17 April 2009
When you receive a little something in the mail, what’s your first reaction? It may be to tear it open at the post office, where you friends can see and congratulate you on your new treasure. It also may be to take it back to your room and open it in privacy. This is what I usually do when I receive a package, letter, or whatever. I wait until nighttime, when I’m done with my work and it’s quiet. There’s something very gratifying about waiting until that moment. I honestly hadn’t realized the value of a good letter until I came here.
I like the attitude folks have about this sort of thing around here, especially when it comes to packages. I recall a time in which a package had arrived from my aunt Nita. One teacher told me a package came, then another, then another (I guess news travels fast.). Then I went home, and my host dad also told me about the package. "Okay, okay, I got it," I thought.
The next day, a teacher wanted to know what was in the package. It’s not like there was anything too personal in it. It was just that…well…I wasn’t too comfortable giving out that kind of information. Sevil Müəllimi, my Azerbaijani language tutor, told me that’s just how things work around here. Someone receives something, and everyone wants to know about it. People want their share, or "pay" (pronounced like "pie") in Azerbaijani. "Bizim pay" means "our share", and that really is how things roll around here. One thing belongs to everyone. When I first met my host family here in Oğuz, I gave them some chewy pecan pralines, a signature Texas treat. Well, my host mother didn’t keep them to herself and the family. She gave them to her friends around the village. I shared some Snickers bars with my host family, and Aybəniz saved half of hers to give to Aygьn, her dear friend. A similar thing happened when I shared some Starburst Jellybeans with Hцkьmə and Rustəm. Hцkьmə took a couple for herself, then some for a friend. When I brought a bag of Robin’s Eggs malted milk balls to school, a teacher made sure everyone in the teacher’s room had one. Just one is enough for everyone’s share (While I have no problem eating them by the handful. That probably won’t change.).
Despite the ups and downs that can come with being in a new culture, there’s something utterly beautiful about this. I can yell at the students in class or hide from the unwanted attention, but there’s something to be said about a thirteen year old girl saving a few jellybeans given by the American for her good friend.