Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mailin' It

I have been getting emails with mail questions, so I thought I would post a few helpful tips, along with another plug for my handy information packed link (located in the left-hand column for quick access) entitled Mail Instructions [link].
  1. Your address contains funny letters: Yes. It does. As you may have guessed, the Azerbaijan alphabet contains non-English letters. At least it is not Cyrillic.
  2. What is the best shipping method: International Flat Rate mailer. Go to your post office and check out their sweet stand.There are many sizes of envelopes and boxes for a range of prices. The mailers are free (you pay for them in the shipping costs).
  3. Did you get my letter/ package: If you do not receive some sort of confirmation from me, probably not.
  4. Did your address change: Yes. It did. It will be my address for the next 2 years.
  5. Is there anything specific you would like: Yes! There is a pretty comprehensive list going on under Mail Instructions [link], but when in doubt, send dark chocolate and sauce mix packets.
  6. Wow! Shipping is expensive: Yes, it is. Packages are awesome (really awesome), but I understand if it is out of your price range (it is definitely out of mine!). Send me emails, collaborate with others to reduce shipping costs, send me a holiday card. I really just want to know what is going on with you!
Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Try This At Home!

Want to taste a bit of Azerbaijan? Get some friends together and try this delicious treat: Xǝngel (pronounced hang-jel)!

Dough: 6 cups flour, 1 & 1/2 to 2 cups warm water, 1 Tablespoon salt

Filling:1 lbs ground meat, 1 small onion [grated], 2-3 cloves garlic [grated], 1 Tablespoon sweet and sour sauce, 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro, salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: sour cream or garlic yogurt

Make dough. Cover and set in a warm place until ready to use.

In a mixing bowl, combine filing ingredients. Add a couple Tablespoons of water.

Using a small amount of dough (about the size of 1/2 a cup), roll out a circle at approx. 1/8” thickness. Using a circular cookie cutter (or cup), cut circles out of dough. Set scraps aside (roll scraps at the very end).

On each small circle, spoon in a small out of filling. Pinch square closed by bringing the sides together. My host mom has a super cool decorative pinch.

After each roll, set filled pasta aside in a single layer. Boil a pot of salted water and pasta in a single layer. Once pasta rises, allow to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from water and serve right away with sour cream.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An Ode to Family & Friends

I would write this in prose, but two in a row (see previous post) is a bit much!

At any rate, I want to thank everyone who has sent me a card, a package, a wedding invitation, an email or good mojo & thoughts!

I know I am only 4 months into service and will probably appreciate these things way more around month 18 or so, but right now, I cannot express how great it feels to get an “update” email from a friend back home (packed with gossip, of course) or a holiday card with pictures of a cute baby all over it.

It really means a lot.

It is incredible how separated you can feel when you are thousands of miles away and you know all your friends and family’s lives are moving on without you. Just the chance to take a glimpse back into all yours is worth every internet minute and gepik at the post office.

P.S. And special thanks to my dad (Lew Tobin), my mom (Lydia Harris) and my sister (Liana Rose Tobin) for sending countless boxes, the “oh! crap, I forgot” things, and chocolate.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

If you think I am weird...

I keep telling people I am the most normal person in my family...this was emailed to me recently from my dad.

Sent you a box today in the Non-traditional way.

Your pad wouldn’t fit, not one little bit.
In the standard size box, which hold a lot.

So I used something other, a box I got from my brother.
I wrapped it and taped it, and its covered in love,
I hope it won’t hurt when the mail comes to shove.

Not much fit but the pad, which wasn’t so bad.
But I sent all the chocolate I had, to help cushion the pad.

There might be an occasional bauble, but I don’t see that as too much trouble.

This way you can open it with glee, you can have faces smeared with sticky sweets you see.
Just be careful of where you put the knife, if you cut wrong it will bring strife.

Work on the edges at bottom and top, but when you get a clear shot let the knife Stop.

Enjoy! Enjoy there is no foul ploy.

Express just went as far as Baku,
So I had to send it slower to you.

