Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's About to EXPLODE!

As many of you know, I do clubs [link]. Most of my clubs focusing on improving English-speaking skills and preparing for FLEX exams [link]; however, J and I have recently branched out.

That's right, we have branched out to other types of clubs. Mostly because service is as much about the Volunteer as it is about the community. If all you do is try to meet your community needs, you may lose yourself - not to mention, you won't introduce your community to who you are and your interests (which may inspire them to try something new).

Anyway, J and I have started a science club. In Az, most science classes shy away from hands-on experimentation - which probably makes for a very long science lecture. Some of my fondest memories revolve around Andre's Honors Chem class and the titration tests we used to do.

Of course, here in Az, hydrochloric acid is not readily available - so J and I are trying out the small fun things. Our first club, we played with eggs and different liquids (such as coke, tea, and water). This last club, we used vinegar and baking soda to make mini-volcanoes. This week, it's oobleck [link]!

Any suggestions for next week?

Monday, October 25, 2010

I'm A Little Nuts

Last week, Jessica and I peeled, quartered, and seeded 40 + lbs of apples. 10 lbs went to apple sauce and apple pie filling [link]. 30 lbs went to my cider making experimentation [link].

Next weekend, I am doing it all again. I really like apples.

Löki's Pot Licking Apple Sauce Recipe
3 lbs of apples (I use mostly green, but you can mix it up)
1 cup apple juice or cider
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)
2 - 4 Tablespoons honey

Peel, quarter, and seed apples. In a large pot, combine apples and juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for an hour. Remove lid and stir. The apples should be slightly mushy. Continue to simmer, without the lid, stirring every 15 minutes (breaking up apple pieces). When the sauce has almost reached your desired consistency, add spices and honey. Allow to cook for another half hour or so and serve. Personally, I like some apple chunks in mine, but if you want a smooth sauce, run it through a food mill.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Ode To Jessica

So, by now, you all should know my Az7 site mate, Jessica.

She is pretty fantastic. My mom is always yelling at me for treating her like my [baby] sister, but hey, she is like my sister. She puts up with my constant advice giving, my intense mood swings, and is always willing to lend a hand when I decide to do something ridiculously crazy (like peel and core 40 lbs of apples).

Jessica has seen me at my worst and still talks me (at least once a day). She definitely is a key figure in keeping me sane, especially over the last month where everyday I question whether extending is really the best decision (it is, it is just hard).

She never gets mad at me and whenever I get too self righteous, she just ignores whatever I said and still does what she knows is best for her.

She is pretty fantastical. Definitely the best Az7 site mate for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Have Rules

I just got done reading some other PCV blogs and it made me think of all the blogging rules I follow but never really talk about.

I don't talk about them because they seem so...obvious. Now, I know I am not the Blog Queen, nor are my rules applicable to everyone. Viewpoints are different, goals are different, reasons for blogging are different, but I still feel that there are times when we all forget who our audience quite possibly could be. 

I mean, I honestly often forget Azerbaijanis read my blog. Every now and again, a local friend will make a comment in passing and I'm reminded that I cannot just post willy-nilly stuff. I never post pictures of local's faces, mainly because I always forget to ask for their permission and secondly, fathers don't like their girls' pictures up on the interwebs. It has a bad connotation here.

I rarely (if ever) blog about my political views and I shy away from my religious affiliation because locals read my blog. I also try not to describe much about my family or my life back in the states because it just gets me into trouble. I always tell the truth, but there are things that would take too long to explain to friends here about my life there.

And finally, I try really hard to stay away from cultural generalizations. Azerbaijan is as diverse as the US and making all encompassing statements really does not help anything.

Again, these are only my rules and I apply them only to myself. I just wanted you all to know them and know why I follow them.

P.S. If you did not get a good look at my hair before...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

UFC in the Hiz-ouse!

