One of the biggest contributors or detractors to overall well-being here in Azerbaijan is the host family situation. As Volunteers, we’re required to stay with a host family for the months of training and then for the first four months at our permanent site. For some people, this can be a disaster. The stories of strange and unsavory behaviors on the part of the gracious hosts stretch from overbearing mothering to straight up robbery. In my group of PCVs alone, we’ve had money and clothes stolen by host families. Living in a generally poor society (GDP…non-Baku numbers), and a society that seems to believe all Americans are rich, incentives for hosting an American volunteer get sort of mangled in translation.
As I just posted about my host mother, my situation here has been relatively good. Life was comfortable, my host mom and host brother were great, I had meals and a place to sleep. And I genuinely built relationships.
But now, I’ve got to maintain the relationships without the proximity. I’ve decided to strike out on my own, into the dark, murky world of Soviet-style apartment buildings, an adventure that will probably include less plov and ləvəngi going forward. As far as I can tell, my new digs feature a fully-working shower room and toilet. The kitchen has gas, so I can cook on a stove, and I have, in addition to my bedroom, two more rooms that are now just taking up space. I may need to figure out how to use them effectively. I also need to buy food now, since the apartment didn’t come with any.