May 20, 2009

Breaking Down Gender Barriers

After the AIDS Awareness Program Jill accompanied the kids to visit the mass grave site.

Amy, myself, and the ever classy Julia(pictured in the middle) who was visiting from Siyazan decided to go for ice-cream and push the gender barriers a little by visiting one of the nicer çayxana(chai hhana)= tea houses.

Gender roles are fairly well set. Women stay home, cook, clean, don't talk to men outside their family, speak when spoken to, never drink alcohol(when men can see) or smoke cigarettes. To violate any of these rules is to put a big sticker on your chest that says "!PROSTITUTE!".... Perhaps I exaggerate, but not much.

Tea houses here tend to be dingy little places where men go after work to drink tea, smoke, play dominoes or nerd, which is a form of noisy backgammon, and just relax. Some teahouses though are very nice. They may have cake or other small food items or have picnic tables outside in the sun. Here in Guba we have a very nice looking teahouse next to the fountain in the middle of our main park between the main mosque and the Culture House.

We've never seen any women there but this is a tourist town with many of Baku's rich & famous coming every summer and we felt this might be the right time to push the boundry a little bit. To show people that just because your a woman and at a tea house doesn't make you a "bad girl". Afterall, its quite common in Baku and other Muslim countries and over the last couple years the attitude in the regions has been slowly shifting towards being slightly less rigid in these matters.

So here they are. Another crack in the cultural walls boxing women in. Julia & Amy sitting in the park at the teahouse waiting for our tea to come. And the nice thing was nobody really seemed to bat an eye about it. We didnt get anymore stares from the local folk than we get everyday here. The tea came, we drank, relaxed, talked, enjoyed the sun, laughed at the boys who were dunking there heads into the fountain with the green water, it was great!....until that great bane of tea drinking hit - the need to pee. Don't know how they do it but Ive never seen a tea house with a toilet. This place in the middle of the park was no exception.

Final note. One of the little charms you can only find in Quba are these little stones painted like mushrooms. There everywhere in Quba, sprouting in corners, nooks, streetsides and gardens like...well, like mushrooms. Quba is the only city in the country to have this. I'll write more about them later & the "crazy" man responsible.

1 comment:

alexis said...

the ming ladies play scrabble at a chayxana every week.