Adventures in Peace (Corps)

AUM This Mother*!#@\!

Now that I have your attention…I’d like to describe the Azerbaijani winter experience with just one word…PALÇIQ (pronounced palchig and means mud). It’s everywhere. Previous volunteers warned about the AZ winters saying how they are long, wet, cold, and terribly unfriendly, but before mid February the winter seemed rather mild to me. Yes, it’s true that since December there have been a couple of frosts, and a constant flow of misty drizzle falling from the sky, but I hardly equated that to the miseries of the treacherous winter that volunteers complained about until these last two weeks when Xaçmaz has turned into this snowy winter wonderland. Well, kind of.

The rooftops of Xaçmaz are laden with inches of fluffy white snow, icicles resembling daggers of stalactite hang from rooftop ridges and awnings, backyard gardens are blanketed with inches of white powder, & tufts of snowy white flakes fill crevices on the bare branches of trees. But the streets…oh the blasted streets. These are the places where winter becomes vile. It’s no wonderland when you step out onto the once hard packed dirt road that’s been turned into a river of slushy mud because of the open sewers that spill over onto it. Oh, and what to speak of the drivers that speed through these puddles splashing all the pedestrians in their midst with this gross potion of sludgy disgust? I know what to speak of them, AUM this Mother*!#@\! I think you get it.

In Los Angeles, I had to deal with road rage. Others’ and mine. I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that I was one of those drivers who did more than sneer at other drivers as they carelessly text messaged their buddies while driving at high speeds down the I-405. It’s no different here in Xaçmaz. When high speed cruisers drive their candy colored, Soviet era Ladas down the narrow streets completely inconsiderate of us bipeds, words that are most definitely inappropriate for a woman to use in Azerbaijan fly out of my mouth at speeds faster than some of these cars can drive.

Other unfortunate incidents, cultural misunderstandings, and my very strong urge to kick some serious Azerbaijani man ass:

From the story above it’s easy to see that I am not shy about saying what’s on my mind, and when someone steps into my personal space and invades my boundaries I’m even less shy. At the intersection of Zoo Park Rd and that street I don’t know the name of there is a constant flurry of pedestrian madness, taxicabs, and cars. There’s a gold-capped, mostly toothless old man whose curiosity about me was abnormal. I made the mistake of smiling at this man who must have taken that as a sign that it was OK to get right up into my face and start speaking to me. When I politely let him know that I did not understand much Azerbaijani he detected my American accent and from that day forward began to invade my personal space. One day, on my walk to work, I saw this toothless fool approaching me. There was a parked car between the two of us, and I decided to escape contact by walking around the left side of the car as he walked around the right. When I realized that tactic did not work because he was following me, I abruptly turned around, pointed my finger directly at his face and screamed, “NO! Don’t follow me!”  The old guy jumped out of his skin and since that day has not said as much as boo to me.

But wait, there’s more. The other night I was walking home after teaching an English class. I made a left turn down the first dirt road to my house when I realized that a man was following me. I’m not normally a very paranoid person, but I don’t really like walking down a dark muddy road being followed by a man. It just makes me uncomfortable. So, I started to walk faster, and so did he. Then I crossed the road, and so did he. Then I crossed back over to the other side of the road, and so did he. Finally, I just stopped. The man said something to me in Azerbaijani and I just screamed at him using expletives telling him to get away from me, and walk on. Thankfully it worked because the guy turned in the opposite direction and walked away. The following day, I was telling my friends Fargani and Sabina about what happened, and I learned that being followed is a courting ritual between men and women. Yes, that’s right, the taboos about boys and girls and men and women talking are so pervasive that men have resorted to stalking women as a way to let them know that they are interested in them. And yes, it is perfectly OK for a man to follow a woman down a dark street at night, scare the bejeezus out of her, so that she knows he is interested in her. I have to admit, I’m at a bit of a loss on how to deal with this one. I just can’t seem to get over the creep factor around it. I don’t want to be that lady who walks down the street with a lead pipe in her hand, or a can of pepper spray, but seriously, I don’t think I will ever be comfortable with a man following me down a dark quiet street. I don’t think any woman should have to get used to something like that. And, well, if I have to resort to kicking some serious AZ man ass, lord knows I will.

The Winter Wonderland Outside my Bedroom Window




17 responses

  1. lisa

    Deanie, this is so funny. I can’t believe this crazy courting ritual. What is protocol for muggers and rapists? Or do they not have those?

    The new blog looks great. Miss you!


    February 28, 2011 at 8:43 am

    • It’s funny now, but lemme tell ya, it’s not so funny when it’s happening. Miss you too lady. We gotta schedule a Skype date. Love ya!

      February 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

  2. Pauleenie W

    You had me laughing so hard reading this. Miss you Glendene! Looking forward to reading more of your adventures!

