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sucking tea through sugar cubes

AZERBAIJAN | Sunday, 18 July 2010 | Views [1228]

I walk in the pouring rain, which brings a cavalcade of bad pop songs flooding into my brain. It belts down upon me with unleashed fury as I try to find shelter. I belt back, trying to rid myself of Belinda Carlisle, and stumble across a new Azeri friend; "where are you going? it's raining!" Perhaps he is unaware that I have seen rain before. Together we procure transport through Ilisu village, until he cries for Chai. From nowhere, we have a table of friends, a meal, familiar discussions of home, culture, and how I could possibly remain unmarried at such an age. We suck delicious tea through sugar cubes, or chase it with spoonfuls of white-cherry jam. Now THIS is how you drink tea, the Azeri way. The rain abides as Belinda Carlise fades to a place far far away. This chance encounter ends as I am directed along the road to Mamet and his apple orchard. Wedged dramatically between towering misty mountains forested with lush growth, it is a secret trapped inside the Garden of Eden.

Mamet is everyone's Grandfather. We laze in the orchard, eat from his restaurant and laugh the way grandfathers do. It is his grand-daughter's birthday, and I have the fortune, the blessing to be part of the family this night. They want me to eat not something, but everything. Mamet's apple orchard, his restaurant and humble rooms for passersby turn into a family home, as the eldest uncle recites poems, and stories of his youth. I squint trying to catch the Azeri words that I know, as Mamet interjects with random banter and cries from beyond the veil of vodka. A family friend is introduced as "Professor of Vodka", and a tale of how he lost his front teeth bear-hunting in Dagestan. He wants to come back to Australia with me. Naturally. I become part of the family photo shoot (a drowned lemur?) and while everyone chirps delight at the results, Mamet speaks his mind. A younger uncle translates "It is shit". I try again, Mamet squints a little at the result, pauses in grandfather slow-motion, raises his vodka and gives a cry of "ala".  I think he likes this one mainly because I look like a twat.

Family feasts in apple orchards and misty mountains.....sucking tea through lemon-flavoured sugar cubes and spoonfuls of jam.... welcome to Azerbaijan.


Tags: meeting locals


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