Update--In my last post, I say how cold my home is. Since then, my family had a gas furnace installed in the living room. So this room is warm and some of the heat flows to my room.
Before I came to Azerbaijan, my biggest worry was about the toilets. I had heard that squat toilets are common. Also, I had heard that Azerbaijanis do not use toilet paper. Both of these things are true. Also, now they are non-issues for me and many times I think the no-toilet-paper thing is better.
The squat toilet is basically a porcelain fixture at ground level. It either flushes or you pour a bucket of water down it. Squatting is no big deal. Since everything is flat on the floor, it is easier to clean the toilet. Some people just turn a hose on it every day.
Toilet paper is replaced by water. The newer toilets have a spray attachment next to the toilet and you just squirt to clean yourself. The older toilets have a strangely shaped jug of water with a spout that you use the same way.
The Azerbaijanis feel it has two advantages—the first, it is cleaner—rather than wiping things, you are really cleaning them. The other is that you don’t have to buy or dispose of toilet paper.
When I think of how many millions of rolls of toilet paper Americans use every day, it converted my thinking pretty quickly. I wonder where all of this paper goes.
I know a family with a baby. Whenever the baby has a diaper change, they immerse the baby’s butt in water. They feel that wiping him off just is not clean enough.
We just welcomed four new Peace Corps Volunteers to our town. They have been in training for three months. They and some of their 59 fellow new volunteers have had time to experience the “Azerbaijan diet” and many have found the pounds rolling off. Just by eating like an Azerbaijani, people who have carried extra pounds for years appear to effortlessly be losing them.
These are the ways Azerbaijanis eat and don’t eat:
1. Lots of tea, maybe a cookie or something sweet with it.
2. Pop and juice as a special treat, not stocked regularly.
3. A light breakfast—bread, tea, maybe cheese or fruit.
4. Small portions and no snacks
5. Processed food eaten rarely.
6. No eating after dinner.
7. Dessert is often fruit.
8. Trans fats don’t appear to exist here
9. Lots of dairy fat in cooking
10. Cheese and yogurt instead of milk
11. Eating fruits and vegetables in season.
The other reason that weight falls off easily is that many volunteers do a lot more walking. Many have to walk to work and to get food and shop for anything. To visit friends involves walking also. So it is common that trainees pack a lot of clothes and can’t wear some of them within a few months. Often the weight stabilizes after 6 months or so A few people gain weight, usually the ones who are less active here than at home.