautiful. I stopped and stared. I walked in and touched, smelled and caressed it. I looked at the price tag and decided I could not justify it. More importantly though, it worried me. It was very…how do I put it?….Azeri.

It was not my usual style handbag, either black or tan, subtle and elegant, while obviously expensive to those who know, i.e. the British way.
It was loud, bright, and with golden buckles. And it was orange. And when I say orange I mean very orange. The shop assistant, having guessed my concern, suggested I bring it to the window to see in a “natural light”, as the colour might be somewhat different. “Nope. Still pretty orange!”- I thought with a sneaking happiness of a masochist. I knew I should not. I managed to tear myself away from it. As I walked into a shop next door, I ran into my girlfriend who lives nearby, and quickly explained the situation.
Oh- she said excitedly- we must check it out together!

As we walked back in, the shop assistant’s eyes lit up with joy. She knew I lost the battle. Friend proclaimed the bag to be gorgeous.

-Are you sure? But is it not too…you know? – I asked worryingly.
-No, no. The colour is so in right now, honestly!

I decided there was no point fighting the Azeri inside me. We all turn to our roots with age.

My poor husband just looked in disbelief. Probably thinking to himself: You can take the girl out of Baku….but you can not take Baku out of the girl.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Yet another foreign word...

This is a bit of a sensitive topic. I am not even sure I can handle it in a tactful manner it requires. I am not known for being tactful, as some of you might have noticed.

Yet, here we go. Just going to take a deep breath and go with it.

The disability thing. See? I said it. That was not so bad, was it.

In my spare from blogging and socializing time, I go to work. It does not happen very often, but I have to do it while waiting for my writing career to take off or husband to make his millions. (Both are totally realistic possibilities, of course)

Now, imagine any Western country and the UK in particular, and how serious the whole issue is, and then multiply the result by 100. You will then get an idea of my workplace. We must comply, be aware and provide. All of it. We also have a large body of students who are mentally and physically disabled in various ways.

The first year I worked at this place, I went to the gym at work. My iPod plugged in my ears, I strode purposely along the running machine when I suddenly noticed a large group of SLDD (Special Learning Difficulties and Disabilities, in case you don’t have a clue) students walk in with a teacher. As they studied the equipment, one of the guys came dangerously close to my machine and attempted talking to me, leaning into my personal space and dribbling a little. I was paralyzed with fear. I did not know what to do, what to say or where to disappear to. All I managed was a weak smile. Thankfully, the teacher appeared and quickly led him away.

The truth is, I was not prepared for that experience. I was absolutely terrified of the guy, because I am a product of the system that did not educate me how to deal with such cases. It took me a couple more years to be able to approach an SLDD kiosk at work, and purchase some fruit from one of the mentally handicap students.

What could I possibly know from my life back home that could prepare me for this sudden exposure to disability and learning difficulty? As a child, I often saw this neighbor boy who could not walk and I only saw him across the yard from my balcony. He always used to lie on an open terrace outside his window, looking down the yard, watching other children play. I had never seen him outside. We also had this girl who everyone laughed at. She was shouting abuse from her window, whenever you walked past, and if you were really unlucky, she would throw something down. Whatever she could get her hands on at the time.She was not seen outside very often either.

And of course, the famously known all over the Soviet Union, Lilliputian Circus.
I mean, seriously….can you believe this?

I don’t remember seeing many wheelchairs around Baku. But that is not particularly surprising. Anyone who has ever attempted to use marshrutkas (crazy mini-buses zipping along Baku streets, stopping every minute to pack more passengers in) back home would appreciate that even with two functioning legs boarding and un-boarding marshrutka without getting injured or killed demands practice and skill that I am sure not many westerners possess, even the strongest specimen.

(Funnily enough, my Soviet childhood experience fighting my way through crowds to get on a bus was perfect preparation for London underground commuting.
However packed that train is I will manage to get on it. We are talking years of practice and training. No white boys in suits stand a chance against me when it comes to getting on that train.)

So it is not surprising I still feel uncomfortable around disabled people. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to hide this panic or pity in my eyes. So I just pretend the best I can and hope I act natural.

