A lot has happened since I last wrote!
The US has a new president, my sister survived her 21st birthday (thanks be to God), I went to my first Azeri "toy" aka wedding, I received a package from Scottie and Lindsey, I learned how to play and subsequently became obsessed with nard, helped cook gumbo, had my first highly anticipated trip to Baku with a sleepover at my host family's house to follow, and I found out my permanent site!
Quickly I will say a bit about our newly elected President. I think most know where I stand personally, but mostly I just want to say that this is historical. I'm proud of our country and anxious to see what will happen over the next 4 years. It's very interesting to be apart of the international community at this time in history. Let me just say that Azerbaijani's and others on this side of the world are very happy with the outcome of the election. It's nice to have a positive image to the rest of the world, and makes me proud to be serving our country right now.
About my permanent site: I will be heading to Liman village right outside of Lankaran in the very southern part of Azerbaijan on December 11th, so soon! I'm so excited about it! My school is evidently brand new or recently renovated, it's hard to know, and the director and english teachers are excited about having a Peace Corps Volunteer. Liman means "port" in Azeri so it's pretty close to the Caspian Sea, which if you know anything about me, you know I'm pumped about being close to the water. Lankaran is known for having excellent cuisine, hot summers, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables most of the year round. I've also heard that they have a dialect of Azeri that I will not understand. When I told my host family I was going to Liman, my host sister started dying laughing. All I could do was laugh with her and then try to figure out exactly why she was laughing- evidently it was the language factor, but I'm never really sure :) haha For now that's pretty much all I know; however, next week I get to meet one of my counterparts I'll be working with and make a 4 day trip to visit my site and my future host family! My entire group is really excited about our sites. I'm relatively close to most of the good friends I've made sor far, and those that are farther away will make a nice vacation every once in a while. Public transportation in Azerbaijan is widespread and pretty easy. Finding out my permanent site was an emotional experience, and honestly makes this whole experience that has thus far felt kind of camp/study abroad like, more real. And I couldn't be more happy about that. I feel at peace with that fact. I feel that I am ready for the many challenges I know I will face in the next 2 years. Bring it on! (Sara, what are you thinking is the appropriate response here?!)
The Azeri wedding was priceless. Although extremely different from American weddings, quite possibly the exact opposite of, I had an absolute blast! The afternoon leading up to it was the most stressful thing I've experienced in a long time. My dress failed the "you can wear this in Azerbaijan" test, I saw a fight between some marshrutka drivers in the middle of the road, we failed to find a hair salon to do our hair because I was looking too much like I was wanting to spend the big bucks or something, and my host family was shocked when they saw me in make up for the first time! When we finally got in the car there, I was exhausted. Have no fear though, once I arrived to the wedding hall, 6pm sharp on a Thursday night I was willing and more than ready to partake in the wedding traditions. I ate a ton and danced even more. My entire host family, extended relatives included were in attendance and were showing me off to all who would listen and stare. They thought I was an expert Azeri national dancer, and continued to ask where I had been trained... my moves must be pretty sick, in a good way, that is. The food was delicious. Any time you would take a bite, the servers would bring more food and a new plate; a sip of orange Fanta, and you were sure to get a refill. I have several pictures, and if I can ever figure out how to upload photos, they will be the first to make it.
Nard. oh man. Nard=obsession. My friend and site mate, Josh, recently invested in a nard set/board thing and his host family taught him to play. He, then, taught me and I have become obsessed. It's funny because the first couple of times you play, or maybe forever, if there is a single Azeri person around, they are standing over your shoulder, "advising" you on the moves you should take. AKA: if you think for 2 seconds, your piece has already been moved for you. But once I got the hang of it, I couldn't stop playing. One night this past week, my language group got together and cooked gumbo for my friend Amy's host family (and ourselves of course). Afterwards, I played nard with her 11 year old host brother, who has clearly been playing nard since he was conceived. There were two priceless moments during our game. Frist, you all should know that I was getting killlllled before we even started playing. Then, I started noticing his face becoming worried, but with a smile. He rolled the dice and then didn't move his pieces. I decided to question him and he was basically like, "don't ask, you need this, I'll let you catch up with me for a second", to which I replied with a boisterous laugh that distracted him from the obvious sign I was wearing on my forehead that read "Stupid" in black, bold letters. Then, nearing the end of my ass-kicking, pardon my french, he slyly moved 6 of my pieces off the board (finish line) and then proceeded to make a shoo-ing, waving motion like "can't you make anything interesting here?!" but did it with the most innocent little smile that just made me, true2form, giggle, and remember why I love these people so much. So, the moral of the story is, nard is great, and even if you don't learn by watching typically, you have to run with it here.
Other exciting things: my package from Scottie and Lindsey was so fun to receive- it had all the girly things and "necessities" one would ever need in AZ! :) Last night, my friends Johanna and Lexi spent the night after an eventful trip to Baku, the capital, which involved some interesting ex-pats, a gorgeous and surprisingly European-like big city, some delicious tex-mex style nachos!, and a much un-needed McDonald's meal that felt like Heaven and then quickly turned into something my body was nooooot having. haha Later today, we're making pizza, the dough is rising as we speak.
Overall, I am very happy over here. I am pleased with the timing of everything and proud to be in such a great country, with amazing people (US and Azeri). It's very exciting to be in a country that is quickly becoming a big player in the International scene, and to see firsthand how that affects different populations and regional areas of the country, not to mention the financial status of everyone here. Peace Corps is a great organization and is well respected here. I cannot wait to get to my site where I can begin forming more meaningful relationships with people that are anxious and willing to act to create change. I will be writing more about that in the future, and more specifically about my site when I get back from my visit next weekend!
I just have to add in the fact that 3 flies are on top of each other right in front of my face on top of the computer I'm typing on, and have been for a solid 15 minutes. One keeps leaving and coming back. Quite the distraction, but somehow I've made it through.
Vessalam. (That is all)