A Healthy Obsession?
If you’ve been ill in Azerbaijan, you’ve been given the Azerbaijani treatment, including all the worry and concern that comes with being sick. One of the more striking features of spending time with Azerbaijanis is that if you have anything that hurts or you’re feeling sick, the whole world might, in fact, be stopping because of it. Telling someone that you are xəstə will elicit a strong reaction, blaming it on the weather or the fact that you showered and left the house on the same day or that you haven’t drunk enough tea. Luckily, cold season is basically over, with the end of winter; yet, the obsessive concern for health continues.
If you’ve been lucky enough not to become sick, life is still permeated with concern about health. When we celebrated Hiba’s birthday more than a month ago everyone at the AZETA celebration expressed their wishes for Hiba, and by far the most important wish was that she live a healthy life. Other wishes fell in, like a long life, many kids, a good husband, many riches, but everyone was stressing the good health. It was strange how much emphasis came through that one wish. Beyond that, concern for health weaves into everyday conversation, such as the words for thank you being sağ olun, and that pairs with salamat qalın (stay healthy), to be among the most prominent farewells.
When we’re in America, certainly we toast to your health and we always want people to be well, but the emphasis here is almost over-the-top, which makes me think there is more to this than just caring about being healthy. I can only think that in the past, health has been something more elusive. Perhaps at a time when the gas stove wasn’t heating the house and it was hard to come by hot water for bathing, staying healthy may have been a lot harder. And maybe during the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the continued collapse of basic infrastructure since, it may have been even harder to maintain good health because of the difficulties of getting clean water and staying warm. What else could it be? I can only imagine that these notable lacks couple with the dearth of basic medical knowledge to create a strong insecurity about everyone’s health.
Interestingly, however, without the basic modern medical knowledge we profess in America, they’ve come up with their own folk remedies and practices that use a great deal of the local resources like garlic and raspberries and honey. And they might include an ultra-violet light, too. AZERB.com has a rather sober look at what’s going on health-wise in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan International has a great article from back in 1995 about the various folk remedies you might find in area. While I like the idea of using folks remedies, I still can’t quite accept the “wrap-it-up” method that is ubiquitous among the population. Your stomachache? Wrap a scarf around it. Headache? Ditto. Same for any affliction. Wrap it up.