Thursday, October 11, 2012

PC Azerbaijan in Binnatli Village, Beylagan

I will make this post short n' sweet. Below is a video I made for my World Wise School program back in America. I thought I would share it with you all to give you more insight on my life in Azerbaijan. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Organizer (OCDO). I am first to admit it...I love to organize.

I think it is a trait I picked up from my father. He was known to throw out homework if it was left sitting on the kitchen table.  Although, I wouldn't go as far as alphabetizing my CD's or DVD's (ehm! you know who you are).

My OCDO has proven to be very helpful when say...packing to leave the country. The past two days, I packed one bag which will be sent via cargo next week. Lucky bastard gets to be in America before me.

Today, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) arranged a ride to my village and picked out all the items she wanted to take to her home, in a neighboring city (she has one year left of her service). She is now the owner of an almost new oven, fan, kitchen items, clothing and various other items. It was nice to part ways with these things, but also becoming more real the small amount of time I have left.

Grace and her host brother...goodbye stuff
Grace and I
I then sat down and organized my jewelry to give as gifts to all the women teachers at my school. A few days ago I went mad-hatter crazy and folded about 30 paper boxes from greeting cards. Today, I decided who should get what, and wrapped each box with a red ribbon along with a name tag.

Organizing magic in action 
Final product

Ready to take to school

Before going to my neighbors for supper, I put together two gifts for her daughters. I filled empty candy bags with a mini notebook, pencil, eraser, and stickers.

Final product!

I arrived at Narmina's and was promptly served tea and fed. After 10 minutes at her home a man, from across the yard, was asking for me. It turned out to be the postman's son delivering my mail. Apparently he had gone to my home and was told I was guesting at the neighbors. It is proof of how I am carefully watched every time I step outside my door. It can be a blessing and a curse to always be under a watchful eye.

The package was filled with gifts I will hand to my close friends. Thanks to my mother for the sewing the mitts! Before leaving I was given 4 eggs fresh from the chicken coop, a cake, onions, and a handful of candy. This is a gesture of this culture I am going to miss. I was careful to walk home with 4 eggs in my backpack.

I was greeted by this little guy, Jerry

Aynura with her gift

Rahida carefully inspecting her new stickers
The oven mitts sewn by my mother 

Thanks Mom! 

Jerry the puppy

I leave you with cuteness

This about summarizes today. Everyday I wake up not knowing what my day has in store for me. This is the thrill of being in Peace Corps. We will see what tomorrow brings...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Host Family Visit

Today I went to visit my host family. I don't get there very often, but every time I go I ask "Why don't I come over here more often?" Although, this summer I wasn't around much. I was busy travelling the country. My host mother always looks tired as she is younger then me, has three children (the youngest has special needs) and she doesn't have much help around the house. She is always nice to talk to and is one of the few people who understands my quirky behaviors...The reason I am a "vegetarian" only in the village, my need for alone time, and my motivation for coming across the world to work for free.

I arrived and caught up on our lives. Ate dinner with the family, drew with my host brother and sister, and played with my little host sister until she fell asleep in my embrace. Instead of writing about my guesting, I will just show pictures of my afternoon before getting caught in a rain storm on my way home.

My host brother, Tacir

Host siblings. Yes, I made them pose for this picture.

Where I spent a large portion of my time my first winter when living with them. We all would sit around in this one room since it was the only room with the wood stove.

Host sister, Tama drawing me a self-portrait. 

Me!...and Tama spelled my name correctly!

Tacir cleverly covering my name to pose with my picture.

This gets me every time. So, I taught Tacir how to make the paper folding boxes two years ago (you know where you fold them, then blow into the corner and it creates a box). I showed him once and he still remembers. He is a such a smart kid.

I drew a self-portrait of Tacir. Here he is posing with it.

My little host sister, Nunay right before falling asleep.

Host mother, Gunay

On my walk home, in the rain, after my great evening with my host family. I filled up my drinking water container since it was on the way home. 

The Top 10 Things you will never hear a PCV say...

10. What am I going to do with all this money?!?
9. Awesome! The neighbor kids are here!
8. I would love for you to continue stroking my ears. I love it!
7. (During a bus stop on a long ride) Those were the cleanest squat toilets I have ever seen!
6. Mmmm...nothing like the smell of burning garbage to wake me up.
5. Geese. I love geese.
4. Of course I would love to stay at your house for 6 hours and keep eating food.
3. Let's hold hands and walk together.
2. Mmmmm...this soup smells good!
1. You want to be my friend?...Of course! Here is my phone number.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

End of Summer

Summer is over! It is a happy time as sitting in front of my fan, drinking room temperature water while swatting flies all day is not my idea of my favorite day. builds character. I believe I have build enough character in my two years. 

