I’m not supposed to tell you where I am, but I think I can tell you that I hang out in Lənkəran fairly often. I’ve been here more than a week already, and there’s a lot to like about Lənkəran. First, there’s my host family. My new brother, Mir Bağır, is 21, going on 22, and speaks rather good english. He’s got a few things to work on, but for someone who has never left Lənkəran, he’s doing very well. I don’t think this will help me learn Azerbaijani any faster. I just have to try an absorb it from my new host mother, Hökumə. She’s a sparkplug, always buzzing about and you never know when she’ll burst into a fit of laughter, though you can assume that it happens fairly frequently. We all hang out in the kitchen/dining/bathroom sink area of the house, which is the one room that stays warm all the time. It has the little stove that keeps our water hot for tea. Sometimes it’s refreshing to head to my bedroom, where I don’t really need it to be that warm–I can snuggle under the thick blankets they have for me.
My PST city, Sumqayıt, was okay, since it had the Xəzər Dənizi (Caspian Sea), and a nice Nizami Square. Lənkəran, however, raises the bar a few notches. Walking down Heydər Prospekti, you arrive at Heydər Parkı, the central park/square of the city. Here you can find a few nice-looking office buildings, and the city’s municipal government building. My organization’s office happens to be in one of the nice-looking office buildings. Unfortunately, when you get inside, you can see that the nice-looking part is really just a façade that they put over the building. My office isn’t bad, especially by Peace Corps standards, but it was interesting to note how easy it is to make something look real good.
Lənkəran also boasts a large Talysh population, and it turns out my host family is Talysh. The Talysh are an ethnic group that are generally found near the Talysh mountains, which lie just outside Lənkəran and run along the border between Iran and Azerbaijan. This also means that here you can buy special, extra comfy Talysh socks.
There are a few other perks to living in Lənkəran. First, it’s not usually a problem to have more fresh produce here for longer periods of time. We’re in the southern thumb, the Florida of Azerbaijan, and I hear that the bazar will usually have the things like tomatoes and cucumbers that won’t be available elsewhere. Prices may go up, but at least we have them. Also, we have an excellent soccer/football club here, Xəzər Lənkəran, that is the only Azerbaijani team to have played an international game here. They have a newish stadium, and this past fall they played Finland here. It was a huge deal. Team colors are green and white, and my to-do list now includes purchasing a sweet green-and-white Xəzər Lənkəran scarf. There’s a lot more to know about Lənkəran, but I’ll let it spill out in subsequent posts.