It was All Innocent, I Swear

Naxcivan Travel Blog

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One of the hardest things to get used to here is how something very innocent in the US is considered something entirely different here.

I was leaving the university yesterday when one of my students was leaving with one of her friends.  I am pretty sure this student, who I will call S. to protect her identity, has a crush on me.  This is one thing that I will say that I do like about this area is that most people judge an individual based upon who they are as opposed with what they may own or their outward appearance.  I will openly admit that I am no Brad Pitt and far from it.  I am probably closer to Gilbert Godfrey in my physical appearance.  Granted, I do seem rich in comparison to most people who live here, but I try not flaunt my salary or my possessions other than my MacBook Pro, but I use that all of the time in class.  All I try to do is teach, listen to my students, learn about their culture and be nice.  I seem to have a lot of female students who have crushes on me.  A friend told me that it was because I am very nice and polite, but I also know that it helps to be the only American living in Naxcivan.  

S. is the fair maiden of Naxcivan.  She is the one girl at the university that every guy seems to like.  Usually, some guy will tell me that there is a girl in my second course whom they like.  I merely ask is it is S.  They all act shocked like I know something or their affections for her are so overt that is noticable to everyone.  I think she could pass for Angelina Jolie’s younger sister or perhaps cousin.  On the other hand, she is very sweet and kind.   While she does not publicly broadcast her good deeds, she has told me about how she helps elderly women who have no family to tend to them in strict confidence.  She also admitted to buying them food.  When I tried to contribute 10 manats for additional nutritional substance for these ladies, she refused to take my money.   I tried the argument of “I can’t help out my 94 year old grandmother, so take my manats” and “so, what you’re saying my money is not good enough” to no avail.   I eventually wadded up the money and shoved it into her purse, telling her it was in her purse and there were no givebacks.

For S., with her beauty and kindness comes a price.  Guys follow her wherever she goes.  It is creepy.  They wait for her at the entranceway to the university.  They wait for her at the bottom of the stairs as she ascends to her classes.  They wait for her at the top of the stairs.  They wait for her at the end of the day.  Each time, they follow her rarely saying anything.  In the West, we call it stalking and the police are called.  Here, nothing is done.

As S., her friend and I walked down the pathway of the university; we are followed by a bevy of her admirers.  We ignore them and just talk.  We talked about her creating a conference on Nagorno-Karabakh, an area of Azerbaijan that is currently under Armenia control and her hometown.  She smiled and told me, “Before you came here, I felt like I was in the dark and could not find my way out.”

I replied, “You had it within you all of the time, all I did was light a candle.”

Her smile grew bigger and she said, “Yes, but you were the only one who did.  Everyone else just tells me they will take care of everything.  You are the only one who has ever tried to help me.  I think God sent you here to help me.”

When we reached the road that runs in front of the university, S.’s friend has to go one way to home. and we have to take a different route.  We continued talking and strolling for about 300 meters.  I saw her shivering as the temperature is dropping here quickly.  I offered her my coat, but she refused.  We reached the area where her apartment building is located.  I bidded her farewell and continued home.

Today one of my male students told me that he heard I had a female in my apartment the previous evening.  While there are some males in all countries that get upset with foreigners dating their women, here it is intense.  Naxcivanian women are expected to marry only Azerbaijani men.  While it is not written in stone, it has been clearly stated to me by almost every guy I have met here who knows any English.  Furthermore, if I did have a woman in my apartment, my neighbors could call the police.  It is very difficult to be a bachelor here.  Knowing that I have been the subject of many false rumors since coming here, I was interested in finding out more and trying to put an end to this one.    

I tell this student that there was no woman in my apartment.  He asks if I was sure.  I respond that my apartment is pretty small and I think that I would know if a woman was present unless she was hiding underneath my bed.  Thinking about it, they say that you will always find Miss Right when you are not looking for her.  In my case, the only time I am not looking for my dream-girl is when I am sleeping.  I am disappointed that this woman, who some now believe was present in my apartment and must have been obviously hiding under my bed, did not wake me up to tell me she was present. 

He further inquired about my whereabouts the previous day.  I am getting used to this routine.  I told him that after the university, I went home, changed, went to the gym, came home, showered, graded papers, and slept.  He dug for further information and I told him about walking S. to her apartment.  Then, I explained the situation and tell him that if anyone wants any information on me, all they have to do is ask.  There is no reason to spread falsehoods about me.

I found out later from a friend that a man and a woman walking together is a big deal here.  It is a sign of courtship.  I did not know.  I thought I was being a gentleman by walking a student home when some scary guys were following her.  It is obvious that this rumor involves her too.

I am not so concerned about another rumor being spread about me.  So far I have been accused of being a spy and a forward observer for an eventual US invasion of Iran.  This one might get me a stern lecture.  On the other hand, I am concerned for S.  A rumor like this could honestly destroy her life and bring shame to her family.  Unmarried, non-virgin women are considered harlots here and they and their family are ostracized.  I have been told no decent Naxcivanian man would ever marry a non-virgin.   I am worried for her.

trixieSpot914 says:

then.. if you like her that much as i can feel with your words about her, then go ahead & court her.. you are a bachelor, ain't you? it's about time you get married anyway & have wonderful babies!!:)
Posted on: Aug 23, 2008
IceTea says:
The dream girl part was, again, very funny. :)
You really got some kind of a position there.
It's hard to be a woman in a male dominated land.
In this worlds education is a bless and at the same time a curse.
Posted on: Apr 09, 2008
nsg007 says:
wow! great writing.
Posted on: Jan 19, 2008
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