Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Celebrity Living

Since things have just calmed down and my computer charger finally arrived I have returned from my hiatus in honor of the Christmas holidays! Last time I wrote, I was almost finished with training and was getting ready for my big overnight stay in the grand city of Baku. However, since so much has happened since then, I will write a quick summary and then play a fun little game.

Towards the end of training was Qurban Bayram (the Sacrifice Holiday) for Azerbaijanis. We celebrated it with my family by having a huge feast with all their wonderful relatives. The men grilled lamb kebab while the women made a sort of potato salad thing and set the table…deeelish! I feel so much apart of that family, it’s kind of weird. Then, I finished my 11 week training and had my final language proficiency exam, which, let’s just say, I passed. ;) That same day, my friends (Johanna, Lexi, Charlie, Josh and Jake) went immediately to Baku for our once permitted trip (during training) to celebrate and let loose a little bit. We had a blast exploring the city a little more, meeting some more sketchy expats, and listening to some Irish men sing Beach Boys and Beatles songs in a random “expat” pub. It was quite an entertaining trip for us and a great get-away! The next day I had the opportunity of going to the Baku Entertainment Center with my host family. One of the uncles works for BP, and since oil companies are so valued in this country, all employees and their families get to go to the Baku Entertainment Center for free, which is otherwise quite expensive (so they say). At this lovely establishment, my host sister and I, and some other relatives, partook in two lovely games of BOWLING! I couldn’t stop giggling when my host sister finally asked what was so funny. I told her I never imagined myself bowling in the Peace Corps. Haha The last couple of days with the trainee group was full of nerves and excitement. We did all of our finishing up and logistical things (I was voted by our group to be one of the representatives to the Volunteer Action Committee J, where we talk with the higher ups in Peace Corps about issues for the volunteers in country). I’m very excited and honored to do this!) And the last couple of nights with my host family were sad, but uneventful. We just hung out and shared a few tearful hugs. Then…Swearing In!

Swearing in was the event of the century. There were several cameras there from the various news stations in Azerbaijan, local and national. There were representatives from the US Embassy, from the Education Ministry, from the Youth Sports Ministry, along with all 61 of our group, some of our host families and other community supporters. Several speeches were given, a lot of clapping was heard, kids looked in through the windows and finally we took our oath and became official Peace Corps VOLUNTEERS! It was a proud moment for all of us, and for most of us a once in a lifetime thing (we have 2 PCV’s who are serving for their 2nd time).

From swearing in, we had our little mini, except not so mini, celebration and then the next day were off to our sites! We all woke up to a rainy day, perfect for traveling with huge suitcases all across the country. I’m not sure how exactly, but I finally made it to Liman! The bus dropped me off and I didn’t know how I was going to get to my house with all my stuff by myself, until a man from the corner store came out, didn’t say a word, took my bags straight to my house and then walked away. I thanked him, but not as much as I wanted to! I was welcomed by a warm cup of tea and a lot of smiles and excitement! Since then, I can’t say it’s been much different. I have drunk endless cups of tea- in the director’s office, at my house, at other people’s houses and in the school little cantina room! I have met hundreds of people who just stare and stare at me, telling me I’m so “kok ve gozel”… fat and beautiful. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or what, but I’ll take it! I have observed many classes, different ages and personalities abound! And mainly, I have spoken a hell of a lot of Azerbaijani! Everyone here is amazed at how quickly I learned it having only been here 3 months, when really I only have a few key words/phrases that I switch up… and I have a really good I-know-exactly-what-you’re-saying face. J

I love being in Liman and I have learned so much already! This is a stressful time with some big decisions to make (choosing classes and teachers, deciding which activities I want to begin to plan, etc.), and it’s also very important. Adjusting to a new community is a tiring and rewarding experience in Azerbaijan.

Okay, so enough of that, more details later! Onto the game: Cool and Not Cool.

Cool: I’m a celebrity at my new school. Kids follow me around everywhere and love me even though they know nothing about me! My favorite is when they ask… “Jaklin, Jaklin, what is your name?!” haha

Not Cool: Snow outside and no heat in the school. This leads to numb feet and a freezing body, despite the fact that I was wearing 3 layers of pants, 4 layers of shirts, a winter jacket, hat, gloves, and 3 pairs of socks. I have no doubt that I looked ridiculous, but so be it. (Since the snow, one of the 10th grade boys decided he would write a letter to the President himself about how cold his school was, and turned out the President cared, and we now have some sort of heat!)

Cool: Watching the Azeri version of American Idol, where such fabulous performances as Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will go On” and Christina Aguilera’s, “Candyman” were performed. No need to comment on the legendary Titanic song, but for those of you who do not know, “Candyman” references such wholesome phrases as “making my panties drop”, “making my cherry pop” and refers to men as “one stop shops” (pardon the explicit words). I thought I was going to lose it.

Not Cool: Watching shoes being thrown at George Bush a million times. While I couldn’t help but find it funny the first couple of times, it has since become a clip I abhor. Also, hearing that someone paid 10 million dollars for them, or would have or something like that, I was thoroughly depressed for all the poor people in this world.

Cool: Snow is really pretty in Liman. The window in my room looks out to snow covered mountains in the distance!

Not Cool: Having to walk to the outside toilet at night in the snow, repeatedly, due to… what’s the phrase they use so often, ahhh yes… “Loose bowls”. Haha That’s all cleared up now, thanks be to God. Did I mention that they don’t use toilet paper here? When in Rome…

Wasn’t that fun? Hopefully there will be more where that came from! For now, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Christmas is a really hard time to be away for me, especially being in a country where they have never heard of Christmas. But it definitely makes for a fun time explaining it all!!! I even taught one 7th grade class “Jingle Bells,” which they then performed with a beaming director! They told me I was a “really good singer”- looks like the next thing we need are some hearing checks. I’ll be thinking of you all during this holiday season! Enjoy being with your friends and family- every minute of it!

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