Adventures in Peace (Corps)

Potty Talk

The day after I posted about the bread rituals, I was walking down the street and I saw a piece of bread up on a wall (see below). Then when I came home, Minaya had put a bunch of old bread in a plastic bag. I found out tonight that they use it to feed the birds. See, not a morsel goes to waste. I found out why bread is so sacred. It turns out not to be a religious thing after all. During the Soviet area between 1945 and 1965, food rationing was common. Many families went without meat, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. However, no matter how poor a family was they never went without bread, and for this reason bread became sacred. Because this is a religious country, Islam being the religion most people follow, they thank Allah for all the food they have, but because they always had bread it became the most sacred. Rituals like not letting bread touch the ground, and putting it on the highest shelf in the house are ways to show appreciation to Allah for it, as is putting a fallen piece of bread to your lips and forehead three times because this is what they do before opening the Koran, their holy book.

So, some of you have been asking about my bathroom facilities. I’m happy to announce that at home I do not have to squat. I think the family I live with is considered middle class, which is why I have a porcelain commode to sit on while taking care of business. Toilet paper, on the other hand, though available, is not widely used, and since I’ve made a commitment to live as the people in this country live, well, as the saying goes, when in Azerbaijan…

I am also lucky to be living with a family that has hot water, though I have not figured out exactly how it works, so I’m lucky and stupid, which means that only one of my showers has been hot. Until two days ago the weather had been sweltering and humid, so hot showers had not been a concern. Anyhow, the toilet is in a separate room from the shower and sink. The shower is a faucet that comes out of the wall with a shower-head up top, similar to how our showers are, but there is no tub or shower stall. There is only a room with a shower and a sink so the floor gets completely wet. This style of washroom is not unfamiliar to me as this is the way it is in most Asian countries as well. I actually kind of like it. It’s a big wet room, and easy to clean after you shower. It’s also easy to do my laundry. Yes folks, I am washing my own clothes by hand and hanging them out to dry. It’s not so bad if you don’t wait until you have a hamper full of clothes to wash at once. Some people have washing machines, but it’s not common, and there is no dry cleaning. Out the windows of apartments, wet clothes hang across lines and blow dry in the wind. I wish I had a picture for every country I’ve been to that does their laundry this way. I could publish a book. Telephone-like poles stand erect across from every apartment and ropes on pully wheels allow one to hang clothes across the wire. It’s technology in its simplest form.

I decided that I was going to try my hardest to live on the wages that the PC pays me and not dip into my savings while on this little adventure. So far I’ve been making $22 a week. Can you believe that? Apparently, living on $20 a week can be done in AZ. I laughed the other day at our HUB meeting when PC gave me my envelope FULL of money. 93.5 manat was for the family I live with for two weeks of room and board, and 44 manat was for me. So, I have 22 manat per week to spend on whatever I want. This includes any personal travel, internet cafes, dining out with friends, and any entertainment. I’m fortunate enough to live within walking distance from all the places I need to go daily, so I don’t have to pay for transportation, and internet cafes are 60 gapik per hour (there are 100 gapik to a manat). When I gave the rent money to Hasan he asked me why I was paying him so much? I didn’t know what to say.

I really do want to try and live within this budget and so far I have been. Right now I am poaching internet access from the school we study language at, but they turn it off at 3pm and that’s it for the day.

I’m missing you all today. Although I’m thoroughly enjoying my experience here I do miss having conversations with people I know well. Sending all of my love to you. Denie

Sacred Bread

Laundry Blowing in the Wind

13 responses

  1. Miss you too. I will buy some Skype credits and we can make a phone date.

    October 8, 2010 at 8:28 am

  2. Ida

    Hi Glendene, I am missing our morning tête-à-tête too! XOXO

    October 8, 2010 at 9:02 am

  3. Miss you too but I’m also delighted that you are having such an adventure (and I know that even adventure can be tedious and a pain in the ass at times) and sharing it. I love the pictures! Can you remind us of how to send you stuff? I’d like to send a CD.

    October 8, 2010 at 11:10 am

  4. Lori

    Okay. It’s official. I will not be joining the Peace Corp. No toilet paper? No way.

    October 8, 2010 at 11:30 am

  5. Sharlene Basch

    I agree with Lori. The lack of TP leaves much to be desired. Ah the simple things of life. TP, hot water, garlic, toilets and whatever else we here (U.S.) have gotten used to.

    Keep these blogs coming as often as you can. They are great and it appears everyone is enjoying all your good writing. My daughter the author – WHO KNEW?

    Love, Mom

    October 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm

  6. Cindy

    Ha! I agree with Lori :).

    I love the photos..the sky looks beautiful there (much better than smoggy LA). Take care.

    October 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm

  7. Angella

    Glendene, it seems as if you are in another galaxy! Imagine making that much in LA.
    Speaking of toilets, I came from the galaxy nearby and remember the traditional squatting toilets and no running water nearby….just something like a watering can. It is easier to move into convenience and luxury rather than the other way around. Love reading your blog!

    October 8, 2010 at 1:28 pm

  8. Sharlene Basch

    This is a test. I wrot a comment but it didn’t go through.

    October 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  9. I’ve met you once, and you probably don’t remember. I landed on your blog tonight and have been completely entranced by your writing. I love what you are doing, how you express it and how brave you are to take this leap at this point in your life. I am truly inspired by you and wanted you to know that even those who don’t know you on a personal level are moved and touched by your blog.

    October 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm

  10. You make $22 a week and spend only $20? What do you do with all the savings? Maybe pay someone to do your hand-laundry – after all, you may be the next economic development advisor and what better way to advise than by example.

    So far so good…. Be sure and wash your hands after each visit to the loo.

    October 8, 2010 at 11:21 pm

  11. Hanna

    So does that mean when you go #2 you have to use your hands? thats kinda gross…just saying. I won’t even touch Griff’s poop with my hands and I really don’t like touching my own poop with my hands. But as long as you are enjoying yourself I am happy for you! I miss you. Things are good here. I am stressed about school and college but I have it under control. I have turned in 2 applications already, Indiana in Bloomington and Oregon in Eugene. I’m excited to find out if I got in or not. I find out in about 6-8 weeks so when I get the news I will let you know. It sounds like you are really getting to know the place and the people there. We took our senior class picture today (October 12, 2010) and we all made funny faces and did crazy stuff because it is our last year and no one really cares anymore. I’m sitting in the dinning room as I am typing this and Jamie is trying and trying again to post a video on your wall. She is on try number 3 and hopefully this one will work. She has tried twice on your wall of facebook and now she is doing it on photobooth. It’s kinda funny just watching her talk to herself. She is talking to the computer and has no idea that I am typing about her. Oh Well! It’s all in the fun. We are going to Mom’s tonight to watch GLEE!!! I’m excited for the new episode. I don’t have a whole lot to report on. I am just filling you in on every day life. Oh…Cary and his gf broke up which is sad. He broke up with her because he said that she wasn’t affecionate enough for him and it wasn’t working and other stuff. Just filling you in on the gossip in the family. School is school, home is home. I miss you and I hope to video chat with you soon! I want to see you and get a virtual tour of where you are staying. Love and miss you lots.

    Banners ❤

    October 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm

  12. P o E

    i think i would have a ‘potty problem’ without the paper… LOL!

    October 31, 2010 at 10:56 pm

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