Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Kwanzmas!

A Şeki Volunteer came up with this excited new term. I like it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Keepin' Busy

For those of you out there considering the Peace Corps, let me warn you now: the Peace Corps is not a 9 to 5, M-F sort of job.

When I first moved to Zaqatala, I knew that my daily schedule was going to fluctuate. Although, I am working with a local NGO, I spend a small percentage of my time there. Even more so, this first three months I am focusing on meeting people, networking, and gaining my bearings.

Thus, I have got some down time.

So, what am I doing?

I am working on my graphic skills. I am strummin on my guitar. I am meeting with my Azerbaijani tutor twice a week. I am getting to know my host family (tonight, I am teaching my host brothers to play Spoons!). I am meeting with students and setting up conversation clubs and other small projects. I am learning about what support there is in Zaq and exactly what is needed that I can lend a helping hand to...

Overall, I am now convinced, I have the best job on the planet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Resistance is Futile

I want you to close your eyes...wait! Do not do that. You cannot read my blog with closed eyes. Ugh...okay, go get a friend, husband, kid, anybody. Ask them to read you this entry while you close your eyes. Problem yoxdur.

Now, visualize getting out of your nice warm bed, sleep fuzzing your brain.

Visualize the frustration of knowing that first cup of çay is still 30 minutes away (water needs to boil, tea needs to steep, etcetera, etcetera).

Visualize clumsily making your way to the washroom where you...uhm...get to work.

Now, visualize your hand wrapping around cold steel. You turn a knob and the sharpest prick of cold water, followed by thousands of similarly intense pricks hitting your...well, you get it.

Visualize the realization that you really don’t need that çay to wake up.

Ah, I am really diggin’ this cultural assimilation thing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Real Introduction


As most of you know, I have moved to Zaqatala proper and I cannot get enough of this place. If I thought Zaqatala city was beautiful, the rayon of Zaqatala is absolutely breathtaking.

I have had the wonderful pleasure of visiting only a handful of the many villages that surround Zaqatala city and wow. I wish I could describe this place better, but there only so many synonyms for beautiful. Thus, from now on, I am just going to say wow. Wow, wow. wow.

Just the other day, I was running through the village of Tala (yup, I am running here!) and I was struck motionless as the sun came over the snowcapped mountains to create an incredible halo of beauty around a full moon. Wow.

If I thought I was lucky before, I know now I truly won the site lottery.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pre-Service Training

For those who missed it, here is a pictorial ode to my first 2+ months in Azerbaijan.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Day In History

Dekabr 11: The first day of Löki’s PCV life.

You’d think I’d spend this day basking in my Volunteerism glory, but instead, I’m probably making my way to Zaq on an 8-hour bus right now.

Don’t worry. My mom sent me dozens of New York Times crossword puzzles and one takes me two weeks to finish (with only a little cheating).

So...what exactly was I before December 11? Well, I was a trainee living in a training site. Today, I am moving to my permanent site and armed with the knowledge I have gained over the last two+ months, I will be rockin’ out in Zaqatala.

Let the shenanigans begin!

Monday, December 8, 2008

All Good Things...

In less than a week, I’m off to my newest home and I’m a little scared.

Weird huh? I’ve moved literally halfway around the world and now I’m scared about moving a few hundred kilometers.

Yet, I am. Living at my training site has gotten cozy. I’ve got a set schedule. I am learning at a steady pace. I’ve made some friends. I can meet work expectations with few minor glitches. Everything is pretty radtacular.

Nevertheless, soon I’m going to be one of five Americans living in a region 37 times the size of Nome. I’m expected to be a representative of my country and culture. I’m expected to adapt and to assimilate. I’m expected to succeed.

You’d think I would have thought about this all before I put pen to paper... and I did, but when faced with the realities of it, boy does it get real.

Good thing I brought all my Star Trek TNG dvds. I could used a little advice from the Enterprise 1701-D crew.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Amerikan Bayrama

Holidays are a big deal in Azerbaijan (hence why I want you to send me holiday cards) and whether you believe in Jesus or the Giant Spaghetti Monster, voted for McCain or OBAMA!, almost all Americans get festive for a little turkey and some pumpkin pie!
Obviously, Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated here in Azerbaijan, but that didn’t stop any of us from getting together to celebrate overeating and or discuss highlights from ESPN.com.So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I’ve made a brief list of things I am thankful for:
  • The season collection of TNG;
  • Titanium cups and sporks named Pat;
  • Parents with disposable incomes which allow for shipments of books and chocolate;
  • A sister who puts up with my costly text messages;
  • Friends who plan international trips;
  • New friends who invite me to improvised holiday dinners;
  • Host families, host organizations, Alekpr and Vafa;
  • Text messaging; and finally,
  • Nasal decongestant and cough drops.
Azǝrbaycanda Amerikan Bayramadır.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Permanent Site

