Two weeks of summer camp down, only one to go. Although I’m exhausted from camp and from being around 120 kids everyday, I’m truly sad to see this camp coming to an end. The kids have enjoyed every single minute of it, even when it was blazing hot and they were getting tanner (tan is despised here) they didn’t complain. They wore smiles on their faces even when they were hungry and tired at the end of the day. They have inspired me and all of the other Peace Corps Volunteers working with them. It’s incredible to watch them trying new things, doing things out of their comfort zones, learning how to be creative and meeting new friends. If you’ve worked with kids before, you’ll know what I mean when I say that they give off this intense energy that is so contagious to everyone around.
The first week was Environmental Awareness Week, where we did everything from a nature hunt to planting plants in recycled bottles, from a trash pick up to building a trash monster from the week’s worth of recycled materials. And get this… 100 students picked up 436 bags of trash on trash pick up day! That’s something to brag about, for sure.
The second week was Sports and Games Week, where we played kickball, wiffle ball, Old Maid, Spoons and even Yahtzee. These were all so new, and the best thing they’d ever done…that is, until we had Field Day on Thursday. It started out slow with a dreaded 3-legged race, shot up to hilarious with the wheel barrow race and got insane and off the Richter scale with the water balloon toss and the proceeding water balloon fight! Those kids have never experienced such freedom and adrenaline in their lives, I assure you of that. It was amaaaazing. We all left the field happy and soaking wet. The few that didn’t get hit with a balloon were feeling extremely left out and depressed. On our weekly evaluation forms, we actually got back about 5 forms that said the worst part about camp was that they didn’t get hit with a balloon. Aww pobrecitos.
Next week is Arts and Crafts Week, where we’ll make God’s Eyes, popsicle stick picture frames, friendship bracelets, tye dye t-shirts, still life pictures and homemade play dough, to name a few. I’m excited to see what these kids will think up! When we give them permission to be creative and allow them to think outside of the box, it’s amazing how quickly they catch on to the idea. It’s also very encouraging. In the schools here, they are taught to stick to the straight and narrow. Thus, one of our main goals at camp is to break those suffocating boxes and let their imaginations and creativity run wild!
Now, besides camp, there are actually other things going on, believe it or not. I have had a lot of time to hang out with the host fam. My host sister who typically studies in Baku is home for the summer. She studies American Studies, English and Spanish. I’ve been helping her perfect her speaking skills, teaching her how to apply for a job (résumé, cover letter, application, etc.) and also learning a lot from her about being myself in this community. I’ve gotten so incredibly close with all of my three host sisters and my host mom, and cannot even think about what it will be like to leave them when the time comes. One of the things we often do is go to the sea, the Caspian. We go around 4:00 in the afternoon and come home around 7:30 pm. It is quite the experience. I appreciate so much just being near water, it’s easy to block out the “crazy”. The beach has black sand, and there are waves. There’s a lot of trash (food, wrappers, etc.) on the beach. Men and women have separate beaches. I’m not sure what the men do or wear, but many of the women wear pants and shirts, or perhaps a night gown type thing, or any other clothes. Few women wear bathing suits. Kids go naked or topless. My host family and I all wear bikinis. I have had to borrow a friend’s bathing suit because I didn’t bring one. It’s a tankini, and my host family keeps giving me shit about it, telling me not to be embarrassed, and why am I wearing something so conservative!? haha. Another interesting thing is that my tattoo shows when I wear a bathing suit. My fam has never seen it, and the Azi’s are all shocked. Women in this country would never dare have a tattoo so when they see mine, it’s like SHOCK! SHOCK! I’ve tried to listen in, and I’ve heard both positive and negative reviews. My family likes it, that’s all I care about. What I do here is refer to my sister, saying she has more than me. haha, sorry Sara, I gotta get the attention off of me somehow, and by now they expect you to be a little wild and free.
One more piece of news. After camp, and after the Beer Olympics that my friend is hosting as a Bon Voyage party for the AZ5’s (the group that came a year before my group- they leave the first week of September), I’m headed to TURKEY! I cannot wait. I’m going with my bestie, Johanna and her mom, who’s coming to visit, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be there for a week, and plan on relaxing a lot, shopping a good bit, and eating well. Cheers to Turkey! After that, I’m going to my host fam’s cousin’s wedding in Mingechevir (a city in Azerbaijan)! I’m busy and loving it. I’ll spend August and the first two weeks of September getting ready for this school year, making visual aids, writing a grant for an English Resource Room (Inshallah!) and maybe having a teacher training workshop or something. We shall see.
Until next time, I’d like to end with a list or three because lists help keep me sane in life. Yaxşı Yol!
Things and people that inspire me at the moment:
- watching my kids at camp
- erin barksdale
- t.d. proctor
- fans (not the screaming kind)
- water balloons
- the mere thought of sushi that once was and that will again be
- visual aids
- AZ 6
- my dreams, day and nighttime ones
- the introduction of Coca Cola Light to Azerbaijan
Things and people that inspire me always:
- my family, especially my sister, my mom and my aunts
- driving with windows down, music up
- laughing till it hurts
- Chapel Hill
- katherin mcfarland
- ambition without apology
Things that interfere with me being inspired: