Automated MNU Instructional Voice: [in MNU Humvee] When dealing with aliens, try to be polite, but firm. And always remember that a smile is cheaper than a bullet.
I must, indeed, be hormonal. Not only because I am having a fight with HR about one day of leave, which I'd pre-booked before Christmas but then fell ill (and which they would not give me back) but because something upset me today, which took me by surprise.
Very often I get blamed by some active nationalists for being not Azeri enough; or for insulting Azeri girls and the whole nation for that matter. So, imagine my surprise when I, myself, get upset because of someone’s unfortunate joke.Am I getting too sensitive?
This morning, having arrived at work nice and early as usual, I started my (otherwise depressing) working day by having a Starbucks latte and glancing through Facebook updates.
A friend of ours is still working and living in Baku, and has been now for many years. I noticed a nice-looking photo on his page. He has got into photography recently; and his pictures are, indeed, quite good.
He took the photo in a well-known village in Azerbaijan. I quite liked the woman in the photo. She was looking straight into the camera, holding a tiny baby in her arms. To me, she looked like a lot of village women in Azerbaijan do, from what I remember. Someone who looks tired beyond her age, someone who looks an awful lot older than she probably is. I was touched by how much emotion there was in her eyes. The photo made me sad because I thought of the hardships of her life. She was wearing lots of colourful layers and her hands were big and rough.
What annoyed me was the caption this guy put under the shot.
He said that he took the photo while visiting this village. The woman’s family helped him and his companions when their car broke down. Jokingly referring to the family as the natives, (which, let’s face it, was not particularly nice to start with), he then made a joke about her golden teeth. ‘I tried to get her to smile’, he said, ‘to show all her golden teeth, but she refused to.
'Such a shame!', he added, 'As she had lots! At least 6 of them!’
After that there were a couple of comments from his friends, an expat in Baku and his Azeri wife.
He said 'Wow, she’s hot!'
His wife added OMG!!!! LOL!'
Not sure it was that funny.
Maybe, I should have said nothing. But I am hormonal, you know? I can't help it, ask the HR girl.
For some reason this discussion reminded me of District 9 I recently watched. When Wikus Van De Merwe handed an alien reproductive apparatus to his co-worker and said ‘Here, you can take that, you want to keep that, as a souvenir of your first abortion, ay.’ And they were laughing.
‘So, let me put this straight…’ I commented. ‘Some total strangers help you out with your broken car and, in return, you take the piss out of the woman's golden teeth. I wonder why she did not feel like smiling?’
It was a beautiful photograph. And maybe, because I live so far away now, this village woman and her face looked beautiful to me. I, myself, am not a big fan of golden teeth; but neither would I laugh at someone like her. My friend was very fortunate in his life. He could have been born somewhere he had no easy exit from, no options of how to grow up or what to study, no choices of whom to marry, no rights and, of course, no concept of dental hygiene. In a separate Facebook posting, this very same friend was upset at the way a rare wild animal was treated in a pet shop in Baku. I smiled to myself. How typical of us all! I thought. How often do we feel sorry for animals, while being completely incapable of feeling sorry for people.