14 May 2009
There’re certain things that bind cultures together. What comes to mind? Laughter? Hospitality? Family? Love? You can see these everywhere you go, but there’s one that might not come up so quickly, and it’s essential. It’s the backbone of any society. It’s grandpas. You know who I’m talking about: the men sitting at the corner booth of the Huddle House, sipping coffee with the sun shining through; the fellows hunkered down on the front porch, watching kids go by and chatting about how it’s "just not the same" nowadays; the gentlemen standing on either side of the front door at your church, greeting you with a smile as you walk in. Yeah, you get the idea.
Guess what. Azerbaijan’s got ‘em, too, and I’m pleased. Now, I didn’t know what to think as I passed these gentlemen every day on my way to school. They frequently sit together at the bus stop, not necessarily because they’re going somewhere, but because it’s a good sitting spot. They’d always greet me kindly, but I’d keep on my way to class.
One day, I took a load off at one of the two çayxanas in the center of the village. The Qumlaq çayxanas are pretty rustic, on a side note. Ain’t nothing in ‘em but a few tables and a set of dominoes. That’s all you need, though, it seems. Anyway, I sat there, and a pot o’ tea was delivered to my table, where I sat and had a glass by myself. Seeing as it’s not so much fun to drink a whole pot by yourself, I decided to try my luck at socializing and brought my glass and pot to a table of grandpas. I was pleased as they welcomed me kindly to the group, and we happily sat there and shot the breeze together. We talked about our homelands, and they gave me expert advice, like how drinking plenty of tea will keep me from getting ill (Heck, maybe they’re right. I haven’t suffered much sickness since being here.). It was a nice exchange, and I’ve been back since, with good reason.
I like these guys. They have a good attitude. They aren’t macho or grouchy. In fact, they joke around like kids more than anything, always trying to "get each other’s goat". I don’t know if they like me so much, but they seem to appreciate how I’m a change in their routine. Heck, whatever it takes.
Here’s some advice, hang out with a grandpa or two. Learn from him. Joke with him. You’ll be glad you did. Sit down with the fellows at the Huddle House. If they sneer at ya, no harm done. If they welcome you, you made a few new friends, and like I said in the "Çayxana" entry, you’ll also appreciate the value of friendly company. Outstanding.