View from my hotel suite
With the coming of fall came our final conference. The AZ8s (and two extended AZ7s) just returned from our Close of Service (COS) conference, also known as Continuation of Service. The conference was held at a water park/hotel on the northern coast of the Absheron peninsula, north of Baku, and on the Caspian Sea shore. Before our two day conference, during breaks, and after our meetings, time was well spent on the water slides. Who would have ever thought water slides would be so freeing? Maybe it was there were no life guards, no rules, and no whistles if you were caught running. The 23 person centipede down the slide certainly could not be tried in the states. 

Last day and last session
The conference covered many topics: reintegrating back into America, the crazy amount of paperwork that needs to be completed, how to say goodbye to our communities, what needs to be returned to Peace Corps (winter sleeping bag, aka: brown monster, water filters, dictionaries, smoke detector).

This was also the last time the AZ8s will be together. We came into country with 63 and are leaving with 58 volunteers. With all of us together it brought with some great memories filled with a murder mystery night, a talent show capped off with dancing at the outdoor disco, on the shore of the Caspian Sea, until 4am. 

Fellow PCV, Julie and I
These next three months (81 days) are filled with finalizing of all sorts. Final paperwork (this is a government organization after all), dr. appointments, exit interviews with my Program Manager and Country Director, final language assessment, getting rid of my stuff, saying goodbye to my site and finishing my work at school. 

My final project is compiling materials into a resource cabinet for my teachers to use at school consisting of: English books, visuals I have drawn (yes, they look awesome), craft materials, maps, and binders filled with ideas for teaching the basics- writing, speaking, listening and reading- to use for lessons. 

I am also finalizing a few videos I shot and edited myself (pat on the back). It is about a brief overview of my village, school, and of my students teaching basic Azerbaijani words (colors and animals). I originally created it to give to my fellowship school in Minnesota, but it also makes for a great way to learn basic English words. 

With the closing of summer, school begins next week. It will be great to see my students and how much they have changed over the summer. My girls arts/dance club will start up again but only with a short time before saying goodbye to my village in November. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tomato Run and The Neighbors

Today started like any normal day. Around 7am my fan kicked back in, as that is when the electricity is turned back on. Then the fan decided to magically face plant into the floor and startle me to jump up from my half-awake state. I guess time to get up and start the day.

I cooked oatmeal for breakfast adding coconut, cinnamon and raisins. One cup turkish coffee all while watching one episode of 'Mountain Man.' After my food settled, I did my 50 minute insanity workout. Then did a load of laundry. Hand wash of course. The weather was perfect for line drying; clear sky, mild breeze, not too hot. This afternoon I received a call from my mother. She likes to wake at 4am her time and call me about updates. All is good back home, but if anyone in the Bismarck area and would love to mow the lawn, my father would be grateful. He has retired this task.

I decided tonight I should make a hearty dinner as the past three days my meals have been oatmeal and soup (not together). So my tomato search started so I could make some pasta sauce.

Store one is the closest to my home. They have vegetables about 50% of the time, but today, nothing.

Store two is a good 30 minute walk from my home. This store I dislike going to since there are always about 5 men sitting outside and just stare at me then giggle like 5 year olds. I always make a point to say salam to them to freak them out. This is usually my "go to" store for vegetables, but they were out.

Store three is in the opposite direction about 30 minutes from store two. The man that owns this store always seems so crabby. His two sons are sometimes working there (two students of mine), but as luck would have it, they were not working. Just the crabby man. Again, no veggies.

Store four is 15 minutes from the previous store. I had been told not to go to this store (when I first arrived at site) as it was where the men hang out and play games and drink beer. I, of course, do not listen to this craziness because I am the strange foreigner and push the limits. The men who do hang out there are usually teachers from school so I never have problems anyway. They are very courteous to me. Turns out they had tomatoes! Also bread! Finally store no.4 wins!

On my walk home there was a group of boys playing volleyball in the school yard surrounded by grazing cows. One woman was sitting outside her clothing store entertaining her grandchild. I stopped to say salam for a bit. I took out a recently purchased bag of chips and chomp away while walking home. Again, eating in public is not the norm, but I do it anyway to push boundaries.

Upon arriving home I drop off my things and head to my neighbors.

