Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day of Solidarity of Azerbaijanis and Happy New Year!!!

31st of December is not only the day when we greet the New Year but also the day when the day of Solidarity of Azerbaijanis is celebrated.

Azerbaijan historically always has been and continues to be located on cross roads, possess natural resources and exit to sea - these have always been a blessing and a curse...In order to occupy the land physically and politically one of the easiest ways was/is “to divide and rule” - famous old saying that proves to be true for as long as the humanity exists. I think this saying had been/is heavily “practiced” in Azerbaijan and became one of the reasons why something very common and natural among other nations is unfortunately quite rare among my fellow citizens and compatriots or Azerbaijanis that reside elsewhere. These are natural respect, compassion, sympathy, support and solidarity with each other. I am not against globalization and I believe into internationalism. But I also think that sayings “charity begins at home” or “self likes itself best” and “East or West home is best” are still very true...Therefore I really hope that people that think, believe and know that they are Azerbaijanis would understand hopefully sooner rather then later that this must mean sympathy or at the very least respect to other Azerbaijanis and SOLIDARITY by default.

Bayramımız mübarək olsun, əziz Azərbaycanlılar! Arzu edirəm ki, biz doğrudan da həmrəy olaq. Biz özümüzə və bir birimizə hörmət etməsək, heç bir millət və dövlət bizə heç vaxt hörmət etməyəcək!!!

My dear readers, thank you very much for visiting my blog, reading my thoughts, sharing your thoughts with me and supporting me. Happy New year to you and your dear ones! May year 2009 bring good health, love, joy, prosperity and peace!

With lots of love from Azerbaijan,

Ayten :)

Above photo is the courtesy of Hikmet Sadiqov. This is how the Independence Square in front of the Government House in Baku looks currently. Hikmet, thank you very much for great photo!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Unknown Azerbaijan...Food...Plov...

Today I am writing about food…

It is a festive season and people in Azerbaijan who are very sensitive and attentive to subject of food will be even more engaged with this matter on New Year holidays. I must say that food is not something that is regarded not important in Azerbaijan…vice versa this is an essential part of culture.

Plov or aş (ash) is considered as “süfrənin şahı” meaning “shah (king) of local cuisine” in Azerbaijan. Plov is cooked for respected guests to show respect and high sympathy and during special occasions. Azerbaijan has many types of plov depending on its geographical regions. I am more acquainted with Sheki plovs :) which on its own has many types of plov depending on seasons of year…Currently in winter we have a season of chestnuts and nuts therefore plov is served with meat with chestnuts; or chicken. Last time we had plov at home we also stuffed chicken with nuts; this stuffing is traditional in south of Azerbaijan, Lenkoran area and stuffing is called “ləvəngi” (levengi). In my previous life I must have been from that part of Azerbaijan because I love “ləvəngi” :) Plovs also are supposed to have “qazmaq” that is a bottom crispy layer of the dish.

This is a very ignorant and hasty post about plov. I hope to be able to go back from time to time and elaborate on this subject :) In the meantime you can visit an excellent website on Azerbaijani cuisine and overall great food here and read more about plov and not only.


Chichen stuffed with levengi...

Raisins and dried apricot served with plov as well...

Meat with chestnuts...

Plov covered with qazmaq

Have superb holidays!!!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Unknown Azerbaijan...Azerbaijan University of Languages...Ismikhan Rahimov and other distinctive teachers...

Before December is over there is a subject that I also need to touch upon...
15 years ago, back in December 1993 I was among the students who got enrolled to department of linguistics of Azerbaijan State University of Languages to become a translator/interpreter.

I must also go back and say that in Soviet times it was virtually impossible to get enrolled to this and many other universities in Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan without paying substantial amounts of money unofficially of course. After repeat declaration of independence in 1991 (initial one happened in 1918) one of the first and best things that happened in Azerbaijan was the transfer to written test system of university exams which enabled people to get enrolled to universities they wished without having to bribe anyone. In 1995 it was the second year when this new system was working and I was one of citizens to benefit from it. The studies started weirdly in December because the country had no capacity to check the results internally and test results had to go to Turkey (I think) to be checked and shipped back. Nowadays after 15 years results are known the same day and future students are able to check the results on TV with live announcements...

There have been very many teachers that I met on my path that I am very grateful to; unfortunately I won't be able to remember the names of each of them. Among others I have had amazing phonetics teacher Ashraf muellim, grammar teacher Remziye xanim (if I am not mistaken), Gilinckhan muellim on linguistics and two more amazing and distinctive people/teachers that I was blessed to meet. One of these teachers who not only taught English but became a mentor and close friend to me is Ragsana Mammadova who is now the Executive Director of Azerbaijan English Teachers' Association.


Ismikhan Rahimov who unfortunately passed away now. It is not right and possible to write about Ismikhan muellim in just one post. He has been the person that fought for his native Azerbaijani language against the Soviet regime and who loved and knew Shakespeare’s English without ever traveling to any English speaking country (I think). Although he spent years in Siberia for nothing he still continued to love people, life and of course his native and English languages. Thankfully until his last day he was teaching students and anyone who was eager to learn...without expecting too much appreciation from anyone...Allah rəhmət eləsin (Rest in peace)...

