Update: The Tiniest Revolution
Last time I visited this topic, I was beginning to pour tea for myself. We’ll recall that this sent my host sister, Sevinj, into fits and I had to assure her that pouring tea was something of which I was capable.
Something to note, however, is that this is a change not only from the norm, but also from how people like it here. While they might not necessarily know how it is elsewhere, many Azerbaijani women actually like how their life works here. I’d say that’s probably true for the majority of women. Even though I want to see more women taking control of their lives, improving their educational opportunities and other things, many women are much more comfortable doing their housework and facilitating family life. Even the Azerbaijani women we work with for language classes and other stuff with the Peace Corps, despite their seemingly Westernized attitudes and clothes and personalities, often prefer the home life of the typical Azerbaijani woman. It will be interesting over the next few years to see how this changes, if at all, due to more exposure to western ideas and values.
So far, things have vacillated between improvements and detractions in this tiniest of revolutions. I’ve gotten to the point where my host mom doesn’t yell at me when I do the breakfast for myself (it’s not difficult–tea, coffee, bread, cheese, butter…sometimes some fruit). Before, she told me that I had to wake her up when I got up so that she could do it for me, but we’ve moved beyond that now. It was difficult because I didn’t want to wake her up, since she had to get up earlier for my brother and sister who have to go to school a lot earlier than I do (their school is far away).
However, I still don’t get free reign over the tea pot. If anyone is around (mom usually is), I’m being told to sit down and wait. And Sevinj still freaks out and runs for the neighbor-lady when I want to do it myself. She’ll probably make a great housewife for some lucky Azerbaijani man.
Living in Sumqayit, however, means that I’m living with a family that is probably slightly more “liberal” than your typical Azerbaijani family. Once we move out to the regions, to our permanent sites, things most certainly will change.