So most people know I love Star Trek TNG. I mean, the first man who does not balk at the idea of getting hitched at the Star Trek Experience Hall [link] in Las Vegas better watch out, because

Anyway...I digress. The point is, most people know I love TNG. Most people don't know that I also love UFC [link] (Ultimate Fighting Championship). I got into this amazing show of masculine...physicality...a few years ago while living with some pretty neat dudes. Yup. I am a fan of the octagon (and Joe Rogan [link], go figure).

Again, I digress. I like UFC. I also like traditions. Doesn't sound like those two should go together but, they do. We started it a few months ago. My male site mates and I would throw together some pizza (actually, that's me. I make the pizza. Last week, (homemade) Jim Beam BBQ Chicken Pizza [link] ) and watch a fight.

I love it. I get my UFC fix and I get to spend some quality time doing what I would have done in the US if I wasn't a PCV. It makes me feel a little more, normal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Come On Peoples (Congrats to Tracy!)

This is more of a celebratory post for Tracy, and a small chastising one to you all (um, my faithful readers). Tracy J. won the Ramadan 2010 Löki's Effort to Increase Friends' and Familys' Knowledge of Islam (and Ramadan) [link] Contest!

Of course, she was the only one who submitted contest questionnaire answers (and she got every answer correct).

Seriously, folks. A beautiful, Azeri handmade silk scarf was not enough incentive?

Anyway, here are her answers. Congratulations Tracy (who also happens to be a PC Nominee [link]!) Your scarf is on its way, today.

1. The holy book of Islam is called the Qur'an.

2. The Five Pillars of Islam are the five obligations every Muslim must do in order to live a good and faithful life.

3. These obligations are (1) sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith (Shahadah); (2) performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day (Salat); (3) paying an alms tax to benefit the poor and the needy (Zakat); (4) fasting during the month of Ramadan (Sawm); and (5) taking a pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).

4. The 9th month of the Islamic calendar is called Ramadan.

5. During this month, Muslims fast, offer up more prayers and focus more on worship and contemplation.

6. Breaking one's fast at the end of the day during the holy month is called Iftar.

7. The greater Jihad is the believer's struggle to live life centered around Islam. I think it's the greater Jihad (struggle) because it seems fairly easy to build your community according to your shared faith and to defend your faith against all others. However, given human nature, it is most difficult to live your life according to all of the "requirements" set forth by any particular faith. The world pulls us in many different directions which may not be in line with what our faith calls for/requires. Therefore, the greatest struggle (Jihad) of all is the personal struggle to live, proverbially, by the book.

8. One of the main differences between Sunni and Shi'a is the determination of who was the successor of the Prophet Mohammad [peace be upon him]. Sunnis believe it was Abu Bakr. Shi'as believe it was Mohammad's cousin Ali.

9. Sufism is not a sect of Islam. It is an aspect (Islamic mysticism).

10. Hijab is a barrier/cover.

Bonus: (1) Indonesia; (2) Pakistan; (3) Bangladesh; (4) Nigeria; (5) Egypt; (6) Turkey; (7) Iran; (8) Sudan; (9) Algeria; (10) Afghanistan

Just as a sidenote: I LOVE your blog!! I am a Peace Corps nominee and I look forward to becoming a volunteer! I wish you all the best along your journey to self-discovery! :)


Monday, October 11, 2010

Seriously In Preparation - Year 3

Ever plan to spend 27 months in one place with the idea that on month 28 you would throw everything away, but then decide to try and eek out a third year without re-stocking?

I have and let me tell you, bad d e c i s i o n decision.

Bad, bad decision on thinking I could eek out another year with my disintegrated clothing. Seriously folks. They must not make clothes like they used to because my jeans bit the dust 6 months ago (that's right. I brought a single pair) and anything black I brought now looks heather gray.

Maybe it has to do with the hot water hand washing, but in my defense, have you ever hand wash all your clothes? Getting them clean without hot water is darn near impossible.

