Tuesday, December 23, 2008

findiq insteyirsen?

today i got to go out with our kend teserrufati (agriculture) loan officer to check out some new mushteri (clients). Essentially, i watched as the loan officer filled in a form assessing the client's assests in terms of collateral. i'm willing to bet there is a professional term for that, but i didn't go to business school. it is interesting how i understand the purpose and function for everything, but i don't know the official terms in english for them just becaue i didn't go to business school. no matter...

so the best part was when we went to the second farm and met a woman and a man. the woman insisted on feeding us, but of course we didn't want any food. well, she had a mind of her own. she ran into the kitchen, got a plate of nuts, and ran with the plate out to us. When the two other employees declined she forced the nuts into both my pockets. and the employees laughed and let it happen. thanks guys....
however, they are great nuts: hazelnuts and walnuts.


Monday, December 22, 2008

yeni IL!!

thats me and my brother. obviously, i'm the one with a santa face. but...in az it is not santa claus, but instead a new years/winter non religious affiliated kind of guy. i'm forgetting his official name here and hating myself for it. i hope to find it later. but, in general, christmas and new years is rolled into one holiday for azerbaijan. of course, christmas is not really christmas, but the faces of santa claus and the yeni il (new years) tree, as i've said before, have been integrated into new years. this is completely normal for me...i don't celebrate christmas. however, for some of my pcv friends, this is hard to take. i've never met so many people who are somewhat disturbed by the idea of a lack of christmas in their lives.
on otherhand, chanukah started yesterday and i actually got a chanukah present! ha! my friend Andrea, as usual, was on top of it and she got me a stuffed kirpi!!!!! i love it. ohhhh man. kirpi = hedgehog. so now i have a stuffed animal hedgehog. my old cluster loves to tease me (mene satashir ?) about my love for kirpi. happy jew time to all.

ayhan (moon king)...my little bro in az

here is my adorable host brother ayhan...which means moon king (ay =moon/month, han = king/tsar). he is 11 and already very good at english. my host family prioritizes english language learning...and language learning in general. he is extraordinarily well behaved. i'm very lucky indeed. and i love playing with him.

Bozdag! the grey mountains

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

quasi bizarre moment. a day in the life.

yesterday as i was walking from the bus stop to home for lunch i came across a huge gap in the road. come from the gap was a large flame. apparently some sort of pipe burst and caught on fire (natural gas?). so what did i do (being the foreigner i am?)? I took out my camera and started taking pictures. immediately an old old man with one tooth and a long stick (makeshift cane?) came up to me and started asking me why i was taking pictures. i told him that the situation was very interesting for me. then he started saying some other things including the words danish and olmaz (to speak, not allowed) and i had no idea what he meant so i made a joke saying how it was so nice and warm near the fire hole. he maybe laughed....well, his eyes looked like they wanted to laugh (or so i tell myself) and then i walked away. he at least said goodbye to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

my new mailing address

Central Post Office
Samad Vurgun Kuch 20
Mingechevir, Azerbaijan
AZ 4500

i trust this address...laura has already received stuff from the states. also, the lady who works at the pocht (post office) is so nice that gave us her personal phone number.

so i work in microfinance now...

i'm officially a peace corps volunteer and i now live at my site with my second host family. so far, i'm one hell of a lucky person. it is quite unreal sometimes. my house in mingechevir is beautiful. my family is very easy to be around, intellectually engaged, nice, giving, patient, and understanding. i have a father who is the head architect of ming and a mother who is a ridiculious cook...and she understands i'm vegetarian. i literally get a salad (a huge one) every nite (with, of course, way too much other foods too). they love fruit. i mean, i ate fresh pineapple last nite. this is a little strange in azerbaijan. i've even had a plate of sauteed greens...woah.
i also have a rather huge room with a heater in it...which is nice because it is starting to get freezing here. yesterday we had our first day of snow. my grandma here is very nice and not pushy, which is a complete luxury. some nenes (grandmas) are infamous for pushing their ideas on you...it is understandable why this might be the case. in general, elders are respected in azerbaijan. so when a woman gets old, it is her moment to voice all her opinions...she is in a very culturally respected position. also, my little brother (11) is just smart and well behaved. i'm lucky. and my bed is more comfortable than any bed i've had in NYC or Colorado.
but i feel like when i talk about this i'm bragging. i don't mean to at all. it is just so suprising that my quality of life is so high. and i know that my particular situation is not representative of everyone else in az peace corps. i just, i don't know, lucked out? well...at least so far.