    February 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

    • Miss you too Paulinie. So glad you’re keeping up with my adventures. How you doing these days?

      February 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

  3. Jamie

    Hi Glendene!! Amazing story!! So is it part of the ritual for a woman to follow a man that she likes…maybe you could just figure out the translation for “sorry I’m already following someone”… Or maybe just “sorry I’m already being followed, but he’s busy feeding the goats right now” haha just a thought!!

    Live the pics!! In Ny they call it SNIRT (snow/dirt)


    February 28, 2011 at 9:49 am

    • Jamie, that is a perfectly legitimate question. I’m gonna dress like a man, follow someone and let you know. Oh, wait, that’s probably not what you meant.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:03 am

  4. Isn’t nice to know there are people in AZ who find you attractive? Flattered?

    If rape and other serious crime does not result from the ritual of being followed, then I guess the “creep factor” can be minimized. Then it just becomes another thing to incorporate into your cultural adjustments. If this courting ritual is as innocent as it seems to be from what Fargani and Sabina said, then there’s no need for a woman to have “to get used to something like that”; instead, its simply what’s done and may be better than a pick-up bar, online dating, disasterous blind dates or being betrothed at birth. So, maybe drop the lead pipe and leave the pepper spray at home. A little knowledge about local culture can be such an eye-opening experience.

    So, apologize to the mostly toothless old man and go out on a date. If he can afford gold teeth, he may be able to show you a good time. I wanna hear all about it.

    Love, Mitch

    February 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

    • Oh dear brother. Now I know where I get my keen sense of humor from…MOM!

      February 28, 2011 at 10:48 am

      • Sharlene Basch

        Great writing as usual.

        When you wrote Mitch that you got your keen sense of humor from MOM, did you mean me or, is MOM an acronym for something else?

        MOM (not an acronym)

        February 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm

  5. Maria Wiseman

    Amazing story! I’m just curious, if you’re a woman in AZ how do you know the difference between a courting man and a rapist/serial killer? Stay warm! (just so you know, it’s “cold” in LA too)

    February 28, 2011 at 11:30 am

    • Great question Maria. Honestly, I have no clue and hopefully I’ll never have to find out.

      I’ve been meaning to write you on FB to let you know how much I love the CD’s you and Olivia made for me. Her taste in music is impeccable. I could learn a few things from her. How old is she, 12? Anyway, I am really enjoying them. Thanks.

      February 28, 2011 at 11:50 am

  6. Julie Dean Hunter

    I feel sorry for those guys! I think before you leave there, a few of them will have black eyes!! Or……. a new bride perhaps??!!!

    February 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm

  7. Lori

    Great posts! Love the one from “MOM” (acronym for “mother of mine”?). Anyway, courting or no, still sounds creepy to me. And if courting, instead of screaming, “get the f*#% away from me” – would a kindly, “I’m not interested in a relationship right now, thank you” achieve the same results? I don’t think I’d be brave enough to try that. What are you supposed to do if you ARE interested? Love your pics. Didn’t know it was snowing there! Love you too, Lori

    February 28, 2011 at 9:42 pm

  8. Selly Belly Head

    GiGi, you’re a fucking blast. I’ll bet none of these men have been told off in such a manner before. You may be revolutionising the whole dating system in AZ. Next up JDate. that mud sounds like a mare. It’s exactly what I find unappealing about that part of the world. Sadn at beaches just doesn’t turn into mud.
    Always love your blogs and wish they were up mor often.
    Love You

    February 28, 2011 at 9:43 pm

  9. stacey

    I hate to sound like a downer debbie, but stick w/ your gut instincts and not worry about cultural niceties when it comes to this stuff. A few wks ago ABC news did a story on pc women rape victims. The story was not to kind to the pc in their response to these victims (ie, they didn’t help them).

    The toothless, old guy sounds like the homeless guy you befriended across from your office; it’s a small world.

    love your blog photo. very classy.

    miss you, ssseeessstttooorrr

    March 1, 2011 at 12:52 am

    • Yeah, I have a knack for attracting quality men in my life. Do I have some kind of invisible sign on my back that says, “I give comfort to toothless homeless men?”

      The country director here sent us info. about the 20/20 program that aired a few weeks ago. I would like to see it.

      Love you muchly Seeeestoooor!!!

      March 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

  10. Sharlene Basch

    Was it Teddy Roosevelt that said “Speak softly but carry a big stick” (like a baseball bat)? Do they have them in AZ? If you need one, I’ll send it. Be careful, be very careful daughter. I don’t want anything to happen to you. You are right to be wary and concerned.

    Can you get someone to walk with you?

    Love you lots,

    March 1, 2011 at 6:56 am

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