6-12 days they say will do.
But I can’t trust the Post office voodoo.

By now you should have the last box I sent.
I hope it had everything without dent.

I could go on all day with this old fellows’ rapp, I say.
But I should go to work so Kawerak will let me stay.

Good luck this year. I hope you good cheer.
Steer clear of any fear, hear that, my dear.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Laundry 101

Ever wash all your clothing by hand? I haven’t. I toyed with the idea in college, but decide it was impractical. Now, for many PCVs, it’s the highlight of their week. For most, it is backbreaking labor. For me (my family owns a washing machine), it is pretty easy; however, today I decided to try my hand at hand washing.

Here’s my method (compliments of Donny Danger).
  1. Heat water.
  2. In a wash bin (in US, use your bathtub), add clothing, laundry detergent and water.
  3. Roll up your pants, plug in your iPod and start dancing (on top of your laundry).
  4. Dance, dance, dance.
  5. Pour out dirty water. Fill with water.
  6. After 20 minutes to several hours (agitate whenever you think about it), pour out water.
  7. Fill with water. Plug in your iPod and dance (rinse cycle).
  8. Repeat rinse cycle.
  9. Wring out clothing and hang to dry.
*Hot water makes the process easier, but requires patience as you cannot dance right away (the impromptu soak can help tough stains or smelly attire). You can use cold water, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Answers to Matt

What is my work schedule like?
30%: Assisting my host organization
20%: Language classes
20%: Guesting & IRBing
30%: Community projects (Scouts, Convo Clubs, Tala Youth Foundation)

What is my access to the outside world?
I have access to internet (although, it is a bit expensive) and I try to catch the English version of Azerbaijani news every once in awhile. I also travel when my schedule allows to visit other Volunteers and sites and I text message like a fiend.

When I go to work, what do I do?
With my host organization, I help teachers learn more about computers and facilitate conversation clubs for teachers and youth service providers. I also attend bi-weekly Azerbaijani language classes and I frequently go guesting and work on developing connections with community members. I also am working on a variety of community projects as listed above.

How many Americans are in Zaqatala?
4 in the city proper and 1 in a surrounding village.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mac & Cheese Iron Chef


Ever wanted to throw a Mac & Cheese contest but couldn’t find a panel of unbiased judges (everyone has been corrupted by Kraft)?

Well, I have. I have always wanted to pair my mom’s kickin’s recipe with Kraft and see which comes out triumphant.

And guess what, after years of searching, I found an unbiased group of taste testers: my Zaqatala host family!

That’s right. My fellow site mates and I had our own version of Iron Chef. Löki’s Mac Gourmet versus Donny’s Cheese Powder. After countless hours of slaving away in the kitchen, Donny and I unveiled our master pieces.

And...my host family loved both versions. UGH! I so wanted to win.

Friday, January 9, 2009

PCMI 101

For all my altruistic reasons for serving, I do have one self-serving provocation for being here: I am earning college credit.

How does that work? Well, I applied to the University of Alaska Fairbanks PCMI Rural Development Master’s Program (mouth full isn’t it?), was accepted, spent a year taking courses (and completing the Peace Corps’ application progress) and in September, was off to AZ.

Why am I telling you all this again (presuming many of you are regular readers)? Well, a few weeks ago my Graduate Committee Chair left for a position in Scotland and another Committee member ask me about the subject areas which I will have to exhibit competency in to pass my Comprehensive Exam.

And, I wanted to get any new readers up to date.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Snowed In (Happy New Year)

PCVs crashin in the Peace Corps lounge in Baku during an unprecedented snow storm.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Meet Josh


Meet my new AZ6 site mate: Josh!

Josh, a native East coaster and English major, loves words, poetry, and good hip-hop*. He also speaks French and German and can talk me under the table on pretty much any subject.

A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Volunteer, Josh has already broken out of just teaching English and is involved in many of the YD projects around Zaqatala.

Besides all those things, he’s got a pretty sweet mustache too.

*Amended. He likes bad hip-hop too.