i also get to go running whenever i want. these runs are followed by hot showers. can you believe it? i can't. running is funny here...the main obstacle is cows and their poop. i have to make sure to run around cows at a respectable enough distance so as not to scare them and make their herders angry with me. and, i run when the sunrises so the gigantic poop piles are a disaster waiting to happen. my home is at the outskirts of the city, so i can run on dirt roads and go generally unnoticed. however, i'm also often noticed. i run when one of the first school sessions is about to begin so i get stared at by dozens of kids on their way to school. it is uncomfortable, but i keep telling myself that in general this is a positive situation. afterall, if kids get used to seeing a woman exercising in the morning, then this could not be a bad thing, right? and so i carry on...

yesterday i watched clip after clip of bush getting shoes thrown at his head. HILARIOUS...(just a side note).

what else can i say right now? last weekend my site mate (kim) and myself went hiking up in the foothills surrounding ming. it was really enjoyable, but we got stopped by cops who found us suspicious. of course, kim and i weren't doing anything but walking, so the cops let us be...but in general, getting stopped by cops is not desirable. in the end it was funny, but we realize now how easy it is to appear super abnormal. the idea of two people wanting...voluntarily hiking up a dirt road has the appearance of something totally strange. ha

for those who are curious, the following is a list of my sitemates:
nate ----these two are married and are approximately my age. they got married while in pc service. they are a great resource for us newbies are generally very open and helpful
(those two are older volunteers)

so, u can see i'm surrounded by other volunteers. i'm pretty greatful for this. we get together once a week and eat. last weekend was mariko's birthday/temporary goodbye/christmas party and nate baked apple pie. hell yeah. the temporary goodbye aspect of this party is due to mariko's temporary leave. mariko is an az 4 who extended her service in azerbaijan. if a pcv extends service, they must go home for one month between services. that is precisely what she is doing.

i hope all is well with you and that you are enjoying your holidays. i will be traveling a lot (within azerbaijan) at the end of the month. keep in touch

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

actual words


does anyone still read this thing?
if so...HEY

anyhow...many things have happened. events have occured. time has passed. and everything is, at the sametime, relatively the same. so is life

this Friday (today is Wednesday) I have a language exam. I generally do not like these things, but hell I knew it was coming. Wish me luck. If I pass, then I will have to undergo fewer tests in the future.

Then, on Dec 10 we volunteers get sworn in..in otherwords, i might actually become a peace corps volunteer!!! imagine that :) Then, if all goes according to plan (inshallah, albette), I will be shipped (bused) off to Ming on Dec.11. AND THEN, after that (Dec 12) I begin my life as a microfinancial volunteer. phew.

what does this all mean? I don't know, a lot of things. Firstly, I'm excited to go to Ming. Sumgayit is one of the most polluted places in the world:
and i'm generally a fan of nature, so I'm happy to go to clean Ming. Seriously, Ming is a particularly clean city. I'm also looking forward to Ming's abundant and available resources...which includes an art gallery.
Also, I will have to adjust myself to a new host family. Generally, this family seems to be really friendly, nice, and generally intellectually interested/involved. Also, i ain't gonna lie, their house is beautiful and large. however, in general, i like to live alone....so, this is still an adjustment. I've never quite figured out how to explain the whole water boiling situation to my host family now...so i'll have to brainstorm for the future one.
Oh man, and moving my crap is going to be...NOT FUN. wow. i've got a lot of stuff. why? Because the Peace Corps has given us a lot of extra necessities...and i'm not arguing against it. however, the actual moving of belongings is not going to be easy.
what else what else....
yesterday i made dinner for myself for the first time since living in azerbaijan. shocking, huh? AND, last week I had my first ever conversation with my host brother. he asked if my mother could send him cigs from the US...what say you mom? (Don't worry mom, I've learned to word for unhealthy and happily explained that you cannot send American cigs to AZ because, indeed, cigs are unhealthy). However, don't get the wrong idea. My host brother is an alright guy...he just likes to smoke...like so many others.

