Saturday, October 18, 2008

1 Month in!

So tomorrow marks my 1 month anniversary of leaving home, and Wednesday marks 1 month of being in Azerbaijan! I cannot believe it has gone by so quickly, and yet so slow. I think all the changes I have grown accustomed to makes it seem long, but the fact that I've done so much and learned so much in so little time makes it seem short.

Yesterday, our entire group of 61 people (no one has left yet!) went to visit Gobustan and the mud volcanoes. Gobustan was alright, there's a ton of history there! The mud volcanoes were awesome! They were basically these little hills of mud that had methane gas pushing up from the ground, making cold mud bubble up. It was like they were talking to each other in blurps, so fun. It's always nice to be with the whole group, too, because mostly I'm with my small cluster of people for daily language training. My cluster is great, definitely, but it's fun to compare stories with the rest of the group. After returning, Johanna (my good friend and sitemate, luckily!) and I cooked my family a delicious dinner of spaghetti and garlic bread. They loved both, to our pleasant suprise!

Since I last blogged, it's been pretty much business as usual. My host family is great, I am really going to miss them when I have to leave in December to go to my permanent site. They have really taken me in, and I've grown close to the 23 year old, Gulcin (jewel-cheen).

So, Paulette says I should give you a kind of "day in the life" type thing, so here goes. I wake up at 8:00am every day (except Sunday) and get dressed, brush my teeth and eat breakfast all in 30 minutes before I leave to catch the marshrutka (kind of a minibus/van type public transportation thing) to go to language class. I am usually wearing a skirt with tights and a conservative shirt, topped with a scarf and my Northface jacket, and my flats, which are usually muddy by the time I get to school, just like everyone's shoes. Somehow the locals manage to keep their shoes clean, but we still haven't figured out how/why. But yeah, we all pretty much wear the same outfits over and over, we've learned to embrace that fact. We have a cluster of 5 people, 4 girls and 1 boy, and we have language class from 9am-1pm. During class, the kids of the school where our class is are constantly knocking on our door and screaming to us through the crack in the door during their breaks. "Allo, Allo. Wat iz yoor name? My name iz." Somehow we never actually get to know their names, just "my name iz." haha. Then, I return home for lunch, usually soup or some meat and potatoes type dish. Lately in the afternoons, we have had TEFL sessions where everyone who is here to teach gets together for our job training in Sumgayit, the closest city (about a 20 minute marshrutka ride away). The marshrutkas cost 20 gepik (cents) for one way, cheap! Then I make it home for dinner and some quality time with my family, and then it's off to bed usually around 11:00 pm. So wholesome :) I am loving life here, and truly feel like this is where I'm supposed to be at this time in my life. I feel very happy and content with Peace Corps Azerbaijan- yay!

Thursday, we begin our Teaching Practicum! We observe a class for 2 days and then we teach it for 10 days! I'm nervous and excited to get started. I feel like I don't really know what I'm doing, but that anything will be appreciated. The kids at school are extremely energetic and I think excited for us to get more involved with them. Any teaching advice/activities/materials would be helpful and MUCH APPRECIATED!

Now, anyone of my family members or friends who is reading this: I am extremely disappointed in your letter writing skills! :) haha. The emails are AWESOME! Please keep them coming... but come on people, have you lost faith in the snail mail system?!? I love getting mail and I have yet to receive a single letter... get on that! The postal system is so much better in the US, take advantage of that! :) Love you guys and girls, and miss you all!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy October!

So, I've been in Azerbaijan for a little over a week now (I think, haha). It has been a whirlwind of a week! After a lonnnng plane ride, we arrived to a town that starts with an N that I can't remember to a hotel called AquaPark, complete with 4 water slides and its own discoteca...welcome to Azerbaijan I suppose! haha We were there for a few days learning policies/theories/practices of the Peace Corps and also some beginner Azerbaijani, the language not to be confused with the person (cough cough Rebs).

On Saturday, we loaded up and headed to our training sites. Mine is called Masazir, which is actually very close to Baku, the capital, where we are not permitted to go for at least a month. We don't want to be getting too Westernized! It was incredibly awkward arriving to our host families initially because they don't speak English and we sure as hell don't speak Azeri. And if you know me, you know I was pretty much giggling the entire time! haha. But, it was so nice because I'm basically treated like a goddess here. They wait on me hand-in-foot, or hand-and-foot, whichever it is. I have my own room with two twin beds, a mini closet and a desk. The food is... umm... interesting. It's good, it's just not anything I would actually cook for myself. Also, the more grease/oil, the better... pardon my english, but i guess it just helps it to all come back out as smoothly as it went in. pleasant, huh?! hahaha. And we eat a ton of bread, which is good. Overall though, my house is really nice, way nicer than I expected. I took my first bucket shower the other day, we bathe probably once every 3-4 days, and in the Winter it will be less. I actually did not mind the bucket shower.

My town (Masazir) is new and under construction which means it is quite muddy because its been raining pretty much since I got here. One of the girls in my group lives with one of the town's leaders (=mansion) and he deemed his house the HQ for our group! "Guesting" is a common thing here, which is something I could definitely get used to. This basically means going to visit your neighbors. Everywhere you go, you will have tea and some type of food. One of my friends ate 3 dinners the other night as he was "guesting". Another friend of mine saw her family cut up the sheep they had just slaughtered in their back yard on the table where they eat without any plates... appetizing.

My family is made up of a Mother (ata), Father (ata) who is only home at night, and 2 sisters (baci), one is 16 and giggly like me, and the other is 23, she is so helpful and great to me. The 16-year old is a dancer for the Azeri National style dancing/team and she was showing me some moves, and then declared me an expert dancer of that style. haha :)

I am so happy here, but definitely feel as though I'm on a trip or at summer camp. The reality of 27 months has definitely not set in. My host family almost died, literally, when I told them I may not see my family for the duration of this time.

I miss you all and hope all is well in America! Please write emails/messages because I love reading them when I have some time to get on the Internet.

As for now, Salamat Galin (see you later!)