Where to begin…
First, I would like to say hi to Mrs. Flegal! She is my friend Jane’s mom, and I’m told she’s a fan of my blog! J So, hi Mrs. Flegal! I love your daughter, she’s pretty wonderful. Oh, and I always love when you send Jane packages, she’s a really gracious sharer!
Since I last posted, a new year has rolled in. Happy 2009. My New Years was one of the best I have ever had, if not the best. Although, Rachel Zwaicher, if you’re reading this, you know what I was missing from this New Year’s celebration, haha. And Melinda, if you’re reading this, my New Year’s Day was quite different from 2008. J I arrived in Baku on the 30th and spent the night with my old host family. They were so excited to see me, but I must admit, I was equally as excited to see them. The next day, I woke up to a snowy morning. Little did I know that snow would define my New Year’s celebrations! I took a bus to the center of the city, trying to pretend the entire time that we were NOT driving on icy roads. We made it safely and I met up with my other Peace Corps friends for what was sure to be an interesting time. We went to our hotel, cheap but sketchy at best, and caught up with each other about how our first 2 weeks at our sites had been. After a glass of wine or two, we headed out for dinner at a semi-American style restaurant, where we had nachos, chicken nuggets and burgers. After hanging out there for a while, we met up with about 50 other Peace Corps Volunteers at the bar where we would spend the rest of the night, dancing to the live music being played. The best part was, the New Year’s countdown happened, not once, but twice. After reminiscing, everyone is still a little unsure as to why exactly we did it twice, but it happened. Such is life.
The next day, most of us were planning to head back to our sites, but we were woken up by phone calls from our Safety and Security Coordinator (who is wonderful by the way) saying we were not allowed to leave because too much snow had fallen and the roads were not safe. As you can imagine we were all super depressed that we were stuck altogether in a charming capital city covered with beautiful snow, especially since we had to extend our vacation time. The funny thing was, our hotel’s pipes froze so we couldn’t shower or anything. I think we were starting to make that entire hotel smell like a hangover. Oh, and the heat was more like a fan blowing around the stale air that was already in the rooms. So we were cold, bundled up and smelly. During the day we walked around in the snow/ice and managed to find a real coffee shop (there’s usually only tea or fake coffee aka Nescafé) and eat lunch at McDonald’s. That night, we all stayed at the hotel playing Apples 2 Apples, a fabulous game for all size groups of people. We had about 20 people playing, and about 10 watching. The 10 watching included a group of Russian business men who were trying to figure out what in God’s name we were doing, while drinking copious amounts of Azeri vodka and talking to us like we were fluent in Russian.
The next morning, we were allowed to travel provided it was after 11 am. I had to go back to my host family’s house to get all of my things first, and since that was an adventure, I ended up staying ANOTHER night with a few people that couldn’t get back to their sites because buses weren’t running to the extra snowy places. However, that night, we all stayed in the Peace Corps lounge, sleeping on the floor with sleeping bags that are at the lounge. It was one of the most fun nights I have had so far. We played games and watched movies and just cracked up laughing the entire time. Early the next day, I was finally on the way back to Liman, and when I arrived I was exhausted! The week after New Years, I was in such a funk because I had had such a good time in Baku; kind of like when you come back from an awesome vacation and Monday rolls around and you have to go back to the real world.
Tuesday, January 6th was my first day of “teaching”. There was no heat, so the students didn’t come, so the teachers did not teach-logical but extremely frustrating. The 7th was a holiday and extremely entertaining for me. I went with a bunch of teachers to what they call the village; mind you in Liman I am more in the village than I ever thought I’d be in my life. So, we go to the village and walk for about 30 minutes (cars can only go so far in mud). At this point, I have no earthly idea where we’re going, but I just follow faithfully. It’s important to know, too, we are all in heeled boots and skirts, tromping through the mud. We finally arrive at a house where we are served lunch, while sitting on the floor around a blanket floor cloth (later they tell me it’s one of the teachers at my school’s houses, but I would have never known because when you go guesting, the actual hostess stays in the kitchen cooking, and her kids serve the food). After lunch and tea, we went to the village mosque where there was an old xanam (busybody lady, is the best way to translate that word), but she probably wasn’t so old, just looked it. This xanam was putting mud on everyone’s forehead, kind of like ash on Ashe Wednesday for Christians. I still am not exactly sure why we got it put on our heads, but I thought it was pretty cool. Although, we did pay the xanam for the forehead mud, and there was tons of mud all over the roads?! After getting mud-ded, I went with the teachers inside the mosque and said a prayer, they prayed to the prophets, I just prayed, we drank from a community cup of water (yikes!) and then were on our way back home. That night I spent the night at my counterpart’s house with her family, fun times, and the next morning we were back at school, the teachers, that is. This week has been better in terms of attendance, thank God. I guess the students just weren’t ready to come back? It’s their world; we teachers just live in it. Haha.
As for the rest of my time, I am trying to plan and start up my first English conversation club, while lesson planning, guesting and things of the sort. School is fun. I have little friends that follow me around. One boy in particular is my favorite. He’s in the fifth grade and cracks me up. I swear he spies on me; wherever I am, there he is. The English teachers tell me he is a “naughty boy” (in British accents), but I just love him! Everyone always yells “ell-o” at me, so I’ve taught my classes how to say “Hi” and “What’s up” because that “ell-o” can really get to a girl’s head. Co-teaching, which is how Peace Corps encourages us to teach, is really quite difficult [understatement], but we are working through the kinks and frustrations. Time is a miraculous thing, and patience doesn’t hurt.
So, yeah, that’s a day in the life, I suppose. What do ya think?