Thursday, July 2, 2009

American dirt vs. Azerbaijani dirt

Cleanliness—We have totally different views about cleanliness, tidiness and food safety. For example, Azeris never wear shoes in the house, but never go barefoot either. They wear fuzzy slippers. Even in the shower, they wear flip-flops.

However, they wear the same clothes, sometimes all week. My host mother does laundry every 2-3 weeks, and the family has very few clothes.

People have beautiful glossy hair that does not smell, but they wash their hair about once a week and shower about the same frequency. However, an hour-long shower is not considered unusual. This winter a relative came and took a 2 ½ shower and my family did not seem concerned.

Since Azeris have very few possessions, their homes have little clutter. I have about 30 books in my room, most of them upright in a bookcase, but this is considered messiness. Also, nothing is ever put on the floor—purses, briefcases, baskets—nothing-- because the floor is dirty. Actually the floor is not really dirty because the wood is cleaned frequently and they are covered with area rugs that are beaten outside regularly. Also dogs and cats are almost never in the house because they are dirty and dogs napping on furniture would be unthinkable.

Hot water heaters are turned on once a day or less, so in many families dishes are done once a day. Dirty dishes clutter the house waiting for dish time. Also, food cooked on the stove is often left there covered overnight and eaten the next day. All of those people in America who freak out when mayonnaise salads are left out for a couple of hours can relax—food with mayonnaise is commonly left out here 5-10 hours on a hot day without a thought and people don't seem to get sick more often.

Luckily I cook and eat my own food, so I don’t have to eat this stuff and not eating meat is helpful to say also. Usually guests are served just-cooked food. I have only gotten sick once since I have been here and it was from food I made myself (my family will totally understand this statement).

One day I came home and was surprised and annoyed to find the refrigerator unplugged and the food warm. I had eggs and cheese in it, along with some vegetables. When I asked my host mother what was the problem, she said that since there was so little in it, she did not see the point of paying the electric bill and would turn it on again when she went to the bazaar.

One day at work I got a small run in my hose—the hose were almost the color of my skin, so I did not leave and buy new hose. All day, women took me aside and explained with a horrified look that they had discovered a run. Now I keep extra hose in my purse.

1 comment:

joel said...

I think that you are still giving the tormentors the inside dirt on America and I wish you would stop it. Can you go back to making observations about how Azeris think that life was better under the USSR and the reasons for that?

You mentioned that children seem not to play. I wonder what the Azeri imagination is like as expressed in the Arts.