The First of Many Firsts
Living in Lənkəran for two years means that I have to establish that I like running. I went running in Azerbaijan last week for the first time. Going for a run is not something that Azerbaijanis do regularly, or ever. That being the case, I imagine that I’m a rather novel sight, buzzing down the road in my running gear, at 7 or 7:30 in the AM, and the taxi drivers watch as I go by. It’s also about the time that many of the students start walking to school with their mothers. It’s just starting to get light when I start out.
I’m not the first PCV to go running in Azerbaijan, but it certainly did surprise quite a few people on my first venture. The best was a taxi driver who was shining up his car a little bit, coming around the front of it when he saw me, and froze when he saw me coming towards him. His eyes got real big, but it seemed like he couldn’t move. As I went past, his stare followed me the whole way.
Since then, I’ve created two routes for myself. Previous PCVs have told me that they just run one route so that the people along the route get used to seeing them. We’ll see how two routes work. One route goes more into the city of Lənkəran, while the other runs up through my own village and through the two villages next to mine. And when I say village, I really mean Azerbaijan’s version of suburbs, which are a cross between farmland and America’s suburbs. Along both routes, the story is about the same, all mothers and their kids walking to school, and taxi drivers hanging out. There are also lots of chickens and a few cows usually wandering seemingly aimlessly through the streets.
The last part of my run is probably the most bizarre. After finishing, I usually stay outside the house to stretch a little bit, but my host mom is deathly afraid that I’ll get sick if I stay outside too long, so she makes me come inside and drinking a scalding hot cup of tea to make sure I stay warm. This is very kind of her, but for a guy who has just finished running, and is trying to cool down, the scalding hot cup of tea is not exactly what I’m looking for.