So I’m washing cloths today – A Lot of Them – I’m not so consistent with it. I was given many warnings about cloths washing. Mainly that my host mom would stand over me like a hawk – because she would expect me to be completely inept and force me to scrub until my hands were raw. I cringed, then I got lucky. Turns out my mom was a little more progressive and had more of a live and let live attitude, as much as an Azeri can. She pretty much gave me a bucket and some hot water, soap and said have at it. – Actually, she gave me two kinds of soap – one in a powder form, the other in a bar. Evidently the bar is used to scrub out stains – I hade been using this soap to wash with for several weeks and had been wondering why their soap was so dam rough. At least I was extra clean – I am actually a crappy cloths washer, not because I couldn’t be a good one but because I just don’t care. I did not join the Peace Corps to be neat and tidy; I was thinking more of an all natural effect. So, sometimes I put them in a bucket and proceed to stomp on them – If I’m really lazy I will put them in su, leave them to soak, come back, poke them once or twice (literally), soak and then rinse them. Due to my shitty cloths washing my cloths are usually stiff with soap and probably not completely clean. Oh well, I will leave the appearances to the Azeris, because to an Azeri appearances are VERY important.
When I was told, you would see Azeries doing the funniest of jobs in the finest of cloths they were not lying. And the women, they love heals, stilettos, ones that wrap all the way up your leg, clear ones, sparkly studded ones. Imagine a 60 year old woman in a pair of 3 inch, spiked, stiletto heals. And it is not as if the road is flat or even, or as if the cars are not trying to run you over at all times so you have to sprint half the time. But alas, I will not leave it totally to them. At present I actually dress more conservatively than most Azeri women I see. This is because I have to counter act the fact that I am an American or risk serious harassment. See, Americans are viewed a being “available.” Innocent until proven guilty is not applied in this case. The good news is after about 6 months I can start wearing cloths a little less conservatively, such as tank tops, not spaghetti strap of course. I actually never though there would be a day when I would genuinely feel uncomfortable in a tank top. I wore one to Baku the one time I went, being a big city it is normal, however, on the way home, once I got back in the rural areas I just wanted to shrink and disappear so no one would notice.
Why are appearances so important, of course they are everywhere, but it is still strange. It is acceptable to wear a shirt that is virtually see threw all long as it covers the right parts. Can you see those parts anyway, of course, does it matter, no because for appearance sake they are covered. – Or if you are talking to them, no matter the language, no matter what you say, if you follow it by asking did they understand they will tell you yes, even if they are 110% utterly and totally baffled. I do it too sometimes, when I am tiered and just don’t want them to try to explain, it is just easier, But I am told by other Azeri people that they do it out of a sense of pride. They hate to admit they are wrong or don’t understand, so they will never ask for clarification and never say they are confused.- all for appearance. So just me walking down the street looking happy instead of scowling will draw mass amounts of attention because I appear happy, I am. If you ever attend an Azeri wedding ( a toy) you will notice that the bride looks VERY unhappy, always. Is she? I have no idea, but they can’t all be. She looks unhappy because for appearances sake it is unacceptable for her to look happy. This would imply that she is actually looking forward to having sex. And that is not acceptable. Talk about discipline and will power. How do you not smile once during your wedding, especially when random strangers are coming up behind where you are sitting to have there picture taken “with you”- I actually did that. So anyhow, I have learned to scowl, to have the worst go to hell look, it sound horrible but to not is disastrous – I still reek of foreignerness – the way I dress, walk, carry myself – they pick me out 300 yards off from the opposite side of the street through a crowd. It is definitely unnerving. The children and women I don’t mind but the men make me insane. The good news is every time I get aggravated by some thoughtless person I meet a really nice one. So I guess that means it all evens out in the end. I just have to make sure I don’t get caught up in appearances myself and take each person one at a time.