Be Careful With Shorts
Eli and I have a situation, as it were. We know about the difference in cultures between Americans and Azerbaijanis, and we’re learning more about the inflexibility of that relationship. Americans in America will probably find this situation a little ridiculous or funny. Americans in Azerbaijan will be able to sympathize. And us two Americans, Eli and me, are stuck in the middle of it.
Recently, we’ve been giving profuse thanks for the respite from the scorching weather. For about two-plus months there, we were enduring 90s and 100s daily, no clouds or rain to provide relief. As we don’t have air conditioning, we’ve had the fans going constantly, for as long as the electricity stays on. Since we’re also in a bachelor-pad type situation, we’ve taken liberties to enforce a uniform of just shorts when it’s hot, shirt optional. Not anything scandalous, mind you. However, this seems to have set off our next-door neighbor, Həsən. Over the last month or so, he’s been coming over to complain about us wearing shorts in the yard. Not sure why, but usually he’s just complaining about Eli. What this means is that he and his family are looking down from their house into our yard as we’re passing through it.
What’s happening here? It turns out that Həsən has a wife and a few daughters, and it’s probably the case that he doesn’t like that there are a couple strapping young men about in shorts next door, causing undue stress from the novelty of foreigners wearing shorts, showing a bit more skin than your standard Azeri. He’s also probably a little confused as to why we have so many guests. Eli has put the house on couchsurfing.org and we also have Peace Corps Volunteers rolling through fairly frequently. All these new faces are probably a little disconcerting.
After discussing the situation with various friends and colleagues around town, the general feel is that Həsən is acting a little crazy, he and his family shouldn’t be looking in our yard, and that we should be able do as we like within the confines of our walls. It’s also well-known that it’s pretty standard for Azeri men to be shirtless in their own home when it’s hot like this. Shorts might be a little iffy. So it seems that we have public opinion on our side. Unfortunately, public opinion doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that Həsən is the guy who collects our rent, and he’s probably good friends with the house owner, Nizami, who lives in Bakı. Apparently, Nizami will be coming down tomorrow night, and there will be some sort of showdown. We’re expecting either to get backed up by Nizami or booted from the house. Or maybe we’ll try to put up a tarp so that Həsən and his family aren’t tempted to peek into our yard. Exciting, huh?