I was eating dinner and my host mom told me, “You will become fat–a big fat American walking around!” (These are my translations of our charades).

Now don’t take that offensively. She surely did not mean it that way. For the past 2 weeks she has been feeding me like I am a tall 170 lb man. I can’t finish a meal; I don’t even try. We were also told not to finish our plates by current volunteers for two reasons. First, you are considered a guest, and for Azeri’s they show their hospitability through giving guests large portions of food. Secondly if you finish all your food, they will serve you more. However, by not finishing my food I have received stern looks and a little speech about how finishing my food is important. She told me I eat a little, but I should eat lots more! I said I eat a little. After two weeks, I’ve made a small victory: she made me 2 small sandwiches for lunch instead of 2 big ones.

My host mom is really just worried about me being fed well and enough. If I lost weight, the town might start to talk about her not feeding me enough. She does indeed feel me well. I’ve had so far things like: rice, chicken, fish, beef stew, cabbage salad, chicken hot dogs, dolma, dovga (sour milk or yogurt thing with some type of herb), bean soup, spaghetti. I am also a very lucky PC trainee. I get fresh veggies and fruit everyday (most volunteers do not). I eat lots of apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, pomegranates, grapes, and cilantro. I even had raspberries.

The diet here consists of consuming bread at every meal. There is always bread on the table. They also use much more butter, oil, and sugar in everything. The higher carb diet has effects on every volunteer. It’s very common for the girl Peace Corps volunteers to gain 10-15 lbs and for the men to lose that amount.

Unfortunately, the daily life of a normal Azeri does not include exercise. Exercising is a very new concept. I asked my host mom if I could run around town. She didn’t think it was a good idea and discouraged me. What I got from our conversation was that people would stop and stare. Being an American in Azerbaijan, I get stared at a lot, so I don’t really mind that. I am just worried about it having a negative effect on my reputation. One’s reputation is everything. Until my conversation skills get better so that I can press the issue more, I will find another way to exercise.

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