Travel books call it the Paris of Azerbaijan, but I disagree. It’s should be called Paradise, because that’s exactly it.
Established in 1929, Zaqatala (pronounced Zagatala) boasts a population of 111,600 including peoples from the 59 surrounding villages. Known for it’s nuts and beautiful women, Zaqatala’s population is the most diverse in Azerbaijan with 26 different nationalities represented within their 23,844 hectares.
Besides the facts, my first impressions of Zaq are ones of complete rapture and awe. This place has got it all. Great history, beautiful architecture, warm and friendly people, and lots of access to green space and great hiking. 
I am so happy I am breaking out into random “Making the Pizza” dance moves (a bit bittersweet without you, Sarah).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You've Got Mail

I love mail. I love letters, I love wedding invitations (sorry, but unless your name is Meghan, Sarah or Aggie, you’re out of luck on my showing up), I love holiday cards, and I do love boxes.

So, what’s up with this post? Well, it’s that time when my address changes. I’m going to post it here, but I’ve also updated my Mail Instructions link (located in the left hand column). Check it out!

Löki Gale Tobin,PCV
Mǝrkǝz: Poçt
Tǝlǝb Ƌdilǝnǝdǝk
Zaqatala, Azǝrbaycan
AZ 6200

Azerbaijan

This will be my permanent address for the next two years, so keep it handy!

And of course, here’s the answers to a couple frequently asked questions:

  • Do I have to pay to pick up my mail? Moo question. Like a cow’s opinion, it doesn’t matter. I like mail (unless it is completely frivolous things....uhm Mr. Tobin).
  • How long does mail take to arrive? My site mate said it’s 10 days from Oregon. Alaska, probably 2 weeks (that’s for flat rate mailers).
  • Is there anything specific I would like? Yes, I’ve got a list going (located in Mail Instructions). Don’t forget the chocolate.
  • How confident is the mail system in AZ? I am confident I will get my mail, however it is a good idea to insure boxes of expensive things (like parkas).
  • How important is writing the address correctly? Very important. You may notice the address has a few non-English letters. If you are uncertain, please email me. There is a big difference here on an i with a dot and and an ı without a dot.
I hope that answers everything...oh, before I forget. I know a PCV who’s friend shipped bottles of their local brewery’s deliciousness...if anyone wanted to bubble wrap some Alaskan Amber, I would love you forever.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My First Song! (Well, sort of...)

So, making things rates #1 on my list of fun things to do with down time. In starting this PC adventure, I knew carting along my sewing machine or a couple dozen mason jars was probably not conducive to my new minimalist lifestyle.

So, with the help of my awesome friend Sarah H., I re-picked up the guitar with the hopes of guitar playing becoming one of my creative hobbies in AZ.
Unfortunately, I had to leave my guitar at home. Thus, one of my priorities has been to find a guitar store. Last week, that priority was finally met and I picked out a (cheap) beauty!

I am still waiting to name my new Extreme guitar (I named another PCT’s guitar, so by rights, he gets to name mine), but over the past week, I’ve been jammin out. I even dreamed up my first chord progression: Am, E, Dm, Am7, E7, Am. First three chords get 4 beat, the next two get 2 beats and the pattern ends on the final Am. Personally, I’m using the neat strumming pattern Arlo H. taught me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

AZ Personal Reflection #1: Culture Shock

To be honest, I did not expect this phenomenon to hit me at all. I thought growing up an “outsider” in western Alaska had given me great insight into being immersed in a unique and sometimes vastly different culture than what I would consider my own.

Yet, this past week, I got a healthy dose of culture shock. At first, I was upset. Didn’t I spend countless hours talking through possible scenarios and problems with my friends and family? Didn’t I spend days in self introspection? Didn’t I already live through this several times over?

Well, as it has been said, “Oh, how the mighty will fall.” Well, I definitely fell. I got my reminder that no matter how much prep you do, you can’t prep for this.

On a related note, being here as definitely highlighted that the culture I grew up in is very much intertwined with my self image. Although my family is not original from Alaska, I am. I am a part of the beautiful Alaskan community I have lived in, enjoyed, and am committed to serving as soon as I return home.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soccer Sundays

I love Sundays. I wake up late. I linger over a second cup of çay (pronounced chai, but don’t make the same mistake I did, it’s english breakfast tea). I hit up the internet cafe for a couple Skype phone calls and a slow perusal of news.

