last saturday was a beautiful day. the sun was out, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it was warm enough to wander around outside without a coat. that morning my sitemates and i helped Bev, our amazing 76 year old pcv in ming...this lady is hilarious and great, move to her new apartment. unfortunately, bev had a bat infestation problem at her old apt and was told to move right away. lucky for bev, she found one in a great location.
later in the day, i decided it was too beautiful to stay hidden inside. i decided to go running in the afternoon for the first time while in azerbaijan. generally, PC asks PCVs to only run during the morning in order to minimize the attention we draw to ourselves. But, i know that the road i run on is pretty deserted and my neighborhood relatively safe. So, i went running...and it was amazing. first of all, i got to run in a t-shirt. i think that's an AZ first for me. Secondly, my body is used to running in the afternoons and not the mornings and so i experienced this amazing sense of de ja vu. i felt like i was in the united states during spring...and this made me feel, how do i put it...at home.
a couple of other funny things happened too. a bunch of boys decided to run with me. of course they didn't last that long, but it was funny while it lasted. also, instead of staring at me in amazement, almost every kid i pass now asks me "hara gedirsen?" (where are you going?). so, while running with these three boys they kept asking me where i was going until finally one of them asked "idman?" Bingo! Idman uchun (for sport). even this morning a little girl asked me if i was running to the store and now i have my canned fast azeri response: "I..D..M..A..N...saq ol!"
when i run i make a gigantic loop (i run to a dead end and back). On my way back, i passed two girls for the second time. When they saw me coming, they too decided to try running. Unlike the younger boys before, these girls tried running ahead of me. They got tired, walked a little, and then kept running again. This really pleased me. I've started to think i'm valuable to azerbaijani society just because i'm weird and different, and not necessarily because of the projects i work on. this is not because i think my american customs and idiosyncrasies are right and azerbaijani habits wrong, but because i introduce the new and the different. in order for any two groups of people to get along, they need to learn to accept basic differences. otherwise, we'll all be at each others' throats. tolerance is a value, but it is also learned. people need to be exposed to what is foreign in order to grow comfortable with it. although it can be difficult for me to be treated like every little thing i do is weird, being weird is probably the most important thing i can do right now. So, despite much appreciated PC advice regarding cultural integration, right now i'm experimenting with just being myself. cautiously myself anyways. i don't pretend to be in NYC, that would be ridiculous.