Monday, October 22, 2007

The Sound of Love

Well maybe not love but it sure envolves a lot of yelling. Two things recently have made me think more and more about “love” in Azerbaijan, or the lack of – First is the amount of attention that I now get, which is one of the reasons the transition to my new site has seemed more difficult than the initial transition to Azerbaijan. The second being that I just talked to a friend from home who just got happily married this past month. – CONGRADULATIONS AMY AND TRAVIS!!!!!! My first home, and still favorite was Cərənbəton. It was very small so everyone knew me and very close to Sumgayit and relatively close to Bakı. Bakı is a big city so it is just different, more liberal, and that spills over to surrounding areas. Now I am in the regions and a much bigger city than I was at first. Plus unemployment is horrible so there is never any lack of restless young men lounging around doing nothing and of course a complete lack of young women because they are all locked away in the house. Well of course except for me. I am out and must just exude foreigners. Which is fine except the boys are already girl crazy and have the idea that all foreign women are “available” – a kick back form the Russians. Thanks Russia!!
It’s the normal stares, comments and teeth sucking, yes I said teeth sucking – Americans whistle, Mexicans click and Azeris suck their teeth – It is just aggravating because am very limited in what I can do – Actually close to nothing. Saying ANYTHING – no matter how negative encourages them, and making a scene will just be interpreted as me being a crazy woman, not him being a stalker. It is just cultural, but very annoying. I was talking with my tutor, familia, husband about it and he was trying to explain it was not that they were bad or not respectful but was because boys and girls did not have any contact and the were just a little wild. And they do not, they do not walk together, talk together, my host family even refused to let me have male friends at the house because they have daughters. I agreed with his reasons but disagreed that they were not disrespectful. They are, Very, cultural or not it is disrespectful, to yell, chase down the street, stand two inches from a person and blow kisses or just stare, taunt, grab, follow in your car, or stalk. One volunteer actually had a stalker for a year.
They problem is once they get married things do not seem so much better. Arranged marriages do still happen, though to a lesser degree than in the past, but I have met thirteen-year-old girls with babies. There are also kidnappings. If a boy wants to marry a girl and for whatever reason cannot all he has to do is kidnap her and keep her for a night. Then she is forced to marry him because there is the possibility that she has been “tainted” and if she does not marry him she will NEVER be able to get married. These are horrible when they are real but I rather like the idea when they are staged. Couples that really want to get married but cant will often stage this so their families will have to let them wed. Couples just don’t seem very happy, especially older couples. Yes divorce is low, but people seem so miserable. They stay together though drunkenness, abuse, infidelity. And yes most men cheat. Prostates are pretty much accepted by women as something men do. They want their wives pure and good and leave everything else to the prostitutes. There are many reason they don’t get divorced, for one it is not a normal cultural practice, but also, if a woman gets divorced the chances of her ever being able to remarry are slim to none. In addition, she often has no way to support herself and if her family refused to take her back, which is often the case, she has no other choice but to stay in an unhappy situation. Actually the number 1 reason for divorce is because the wife does not get pregnant within the first year – the husband is legally entitled to a divorce because it could not possibly be his fault.
They thing is that I hate to be so negative about men here. It does not feel healthy but I am not sure how else to view it all. They good thing is that every time I feel like I am going to snap at the next man I pass I see something to give me hope – I do see change, change is just slow. My parents in Cərənbəton seemed genuinely happy. They joked and played and I loved to see them, I here more young girls everyday say they don’t want marriage and kids but a profession and independence and I am given hope. Especially when they are so aware that education is their stepping stone out. And then just little things, the other day I was on my way to work and passed a young couple. They were walking across the bridge arm in arm, smiling and laughing not less. It was so uplifting to see I stopped just to watch them go. It is funny, I never though I would be so taken by such simple things but I am and only hope that I will find more and more. So, the next time I walk down the street and am followed by a chorus of “hello, what is your name” followed directly by “ I love you” I’ll think of the couple of the bridge and my sister with plans of being a world traveling business woman, and have a little hope. And when all else fails I’ll take comfort in the fact that no matter their motives, at least they are screaming “I Love You” and not “I Hate You”.

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