And thinking of how far we go in the UK providing facilities and access to anywhere we possibly can, ( and yet still being told that is nowhere near enough) I remember that boy on his balcony, and wonder whatever happened to him.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Warm orange juice, or back to the originally planned topic.

The other day, we were taking a small walk down to the shops, with my toddler riding on husband’s shoulders.

Suddenly, she announced:

-My nose is dirty again. It is because I have been wearing a short-sleeve top!

Oh-Oh!… - I thought- Busted.

-Come with me to Baku, sweetie,- I said to her- and I will teach you some other clever stuff like that.

My circumstances, dare I say, are complicated when it comes to health issues, because unfortunately for me, my husband was trained as a doctor. That alone places him in a I-know-better-than-all-of-you position which, having met a few of his fellow graduates, I suspect was included in the curriculum at their university.

But even without that extra complication, raising an Azeri-British child is challenging enough. Because our understanding of what is good for her health is completely different. What husband often forgets to appreciate is that I could be a lot worse: I could be like my mother. Or even worse, I could be like that mad Soviet girl I wrote about.

Perhaps, because I managed to (actively and successfully) avoid any interaction with kids in my single life back home, I was pretty much a clean sheet when I finally decided to cross over to the breeders' side. In poured Gina Ford and The Baby Whisperer, English midwives and the NCT groups. And a lot of dusty old Soviet habits quickly got erased and replaced.

I was still pregnant, when my husband told my mother they had something important to discuss. He had his serious face on.
- Right,- said husband, - There is something you must promise me now, mother in law of mine. My child will NOT be drinking warm orange juice.
- OK, yes…warm orange juice- my mother nodded in agreement- Of course, of course.

-So, she asked me later, when he said “no warm juice”…he meant room temperature, right?
-Net, mama- I said- He means straight out of the fridge.

My first trip back home with the child was when she was about 15 months old.
It was the end of March and the sun was out. Having been starved of sunshine for months before then, I eagerly rushed to a local park and suddenly realized, with horror, that absolutely everyone around is watching us with intensive curiosity.
My mother explained it was the fact that our child was wearing a light jacket and no hat.

We were clearly foreign. Local moms stared in disbelief, their own children barely recognizable underneath thick layers, scarves and woolen hats. They had so much on, they bounced softly off the ground when they fell over. Which of course, happened a lot considering they could not use their limbs properly.

And all my relatives thought I was mad, because:

• My 15 months old baby was off to bed at 7 and not 10pm
• She did not drink sweet tea
• Her apple juice did not have to be warm, but had to be diluted.
• I did not care if she sat in a skvoznyak area. ( Not convinced a proper English translation exists. I guess, the most obvious is a draft. But there is nowhere near as much scary power, or dramatic consequences attached to that word for it to be taken as a good interpretation.)

But yet, occasionally, a sleepy scary Azeri mummy inside me wakes up when she sees something that her intuition tells her is just wrong, and when that happens, even the joint powers of Gina Ford, NCT groups and husband’s medical background can not convince her otherwise.

That English mother in the local GP clinic, who kept picking up a biscuit her toddler was throwing on the carpet, and shoving it back in his mouth….
Or a baby massage teacher in a local village hall, (having taken a nappy off her own baby to show us the technique) who sat there chatting, while her baby polished the dirty floors up with her naked bottom… And I don’t care if there is a medical explanation that it is totally safe. It is just weird. Those floors are filthy.
Or my own child not wearing enough warm clothes when it really is cold outside.

I have a feeling that they just jump from one extreme to another in this country. They obsessively clean everything, but then a new research comes out claiming it is too clean in your house so your child might end up with asthma later in life. So they go straight to sucking the biscuits off the floor. Nothing in between. Or well, perhaps I am just being a scary Azeri mother again.

PS Those kids look like teenagers, but meant to be about 15 months old. Can't really draw children.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Grumpy Old Troll

Hey Troll,

This is not a planned posting. I was sitting on my comfy old sofa last night, writing about warm orange juice and children, when your creepy comments arrived, once again.

When you sent your first comments, I published them because, I think it provides my readers with some additional entertainment.

