Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Big Weekend (in 3 installments)

Whew. Thanksgiving is over! Wait, that did not come out like I wanted it to...

Christmas is coming! I am going to Thailand! I can now listen to Christmas music non-stop (I made a playlist). Zorsa! (That means awesome is Avar).

But before I start blogging about my upcoming Thailand extravaganza, let's rewind and talk about this past weekend, starting with my apple pie.

I may have mentioned this a time or two, but cooking in Az is an adventure. Not only are you limited in available ingredients, but even the simplest things must be made from scratch (like bread crumbs). As part of my contribution to our at-site Thanksgiving feast, I promised an apple pie and roasted veggies. Of course, I had to make the entire pie from scratch, meaning, I had to whip up a couple pie crusts and jimmy rig apple pie spices.

If I do say so myself, my pie looked awesome. It tasted pretty good too (I really need to locate the Az equivalent of shortening). The whole process was a bit of an exercise in oven mechanics - my oven doesn't have a temperature guage and sometimes is really hot and sometimes is luke warm, but, it all worked out. I knew it would.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Seasons...who knew?

I think this is a first for me - living through 4 seasons. In Alaska, there is is construction and winter. When I lived in New York, it was Christmas and summer. I spent a little over a semester in D.C. and other than that, I am a holiday hopper. This is definitely a first for me.

At any rate, seasons are amazing. It is amazing that here on a sunny Tuesday, November afternoon, I am walking around in a light jacket and tights, talking with few students who just took the 3 round of FLEX testing. It is amazing that my apartment is comfortably warm without my electric heater.

I never really got why people would live anywhere but Alaska. I mean, come on, Alaska is gorgeous. Great people, great scenery, killer fresh food (goodness, I miss Alaskan King crab). All my life, I have lived a stone’s throw away from God’s greatest creation - that would be the Chugach Mountain Range for those who don’t know - and, I always wondered why people would live anywhere else.

But, now I get it. Seasons...who knew?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Really Talking

Recently, I have been wondering what people think of my blog. I mean, obviously, it’s awesome, so I guess that is not my question. I guess I am wondering what you think about my service. What does the average Lökite (yup, that is what you all are, my “ites”) think Löki’s life is like?

Blogging is hard. Mass emails are hard. Some things I can’t write. Some things, I won’t write. It would be like trying to explain how pop-rocks feel when you drink cola. Unless you’ve done it, the description sounds a bit...off putting.

Plus, I recently heard that people back at home really aren’t that interested in PC service. I’ve been told that when I hit American soil, I get 5 minutes with anyone who asks me, “so, what have you been up to,” to explain the last 27 months of my life before people’s eyes roll back and the listening stops. For me, the talker, I can only imagine what all my Lökites are thinking with my constant blogging.

My answer to this? I got none. I write lots of emails. I complain to my dad. I try to explain my feelings to Scott. I call up Jesse and cry, but for the people at home, your getting a view from the cheap seats. I wish I could make it all more meaningful, but I don’t know how. How can I explain that Löki ain’t the same Löki anymore?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hairdate #6

At little 'fro update for ya'all: my hair is getting long. Annoyingly long. I really could go for a good haircut right now. A nice little trim to take off all my split ends and the weird little knots that seem to form at the end of every strand of hair (is this normal?).

Besides a good cut, my hair is doing pretty well. My ma has gotten me hooked on Carol's Daughter [link] products, which keeps my hairs hydrated and frizz-free. I had tried these babies before, but for non-crimpy hair, Carol's Daughter is just a little too greasy. Now, my hair soaks the stuff up like a summer sweat on a do-rag.

My bigger hair has definitely taken on a life of its own. Obviously, I stick out here like a sore thumb, but I have never had to fight so hard for my American heritage. I have been mistaken for Arab, African, Brazilian and Hispanic. For awhile, I was telling people I was Alaskan (which I am), but after an incident with another minority Volunteer, I realized everyone was just assuming that all the American minorities live in Alaska...

