Saturday, April 7, 2012

Toys have their own personalities!

I've been invited to 6 or 7 toys (weddings) since I arrived in Azerbaijan in Sept. 2010. Last night (April 7th), I attended the toy for the daughter of my English teacher Irada. I'm starting to notice that not every toy is the same. In fact this one had the additional intrigue of including my school's director Naila after it became known last week that she has been ousted from her job! Naila and Mother-of-the-Bride Irada were classmates years ago, so that friendship meant Naila was seated with family and friends of the bride. She did not sit with the other teachers. There has been much talk in the teachers' room but my reliable source told me that she had been given a warning already last September. (That issue requires a separate blog.)

At other toys, I've been seated with friends of the couple, but last night I was seated at one of the many tables for teachers. That was the first thing that I noticed was different - the teachers' tables were not up close to the couple's throne. Then the family and friends of the couple walked into the room ahead of the bride and groom - women and men came in separately of course. Also notable to me was the fashion worn by many of the women relatives - and I don't mean 6 inch heels, but stylish, non-black dresses! 

After the grand entrance by the bride and groom, they stood together for a few brief words from their parents, but there was no ceremonial cutting of a red ribbon around the bride's waist. The muscians included a fiddler and the music was a mix of mugam (traditional) and some popular songs. I did chuckle to myself that the musicians were dressed alike in plaid western-style shirts with elbow patches.

The above photo shows the lovely couple Huseyn and Leyla with Irada standing next to her daughter. English teacher Mehpara, best friend of Irada, is standing next to the groom. I'd never seen either of my teachers with their hair down.

The food was similar to every toy I've been to. Individual loaves of bread, bottles of  juice and water on the table, mimosa and capital salads, roast chicken, cucumbers and tomatoes, cooked beef, and platters of kebobs followed by a plate of plain plov with a dish of toppings. I sat with the older women teachers and this was the first time they were snobbish enough to not touch the plov. I guess it didn't meet their standards. I was the only one who thoroughly enjoyed the grilled lamb chops - also a first for me.

 Also a first (for me) at this toy were the male and female teachers dancing together. Well, not really together, but at the same time in separate dancing circles. That was thoroughly enjoyable, but alas I had no one use my camera to get even one photo of me with my school's teachers. There was a video camera taping me, so I'm sure I'm on the wedding video to be played over and over again in the future.

It was also good to see my first counterpart Qafur Muellim who had been forced to retire due to his age. Since I came with my next door neighbor/teacher, I also agreed to leave with her early. That meant missing the balloon drop and wedding cake. For some reason, I was really hungry for ice cream when I got home, but that season doesn't start here until after May 1st.

I'll have a separate picasa album of the many other photos I took. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Building boom in Masalli

I took some photos when I first arrived in Masalli a year ago, so it's interesting to see dramatic changes in the streets and shops in this town. I first started recording photos of the wonderful tandir bread shop located near my former host family's apartment. I was able to look down on the shop from Sally's balcony for the first shot. The second photo was taken in January when a small sign was surrounded by empty store fronts. On March 30th I climbed through construction scaffolding (bottom photo) to discover new ovens and many women working again.

A long stretch of the main street in Masalli, Heydar Aliyev Prospektus, looks very similar to the photo above. Many small shops were demolished, and none - except the bread shop - have re-opened.

Masalli also renovated a former community building that was located next to the Cultural Center. Gone is the squared-off style of the soviet era, and a new facade has arching windows similar to the nearby Cultural Center. It will now be a youth center with meeting rooms, a gallery and auditorium.

Two weeks ago, the President of Azerbaijan visited the new youth center, new telecom building, and the new green house which is located a stone's throw from my house. The road he traveled on was spruced up as well as any buildings along the route. Even the local garbage burner was demolished, fences put up and trees planted. Here is an earlier photo of an abandoned building plus the photo of how it looked when the President went past it.