So about a couple of weeks ago, all I heard was "No Hannah, like this..." I think I might have mentioned before that Azerbaijani people already think something is wrong with me because I am older than 25 and am not married. (Lets not even bring in the fact when asked if I do want to get married I say in like 4 or 5 years- that puts me in my early 30s and they just can't imagine that. Then I put the icing on the cake when I say I am not sure if I want to have children - this in a culture where husbands can divorce their wives if they do have a child within the first year of marriage.) So needless to say they already think I am completely inadequate as a woman. Well, now my new host family (who I absolutely love!) thinks I am completely helpless, too.
It all started when I wanted to wash my clothes. I went outside with my host mom to start washing my clothes (no washing machine). Well, evidently I do not know the proper technique of hand washing. My host mom couldn't fathom that I didn't know how to hand wash well. Then, my five year neighbor came over and she said "No Hannah, like this..." and then proceeded to demonstrate the proper hand washing technique. I almost peed on myself I was laughing so hard, so was everyone else for that matter! You would think that is it right? But no, my incompetence keeps coming! I don't know how to hang clothes properly on the line either! My host mom was shocked and asked how do I dry my clothes in America - I responded we have machines to do it for us! Again, I could not stop dying laughing.
Then a few days later I was in the kitchen and my host mom and some neighbors were baking some traditional Azerbaijani sweets. I thought I would help out, I mean how hard can it be to put filling inside dough, close it and decorate it to make it look pretty. Evidently harder that it looks! I got the "No Hannah, like this..." But the like this part obviously didn't click so I got regulated to only putting the filling in and passing it on to someone to close and decorate. Then the next day my host mom again was cooking with friends, this time they were making grape leave dolma. I again offered to help and I started putting the meat in the grape leaves and wrapping it up and putting it in the pot. Evidently, I am not fit for that task either! I didn't wrap it up correctly, so again I got the "No Hannah, like this..." But it didn't click either. So this time I was regulated to pulling apart the grape leaves that were stuck together.
It may sound like they are being mean, but they aren't. A woman my age is supposed to know how to do stuff like this - the proper way! It is really quite funny and they and I find it very amusing! Being considered helpless does work in my favor though. My host mom had a big party at our house, about 20 people came over for dinner. After everyone left there was a giant pile of dishes. Of course I wanted to help clean up. I told my host mom that I could wash the dishes if she wanted. She turned and looked at me and said very seriously "Do you know how to wash dishes?" I held in the laughter, I didn't want to offend her, and seriously thought about saying no, I mean there were tons of dishes. But I couldn't in good conscience lie, so I said yes I do know how - I am not sure if she really believed me though!
My host mom keeps saying after two years I will be a really good Azerbaijani woman! That is after she teaches me how to cook, clean, and wash clothes properly! I mean she is shocked that my mother didn't teach me how to make home made jam or pickled vegetables or the proper technique for hand washing clothes! I told her we buy stuff like that or have machines to do it for us. My host mom here does not like to buy anything pre-made, everything - from drinks to jams - is home made. So I have my work cut out for me!