oh, and i had a successfull in country thanksgiving. of course it was not the same as being with my family in the US, but there was a feast and I cannot complain. There is an azerbaijani dish i'm in love with called Dovga and dovga was served. Thank YOU very much :)

i love you all and please write

random and somewhat repetative pics of soviet tanker

more random soviet tanker pictures...with one of me doing something totally different as well

soccer friends, sideways car, old sunken soviet tanker

wall drawings in baku

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hooray Hooray!

number one point of business: finding out that obama won the presidency was surreal. it was 8am and i was sitting down to breakfast. i couldn't run around and scream for joy because i didn't want to wake my azeri family. so what did i do? i called my clustermate andrea and demanded that she meet me outside. so i sprinted on the spot straight to her apartment building. when i saw her i started dancing and yelling for joy. we hugged and were ecstatic. we were probably an interesting sight to see. azeri's don't hug...it isn't part of their culture. instead they kiss a lot. so, when we were jumping up and down hugging i'm sure it was strange. but oh man, how wonderful did it feel.

later that day i found out my site in azerbaijan and my job!!!! i couldn't be happier. this is my organization:

Finance for Development

FinDev LLC is a local non-banking, non-for-profit credit organization that offers loans to households and communities, as well as community members who do not have any access to other credit and finance sources. The organization was established in 2002. Organization Purpose is to facilitate the development of sustainable entrepreneurship and income generation activities of sectors which have no access to other traditional financial and credit sources. Finance for Development supports the IDP and local communities as well as rural and urban people to build their own secure income sources through lending activities; to develop their livelihoods; to start small businesses by providing of credit facilities. The source of finance is interest rates from credits.

yay! i have a lot of things to say about this. but first, this additional information as well: i will be workng with 8 people in an office, 5 male, 3 female, and 3 of them are English speakers (holy sweeeeeetness!).

ok, as most of you know i've been trying to work in microfinance for a few years now. however, microfinance is a complex field. generally, at it's beginnings, MFIs lend to small groups (usually women) and start up businesses. however, as the MFI matures, it begins to resemble a traditional bank. well, this it doesn't have to completely resemble a traditional bank, but it can. There are different models. some are forprofit, some are nonprofit. consequently, there are different missions attached to the MFI. For the most part, because i'll be working for a nonprofit, I get the feeling that this organization's mission will be more closely alligned to my interests. In other words, I did not come to Azerbaijan to work for a traditional bank. That was not my goal. And, in fact, many other CEDs will be working for banks. So, to me it seems I've really lucked out. I'm going to help vulnerable populations who don't have other available lines of credit. not that i'm a fan of credit....but i am a fan of getting money to people who don't have any but have constructive ideas about what they want to do with it.

ok, and i'm going to Mingechevir. this is a great thing. it is maybe the 4th or 5th largest city in the country. it is more liberal than other places and is well known for being both cleaner and more reliable with electricity than most other places in azerbaijan. there is a large resevior there and usuable beaches. the population is approx 97,000. Ming has a longer history of foreigners visiting, so my presence will not seem quite as strange. ALSO, i'm going with two of my closest friends from PCT: Andrea and Kim (aka superdonuzlar and sen kimsen). so, phew....i'm rambling, but thats bc there are a lot of positive things to say. Ming's location is also very close to some other more beautiful places in azerbaijan (sheki) and to the second largest city (ganja...1.5 hours away).

