Friday, February 27, 2009

Cup o' Tea

Here’s something I probably should’ve written about a long time ago. It’s been a prevalent aspect of my life since living with my first host family in Ceyranbatan. You can barely sit down anywhere in Azerbaijan and not have a cup of çay sitting in front of you. It just wouldn’t look right.

Tea is a funny drink, if I may just speak of the substance itself for a moment. I remember my dad speaking fondly of it, how it doesn’t jolt you awake like coffee can and kinna eases you up, like the slow ascent of a roller coaster (without the sudden drop later on). But in its funniness, I can see the appeal, and I’ve thought about it a lot.

If anyone knows me well, they know that I love coffee. I’m a Gahan, and we Gahans are coffee drinkers. Dad mixes his special blend of Cajun chicory and whatever else on a regular basis (although it’s a bit weak, but I won’t hold it against him.). However, with my favorite drink comes a limit. Eventually, I’ve had enough (albeit it may take a lot sometimes). I also don’t normally drink it at night, as it might disrupt my sleep.

Çay’s different, though. You don’t reach a limit. If you want, you can sit there and put away a hundred cups, pausing only to go to the bathroom. You can drink it morning, noon, evening, and, heck, even a spot before hitting the sack. It don’t make no difference.

So no wonder the Azerbaijanis drink it all the time. It not only tastes good and has a bit of caffeine, but it’s the ‘round the clock drink. If you come as a guest in an Azerbaijani home, chances are you’ll be served tea before and after the meal. If you’re sitting down, having a chat, or anything of the sort, why not have some tea as well?

As I continue to analyze tea’s social status around here, I come to a relative estimation of how much tea the average family must buy, and by “relative estimation,” I simply mean that it must be “a lot” of tea. Now, just think about it: Every family buying a ton of tea means that tea companies rake it in, and the last time I checked, that industry has played a big role in world history. Ah, it makes sense to me now. Millions of people hooked on a beverage makes a difference in world economics (Go figure, John.). The case is similar for coffee companies in Latin America or that beer company in Milwaukee that makes more beer every day than you could imagine (I visited the brewery.).

Alright, has this become boring yet? I didn’t intend that, and, for the remaining time, let’s toss the economic hoo-hah aside. To put it simply, I’ve become a fan of tea. I’ve said this many times about it: It’s relaxing and stimulating at the same time, if any beverage could accomplish such a thing. It gives you this comfy feeling and sets your mind straight.

I especially enjoy it at the snack bar at the school. After teaching a few classes, no matter how they went, it’s nice to sit down and drink a pot in the back room, whether by yourself or with others. Instead of being John Müəllim (Teacher), the English teacher from the United States, I’m just John, and the teachers and I can have a conversation, like normal friends do. I’ve come to appreciate that in a place where I can feel like an outsider, despite the warmth and goodness of the local people. It’s not to say we gotta have tea to be friends, but, heck, it doesn’t hurt.

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