I also love Sundays because Saturday night, I am sending out mass texts that say:

Soccer. 1230. Dove.

For many of us, it’s hard getting that daily requirement of exercise. A few of us wake up early enough to run, but lazy people (like me), struggle to get out of bed in time for language class. I do make time to do a ballet conditioning dvd and doink around with my power band, but that’s nothing compared to swimming 1500 yards several times a week.

Luckily, a couple fantastic trainees came up with the idea of Soccer Sundays. Now, the point isn’t to win (well, for some of us it isn’t). It’s to have fun, be goofy, and spend countless minutes running up and down a full size soccer field.

After a Soccer Sunday, I don’t feel so bad about my new Twix-A-Day habit.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Maşukalar (in English: Marshukas)

As many of you know, my insides are definitely green in nature and boy, was I excited when I learned about AZ’s awesome mass transit system, marşukas. A marşuka is a autobus (similar to the van operated by the family on Jon & Kate Plus 8) that carts people to and from locations. Neat things about marşukas include:
  • They stop anywhere. Just walk out to a street and flag one down.
  • They numbered so you know which ride goes where.
  • They are cheap. For as little as 20 gepik you can hitch a ride.
  • They are usually pretty full, meaning that many people are not using cars that contribute to greenhouse gas emission!
Now, of course there are some bad things:
  • On rainy days, an available space in a marşuka is hard to come by.
  • It takes awhile to get used to the driving style.
  • If you start looking for a specific number/ route, you will never find it. 
Just get a gander at the Youth Development groups’ marşuka pictures!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Euphoric

AZERCell Nokia Cell Phone: 70 manat

5000 Kontors (to send and receive text messages): 10 manat

Text message from my sister in California: $0.25

Finding out Barak Obama is our President-Elect: Euphoric

P.S. I won the lottery on Wednesday...well, not the lottery.

On Wednesday, I found out who the next President of the US of A will be and I also learned where my home will be over the next two years. Look for the upcoming post on Zaqatala.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bir Ay!

Bet you have no idea what this title means. Don’t sweat it, I got this one...it means...*drum roll*... one month! That’s right, I’ve got enough lingo under my belt to spell and say bir ay and mean it!

Actually, a few weeks ago I took my mid-training LPI (Language Proficiency Indicator) and received a great score of Intermediate-Low. That’s pretty radtacular for a person who’s had been at this for less than a month.

On another note, guess what I’ve been doin’ this last month?! Being a PCT in AZ!! That’s right! Bir ay is a celebratory phrase for my first month of service. You’d think that at this point, my excitement would have simmered down to a slow boil, but it hasn’t. I can’t wait for tomorrow as I will learn one of two great things: my permanent site placement and of course, who’s the President-Elect of our great country. Woo-hoo for awesome events!

P.S. If you are reading this and the days make no sense to you, I am 13 hours ahead of you Alaska folks, which makes your November 4 my November 5.

Friday, October 31, 2008

When Our Powers Combine...

We are not Captain Planet, but we make a pretty darn neat team!
Meet J-tastic, my PCT-mate and my Convo Club partner (doesn’t he just look fun?!).

Jesse, a fellow YD Trainee, hails from the land of wavy wheat and...thunder?...Oh ya, I fit in a reference to arguably one of the greatest musicals known to person!

This O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A native enjoys music, a good history or food book (I know he is going to love Animal Vegetable Miracle), soccer, and big hair. We’ve had a pretty good time exploring Sumqayit and dodging marshukas. We’ve also had a great time running our Convo Clubs and I cannot wait until we start our Computer Club.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Convoing

Ha, ha! Another word to copywright!

Last week, a fellow PCT-mate and I facilitated our first Conversation Club. For those who don’t know what those are, they are clubs that converse (;)).

No really, that’s the point of Conversation Clubs. Through Convo Clubs, PCTs get to know local youth through fun games and stimulating conversations. In addition, youth get to practice their English and we (the PCTs) get to practice our Azerbaijani.

