After a 40 minute ride in our Mercedes van, we arrived at Salmaz' parent's compound. Here, the compounds are surrounded by hedgerows and wire fences more frequently than by high stone walls. Within each compound is a good-sized house, a well, a sheep shed, a chicken coop, a small barn, and the animals and fowl housed in them.
Village Gullatapa Country House Yard
Daddy and Mama
We were welcomed by Salmaz' parents with tea in a very large room with windows along three sides and three or four sleeping room/parlors off it. At the end was a kitchen L where we were shown how to cook plov – the national dish or layers of rice and chicken. They use a hot plate for cooking and a large propane tank with a ring on top that is called an oven when translated to English. They put a large Dutch oven on top of the ring for baking and roasting.
After this demonstration, we walked through the village about 2 kilometers to Salmaz' husband's sister's home. On the way, we met some ladies getting off the little inter-village bus. They carried bundles, baskets, or boxes on their heads of products they had bought in a larger town.
Heading Home from Shopping
We also saw another woman washing bed linen in the river. The mattresses, quilts, and pillows are uncarded sheep fleece stuffed in cotton covers.
Washing Bed Linen
In this compound the grandparents (she was 58) lived with at least two adult children and their children. Here, we were shown how to make the traditional bread in the tandoori. The tandoori is a pottery cone with an open top and a small hole at the base and completely encased in a thick layer of mud and straw. (On the road, I had often seen cars with up to four tandoori on the roof and one on the trunk being delivered somewhere. Although they look like they should last forever, enough new ones must be needed to have seen so many being delivered somewhere.)
First she laid a fire with cow dung and wood on the floor of the tandoori. When the fire turned to embers, she washed the flattened dough with thin yogurt- and stuck it to the walls of the fire hot tandoori – all with her bare hands in the shed with a mud floor. After 15 minutes or so, she put on a tattered oven mitt and removed the baked loaves. She makes at least 10 loaves of bread every other day for the people in the compound.
Preparing the Tandoori
Bread on Tandoori Walls
After checking out her garden, we then sat down at a large outside table to a fine meal of fresh bread, homemade cheese and yogurt, and cucumbers and tomatoes direct from the garden.
Women of the Compound
Soon it was time to get a hug with cheek kiss from the women and a handshake from the women and walk to the next village. This was a six kilometer ( I am sure it was further!) on a stone road over the hills to visit another relative.
After about an hour on the road, we saw the village in the distance.
Village in the Distance
Some of the group straggled and struggled. Some of us walked ahead. Old Ladas would approach and wonder why some Americans were walking down the village road. We would gesture and smile that we were okay and an Azerbaijani was following us. At some point some of the stragglers refused to struggle more and Salmaz called her cousin to come and pick them up.
After almost two hours a car approached us, stopped crossways in the road in front of us, got out and crossed his arms in an X, and shook his head "No." It seemed we should go no further. Well, I was certainly puzzled. I walked back to find Salmaz. This was one of her cousins and she had called him to come and pick us up to take us to his house.
This was truly a village in the remote hills of Azerbaijan. People mined coal by hand and sold it. There were no stores. They had a fairly new school. In the home of our host lived several generations. It was the compound of a farmer, his son was a cabinet maker, one of the grandsons was the IT teacher at the school (however, they had no internet access.), and his wife was the English teacher. She was very excited to have visitors so that she could spend the afternoon speaking English. She wants desperately to "go to America," and even the aunties and mother-in-law asked me to help her get to America. She has never lived anywhere except in this compound and one other small village except for the years she was in university in a city about 40 kilometers away with a population of about 40,000. I know she is still dreaming that one of us will be able to help her and her husband get to America.
Surprise! More tea, tandoori bread, cucumbers and tomatoes with fresh butter and yogurt. Because of the coal the spring water tastes and smells like kerosene. No one could understand why we could not drink it.
Take Our Picture
Mother and Children
A Man of the Compound
Because everyone has cell phones, we were eventually notified that we were late for dinner at Salmaz' parents' house. We were told we would have a lorry to drive us back. Soon an old farm lorry with four-foot-high wood sides pulled up. A hand-made wooden ladder was brought from the house so we could climb in the lorry – and off we went back to Mother and Daddy's.
All Aboard for Gullatapa
I can't even begin to describe how narrow, steep, rocky, and sloping this road is. I am sure I have no pictures to illustrate it. We were followed by one of the young cousins on his white galloping mare, who was followed by her new foal. For the next 8 kilometers school boys yelled and waved, shepherds stopped their flocks, and old women gaped to see a lorry full of 10 Americans going along the road.
Waiting To Pass
Not Everyone Enjoyed the Ride
Some of the bunch had a wee bit of a panic, but we arrived intact to eat our plov with more cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, yogurt, and tandoori bread.
Waiting for Another Meal
As we were finally loading into our Mercedes van to return to the cabins, down the road came another lorry with twice as many Azerbaijanis as ours had held Americans, so I guess this is the standard mode of transportation for the multi-generational compounds.