Friday, December 25, 2009


23 December 2009

Ahhh…nothing like municipal election day. While Qumlaqians are at the school casting their votes, I’m in the quiet house, with only the roaring sound of my, no doubt, pre-Azerbaijani-independence radiator to distract me, and that’s really just a soothing noise that’ll hopefully put my mind at ease while I write to you.

The title of this entry tells it all. I’m a fan of coffee. It’s one of those American habits that I just haven’t given up while being away (except for Lent. But that’s different.).

Being a coffee drinker has brought attention here, simply because people really don’t care for it in this country. Perhaps they would if they gave it a chance, but they seem satisfied with the several glasses of tea they consume each day. No big deal.

It’s amazing how different you can make yourself look by doing things that people in America wouldn’t even bat an eye at. Let me give you an example. There’ve been at least a couple days in the however many months I’ve lived in Qumlaq in which I’ve carried a coffee cup with me and sipped it while walking to school. Though there’s nothing bad about doing that, it’s certainly not something anybody ever does around here, and, therefore, it caused several folks to give me a double take. I can remember one day last summer when my landlord’s little nephew, Famil, saw me with an empty cup in my hand and said, “Hey, look. He has a cup in his hand,” as if it was so strange. I suppose it was in his eyes. I’ve also had a boisterous older dude yell out at me as I passed him and his posse on the road, saying, “Where’s the coffee?” When you’re having a so-so day, that’s not so great to hear.

But let’s look at the other side of things. Some folks show positive interest in the lovely smelling, dark brown granules I mix with boiling water every so often. They’ll open the Nescafé container, breathe deeply, and ask, “Did this come from America?” I tell them no, and that I simply buy it from a market in town. The dude who works at the snack bar at the school asks me for some every time I bring it with me. Then there’s another teacher that takes one when it’s around. I mean, I’m not sure why, but, heck, who gives a damn? I tend to think these people may never’ve had a cup of java in their lives, but what do I care? I like it. Why can’t they? Another teacher that had a cup with me asked while we were in the teachers’ room, “Hey, John. How ‘bout we go have some coffee, eh?” Kinna like we were manly men, going off to do what manly men do. Just last night, while hanging out at a friends’ house, three members of the family, including the daughter, had some Joe after dinner.

Okay, none of this is very important. I didn’t even do anything, really, but perhaps I can take comfort in the fact that I may have “developed” Qumlaq to a certain degree. If not everybody speaks perfect English by the time I leave, perhaps they can at least give themselves the right to choose, while in a çayxana or the canteen, between coffee and tea. That’s democracy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to mix up another mug of instant delight, because I choose to.

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