the other day i was supposed to go with my host organization to a neighboring city, but they canceled on me at the last minute. as a result, i had a whole day of nothingness ahead of me. or so i thought. in pc azerbaijan, you end up working even when you think you can get away with hiding in your apartment all day long.
during the morning i was sitting in my pjs when one of my work colleagues decided to ask me a question via skype chat. he said, "i am chattin in chatroom with girl. girl asked me if i am hot. in azeri hot means isti. is she asking about room temperature?" well, this colleague of mine is an older married man with children...so this is a slightly uncomfortable subject for me to explain, but i explained it none the less. to me, this qualifies as "work".
next, i'm still at home in my pjs. i should mention i ran the day earlier but failed to shower. as a result i was looking particularly classy. my neighbors decided to come over for a surprise visit. i had just returned from india and my stuff was everywhere, but i could not turn away my neighbors. Consequently, two older women and two children came into my apartment. the women immediately describe their concern over an assumed inability to cook on my part. meanwhile, the kids are running around my apartment looking through EVERYTHING i own. everything. to destract them all i decided to entertain them with pictures from india. this worked out rather well, but the daughter (who is actually very sweet and bright) kept coming up to me and asking me to explain everything in my apt. eventually, she picks up a tampon and asks me what it is. i know this subject is taboo in azerbaijan, so i look to the mother to explain. surprisingly, the mother is also confused.
the mother asks "tampon" (same word)? i say "yes". Then she asks something like: "what is this for?" or "how do you use it?" Ummmm, i'm not sure about the language for this so i say..."when blood comes" or something of the sort. finally, we get to the heart of the matter: how could I, an unmarried woman, use a tampon? After all, it might break my hymen and if my hymen gets broken before marriage, then maybe i will never find a man to marry me. In fact, this same fear drives many women to avoid playing sports: fear of breaking the hymen. Furthermore, some women take a small razor into the bedroom with them during their first night of sex with their newly wed husband in order to ensure the appearance of a hymen breaking (the cut themselves to create blood).
I tried explaining that in the US women don't worry about this at all. That men don't care if our hymen is broken. Well...this causes the woman to ask me if I am a virgin. Of course I say yes. I cannot trust her not to spread rumors in my community. I do not know her well yet. I also consider this "work".
A couple hours later I am on my way to watch a movie at Laura's place (my sitemate). During my walk I am approached by a different neighbor. We are walking in the same direction for quite some time. As a result we begin discussing religion and religious wars. At least I tried to discuss this. My language only goes so far.
Anyhow, this is just a day in the life. Sometimes it is hard to get across how I work every day...even if I'm not working at all.