Sunday, November 2, 2008


hmmmm. so on tuesday all you other americans vote!!!!!!!! i better get immediate messages about who wins the election. i have no idea how i'll find out. i've actually already voted.

wednesday i find out my permanent site in az. keep yer fingers crossed.

and i believe i have approx 40 days/40 nites left of training. things are getting biblical. i'm stuck in the desert of language traing and freedom snatching.....i'm thirsty! freedom! in other words: i'm getting a bit sick of school and being treated like a child (PST rules) 6 days a week. the good news is that this will end when training ends. the bad news is that i've got a while to go. but, i can do it. (i think i can i think i can i think i can i think i can i think i can).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Supar donuzlar! cluster 32

my cluster's mascot (supar donuzlar = super pigs. please see above).
my clothes on the line

my cluster on the beach right next to where we live (from the left: andrea, kathy, linda).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

actual words? inshallah!

so much to say and no time. as usual. AACK.

i'll start from the beginning i guess:

packages do arrive here. this is good.

i started a five day internship today and i'm happy about it. the NGO is in the exact line of work i'm interested in learning about and contributing to. it is half vocational training and half microloans/grants. in general, i really want to be involved with MFIs (micro financial institutions) that incorporate a degree of education, and financial education in particular, before giving out loans. it appears this organization does precisely that: it trains youth, 15-30 yearolds, on a specific vocation (they become apprentices) and on business plan writing. if the youth graduates, then they become eligible for loans. this organization also works specifically with IDPs (internally displaced people) and is largely funding by UNHCR, which is the refugee relief leg of the UN. the main lady there has an amazingly kind and patient way about her. i hope to learn and lot and to figure out a way to contribute to who are already highly educated english speakers.

what else can i say? i finally get infront of a computer and forget everything. the mud volcanoes are hilarious. they erupt slowly in these big bulbous bubbles. for some reason they draw me in, like some sort of slow meditative trick keeping me in a trance. and then when they burst i laugh like a 5 yearold.

yesterday i had my first fully azeri conversation with my host mother. this was an amazing feeling. it keeps me encouraged.
oh, and i started sunday soccer with my pct friends. it is amazing. it was so much fun. we played in the worst conditions i've ever played soccer in, but it was thoroughly hilarious. we played on sandy mud that was squishy in some serious wind. whenever i passed the ball it came back to me. i'm still sore from it, but i think we will all keep it up and play every sunday. hopefully we'll find a better field for the next time, but i'm not counting on it. however, it's all part of the fun...adusting to some funky conditions. the funniest part, i think, was when huge pieces of trash would blow across the field faster than we were running. ha

mud volcanos and beat up marshrutkas. and some gobustan.

more goychay

goychay mtn views

Sunday, October 19, 2008

goycay, mud volcano, soccer vs. wind and more

i'm so pissed i can't upload photos right now. i have great ones and i'm excited about them too because they are beautiful. guess what? the whole country is not as polluted as sumgayit. i went to goycay (pronouce goychay) in the middle northern region. goychay is known as the land of nar (pomegranite). i stayed with a PCV (hooray for Kat!--her name--) and yes, we made nar pancakes. they were fantastic. goycay was described to me as being run of the mill, but i thought it was lovely. the streets were paved, there was NOT as much trash at ALL, there was a drainage system for water (when it rains, this is important) and you could see mountains in the distance! as soon as i got on a marshrutka (mini bus) and hit the countryside i was at my happiest thus far. awwww mountains. azerbaijan is small but just so so diverse in it's natural beauty. i hope to be placed in the north.

rut roh, i have to cut this short. consider this part one.

but yes, it was sweet.

Friday, October 10, 2008

this is my hometown beach...i ran on it yesterday!

so i can run now!!!! yay! and i run in the morning and watch the sun rise over the caspain. so romantic...except it is obviously SOOO industrial. below is what a soviet style apt looks like

random selection of pics....i can't see what i'm uploading

my school...the basketball court and the caspian sea
ecological disaster in tagiyev...number one

school 19, ced classes spot