Of course, it’s not as easy as it would sound. My PCT-mate and I barely speak Azerbaijani and let me tell you, explaining a game in broken AZ and simplified English doesn’t quite get the rules across as one would hope. Nevertheless, we had a great time and I cannot wait for our next meeting!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Daily Show

Interested in the daily life of Löki? Check out this wicked sweet schedule:
8ish - Wake up and get dressed
8:30ish - Breakfast with host mom*
8:45ish - My host mom* gives me chocolates for the day!
8:50ish - Begin my 10 minute power walk to the local school
9 to 1 p.m. - Language lessons
1 to 2ish - Walk home for lunch with host mom*
2ish - Return to school or head to YD hub site
2:30ish to 5ish - Conversation Clubs or YD workshops
5:30ish - Return home and have tea and cookies!
6ish to 8ish - Study and/ or ballet conditioning or power band stretching
8ish - Dinner or tea and cakes with host brother
9:15ish - Bed

*I call my host mom and dad brother and sister. They also have a son I also call my host brother.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Free Facials

One super exciting thing about being in PST is the opportunity to act like a tourist. Although, PCTs spend a majority of their week in language classes, YD, CED or TEFL workhops and studying, we do go get the occasional opportunity to relax and check out the awesomeness that is our host country.
Here are a couple of pics from a wonderful excursion out into AZ country. Getting a hang for the acronyms yet?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Guesting

An integral part of Azerbaijan culture is guesting. I know it sounds weird to use guest as a verb, but it’s an action here.

A week ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to go guesting at a current Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) site. I spent three great days enjoying delicious food (Vy hooked it up), fun company (Vy, Barbie and Will are awesome), intriguing debates (we watched all the past Presidential and VP debates), and learning about what it’ s like to be a PCV in AZ.

Of course, we talked about the basic stuff- make sure to utilize your Counterpart’s contacts, go guesting often to build strong community ties, and make sure to develop relationships with adults as well as youth.

But the real money answers were the stuff that wasn’t so obvious - don’t wash your jeans in the winter: they take 3 weeks to dry, nobody will believe you when you say you saw a camel, and you can get oatmeal here - the label just happens to be in Russian.

Thanks Vy for being such as awesome hostess! I can’t wait to return the hospitality!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Greatest Story Ever

For an amusing AZ Peace Corps training story, read Baku to the Future's blog about toilet etiquette!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spanglish

One of the funniest things about learning the AZ language is how us Trainees seem to revert back to whatever language we learned last when we don't understand something. For many of us, that seems to be Spanish. Just the other day, a fellow PCT-mate of mine asked our Language and Cultural Facilitator (LCF), Por Que?

Like the picture?! It is of my Language Cluster and our AWESOME LCF!

Friday, October 10, 2008

First Time Jitters

It stands to reason that the first time you meet the family that will house you, feed you, and become your “in” into your host country’s culture, you may have a few butterflies in your stomach.

I, of course, spent a majority of the night before running through every possible scenario in my head. What if they don’t like me? What if I make a huge faux pas within the first five minutes? What if they put milk or milk products in everything (I didn’t know how to stay I am lactose intolerant then).

One of the AZ 5 Volunteers told me that the first 10 minutes would be all out awkward, but after that, it would all work out. I obviously was skeptical and decided only the worst could happen...and did it?

Of course not. I stepped off my bus and was hugged and kissed by my host mother and grandmother before being ushered into the house. My host family graciously allowed me a few moments to collect myself and unpack and then treated me to delicious tea and cookies while we maxed out the extent of my AZ language skills (hi, my name is, I am from, where is the toilet..).

Overall, I would have to say the whole experience was awesome. I love my host family and cannot express how much I look forward to coming home after a hard day of language lessons and YD workshops to delicious meals and struggling (but improving) conversations with my host brother and father.

So, my advice to Invitees embarking on their service - don’t sweat it. Only the first ten minutes are awkward.

P.S. The picture is of my Cluster moving to our new homes. As you can see, luggage far outnumber the occupants of the van!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Technological Advances

Hey, guess what?! Me and my bad self just got some AZ digits!
Now, I can text message with the best of them (watch out, I am wicked fast with the thumbs) and even sweeter than texting my new PC friends?! I can text message you! Well, that's if you have AT&T (I am told T-Mobile works as well) and a GSM phone.
I can receive phone calls for free, but be warned, it may cost you your season Ace's tickets to holla at me.  My advice, try Skype - I think it is cheaper (no confirmation on that front, yet).
So - if you want to type it out! Send me an email and I will send you my phone number!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Last Rites

Getting that last American hamburger (stacked with extra bacon) or drinking that last American dirty martini seems of utmost importance when you are faced with 27 months outside the US.  Since starting Staging and Pre-Service Training, that's all most of us can think about.

A few days ago (at least a week by blog standards), I enjoyed a delicious dirty martini with a few Trainees. While sipping our scrumptious brews, we discussed politics, anxieties, and perceptions. Can't wait to spend 27 months with these awesome people!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

Stardate 35487 (i.e. Day 1)


Remember that game, Dont Break the Ice?  Well, this is the exact opposite of that.

