Tahir is a wonderful, amazing, loving, giving, caring, generous Azeri man. He was our host father in Mingechevir during Peace Corps. I suppose I should back up a little bit. Our first host family during training in Sumgayit was pretty much terrible. We lived with an old woman, her two grown sons, her daughter and various grand children. The two sons were terrible, horrible, awful men. They would drink all day (while their wives were working in a chicken factory) and come home and torment and abuse their wives (who were now doing all the cooking, cleaning and caretaking) and children. It was a horrible experience and I had come to the conclusion that all Azeri men were abusive pigs. I am so grateful that I met Tahir and that he was able to change my opinion of Azeri men.
Tahir was exactly what a host father should be. He was very patient with our Azeri and our crazy American ways. He went so far as to go through the bazaar and tell everyone, “Don’t give the Americans a hard time, treat them fairly, don’t lay a hand on them. They are my children and you will answer to me if you bother them.” He would light the fire in the hamam every morning so we were able to have a hot shower everyday (this is basically unthinkable in Peace Corps, we were spoiled). He would help his wife with the cooking and cleaning (!) and was a loving husband and father. He often called me mənim balam – my baby. He had 3 sons and always said that he was happy to finally have a daughter. I always told him I already had 3 fathers, but that I was so happy that he was the 4th (he would reply that he was, in fact, the second in importance). On Christmas he spelled out “Have a happy holiday” phonetically in Cyrillic and he called my 1st dad so he could wish him a happy holiday. That was a highlight of my Peace Corps service – I really felt the bridge between the two cultures and families grow a little shorter in that moment.
We were all very sad when we had to leave early because of this. We had a wonderful group of people seeing us off at 7am. I went around and hugged everyone and pretty much held it together. Until I got to Tahir. When I saw tears in his eyes, I totally lost it. He had done so much for me. He had protected me, supported me, taught me that Azeri men could be loving. I miss him a lot, and truly hope to visit him again someday.