7 February 2009
Okay, so I’ve already told y’all about the "toy" (Or should I say "toys"?), but there’s another phenomenon related to this topic that I’d like to touch up on. As the title says, it has to do with the big electric picture box sitting in many Azerbaijani living rooms.
Do you ever watch old videos from weddings, or any old family event, for that matter? Birthdays? Holidays? First communions? Barbecues (The opening theme song from The Wonder Years comes to mind.)? You probably have, and it’s not without good reason. Old videos are fun, entertaining ways to reminisce.
Azerbaijani folk have the same idea, and this especially rings true with toys. Say company comes over for dinner. You put out the tea and candy and sit down to a word or two, but you gotta do something while the aş is being prepared. What do you do? "Oh, I know! Let’s put a toy video on the tube. Everyone loves those!" And so it goes, the video plays, and people watch, enamored by which family members showed up and what’s being served as the meal. Now, I’m not saying every toy is the same, but they tend to carry a general pattern I described in my earlier entries. People put on their Sunday best, sit at tables, eat plenty of food, dance with their arms in the air (but make sure not to smile when the camera’s on them), and a fair amount of the men put away plenty of vodka.
Although each toy may be unique to Azerbaijanis, to folks from the United States, where any given wedding can be different, thing get monotonous…fast. A friend of mine serving in a village in the rayon of Şəki was not allowed to stay at home alone with his host family’s teenage daughter, so what did they do? Well, every afternoon, he’d go guesting with his host family to another person’s house and watch…You guessed it…toy videos. This went on for six months. I also heard about another volunteer who watched a toy video in which the drive from Baku to Lənkəran, in the southeast corner of the country, literally hours away, was entirely filmed.
Let’s also not forget another phenomenon frequently discussed by me and Charlie, which also goes along with the title of this entry: Toy T.V….literally. Oh yeah, you can flip on the tube and watch Turkish toys at your heart’s content. It doesn’t matter if you know the people or not, because, well, they’re toys, and they’re totally awesome.
I won’t lie. From the perspective of us Americans, this concept doesn’t make a whole heck of a lotta sense. I asked my host father Firuz about it, and he simply said, more or less, that it simply has to do with comparing and contrasting what is, in reality, a very special event for friends and family.
Now, does that make sense to you all? Think about it. The "toy", as the Azerbaijanis call it, is the big event, the big hoopla in which two families are joined or a boy becomes a man. It’s something they really look forward to, and while they may seem monotonous to us, that might not be so for the Azerbaijanis, and I have to respect that. In fact, the significance they put on family and friends and the events that bring them together is inspiring.