Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

A Lesson in Awkward Handshakes

with 2 comments

Awkward HandshakeFinally, something good came of all this TV watching.  I don’t know if it made an impression on any Azerbaijanis, but maybe someone, somewhere, is now commencing shorter handshakes.

Handshakes are a big deal her in Azerbaijan.  Everyone does it, the men especially.  It’s not uncommon at the credit union office for me to have to get up and shake someone’s hand at least a few times an hour.  Walking into the office in the morning is like a handshaking ritual, sacred and inviolable, observed by all comers.  I think it’s somewhat excessive.  Certainly a polite gesture, but here it’s over the top, and overdone.

Which is why I was overjoyed to see a TV program called Just For Laughs yesterday.  It looks like it’s taped in Canada, and is just a jolly mix of candid camera gags.  The gag most appropriate to the state of handshaking affairs in Azerbaijan just slayed me, because it teaches a lesson that Azerbaijanis need to learn: sometimes, a handshake can go on for too long.  The gag was set up with a man as a politician running for office, and he wanted to shake your hand and take your picture.  Once you thought this quick gig was over, he wouldn’t let go of your hand, no matter how hard you tried.  This is how Azerbaijanis sometimes shake hands.  They hold on for just too long, or they do something strange, like repeatedly, softly squeezing your hand.  It’s really awkward.  It should be accepted that a handshake lasts just a few seconds, and that there is no funny business.  Maybe I’m not adequately acculturating, but awkward handshakes, be they long-lasting or dead fish or whatever type, need to be excised from this population.


Written by Aaron

January 4, 2010 at 11:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Aaron:

    I am COO of Water Charity, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does water, sanitation, and public health projects worldwide. In July, 2009, we started our Appropriate Projects initiative to fund small water and sanitation projects very quickly. Applicants are limited to Peace Corps Volunteers, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and Peace Corps Response Volunteers.

    I am a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Bolivia ’66-’68), and am well aware of the difficulties Volunteers face in the field. Appropriate Projects is an addition to our regular Water Charity model that is allowing us to provide project resources to PCVs in the field immediately.

    Often there is that little project that must be done now (before the rains start, before school begins, or in response to a critical need), but there are no funds available. Traditional funding sources are cumbersome, and there are long forms, detailed requirements, limited resources, and long delays.

    PCVs working in water and sanitation usually have potential projects lined up. For those working in other program areas, there may be water components to their projects, or improvements needed where they work or teach.

    Sample projects may be: rainwater or spring catchments, handwashing stations, water systems, piping, tanks, pumps, latrines, wells, etc.

    We like to do the water and sanitation parts of projects for schools, clinics, and community centers. So, if you can get funding for the building and other stuff, we can help with things like the water supply, filters, sinks, plumbing, and drainage.

    We like to finish projects that have been started, and fix things that have ceased to function.

    We encourage follow-up projects that expand upon the successful completion of the first small project.

    If you have a project in mind, please fill out the application form. We want this to be easy for you, so we have developed a simple form that you can fill out in one sitting.

    If you have any questions about the appropriateness of your project, or you need some time to get it together, just let us know.

    We pre-fund projects, so you don’t have to wait around for donations to roll in.

    If you do not have a project that qualifies, please pass this message on to your fellow Volunteers who may have an interest. Finally, if this initiative resonates with you, please let others know what we are doing through your social networks, websites, and blogs.

    I look forward to hearing from you.



    Averill Strasser

    Appropriate Projects

    Water Charity

    Averill Strasser

    January 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm

  2. […] and in this post I talked about the importance of a good handshake.  Maybe this is why there are so many […]

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