MY. NEIGHBORS. (in a teeth-clenched tone)

I could write a separate blog all about my them called "The Crap My Neighbors Do." Let's just say, their definition of hospitality is different then mine.

Lets back up a bit...

The beginning of this summer I receive a call from my landlady saying she wanted to move into my kitchen for a month. I said that was fine as I was travelling for a month and she would be out when I returned home. Turns out, she lied. It turned into ALL summer. I came home for one week with her living in close quarters. I was so stressed that I became extremely ill for three days. Let's just say, I was happy to leave after that week.

My landlady called me earlier this week saying she would be leaving Monday and would hand the key to the kitchen to this neighbor girl. I told her I would be coming back home two days later on Wednesday. I arrive home and this girl wasn't home (which is strange because she is always home). She finally comes over Saturday saying she would bring them the following day. Sunday (today) I walk over there and she tells me she lost the key. It fell out of her pocket. She of course was not planning on coming over to tell me this. My blood starts to boil and I tell her there will be a problem if I do not have this new lock tomorrow (as this is the new plan). And, yes, I will make it a problem.

I moved into this house April 2011 and have caught onto their tricks. The past few days they have randomly been giving me food: eggs, jam, bread. Usually, I have to ask for these items, but they voluntarily came over and hand delivered them. The following are the reasons they give me food:
1. I ask directly
2. I have guests and they want to appear to be hospitable, so they come with fresh bread, eggs, milk, etc.
3. They know they have upset me in some way (due to our difference in the definition of hospitality). OR
4. They know I will become upset at them for "poop is about to hit the fan"

In this case. Option four.

I feel I have been blessed with an extreme amount of patience. Sometimes a curse, really, as I can be a tad laid-back. I have only yelled at two people in my life (you know who you are). So you have to be extremely irrational for me to loose my temper. My neighbors have pushed my limit on numerous occasions. Then they bring food and it heals all.

I want to stress that I do love people in my community, just not a few selected people I call....NEIGHBORS.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Back to the Grind

This summer is slowly coming to a close. Next week is our close-of-service (COS). It will be our last get together for all of us Az8's (the 8the group to be in Azerbaijan) before we leave the country. We arrived with a group of 63 and after all this time are only down to 58.

I am back at my village after 3 months of travelling around Azerbaijan. Of course, it would have been nice to leave the country for travel, but I opted out of it as I will be travelling quite a bit in November. I could blog about all the adventures this summer, but there is too much to write about. So, I will skip over this crazy summer and move on.

Now living back at home, I am back into the swing of chores I must attend to. Today I have already went on my trek for drinking water. I took a needle to the shower head as the tiny holes like to rust over if not used for extensive time periods. I filled up my water tank to notice yet another leak. I pray it holds out until November. I asked my neighbors about knowing someone who can fix a fridge. As mine only works for 5 minutes and decides to quit running. I scrubbed the squat as my landlady decided not to clean it before leaving. And, yes, it was disgusting.

I tend to complain about living here, but really, it is great. There is just always so many chores that need to be done. I can't image adding children to attend, a husband to serve, and livestock to feed. As I came back to the village my neighbors were piling wood for this upcoming season. I am so happy not to be spending another winter living here. One year of taking care of a wood burning pec was enough for me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I feel I need to post about my much loved, dear friend, Tina. She has been on my mind these past few days and I am not sure why. I think during any major change in my life I always ask, "what would Tina think?" Even after all this time, I can hear her talking then chuckling her signature laugh.

There hasn't been a day gone by without thinking of her.

The time she was taken marked a huge change in my life. On my 25th birthday, I attended her funeral, said my goodbyes, then packed up my car and moved from North Dakota to Arizona, all in the same day. I still wonder how I made it through that transition without her. She was the best friend I talked to when I needed someone to lend an ear. My life transition to Arizona, and the years after, were very difficult and not having her to talk with, made it all the more.

I have so much to contribute to her. If it wasn't for her, I would still be unsure of how to apply make-up, that clothes were supposed to match, and never would have memorized all the words to just about every Shania Twain song from the album 'Come on Over.' More importantly, she taught me to let my hair down and have fun with life.  It was because of her influence which has shaped my personality into who I am today. She saw the best in people. Her smile was beautiful and her kindness lit up every room she entered.

I am coming up on nine years without my best friend and I miss her even more. She touched the lives of everyone around her. I feel everyone should have met this wonderful woman for she was an amazing friend, mother, daughter and sister. I was lucky to have been a part of her life for I am a better person because of her.