As I hugged my cousin good-bye, all I thought was "Okay Tobin, man up".  And man up I did. The first few moments of Staging were intense. For me, the extrovert, the whole thing was sensory overload. Too many new people and too small of a space. As the day wore on, everything began to fall in place and I even made a preliminary friend or two (check out my new "couple" friends, Emma and Mathais, on their blog, Baku to the Future - Mathais shares the best birth date with a special someone - ME!) and found myself calming down enough to make the occasional sarcastic side comment or two (darn you Tobin genes!).

Whew - one day down, 800ish to go.

P.S. Don't worry Will and Gina, you have not been replaced.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

And I am off...

As I may have mentioned before, my Staging/ Orientation started on Saturday at about 1 p.m. and concluded Sunday late in the evening.  Monday, we (the Volunteers-In-Training), hitched a ride to JFK to catch a late evening plane to Frankfurt.  After that, it was off to Baku, with a scheduled arrival late Tuesday evening.

I am hopeful that at some point I can peruse an unlocked wireless network and post some pictures and first impressions of the whole gig.

At any rate, I will see you all on the flip side!

P.S. Thanks Sash for the ridey-ride.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Warmed Up

I like visiting family.

In July of 2005, my family grew when the spiritual bonding of the Sichers to the Tobins was solidified during my cousin's marriage to their incredible (and quite handsome) son Matthew. Growing in family size is awesome and in November, our family will again celebrate another addition with the offspring of Jesse and Matthew.

During my Tour d'Tobin, I was meant to be put to hard work making a baby mattress with Jesse. Unfortunately, I got very sick before I arrived and have been unable to fulfill those "volun-told" duties.

Luckily, that meant I was free to volunteer for the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival. On Thursday, I gave up 4 hours of my time to earn a t-shirt (it's orange!) and to get free admission to the Festival on Friday.

And guess what Friday was? Colin Beavan (No Impact Man) keynote day! Woo-hoo. Even cooler, I wrote him and email and HE WROTE ME BACK!

Ah, my life is great. I am warmed up to volunteer. I am about to get the experience of a lifetime, and I didn't have to rub my cousin's butt (her hips are spreading).

Friday, September 19, 2008

I am not going to Africa

While visiting my East coast peps, it came to my attention a certain sister of my mother's, let us call her my aunt, was telling everyone I am going to Africa.

I am not going to Africa. I am going to Azerbaijan. It's no where near Africa.

Imagine the aghast of my family when they found out my aunt had been misinforming them for the past few weeks.

Seriously.

Anyway, I have had a great time this past week visiting with my Moms and family. I was reminded again of how my Aunt B puts everyone to shame when it comes to cooking. Her Sunday dinner makes Thanksgiving look like a nice snack.

Thank you again and I will miss you all (and don't go visiting me in Africa, I won't be there).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Callin' Out Across the World

I once made the comment, "I am almost done shopping!  Only one more trip to the store."

Later, my dad laughed at me and informed me my friend Eve made similar statements up until she had made her billionth "last trip" to the store.

I thought he was just joshing. Turns out, he/ she was telling the truth. A few days ago, I swore I had made my last trip to the store. Yet, just yesterday, I realized I was still in need of a radio/ alarm clock. While waiting for a train, I dropped into a Radio Shack and found the Grundig Mini 300 AM/FM/SW Pocket Radio. This thing is wicked sweet as it combines a radio and an alarm clock.

Whew...now, just one more trip to the store (I still need a watch battery) and I should be done!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Odds & Ends

Okay everyone, here comes the nuts and bolts of the next few weeks:
  1. I am canceling my cell phone on Friday, September 19.  Before you pick up and dial, please remember I am on the East Coast and there is a 4 hour time difference.
  2. I will try and set up a few posts to publish automatically over the next few weeks, but please be aware that I am in the middle of craziness and may not get a chance to blog.
  3. Just because I haven't answered your email in awhile, doesn't mean I forgot about you. I will write back, I promise.
  4. I will post my most up-to-date contact information as soon as I get it.
  5. Don't forget about me (or my blog)!  I won't forget about you!
  6. Please cut and paste news articles and email them to me.  I need news to survive.
P.S. The picture is of recent Nome Girl Scouts completing their Gold Award projects.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My Sister, the Doofus

I had a great title for this good-bye post, but my sister thought it was dumb.

Whoever thought to buy her a plane ticket to Nome for the week was a doofus...or maybe just desperate to get rid of their extra clothing and unused cosmetics...

