Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cooking in the Corps



And I learned something today: Löki's started a new blog category.

What? No? Geez. She is going to make us read more ridiculous posts about PC cooking...

Yes. She is.

Actually, this new blog category is all about cooking. Cooking in the Corps [link] to be exact. So, don't worry. You do not have to.

Really. You do not have to read it. I started it because several new PCTs mentioned they had no idea how to make rice. I joked about organizing a cooking 101 workshop for them, but decided this was way more sustainable and way more fun.

So, if you are interested, check it out: Cooking in the Corps [link]. Otherwise, just ignore those posts as they come up. I won't be too hurt...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why I Like Azerbaijan

I feel like I have been complaining a lot.

I guess it is just that time of the...month? Service? Lökiness?

PCVs have no qualms about complaining about service, but we usually do it to each other. This is for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being we get it. It is hard to explain what it is, but when you live it, you understand it.

That doesn't mean I won't try and explain what it is to you. Obviously, I can get bogged down in the frustrating it, but there are definitely the awesome its that keep me going everyday; the its that have me thinking about applying for an extension, and that make me wake up every morning thankful I am here doing what I am doing.

So the counterbalance all the negative its I've been throwing at you, here are some positive ones:
Az friends (Könül, Timur, Shahane, Naile, Ema, Fariz, Rena, Sakina, Ibanez Xanim, Ulviyye, and mo)
PC friends
PC staff (the awesome Baku team that rocks it)
A great apartment (even if all the showers are lukewarm)
Free time (I am now trying to figure out how to dry persimmions)
Service projects (my photo grant is rockin' and my summer Z'Art camp project is gaining speed)
The return of Number 1 (thanks Liana!)
Lots of time for guitar practice
Guests & CouchSurfers
And of course, the opportunity to blog about it all!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reach Out and Touch Your (Az) PCV

Got a PCV abroad and wondering how you can reach out and touch them? Just listen up and I'll give you the skinny:
Tap it out: Use AT&T International Texting [link] to contact your PCV. Texts from the US of A to Az cost $.025 a pop ($0.20 to receive). A relatively cheap way to put a smile on a PCV's face!
 Scott D tip: Use biteSMS [link], an "unofficial" iPhone application to save money.

Skype It! Skype To Go Number allows you to call an Az mobile for dimes on the minute.
Löki T tip: My ma calls me once a week for 10 minutes. Not only does make me feel more connected and supported, but it gives me an opportunity to say, "I love you!"

Chat services make the world go round! Use Google Chat, Jabber, AOL, MobileMe, that weird duck program Liana put on my computer... Chatting is free, easy and can often be done while reading online news sources or typing up emails. A PCV's life is a multitasking one.
Liana T tip: Arrange a chat "date" with your PCV! That way, you are talking computer to computer and it is free!
*For Az PCVs, AT&T seems to be the only carrier that carries text messages over this way.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Moonshine

I am an experimenter. Give me an internet connection, a couple of hours, and no guidelines, and I will come up with some wacky idea that I want to give a whirl.

Good thing, my site mates are those types of people because I don't think just anybody would spend 6 hours coring, juicing, and bottling 25 lbs of apples just for the heck of it.

That's right. My sitemate Amy and I are in the process of making some homemade hard apple cider.

I started this project because another Volunteer mentioned they were partial to hard apple cider, which got me to thinking: Azerbaijan has lots of apples. I could juice a lot of apples for cheap. Hard apple cider would be interesting to make....

And lo and behold, 6 hours of hard pressed work and Amy and I are on our way to our first batch of homemade appley-delicious moonshine. Wish us luck.

Find the recipe at Tor's Hard Cider [link].

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A New Group

A few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming in a new crop of PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees for those of you who already forgot the terms!). I remember that moment of flying into Baku, in a solid daze, scared witless and feeling ill prepared for whatever awaited me at the end of the tarmac. Without assuming too much, I am sure this new PCT group is feeling something similar; however, unlike our group, they all got the introduction phase well out of the way. With these new internet wonders, such as Facebook and Blogspot, these cats are already connected. For me, the scariest part was meeting the 60 other Az-bound PCTs. For them, it was a simple, "put a personality to a face" sort of thing.

At any rate, I remember one of the Az5s telling me he had never seen an iPhone. Then, I did not think much about it, but now, I am a little scared that I am going to return to flying cars and laser guns.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Distance

Every PCV knows that 2 years is an awful long time. People get married, babies are born, tragedies happen and you are thousands of miles away with only limited means of communication.

It sucks.

For me, the classic verbal processor, not being there to hug (and be hugged), plan parties for, and to laugh with (and cry on) my friends and family is the hardest thing I have ever experienced. It is impossible to imagine the emotional roller coaster that is Peace Corps service. Everything I feel is magnified by my lack of ability to simple talk with those at home. Even harder, being this far away makes contacting me with any news darn near impossible. You'd think it would get easier the longer I am here, but even after one year, I am still a basket case.

Oi. This distance thing is hard.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

One Year Down

Odd that I'm now just mentioning it, but we have passed the 1 year mark. I have now been in Az for 1 year (and some odd days).

You'd think I would have brought more fanfare and attention to this, but, truth be told, I was a bit busy. Firstly, I had VAC (I am a member of the Volunteer Advisory Committee, which I love!). Then, FLEX came up and I was busy working with my youth to prepare them for the different tests and the upcoming interview. After all that, I had the super fortunate luck of being chosen as a member of the Welcome Committee (that's right - when the next group of PCVs arrive - huh...this will have already happened by the time this blog posts...anyway, when they arrive, I - and 5 other PCVs - will have the distinct pleasure of welcoming them to Azerbaijan)...and then after all that...

I wrote this blog.

So...15 more months to go. Woo, hoo.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Iron Chef Zaqatala

So, I am down to 2 sitemates. I think ya'all have already met Josh [link], and I have mentioned Amy [link] a time or two. I think Amy said it best when she noted we bicker like siblings...because we do. Get the 3 of us in a kitchen and we back seat cook like nobody's business.

That's why we decided to settle our differences with a little cook-off (queue music) - Iron Chef Zaqatala: The Chili Competition.

Pounds of beans, hot peppers, and secret ingredients (is that chocolate Amy?) later, the line up goes something like: Josh, Löki, Amy. The judging may have been a little faulty as Azerbaijanis were calling the shots and hot food ain't received real well around these parts.

At any rate, Josh is the King - well, at least until the next cooking challenge (do I hear a pancake throw down on the horizon...).

Löki's 2nd Place White Chili
2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c cooked and cubed chicken (run with cumin & chili powder and pan fry)
1 1/2 c chicken broth
4 hot chilis, seeded and diced
1 t cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 t cayenne pepper
2 1/2 c white beans (soaked and cooked with chopped onion, chili powder and whole cloves)
1 can white corn, undrained
Prepare chicken and beans. Set aside.
In a large pot, saute onion and garlic in oil for 10 minutes. Add chicken (and collected juices), chilis and broth. Add spices and bring to a boil. Add beans (mash 1/2 a cup for a thicker soup) and corn. Heat thoroughly. Serve hot!