Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another Personal Reflection

At 4 months in (excluding PST), PCVs are given the opportunity to move out of their host family’s homes and into independent housing. As many of you know, in addition to moving out, I am also moving sites (to a village right outside Zaqatala).

Preparing to leave my host family is an exciting and an equally taxing event. I am giddy with the prospect of spending quiet, down time alone. I am ecstatic about cooking for myself. I am thrilled because I plan to walk around my house in shorty shorts.

Yet, at the same time, I am incredibly sad. I will be losing my direct line to Az life. I love my host family, our late-night dance parties, the visiting family members, and the rambunctious rough-housing.

Ug...I guess my point is that living with a host family at the age of 25 is a bit much...but it was well worth it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Did I write that?

This past week Az6 West had IST.

What is IST you ask?

Well, it stands for In-Service Training. The idea is that after about 6 months in country, we new PCVs are going to have some questions. We also need follow-up immunizations and a bit of time to decompress and evaluate the last 4 months of service.

On the first day of training, staff passed out very familiar pieces of paper - our Aspiration Statements. Written before we left the comforts of our American homes, these 5 questions covered everything from service aspirations to adaptation and copying skills.

Of course, mine reads like a job application. Lots of five dollar words and “I” statements. It is scary how little I knew before I came to Az. It is frightening how much I think I know now and it is unnerving to know how much more I have to gain from this experience.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Top 10 Things Everyone Needs in a Foreign Country

  1. Sheets
  2. Pictures of home
  3. Travel eating utensil (spork)
  4. Headlamp
  5. Large daypack
  6. Indestructible water bottle
  7. Titanium cup
  8. External harddrive loaded with movies
  9. iPod (video for the long bus rides)
  10. And #1...extra dark sunglasses!
Suggested items for Az7: DivaCup, flash drive, extra flash drive, comfort item, a couple stacks of index cards, Chacos (PCVs get a discout), wall calendar of home, 2-3 sets of gifts for host families, computer, hot sauce, fiber, laxatives, and a couple books.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lordy, Lordy. Look Who's...Thirty

A couple weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of joining a dozen or so other PCVs in a great little Az hot spot for the weekend-long celebration of a PCV’s birthday.

Now, I know what you are thinking: An entire weekend?! That’s a long time.

And I agree. In the states, maybe an evening or two would be spent celebrating a person’s birth; however, here in Az, we do it right. We travel hours from our sites and wear out our welcome stay over a several day period. We buy lots of food and...beverages...and enjoy each other’s company. I think it works out well.

P.S. Me flossing after a b-day dinner!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ultimate

I love this game. All you need is a frisbee, a handful of players, and you got yourself a game!

Unfortunately, we’ve been missing the “couple of players” piece.

A couple weeks ago, Josh, Donny and I started tossing the frisbee around and we attracted a gaggle of spectators. By the time one of us realized we had everything we needed for a game of Ultimate, we had at least a dozen guys & girls tossing the frisbee with us.

So, two weeks ago, we began Ultimate Thursdays.

Ahh. I love Ultimate.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Toyin' It Up

A few weeks ago, I had the ultimate Az experience. I went to my first toy.A toy is the party portion of the wedding.

Weddings in Az are a big deal. They provide the best excuse to get gussied up and party utill you drop. They also allow you to eat the best darn food you will ever taste. I don’t know why we haven’t picked this tradition up in America, but move over cardboard catering and hello deliciously prepared treats.

The food portion of a toy lasts almost as long as the dancing. For me, we made it through six hours of white fish, salad, vegetables, chicken kebab, sheep kebab, beef kebab, caviar, plov, ice cream, cake, tea, salmon, and fruit. We also danced to every song and talked to every visiting family member.

It was awesome.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It Just Takes One

I recently received an email asking how you (rhetorically speaking) at home can contribute to Peace Corps efforts in Az. I know, I know, I should have written this post a long time ago, but it never crossed my mind. Silly, I know.

At any rate, here are some ideas. I will update it as projects arise. The list is of all PCVs’ projects, not just mine. Bolded items are my personal projects. Anything else, email me and I will get you in contact with the right PCV (last updated 11/1/2009):
  • Softball: A few years ago, PCVs started softball teams in several of the regions. Donations of equipment are greatly appreciated.
  • Photography books, guides, websites, etc. (PCPP grant to come!)
  • Art Supplies: Look for more information regarding my summer 2010 Z'Art Camp - (looking for yarn, knitting needles, construction paper, scissors, glue, sparkles, knitting patterns, notebooks, pens, pencils, drama books, etc)
  • Kids Books: An Az6 PCV is looking for anyone interested in donating a fair amount of easy to read kids books (for young kids). Hit me up for an email!
  • English Resources: If you have books (pre-teen to teen level), any PCV would love to off-load them for you. Dictionaries and Thesauruses are great too (older editions welcome!).
  • Green Living: PCVs have started an Environmental Committee to bring green living to Azerbaijanis. Check out the EC’s blog [link]for more information.
  • GLOW & ABLE: These leadership camps are for Azerbaijani young women and young men respectively. Anything and everything under the sun is needed.
  • Office Supplies: PCVs constantly need basic office supplies (copy paper, tape, scissors, post-its, markers, pens, blank cds, paper clips, index cards, etc).
For more info on In Kind Donations for Peace Corps Volunteers, please visit In Kind Donations [link], located on the Peace Corps website.

P.S. Thanks Leo!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bayramımız Mübarək: Balakən & Qizardilmiş Xəngəl

My Novruz break is coming to an end. Although, I am really sad to see it go (along with my visiting friends and late mornings), I am happy to have had the wonderful adventures and vacations of the past two weeks. I feel truly blessed to have such awesome site mates, friends and host family that made these past two weeks the best two weeks I have had in-country.

To conclude our break, two of my site mates, J-man, and I decided to head up to Balakən (Balakane) for a delicious dinner and a bit of site seeing. Balakən, a region located north of Zaqatala, is just a hop, skip, and jump away from the Georgian border. A picturesque town with a middle America feel, it’ s a little over 9 hours away from Baku. It also boasts a gigantic Həyar statue and park that reminds me of the National Mall.

And even if all that isn’t enough to make you visit, let me tell you about the grub. I have had some delicious food in Az, but fried xəngəl (xangal) takes the cake. Over the course of a couple of hours, my dinner party and I packed away 90 pieces of these delicious dumplings, plates of cheese and a basket or two of bread. If anything, I am headed back to Balakən for another round.

Ahh...what a way to end spring break.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bayramımız Mübarək: Dağa Piyadə Getmək

Even better than geting away is coming home! Even better than returning home is visiting friends! Even better than coming home and visiting friends is coming home to visiting friends!

After my trip to Şəki (Sheki), I was elated to find that Jesse (remember him from PST?) had decided to make the 6+ hour trek from his site (way down south) to my site.
During his visit, J and I joined my other site mates on a mountain trek to castle ruins outside the village of Muxax. The day was absolutely beautiful and the company was fantastic. The only downfall? Me. I took a bit of a tumble and busted my leg (check out that radtacular bruise) - but don’t worry Ma. It was worth it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bayramımız Mübarək: Oğuz

Next up on my getaway list was the rayon (region) of Oğuz (Oguz). Since I was already in Şəki (Sheki), a quick day trip to this paradise was easily managed and worth the cramped bus ride.

Not only is Oğuz one of the most scenic places I have visited in Az, but it also is one of the most booming. Everywhere I turned, massive construction projects were on the up-and-coming list of things to see. I cannot wait to return here next year and check out the new Olympic Complex, Həydar Park and beautiful new houses.