Anyway, I love Alaska. I love Nome. I love my friends, the Team. I love my family and extended family (Marsha, Mike, Annie, Olivia and Hunter). I love my church family. I love my former co-workers.

Really, I love everyone.

Thank you all for being my support, my rocks, and often my inner voices of reason. Thank you for teaching me neat strumming patterns and how to make kuspuks. Thank you for making me coffee and listening to me rant about politics. Thank you for making me steaks and sharing your crappy beer with me.

I heart you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Packin' & Lockin' It

No, I am not doing some sort of weird break dance - I am packing it up and locking it in!

Since I am leaving Friday morning, my sister and I thought we should do a "test" pack this past Sunday. Now, if I had been a bit smarter, I would have done a "test" pack well before the five day mark...

At any rate, we got most of the stuff in there...

Then, we realized we left a good amount of stuff out.

The good news? The stuff we got in weighed in at a grand total of 25 lbs. That means I have 25 lbs left in that bag and another 30-40 lbs available in my carry ons! Wicked sweet yo.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Letter to An Editor

Here is a recent letter I wrote to the editor, Nancy, of the Nome Nugget.

Hi Nancy (or Dear Editor)!

Monday, September 8 denotes an incredible day in our great nation, National Literacy Day. In a fun activity for my friend and family, I asked everyone to send me a list of books they believe every high school student should read prior to college. In honor of National Literacy Day, I compared and contrasted lists to create the Top 50 Books A High School Student Should Read Prior to College. It is my belief that instead of spending money on silly SAT prep books or listening to a college professor lecture about "Utopians" and wondering what the heck the man (or woman) is talking about - each high school student should invest in a library card and a canvas book bag. After preparing the list, I thought I might send it to you in hopes that you can pass it along. This list is not finite. It is only a suggestion of books created from super smart people who know books, high school, and college classes :). Enjoy!
  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  2. Leaves of Grass
  3. The Good Earth
  4. Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
  5. Grapes of Wrath
  6. The Invisible Man
  7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  8. Macbeth
  9. The Odyssey
  10. Juliet and Romeo
  11. The Crucible
  12. The Yellow Wallpaper
  13. Paradise Lost
  14. Stranger in A Strange Land
  15. To Kill A Mockingbird
  16. The Iliad
  17. The Old Man and the Sea
  18. Moby Dick
  19. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  20. On the Road
  21. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  22. 1984
  23. Animal Farm
  24. Of Mice and Men
  25. Lord of the Flies
  26. Uncle Tom's Cabin
  27. The Scarlett Letter
  28. As I Lay Dying
  29. Mayor of Casterbridge
  30. The Painted Veil
  31. The Giver
  32. Brave New World
  33. Fahrenheit 451
  34. Pygmalion (My Fair Lady)
  35. Jane Eyre
  36. The Color Purple
  37. The Great Gatsby
  38. The Chocolate War
  39. The Handmaid's Tale
  40. Crime and Punishment
  41. The House on Mango Street
  42. Catch-22
  43. Farewell to Arms
  44. Siddhartha
  45. Black Like Me
  46. Raisin in the Sun
  47. Death of a Salesman
  48. Waiting for Godot
  49. The Jungle
  50. Schindler's List

By the by - the books I have read or own are in bold. If you are so inclined, the un-bold books are probably ones that would be neat to include in a "care package".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mail Instructions & Mail Request List

For those (and I hope there are several) who are interested in mailing me anything, please read the following:

1. Consecutively number mailed items in an easy to find spot. That way, if one box or letter goes missing, we know which one it was and what was inside.

2. Please do not send superfluous items (this means you Lew Tobin). I have to pay to pick up my mail and the more is not always the merrier. Not to mention, I have to lug it all around with me.

3. Please do not send expensive stuff. Bank of the idea that all my mail will be thoroughly viewed before I get it.

4. Please do not send time sensitive items. It takes roughly 1 month for anything to get to me (unless you are willing to give up your PFD for shipping charges).

5. Insure your package. It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but at least it gives you (and me) some measure of protection if anything gets lost.

6. Check out USPS Azerbaijan Shipping Rates. Generally, a postcard will run you about $0.98, a Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope is $13.45, Priority Mail International Medium Flat-Rate Box $43.45 and a Priority Mail International Large Flat-Rate Box is $55.95.

