Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hot Weather

All over America gardeners fuss with their roses, adding things to the soil, spraying them for bugs and pruning them. Here in Azerbaijan, the roses are absolutely gorgeous, climb all over buildings and look super-healthy with a lot more flowers per plant than in US.

Yet the soil is supposedly poor here and the roses mostly grow wild, with no one watering, spraying or fertilizing them.


In Azerbaijan, most living rooms, which are called “guest rooms” here, have an elaborate chandelier, with sockets for many bulbs. One of the first things the volunteers noticed when we arrived is that many times there is only one bulb in the sockets, sometimes two and if the family is really extravagant, three bulbs. Electricity is considered to be expensive, little reading is done and no one seems to mind.

It is the end of June as I write this and today is the first day the air conditioning has been turned on in my office. It is a little warmer here than in St. Louis, so it is a welcome blast of air. We do have windows that open and I am in an old brick building that is naturally more cool than a wooden building. The vast majority of homes have no air conditioning, but most have at least one fan. My family has told me that fans are unhealthy (not an unusual attitude here) so they don't use one. I can buy one for my room if I want to.

Just as in Azeri homes, there is a marked lack of clutter in Azeri offices. People don’t have files in their desks (except for me), so there is no need for a file drawer ( I have a cardboard box under my drawerless desk which holds my files. ) The company’s records are kept in some binders in a bookcase.

Customers in my micro-finance institution have one file each, which is not actually in a traditional manila folder. I have not seen any of those here. There are about 7 phones for 40 or so people, but many have personal cell phones. If you want to make a call on one of the 7 phones you call the operator, who places it for you.

At work, we have a bathroom in our courtyard and also a kitchen, featuring a sink, 2 hotplates and some water. No refrigerator. All of the US office wars about who keeps what nasty food for weeks in the fridge are not a problem here. And I have not seen an ice cube tray or ice cubes here. Cold water is thought to be unhealthy. Ice cream is sold only in hot weather, as it is thought that eating ice cream in cool or cold weather will make a person sick.