Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

As you know, if you extend, Peace Corps graciously pays for a month long trip home.

Now, if I was on top of it, I would email these dates out to you, but that probably will not happen until I am about to board the plane, so...here they are. I am all about doing PC presentations and/ or recruitment stuff, so sign me up and I will build my schedule around it.


May 9th

Leave Baku (around 4 a.m.) and arrive in Anchorage around 4 p.m. (time differences...eek).

May 17th

Leave Anchorage (on noon flight) and arrive in Nome about an hour and a half later.

May 28th

Leave Nome (morning flight) and arrive at JFK the next day (early a.m.)

June 11th

Head back to the land of fire.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top 10 Ways to Blow a Good Hour (or Two)

  1. Read the entire Hunger Games trilogy [link];
  2. Listen to HowStuffWorks.com podcasts [link];
  3. Finish off a chapter of the Odyssey audiobook;
  4. Read the Huffington Post online [link];
  5. Read People.com [link];
  6. Bake peanut butter chocolate chip cookies;
  7. Get lost at Etsy [link];
  8. Hand wash your laundry;
  9. Hand wash your sheets; or,
  10. Clean your apartment (and dust for cockroaches).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stress, sadness, and overall depression

So...stress, sadness, and overall depression. Such a heavy topic for such a joyful time of year (it is Novruz [link] here - more to come on that later), but this has got to be said.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you are bound to experience all three of these in some vary degrees during your service. Nothing can be done about it. Peace Corps is an emotional roller coaster.

The real question is what do you do while you are in your pit of despair?

Although my first few months in country (and subsequent months at site) are a hazy blur, I do remember an almost debilitating array of emotions. Your first food poisoning, you want your mom so bad you find yourself locked in the bathroom crying or screaming at a taxi driver for overcharging you. You try to keep a tight control over every emotion, but it comes out at the most inconvenient times.

I was lucky that my Az5 site mate had already broken the "running barrier" and I could exercise to relieve some of my tension. Exercise is a God-send. I don't care how you work it into your schedule (Jessica talked a local into running with her), but get it done.

My second round of sadness came at a time when I least expected it. I remember waking up one morning, knowing that the next few weeks were gonna be rough. Nothing triggered that particular bout of unhappiness, well, except for living miles and miles from home.

I spent a lot of nights, locked in my room, watching American sitcoms. Probably not the most effective way to deal with sadness, but it was something. I also forced myself to watch American sitcoms with other PCVs and ate a ridiculous amount of spaghetti (my comfort food).

My third round, I can only classify as depression. It was bad and it came when I realized I was really extending and everyone was going home. That was one of those bad bad situations that you have to ride out.

Luckily, I had recently gotten A DSL in my apartment had could Skype home. After two years of barely speaking to my family, I now have the ability to talk with them whenever time allows. This has been a game changer. I don't think I would have made it a third year without their support.

I also bake a lot. My site mates find it hilarious that I rarely eat anything I cook, but it is the repetitive motion of chopping, mixing, and baking that gives my day structure.

I previously mentioned that I have stopped watching dramas and try to steer clear of anything overly emotional. I create iTunes playlists of 80's rock hits and pop music to lift my spirits and I can be found doing a cross-word when I just need to let my mind rest.

And of course, my counterpart, Könül has been a major factor in keeping me sane. Although there is a lot about me that she probably doesn't know, she's got the important stuff down. Having a local person that I can go to when it gets really bad makes all the difference. It really does.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A crappy week.

Sorry guys. I know I have been a little out of it the last week or so and I would love to tell you what has been going on, but...

That can't happen.

Unfortunately, there are often times as a PCV that
  1. You have no idea what is making you so sad; and/ or,
  2. You can't describe what it is to people back at home; and/or
  3. It is inappropriate for you to blog/ email / or write about it.
Of course, being PCV is a strain. Emotionally, it is a roller coaster of craziness. Everything is maximized. I find myself crying at YouTube videos of kittens. I stopped watching anything above a PG-13 rating eons ago because I can't handle the content. I gave up American television for Lent because I found myself projecting onto the characters and was genuinely upset that Finn and Rachel just won't stay together.

Yup. That happened.

And it seems silly. You want to call your bestie and tell them that your dang refrigerator has broken for the THIRD freaking time, but that means nothing to them. They have no idea what it means to you to have your kitchen a mess, not being unable to cook because all your counter space is currently occupied with your dozens of cooking sauces, and the refrigerator repair guy telling you to wait until after the upcoming 10 day spring break.

And then, some things are just inappropriate to blog about. Unfortunately, blog readers get a rather washed down, sanitary version of PC life.

So, it has been a crappy week. My next blog post will be about what I do when I have a crappy week, but for right now, I am going to be miserable. Sometimes, it is good to own the feelings and just ride it out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Still Side Tracked

Yeah. I know I know. I am slacking here, but it is for a good cause - or at least I hope it will be for a good cause.

Anyway, here is a picture from International Women's Day [link]. A pretty big holiday here (business closes, schools let out, flowers are given), most Azerbaijanis are dang surprised when I tell them this ain't a big deal in the US. I cannot tell you how many Azerbaijani jaw droppings I got, always accompanied by the phrase, "but it started in America!"

Well, what can I say? I haven't had the pleasure of celebrating International Women's Day in the US, but who knows. Maybe this will be one of those cultural things I bring back. It will probably have a little bit of a twist to it though. Here, even though it's Women's Day and every son is sent out to buy his ma flowers, mothers and daughters still work their hineys off doing house work...

I would gladly trade dishes for flowers :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Side Tracked

Sorry guys, I got busy finishing up my thesis and preparing for my MASSIVE comprehensive examinations...

So...I forgot to post St. Valentine's Day pictures.



Azerbaijanis do not celebrate St. Valentine's Day, but they do have their own lover's day of sorts. Personally, I never thought of St. Valentine's Day as a lover's day, but as a day to show your family how much you love them. That is how I explained V-Day to kids here - in a family context. Unfortunately, that doesn't help the incessant giggles and dozen or so times I get asked, "Do you have a sweetheart?"

Oi da. (Azerbaijani for geez!).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011