My mailing address is:

In Azerbaijani:

Löki Gale Tobin, PCV
Mǝrkǝz: Poçt
Tǝlǝb Edilǝnǝdǝk
Zaqatala, Azǝrbaycan
AZ 6200
Azerbaijan

In English:

Löki Gale Tobin, PCV
Central Post Office
Hold Upon Arrival
Zaqatala, Azerbaycan
AZ 6200
Azerbaijan

Sending your love is special enough, but if you are interested in sending any additional items - here are some things I appreciate from the States (updated 10/05/2010):
  • CoffeeVacuum sealed ground coffee (preferably locally roasted)
  • Pineapple
  • Baby corn
  • Peanut Butter
  • Hot apple cider packets
  • Brewer's Yeast
  • Tea (normal and caffeine free)
  • Vacuum sealed bacon
  • Any type of holiday candy or Swedish Fish
  • Chocolate chips
  • Stationary
  • Recipes
  • Brown sugar
  • Magazines (anything and everything)
  • Chocolate Bars (Green Guide to Go Chocolate Bar buying guide [link])
  • Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apples, mango)
  • Smoked salmon, smoked salmon
  • Molasses

Friday, September 5, 2008

Inappropriate, but...

The intent of this blog is not to spout off my political views, but I had to post this picture.  Of course, all those who know me have probably already heard me yammer on about my personal convictions. You know whose button is pinned to my jacket, and you know not to call me after 6 p.m. because I am watching the conventions.

So, what am I doing this next week while I spend time with my sister and finish packing (because we know that is not enough to keep me busy)? I am spending my free time volunteering for that guy.  It is extremely important to me to help the person I know will lead us to a better tomorrow!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labor Day

Labor Day in Nome is a rocking event. We race bathtubs down front street and watch thousands of plastic ducks float down the Snake River (a fundraising event for our Rotary club). This year, I volunteered to help my dad and Charlie collect ducks and man the duck boat; however, before we could get underway, a fellow boater needed our (more specifically, Charlie the Awesome's) assistance. In the wise words of Brian, "And I learned something today..."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

September Bashes

Before I began the countdown to my first day as a Peace Corps Trainee, I began the countdown to my birthday. I love birthdays. I am pretty lucky that my best friends Meghan and Regina also have September birthdays, as that means for the last several years, I have had some pretty kick-hiney birthday parties. I always believed the bigger - the better, the crazier - the more memories, and the more people - the better the food.

This is the first year in a very long time that I will celebrate my birth without my crew. Although, a piece of me is a bit sad, I am heartened by the fact that my friends plan on putting aside their "Löki birthday money" to help fund their eventual AZ excursion.

Which brings me to the point of this post, please don't get me any present now or in the future (Christmas, Kwaanza, birthdays, Halloween, etc). Save that money for some grand adventure or donate it to your favorite charity (I am a fan of Planned Parenthood).

I love birthdays, but I love visiting friends and family even better (and donating)!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rise Up Singing

As my time in Nome comes to an end, so do my awesome, awesome guitar lessons.

I am a little sad that August brings to a close the opportunity to learn from a very accomplished musician, Sarah C. Hanson. If you haven't checked out her store, Bearing Song, stop by for a quick visit (if you happen to live in Nome). If you can't make your way to the store, check out her newest c.d., Treasure A Storm Can Bring on CD Baby (it's also available on CD Universe and Amazon). This c.d. is quickly becoming the soundtrack to my eventual departure and is a mainstay in my truck's c.d. changer.

At any rate, I am feeling much more confident in my guitar skills and cannot wait to share my new found love of strumming with any new PC peps.

I am even more excited to share my rendition of Moondance with my mom, in which I have been working to "own" that song. I may not be the best singer on the block, but I think I can rock out with the best of them.

Thanks Sarah for helping me grow musically (and happy birthday)!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Served

I got served -

my staging packet! It came in the mail yesterday. Inside this hefty package was everything I need to know about my first day as Peace Corps Trainee and how to get there. Also, there's a compact disc with more info, another Volunteer handbook, a handbook for my family, and some miscellaneous paperwork.

Today, I am making travel arrangements to the East coast. Wish me luck - flying across the nation is not an easy feat.

Staging starts Saturday, September 20 at 1 p.m. Nowhere on the list does it say "Immunizations" - so now I am worried when they will stick that in (get it...stick it in...I am so funny). Ugh...I hate shots.

Anyway, after two days of fun, I leave the United States at 9:35 p.m. on Monday, September 22. I fly to Frankfurt and then on to Baku. I arrive in Baku at 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

It's so on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Get Political


Tuesday was Primary Day here in Alaska. I love voting days - well, really, I love the sticker you get for voting. Stickers are cool.

