Recently I got a ride home from the father of one of my teachers. It wasn't the first time someone has offered me a ride or gone out of their way to help me.
This particular man is a gentleman about my age, and has worked as a translator at the Astara border crossing to Iran. His daughter Shalala is becoming my best English teacher because it is only her second year of teaching and she is eager to become a good teacher.
As I got out of his car he emphasized, "please call me for anything you need at all," and added, "Consider me your brother as I think of you as my sister." To me this has great meaning in this culture because men's role is to protect women. Even young boys are expected to look after their older sisters at school and through out their lives. Essentially he was offering to look after me as he would a sister.
Earlier that day two young boys in the photo shop assisted me promptly. Usually men get waited on in stores before women. I could be standing at the counter, but if a man comes into a shop after me he gets waited on first. But this time the boys in the shop recognized me from school and printed a document I needed for school first.
Often when I am riding in a marsrutka, people who recognize me will pay my fare. Sometimes I don't realize this until I am getting off and the driver indicates that someone already paid for me. Other times I am waiting for a marsrutka, and a driver will stop their car and open the passenger door for me to ride in the back seat. Several times this has been people I hardly recognize. I always feel safe.
The mother of my student Georgie has twice sent him over with plov (rice pilaf) and roast chicken for my dinner. During recent hot weather he has also brought me a carton of ice cream.
It is just those little things that make me smile at how I am seen here. First of all being older is a definite asset. After I started riding my bicycle to and from school, I could hear my name Peggy Hanum spoken as I rode past houses and stores. Little boys want to race me on their bikes, but I draw the line there. No way!
Here's a photo of Afat, an English teacher at another school. We get together once a week to practice our foreign languages. By the way, she only wears the scarf when she walks outside. This one is particularly lovely.