The "new" place
When Jessica and I reached the driving age, we bought a very old Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. We called her Cici for short. She may have been the worst car I have ever owned, but she had style and character. Her nameplate had fallen off and she had a hula girl stuck to her dashboard and her AC didn’t work. She made Jessica and I independent though, and for that she still holds a place in my heart.
A few months ago (maybe a year ago) I wrote a post about my apartment in Azerbaijan. “The Money Pit” was home to Kate and I for 6 months. It was a real mess, but I loved that apartment the way a person loves their first POS car. It was my first time on my own, my first time in a place that wasn’t paid for by my parents or on university property. There were a lot of life lessons learned in that apartment. I learned how to be a small-time plumber, a big-time housekeeper and how to ventilate a hybrid apartment/oven in 1000 degree weather.
Alas, a crazy lady was our downfall, and Kate and I were forced to move. After collecting our next month’s rent, she asked for 50 AZN (manat, the Azeri currency) more than our normal rate of 100AZN/month. She told us that the rent would be going up by 50%, and Kate and I decided to start looking for a new place. As much as we loved our neighborhood (the free meals were endless), we couldn’t justify paying 50AZN more for a place that wasn’t worth 50AZN alone.
With that, we went on a search for a new place. We asked everyone we knew, and even reached out to people we didn’t know. When two single American girls ask for a new place, the questions are endless, but they usually are “You want to live alone?!”, “You don’t have a family here?!”, and the granddaddy of ‘em all, “Who will cook your food?!”. You see, for some reason nobody thinks we can cook here. So they always assume we have someone cooking and cleaning for us. I am here to say, we do it ourselves folks!
So even though we were VERY CLEAR about wanting to live alone and not with a xanim, we were shown many places with old ladies living in it. Sometimes in Azerbaijan, there are old ladies around who, for some reason, don’t have anyone living with them, and they get scared. They want someone to live with them to protect them. Apparently Kate and I look like two bad asses, because we were shown these houses. Either they were showing us the houses that no one else wanted (those women can be crotchety!) or they really didn’t believe we wanted to be by ourselves. Either way, we finally found our new place when a guy at the bazaar told us he knew someone who knew someone (it’s a mafia bazaar) and we could take a look at the place. Well, it was a huge house with a nice yard with persimmon, apricot and pomegranate trees in it. And a barking dog. So we asked when we could move in, and we packed our apartment up that day.
Our old landlady (I have mentioned she’s crazy, right?), heard wind that we were moving, and as we were getting ready, she came over to the neighborhood. She got up in our faces, yelling things we couldn’t understand, and making a huge scene only proper for Jerry Springer and the taxi guys at the bus stops. I caught “animals”, “didn’t give me my money” and “filthy” in the rant, but before we had a chance to respond, our neighbors were at our side, defending us from the crazy xanim from hell. In all the chaos and references to donkeys, it was touching to see our neighbors take up our battle when they didn’t even need to get involved. They went to the mattresses for us.
Anyways, we ended up at the new house without any other incidents. We have at the house internet, heat, hot water a stove and a big kitchen. It’s not dusty, it’s cool because of the awning over the porch, and we have two cribs just in case Kate and I want to start a family. And the beds are way more comfortable. The only problem is our landlady is right across the street. I will direct you to a post by my colleague Aaron McKean about landlords/ladies in Azerbaijan: http://aaronmckean.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/landlord-invasion/. In a nutshell, landlords have all the rights in Azerbaijan, it is still their house, and they can walk in any time they want. So our landlady, being very interested in us Americans, walks in all the time and inspects our cleaning and the way we live. No privacy.
This house has been the source of headaches and laughter. Kate and I had to share the living room and sleep on the floor for all of winter because our gas stove only heated one room. We have been able to plant a garden, but not able to grow anything. The landlady’s dog is kept in our backyard, but he barks ALL THE TIME and does not want to be patted. What’s the point in being a dog if you don’t want to be patted?
Our most recent excitement with the new place was that a family moved in next door. By next door, I mean in our compound, in the formerly closed off part of the house. We would be sharing a bathroom, shower room and yard with these new people and we were nervous.
The Peace Corps gods smiled upon us the day they moved that family into our house. The mother and father are about our age and they have two kids, a girl who is 6, Guller (pronounced gool-air), and a little boy of 4, Habil (prounounced Hab-eel). Guller is very smart, in a devious way. She has her brother follow her around all over the place, and when she gets bored with him, she gets rid of him by hanging ou with her mom (which Habil would never do) or get rid of him in more creative ways. One time she hid one of Habil’s toys on our porch and he was searching all over for it. When he asked his sister where it was, she said it was in the dog house and proceeded to go watch to see if her brother was eaten by the mean dog. I saved Habil from being an appetizer, but I saw something in Guller that day that I once saw in my big sister Lisa (go hide and I will find you). The boy Habil is a crack-up. He’ll do anything for a laugh and laugh at anything. He insists on being called “Habil Muellim” (Habil teacher) and conducts lessons daily in how to ride a tricycle (which he falls off of constantly). The parents give us stuff from their garden all the time, and the fruit on the trees is never-ending.
The “new” place is great. Kate and I are comfortable in our surroundings and have a house that stays under 95 degrees when the thermometer outside hits above 100. We get free fresh food, fun time with funny kids and have spaces to ourselves. However, we still go back to the old neighborhood to visit the xanims that stuck up for us a year ago and hang out with the neighborhood kids for old time’s sakes. While the new house is shiny and fun, the old house still holds a place in my heart. Like Cici.
First picture: The bathroom a our old place.
Second picture: Me all packed up and ready to go with all our worldly possessions.
Third picture: The kitchen at our new place.
Fourth picture: Habil Muellim playing soccer in our patio.