The best thing about Primary Day was it turned out to be just one stop in the Tour D'Political for Nome. On Monday, my dad and I helped organize an Obama Rally (Obama's Alaska Office sent up a representative), Tuesday was Primary Day and another Obama event, Wednesday Alaska State Senator Donny Olson gave a Rotary presentation and on Friday, Alaska Senatorial Candidate and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich will be in Nome!

Although, I am leaving the country in 25 days, I am pretty excited about this year's political climate. I am ecstatic at the number of young people taking notice of today's issues. I cannot wait until November - well, actually 60 days earlier for me as I get a special Absentee Ballot!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Taboo Smaboo

Men, cover your ears.  Today, I am speaking to the ladies.

One of the bigger issues I have been facing is what to do at that special time of the month when I feel like my ovaries are in an epic battle with my uterus.

I am pretty sure any sort of feminine hygiene product is going to cause a ruckus and I am not sure about the access to hand washing water or trash cans...

That's why I was extremely relieved when one day, while perusing other Volunteer blogs, I found a comment about the Diva Cup.  After more online research, I found a great website that provided me with all the info I needed on menstrual cups.

Recently, I ordered the Mooncup UK and cannot wait to try it.  I'm a little scared, but I think everything will be fine.  Wish me luck...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hairdate #3

For those who are interested in my hair o'natural, here's a few pictures!

No Matt, I am still not channeling Angela Davis.

To get the super curl, I followed a pretty neat You Tube tutorial from Curly Chronicles. I am pretty enamored with this chick's style and am hoping to keep up my own positive and forward thinking hair regime.

On the super positive side, this look took me less than 15 minutes!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

CD Me

Over the past two months, correspondence from the Peace Corps has been a little...nonexistent. I figured that the PC peps knew they already had me by the boot straps and felt they could beg off a bit on the letter writing campaign.

Although, the Peace Corps hasn't been writing, I have been in regular contact with my graduate committee and UAF's Graduate School. Good news on that front, I am signed up, paid up, and ready to earn my first 3 credits out of a possible 12 credit PCMI load.

Okay, back to the point. I got a letter from the Peace Corps yesterday. I have been patiently waiting for my travel information, but on Monday, I received a letter and compact disc. The cd was chaulk full of info about AZ Volunteers, Staff and projects, not to mention a brief overview of upcoming expectations (such as no visble tattoos).

Overall, I am starting to get a bit nervous. At any rate, I am headed to Philadelphia in 30 days!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's Been Fun


One of the great things about Nome is the amount of "fun runs". If you are so inclined, you can probably schedule a run a week based solely on when a fun run happens to be scheduled during the summer.

This summer, I took part in as many runs as I possibly could. Unfortunately, as the summer winds down, so do the outside activities. Two weekends ago, I participated in my last Nome jaunt for the next two years.

The cool thing about this fun run (the Dexter Challenge) was everyone had the option of biking it, running it or walking it. I chose to walk it (my dad and friend AnnieKate joined me). We had a great time arguing over cultural practices and quizzing AnnieKate on her upcoming driver's test.

I am going to miss these fun runs, but don't worry. Maybe I can plan one or two of my own in my next resting place!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hairdate #2

In Black American culture, it's known as the Big Chop (often abbreviated as the BC).

Saturday, I did the BC. Personally, I think I look cute. As some of you may know, I am a short hair type of girl. I hate feeling hair tickle my neck, but more importantly, I hate going through an entire bottle of conditioner a week.

Speaking of conditioner, did I mention I tried out a new brand of organic hair products and fell in love! It's Aubrey Organics and it rocks.

As my sister would say - Well, that was a non-sequitur - or maybe it wasn't. Sure made sense in my head.

P.S. A big shout out goes to Ruth Weiss at Golden Scissors!  Thank you for the awesome style!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bad Idea...Good Idea

As my time here in AK winds down, I am indulging in all my favorite Alaskan past times.

One such past time is canoing. I love it. I love meandering down a river, forgetting clocks and time, and simply enjoying the beauty of the land around me. With that intent in mind, Amy and I planned an adventurous down the Nome River - regardless of the weather.

Well, the weather was normal for Nome (sideways rain); however, the mounting of the canoe turned out to be an adventure in itself. Needless to say, we scrapped the canoe idea (check out the picture for a reason why) and instead enjoyed a pointless meandering down West Beach.

I love Nome in August (big fan of sideways rain) and had a great time chatting, beach combing, and viewing the sights (check out the row of gold miners on the beach. At least 6 camp sites showed their American pride with flapping flags).

Next grand adventure, blueberry picking and a hike or two!