At any rate, I am rocking the hair. It's getting touched a lot. I constantly get asked where I am from (not all that different from being state-side) and I am only hearing one or two racial ephiphats a month (I got a speech for this). All in all, I am beginning to think my hair is international development.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Löki Homemaker

Winter is here. Or at least, what I think winter in Azerbaijan is like. I am not really sure. I am slowly coming to the realization that an Alaskan's idea of winter and the rest of the world's idea of winter are vastly separate concepts.

At any rate, it's kind of cold outside and there are fewer people roaming the streets. This makes being outside less fun, so, I am staying inside. I am still running, but mostly, I sit at home and think up projects. Unfortunately, any person who visits me gets pulled into one of my hair brain schemes. Last week, I had 3 [Azerbaijani] girlfriends over to make friendship bracelets. I cooked a "traditional" American lunch (chicken fried steak, mashed taters, and sautéd spinach) and we sat in a circle and gossiped. It was great.

This weekend, I made a door draft snake and French Onion soup from scratch. Now, you may be thinking I caramelized the onions and then added the beef stock, and you are right. But, I made the beef stock. That's right. I made beef stock.

I am so ready to take over the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scary Spice

So, I am going to start this blog post with a qualifier: For me, Halloween is a fun, politically incorrect holiday that involves friends, family and lots of sticky sweets. My costume is meant to entertain and not offend.

Now that I got that out of the way...

No, I wasn't Scary Spice for Halloween (although, I kind of look like her). I was Tina Turner! That's right. I can Proud Mary with the best of 'em!

Actually, I really enjoyed my costume this year. My friend dressed up as Ike and we went as that infamous duo...but where'd we go? Well, my sities and I decided that Zaq could throw a little Halloween get together - which was awesome because I LOVE HALLOWEEN (any holiday were people wear orange with pride is a great holiday).

20 PCVs, several whole chickens, 3 kilos of potatoes, a 1/2 pound of sugar cookie dough and enough caramel corn to feed a small army makes a great Halloween shin dig.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Donate Now!

Don't you just love blog posts entitled with "Donate Now!"? I know I do.

Well, really, I love blog posts that describe a project proposal that I co-wrote (that's right, my community counterparts wrote a fair share of this baby) that just needs a few dollars from you!

So, what exactly am I talking about?

1st-ly: Peace Corps promotes a great grant opportunity for communities called Peace Corps Partnership Proposal (PCPP). Once written, this grant gets a space on the Peace Corps Donate Now webpage and asks for family, friends and general do-gooders to donate to a PCV's project.

2nd-ly: After a great summer photography workshop, several girls buckled down and helped me write a PCPP to start a photography club here in Zaqatala. The general idea is this:
The Z’Photo Photography Club will provide a forum for young people to learn basic photography skills and assist in developing an appreciation of photography as an art and as a profession. Youth will promote their art during local community events, as well as create public service announcements through digital manipulation. Furthermore, youth will be presented with the opportunity to develop publications for other Peace Corps’ sponsored projects, which they can add to their developing portfolio. Additionally, several youth leaders will learn how to plan and implement a youth project and will facilitate the Club’s weekly meetings. Money raised through this partnership grant will be used to purchase photography equipment for Club participants.
 3rd-ly: This whole project depends on you, sooo...donate now [link]. You can donate snail mail like too:
Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters
Peace Corps Partnership Program, OPSI
1111 20th Street NWWashington DC 20526
4th-ly: If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to email me [link]. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  

And don't forget, your donation is tax deductible!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Plateau

So, a few weeks ago I was pretty pissed. How in the heck could I know so much Az grammar and vocabulary and still struggle to put together a simple sentence. Even worse - if you gave me a couple minutes, I could say almost anything, but in the moment, I got flustered as heck.

I take bi-weekly Az lessons. I study on my own (much more than I probably should). I soak up new words, idioms, phrases and slang like nobody's business.

So why was speaking so hard for me?!

Well, about two weeks ago, two things happened: (1) the trainees came to Z-town for a visit; and (2) I was forced to use my Azerbaijani for 5 other people.

And lo and behold, I realized I was just in a language plateau. A completely expected and known phenomenon that I downright forgot about.

It's weird how the most obvious of answers doesn't even blip on your radar when you are mad as heck and spittin' nails.