This time, however, you got pretty emotional, so I thought the best thing was probably to ignore it altogether. I looked around the net to see what other bloggers suggest I do with someone like you. I learned all about trolls. Which, I am sure you know is what you are, thanks to your practice of attacking some other bloggers out there, as I later found out.

But then I thought...No. I will answer you and anyone else who might be in your fan club: once and for all.

Please note, Troll Atilla that after this posting, where I explain to you what is what, I will never in any way either read or acknowledge your comments, however many you bother sending me.

So, first of all here is what you wrote last night:

Again scary Azeri. I would wish that you would not identify yourself as Azerbaijani. I am Azerbaijani ashamed of such women as you, who have been hunting for foreign husbands and at the end managed to hunt couple of rotten English or useless foreign men, whom I anyway consider to be the garbage in their own country as not good foreigners have ever come to Azerbajan to work. The foreigners, especially Westerners (I had a chance to work with many of them) with 99 percent have been loosers in their country, were usually drunk, with some psychological problems, who have been looking for advenrture in places like as Azerbaijan as they were nothing in their own countries. So that is how you ended up (being a woman of corrupt morality and 100% not Azerbaijani) with this rotten English and garbage who at one point of his life ended up in Azerbaijan most likely working for the disgusting BP or its sub-contractors.

Given these facts, I would appreciate if you wouldn't associate yourslef with Azerbaijan and would not identify yourself as Azerbaijani.

Also please don't generalize Azerbaijani as people who don't like fighting. You haven't seen the real Azerbaijani men (sttaring with your Russified, womanized and honorless father and brothers if you had any) and therefore you don't know what the real Azerbaijani man is about. You and fascist Armenians will hear about the fighting capability of Azerbaijanis when it is time. Azerbaijani men are just not stupid to fight when it is not ripe time.

Hmm…..Pretty mean, pretty mean.

OK, so let’s just make things clear.

First of all, I would like to say that in some bizarre way I totally understand you, Troll. Honestly. I think if I had not become what I have become in this life, I should have been a shrink.
I can see what you are saying, from your perspective and why you are saying it. Guess what, I lived in Baku and I met people like you before.

It is not the purpose of this posting to tell you that you can not call all foreigners in Baku rotten garbage. Just like this lady blogger I came across can not claim that every girl in Baku out after 9pm is a whore. In a twisted sort of way, you and this lady blogger have something in common, don’t you find? What I mean is that you both clearly, had personal reasons for such strong feelings.

Perhaps, a pretty Azeri girl left you to marry a foreigner, and perhaps this foreign lady’s husband strayed with an Azeri girl whilst in Baku. All I can really say to you both is: Oh, come o-on! Grow up! Move on.

And it is not the purpose of this posting to tell you how frustrating it can be to yet again witness ignorance and bigotry.

So what is the purpose of this conversation then, and why am I even doing this?

I am what I am, Troll. Don’t worry, it is pretty obvious to anyone who had ever been in Baku, that I am not a typical Azeri girl. Never was back then, and even less so now. And I think I made it pretty clear from the very first posting.
What makes me “corrupt” in your eyes is probably just the fact I open my mouth to say something. Because in the eyes of someone like you, women are only supposed to talk about babies and dolma.

I know that I might offend people with some things I say here. People like you, Troll have some form of a brain disorder that stops it from grasping satire and irony.

It reminds me of this news a couple of years ago, when the Harry Potter movie creators had complaints from a few Russians suffering from the same disorder. They were insulted that the character of Dobby looked suspiciously, a lot like Putin. (Which, now that I am looking at this picture, he funnily enough, kind of does.)

Once I had an arts teacher back home. He was a very clever old Jewish guy. One of the coolest people I met in my life. He told me, that what makes the Jews different from some other cultures is that they can laugh at themselves. He told me that no nation can ever claim to be properly civilized until they learn how to take a joke about their country.

So what I was trying to say here is:

I chose to write about things that I find amusing, funny or interesting. I chose a topic of comparison of the two different cultures I now consider my own. And I chose that topic not just because I think it is funny, but because I care. Because I love Baku. Because I am Azeri. But I am also British now. And we, Brits, quite like mocking the system, and laughing at ourselves. It is a cultural thing, Troll.

