This One is for (Host) Mom
It’s actually about my host mother. I like to brag about her to other PCVs. While she still has some Azerbaijani mothering tendencies, somewhat overbearing, she is a spirit that bubbles over into your own. She has that laughter that erupts at the drop of a hat. While sporting that outgoing personality, she’s also a person filled with surprises.
The first thing to know is that my host mom is not ethnically Azerbaijani but is instead Talysh like the majority of the southern regions of Azerbaijan. In Lənkəran, the ratio is about 60-40 or 70-30 Talysh to Azerbaijani. In Lerik the population is basically 100% Talysh. I’m not sure what the connection is between my host mom’s heritage and her attitudes towards Azerbaijani society, but she has certainly expressed views different from the norm. I’m particularly curious about how being an ethnic minority in Azerbaijan affects views of nationalist political battles, such as the conflict with Armenia or the fall of the Soviet empire.
With my host mom specifically, however, I’ve been treated to a few gems that most certainly fall outside the spectrum of typical Azerbaijani mother views. The first is that she wants Miri to travel. She wants him to go to the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran, England, wherever. She’s said that it’s important that he travel, so that he gains perspective and uses his mind. She doesn’t want him sitting at home all the time. This definitely is different. Azerbaijani mothers always want their boys at home so they can give them tea and feed them. What would a boy do without his mother? The second was that she doesn’t want Miri to marry an Azerbaijani girl. She’s told me flat out that she doesn’t like Azerbaijani women. The way they talk and gossip, and how they just sit at home and work in the house. She wants him to marry a girl who works, a girl who’s smart and doesn’t just putter around the sitting room pouring tea.
The last thing is that there was a day last week that she made Italian food. Whatever she actually made doesn’t matter. The fact that she tried to make something that was from outside Azerbaijan at all was a serious breakdown of social barriers. She managed to put together a chicken dish that included spinach and cheese that actually tasted somewhat Italian. She said that she saw the people on TV making it, so she wrote down the recipe and did it up. I have a feeling we were the only family in Lənkəran eating Italian food that evening, or any evening.