Anyway, my point is that I am not prepared for year 3. Ripped clothing, holes, tears, all that is a no go here - besides the fact that I am representin', I've got to look professional if I mean to get along socially. So, my sister is shopping for some supplemental pieces. I am a bit scared. She keeps talking about..jeggings? I am pretty sure those won't fly either.

My awesome fashion sense is shining through here- can't you tell?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Festivus in Danachi!

A weekend or two ago, I had the awesome opportunity to attend a community festival in my site mate Amy's village.

Now, first things first: I consider Amy my site mate even though see lives in a village outside of Zaqatala proper. She lives in the region, the region is my site (sort of), ergo, she is my site mate.

Secondly, Amy leaves COSes [link] in a little over a month. AAHHHGGGHHHH. It makes me sad.

Anyway, the village, Danachi, is 99% Avar*, and proudly so. A trip to Danachi is like visiting a foreign country inside a foreign country. The language is vastly different from Azerbaijani, the customs are different - let us talk about Lord of the Dance when it comes to their speedy feet -, and there are more horse-drawn carts than cars.

Unfortunately, I really cannot tell you much more than that. I am still confused as to the exact origins of the Avar. My friend Könül told me yesterday that they (she is part Avar) are Byzantine [link] in origin and migrated to the Dagestani area and then into this area centuries ago. I have no idea what language tree Avar comes from and I am utterly confused as to many of their traditions.

Still, like most of the Zaqatala region, the scenery is breathtaking and the people absolutely wonderful. It definitely is worth a peek, for those who venture this far.

*1% is Amy and she is American.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Yo, ya'all, it is time for a maintenance check-in.

So, before I go having to write everyone emails, I thought I would post this on my bloggy blog and refer everyone here. I like readership and I like watching my readership numbers go up :)

  • Löki Gale Tobin has extended [link]. This means I will be in the Azerbaijan until January 2012.
  • LGT has plans to take her one month special leave (provided by Peace Corps) in late April/May. She is hoping to spend a week in New York, a few days in Anchorage, a week in Fairbanks, and a little over a week in Nome.
  • LGT still enjoys coffee, peanut butter, magazines, powdered sugar, books, brown sugar, dried fruit, salmon, baby corn, yada yada yada -[link to Mailing Instructions].
  • Her current projects include an art club, a kid science experiment club, photography clubs, and (inshallah) a Peace Corps World Map project.
  • LGT would love to travel - especially at any of the upcoming holidays and/ or for any of the overseas UFC fights. Contact her. She needs to see some family. Oh, Bali anyone?
  • Löki would also appreciate her mother and sister calling her. Hello??!!! Oh, and Ma, everyone would like you to send another Young Adult series. You have them all addicted. The DreamHunter series went over like ring worm - highly contagious it was...
Okay, any questions?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bullet Points on an RPCV's Resume

Probably one of the hardest things to do as a Peace Corps Volunteer is summarize your service into nifty resume nuggets.

How do you put two years of acclimation, assimilation and adaptation into a handy little paragraph? I mean, come on! That's like asking Löki to say Kirk was a better captain than Picard. It's impossible (literally, I almost had a conniption writing that sentence )!

So, to help all my Az6 friends prepare to re-entering the work force, I came up with some helpful buzz words that are sure-fire resume gold:

  1. Capable of long-range goal setting: Planning how best to use that one restroom break while on an 8 hour bus ride taught you this.
  2. Comfortable in a diverse range of settings: You're used to being the only one not getting what's going on - language barriers do that.
  3. Adaptable: When there's water, you drop everything to get home and turn on your pump, otherwise, your SOL until next Tuesday.
  4. Self-starter: You figured out how to re-attach your telephone cables and now your phone works, again!
  5. Independent and self-suffienct: You did spend every evening for 2 years entertaining yourself.
  6. Efficient user of time: Nothing teaches you how best to use your time when you've wasted hours waiting on the side of the road. 
  7. Excellent at managing funds: You know what it is like to have 4 days to pay day and nothing but a box of lentils.
  8. Personable and great to work were a PCV.