I expected different reactions, of course. But what I did not see coming is how my suggestion that we, Azeries are on the whole, a peaceful nation can be interpreted as an insult.

So we will just have to agree to disagree, Troll. You have the right to be a creepy troll, and I have the right to say what I want. And call myself whatever I want. And meet some truly cool people of different nationalities via this blog- from all over the world.

Oh and I experienced this before- when someone thinks they speak a language pretty well, but completely misses the undertones and nuances of it. That, in your defense, might also be causing you problems, judging from your writing style.

Thank you for your continuous interest and dedication to my blog, any reader, even a spooky troll like you means more traffic, so I am not complaining.

And, Troll Atilla…. My last word on this is that:

Real men do not need Pseudonyms.


Scary Azeri.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Eh?....."Hi-king?”....nedir o? ( or what is that? in Azeri)

One of the aspects of being married is getting used to your husband’s habits. Marrying into a completely different culture, like the English, places additional demands on an Azeri woman.

Of course, I have to be objective here. In all fairness, it would have been a disaster for someone like me to have married say, my first Azeri boyfriend. (see my very first posting on the subject of not plucking eye-brows, not wearing jeans and other nonsense) He was just too traditional. Which means, he would probably have at least one official mistress, plus one secret one, depending on his level of income, whilst I would be expected to sit at home cooking lots of elaborate dishes for his relatives. Every single Azeri dish is carefully designed to keep a woman occupied in a kitchen for as long as it is physically possible. And I can’t even scramble an egg.

So for me, the choices were in fact, quite limited, thinking of husband material back home. There are of course, some cool and good-looking Azeri guys. But unfortunately, most of them escaped the country years ago, so as not to be forced to join the army. Azeries do not really like to fight. Yes, all right, I am generalizing here. But I think certain cultures and nationalities do indeed, have specific characteristics. And for Azeris it is drinking hot tea and wheeling & dealing. That’s just what we do best. (I do OK on the tea front, but am pretty crap when it comes to dealing, even on e-bay)

That is just how, having had one serious but very traditional, and a few useless boyfriends of various nationalities, I ended up meeting my English husband.

Cultural differences can be fascinating or funny. But they can also be difficult. If you think about it, men and women are from different planets to start with, anyway. So you have all this inter-galactic stuff to deal with first. And on top of that, you then need to face the culture clash.

As I personally discovered, one of the joys of being married to an Englishman is his passion for for the outdoors. Just like in my posting about sustainability and safety, Azeries have a very different approach to admiring the nature. Oh, don’t take me wrong. We love the nature. There are some stunning spots in Azerbaijan.

But let’s just look at the outdoor entertainment from an Azeri point of view:

Option 1: We choose a nice spot. We pack a lot of meat and bread. We drive there. We make fire. We cook shashliks. Very often drink vodka ( this is where the influence of Mother Russia comes in) We drink chai and only then, satisfied, we kick back and collapse underneath those shady trees, admiring the fresh air and the beauty around us. Nirvana.

Option 2: We chose a nice spot. We drive there. We find a nice local restaurant or a café that makes shashliks. We eat them with a lot of salt and herbs for a couple of hours. Vodka. Chai.We drive back.

When my husband brought me to the UK, we stayed with his parents in North Wales for some time before we moved to London. As far as my husband was concerned, the place had plenty of entertainment. The choices were unlimited. There was windsurfing (in a freezing water!), hiking, climbing or simply walking. Unfortunately for him, he married a Scary Azeri.
Let’s just see….hiking. What on earth would I want to do that for????
Or walking across some fields? With no purpose? I need some destination, preferably with food and a glass of wine, at the end of any such track. Otherwise, honestly.. What is the fun in that? And don’t even start me on camping.

So these days we have to work out a compromise. We live in a beautiful area of Hertfordshire. Someone kindly knocked on our door when we just moved, and gave us a Welcome pack, which included a country walks map. Husband caught me shoving it straight into the recycling bin. If the weather is nice, (and luckily for me, it is the UK where it is normally pretty miserable), I am happy to go for a walk, as long as he can tempt me with a lunch or at least, drinks in a nice pub at the end of the journey. I think that is only fair, don’t you?