Sunday, January 25, 2009


22 January 2009

Today, I wanna talk to y’all about something that’s as important in Azerbaijan as it is anywhere. What do you think about what I mention the word “friend”? It’s not such a complicated question, really. Hopefully, what comes to mind is that person whose company you love. The one you can sit down and have a cup o’ joe with every day, talkin’ about whatever. When I was at Sewanee, Shep, Harcout, and I would hang around the frat table at McClurg dining hall and just shoot the breeze after dinner, and it’s one of the fondest memories I have of college.

About the second day I was living in Qumlaq village, I wanted to join Aybəniz to the “klub”, the community center where she works. It’s a nice little place where folks gather every so often (although I haven’t been to any events there yet). It has a big room with a piano (a bit out of tune), another room with firewood, and another small room with a couple chairs and a peç (pronounced “pech”), or stove.

She works alongside a woman named Aygün (Interesting fact: “Ay” means moon, and “gün” means “day”. “Bəniz” also means “face”. See if you can put those together.), a lovely twenty-nine year-old lady. There’s not a whole lot involved in their work. They sit in the small room with the peç and have a cup of çay or two. That’s about it. To be honest, there isn’t much else for them to do, but it’s what they get paid for. There’s also a good chance they’re up to a lot more when something’s going on there, but, nevertheless, I’m digressing.

So we chilled out there for a little while and eventually went home. Aygün went her separate way, and I asked Aybəniz if Aygün was married. She wasn’t. Although it’s wrong to stereotype, I must say that in the rayons of Azerbaijan, you don’t find a whole lotta single, working twenty-nine year-old women. After asking why she wasn’t, Aybəniz went on about how there aren’t any good men in this town. “Aygün’s an attractive, intelligent lady, and she needs a good man,” she said. I nodded in agreement and was impressed by such boldness. Clearly Aygün was a good friend of hers, and it was also clear that Aybəniz cared about her.

Alright, now let’s flash forward a few weeks. I was in my room, wood stove cracklin’, doing some exercises and trying to stay fit after spraining my ankle (I was running in the dark, nobody’s fault but mine.). Aybəniz knocked at the door and walked in, quietly asking me if the peç was going okay. She kinna paced around, and I could tell something was up. Then she spilled the beans: “Aygün kişiyə getir” (Literally “Aygün’s going to a man” or, simply, “Aygün’s gonna get married”.) I stood there and acknowledged the news, and then placed a hand on Aybəniz as she began to cry there next to me. Aybəniz went on to say that Aygün was her good, good friend, and her leaving to get married was a hard fact to face. I mean, think about it. Put yourself in that position. You’ve been working with someone for years, sitting in the same room together, talking about whatever. In other words, a friend real close to your heart is leaving your side. We know the feeling. But Aybəniz also expressed: “Aygün xoşbext olsun” (May Aygün be happy). That’s also what a friend says.

So what came of it all? Well, a week or so later, Aygün was over at my host family’s house, and I asked her, “Toy nə vaxt olacaq (When’s the toy? (You remember toy, right? Don’t even get me started.))? And she responded, “Toy olmayacaq (Ain’t gonna be no toy.).”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I thought.

Turns out a little research was done on the “dude” she was gonna marry. Although I didn’t entirely understand the situation (I mean, c’mon. I’m an “intermediate-mid” Azerbaijani speaker. Real middle of the road here.), it seems he wasn’t too great after all. With Aybəniz also sitting there by the peç in the living/dining/Turkish-music-videos-watching room, I asked her, “That’s not too common ‘round here, is it?” and she said, “Nope.” Then I said, “But you’re different.” And, to that, I got two of the biggest grins I’ve ever seen from those two lovely, amazing women I have the privilege to know, and who’re privileged to have each other.


Anita said...

Your words are like picturs for my minds's eye. I can see you in every situation you describe. It makes me smile. And, even though you are my most wonderful nephew, you are also my "friend." Stay safe, stay healthy, stay happy, and stay you.

Sara Gahan said...

YAY for more blog entries! And they are GREAT ones--thanks for all the details! We love following you and hearing about your experiences...always know we love you and believe in you.

löki gale said...

We missed you last weekend.


Mark Kelly said...

Great posts, John. Can't wait to read more. Let us know when you're back to the states, we'll cook-out next to the van down by the the river and talk college football.

Like everyone, we're proud of the work you are doing. Please post a photo of the country's president, but only if she looks like Babebraham Lincoln ... or do they have those where you are?

On a more serious note, keep more notes and photos. You have the workings of a great book that a lot of people will enjoy.

Missing you on the Holy Mountain,