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, 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).