Ismikhan Rahimov with his wife Zarida xanim and grandson in Baku, 1997. Photo: Betty Blair

I must say that nowadays when I hear comments about corruption and low standards in Azeri universities I emotionally refuse to accept that this applies to each and all because that was not and I am sure is not true for many committed professionals that are spending their life teaching those who want to learn and grow and develop. And I am thankful to them. Thank you!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Movie review: Changeling

I watched Clint Eastwood's Changeling movie. It is a harsh and shocking movie about a true story. Although it is hard to watch I think everyone should watch it.

The movie not only made me paranoiac at least for awhile but also made me question: “Why some people are cruel?...why do some people have urge to physical aggression to hit, beat or even kill; or irritate, stress, piss off, humiliate, hurt, harass, suppress – psychological aggression. Animals kill each other to survive. What stands behind human aggression? Why can’t we coexist…just…especially if one has power over the other…

Changeling doesn’t have answers. It presents one more case of outrageous aggression both psycho and physical.

Movie producers have a unique opportunity to show us, the viewers, what we might not always want to see and acknowledge. It is very remarkable that Clint Eastwood and actors including John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie decided to do this movie together. Thank you.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.
(Saeb-e-Tabrizi, translated from Farsi by Dr Josephine Davis)

Under the influence of Khaled Hosseini’s first book, The Kite Runner, I decided to read his second novel as I was interested in finding out if it was as strong as his previous book.

If The Kite Runner filled my soul with sadness and grief, A Thousand Splendid Suns also made me feel anger and outrage.

There are those people who just observe the story while reading and those who dive into the story and feel all the happiness or tragedy of the book’s characters. I belong to this second category. As a daughter, I could understand how the betrayal of a father would feel. As a woman, I could imagine what it would be like to be punched by my husband or forbidden to leave the house without him and to be prevented from studying or working. As a mother, I could imagine how it would feel to have a caesarian without anaesthetic or to be obliged, due to war and hunger, to leave one of my children in an orphanage.

A recurring thought I had while reading the book was “God forbid!” The despair of the characters’ situations, especially those of the women, felt like a “lump of anger and sorrow” in my throat, as we say here in Azerbaijan.
It is admirable how in one book the author touches upon history, politics, people and countries, culture, customs, cuisine, religion, parenthood, childhood, maternity, betrayal, freedom, loyalty, patriotism, humanity and love of course. Different subjects intertwine harmoniously, making the reader go through all kinds of emotions and feelings.
The book has a specific and distinctive way of raising awareness about the author’s country, Afghanistan. One hopes and wants to believe that, in some way, this actually helps the people living there.
On a sunny day, watching kids play, it is difficult even to imagine that somewhere else kids grow up thinking that war and daily struggle are the norm.
The book doesn’t fit in with the festive Christmas season so probably it’s best to read it either before or after the holidays. It is one of those books that help you to appreciate and cherish whatever good things you possess and to not take comfort and convenience for granted, but instead remember that there are people somewhere close who might need compassion, help, sympathy or even rescue.
Although both of Khaled Hosseini’s books have similar goals, they are put forward through two different stories that are both astonishing and unforgettable.
P.S. My review on "The Kite Runner" is available here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Qurban (Gurban) Bayram

This post is a bit outdated, sorry, but I thought I’d still write...

I try not to write about religion or politics on my blog but now and then I make exceptions...

Although I don’t pray in a “proper” way and don’t do many other things that Muslims are supposed to do slaughtering a sheep once a year in the name of Allah and dividing it and sharing it with people around personally to me means/feels like a way to show my gratefulness to God. We all know the parable where the tradition takes its roots from and I also believe that this is also a respectful cause when at least once a year people make a pause and remember to share.
While travelling I hear different people commenting on different traditions. My personal opinion is that most traditions have deep meaning in them and without studying them no criticism and most of all no irony should take place and tolerance and respect would be ideal actually.
Tradition says that from each slaughtered sheep dishes must be prepared/cooked in seven homes (I think, excuse my ignorance please). People distribute “pay”s (piece to each household, a kilo or so each), congratulate each other with “Qurban Bayram” (Holiday of Sacrifice in Azeri) and wish to each other “Allah qurbanınızı qəbul etsin” “Let Allah accept your sacrifice”.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Unknown Azerbaijan...Qara Qarayev..."Seven beauties" ballet

There are moments in life when a person feels proud of belonging to this or other country/nation. I (and I think everyone else present) felt like this last Saturday at premiere of Qara Qarayev's (Kara Karayev) ballet "Seven beauties". Previous staging that I never saw was said to be unable to go in line with richness and perfection of ballet's music. This year's performance with superbly redone costumes and decor, invited foreign producers and more effort, support of Ministry of Culture and Tourism was able to convey visually the beauty of the music. Qara Qarayev's music and up-to-date performance brought the viewers to state of euphoria, joy and pride. At the end of the performance when the viewers were generously applauding in order to express their gratitude and appreciation to everyone involved from ballet dancers to costume designer, the conductor showed the orchestra score, Qara Qarayev's creation and everyone was applauding to Qara Qarayev then thanking for sharing with us his genius and leaving behind something eternal, music he had created.
P.S. Must see/listen ballet.