Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nabucco Pipeline

This NY Times graphic lets you see the proposed route for a gas line circumventing Russia
If you click on the image, it gets larger.

Monday, January 26, 2009

up with the date

this is a pic of the fire i once wrote is coming from a busted pipe.

what is today? the 26st? I guess some things have happened since my last entry.

firstly, my grandmother died and it has been terribly hard to be in Azerbaijan while my whole family is together mourning in Virginia. but i guess so much is self evident. One of the hardest aspects of being away from my family during this time is having to live with a different one. their intentions are great, but sometimes i just want to be left alone. or, i just want to be on my own schedule. it isn't that i can't at least get close to that here, it's that it is so hard to communicate what i want. when i'm stressed out, i don't feel like translating a longer conversation. in other words, i can't just be alone and do what i want without affecting other people. and that is the number one reason why i really don't want to live with another family other than my own. my own family has already had to go through hell of knowing what i want (for example, my mom knows not to talk to me about chores and duties, etc when i just wake up. it makes me insane. we've worked on that for years!)...and i don't need to go through that again. and, with other families i need to be polite. with my own, i can be the horribly cranky person i sometimes feel like being

on the volunteer front, some other things have occured:

i am now on the environmental committee. this is a great thing, but somewhat daunting bc azerbaijan is not exactly internationally renowned for it's environmental conscientiousness. the environmental committee is made up of 4 pcvs (two from my group: az 6 and two from the group that came a year prior: az 5). there is so much to be done it is hard to know where to start. also, i think there will be a lot of resistence to our ideas and therefore the committee will have to fight. i'm sorta of used to resistence against environmentalism from my COA days, but this is likely to be bit a tougher. i'm looking forward to it.

also, i am now the media manager for the softball league. there are 4 main softball teams (for kids mostly) from 4 cities in azerbaijan. this is entirely pc run. mingechevir is one of those cities and i definitely want to be involved.

my tutor (and the former lcf) Elvin wants to work on an English language publication for his student colleagues. i plan to work on this with him, but we need a small grant first. i hope to begin working on that soon too.

recently i got a large green light from my own host organization. to make a long story short, i want to bolster our relationship with P2P lending websites that link international lenders to international borrowers. right now, we have one such relationship with MicroPlace, which is owned by ebay:

basically, this means i need to track, translate for, and monitor the progress of some of our borrowers. this sounds like fun, right? i think so...but that doesn't mean the customers are always going to be happy to have their pictures on the internet, or to speak frankly about their progress. also, azerbaijanis DO NOT like to smile for pictures. it is a culturial thing. they don't smile for their wedding pictures even. and this website wants smiles.....hmmm

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

bad timing! but better now than later

jan 20....what a day. i wish i could just go home (DC home) and celebrate in the streets proper like. however, Jan 20 in Azerbaijan is a national day of mourning. not quite as fun, right? Jan 20, 1990 the Soviet Union invaded Azerbaijan and killed approximately 130 people, injured over 500, and imprisoned many more. I am no history grand master, but this invasion was ordered, apparently, to stymie the fall of Soviet power.
but if i may make two totally unrelated points all of a sudden related (my speciality), this is all a strange reminder that american people feel that they are in need of leadership change. and that is why the american people voted for obama. so, who knows what the future holds...but enjoy your day america. you need a little party to lift your spirits.
i would be a lot less vague and i would go into political details...hell, i'd even tell you my opinion on a lot of issues, but i can't because i'm a peace corps volunteer and this blog is public. yeah.....i can't get political. its a rule here.
party on wayne. party on amerika

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the occasional awkward problam var

i think i'm winning the award for az 6 who blogs the most

ne ise (anyways)...

things are swell, but i'll start with the problems, the little problems, anyways:

1. Ema...the lady who cleans at our office. All the men folk (I work with almost all men) noticed that she treats me differently than she treats them. She cleans their chay (tea) mugs, but not mine. She serves them chay, but not me. Not exactly something I was gonna point out. But, they noticed and called it "shameless" (they looked it up in English). So, after telling me to tell our branch manager about it and my refusing to do so, they told on her. Guess who got chay one month in? neato! thanks for sticking up for me FD men folk. and yet, i feel awkward because i've done so very little since being here. Which brings me to number 2...

2. They ain't giving me no work. ishim yoxdur. actually, EVERYONE wants to learn English. That's fine with me. Just when we got to the point of getting things rolling, the temporary branch manager here gave us the "Olmaz" during work hours. In other words, just as we got organized (and I finally got asked to do something), the branch manager said "You cannot do that during work hours". Boooo. and awkward, because the man hardly says a word to me as it is. i'm just that foreign girl using the internet and sitting in the corner.

3. Speaking of awkward, my host family cannot understand why in the world i would ever ever want to move out on my own. granted ,they have a point. their house is beautiful, the food is delicious and plentiful, hot water exists, i have my own electric heater, huge bed, they are super nice, and i have a pet cat. and i could probably even negotiate down on rent etc. but....FREEDOM. how do i explain i just want the freedom to do anything at any time? Its the little things, like not talking to people when i don't want to instead of seeming anti-social and rude. And not over eating instead of feeling like i'm hurting anyone's feelings when i don't eat until my stomach hurts. or, having friends stay over and staying up late being loud if we feel like. you know...being free. it is a double edged sword having a superly intelligent host mother. she makes excellent points about why i ought to stay and her language is a bit more articulate than mine. Point number one for her: apartments are expensive, you could save money here. true.... Point number 2: how will you learn the language if you move out? touche....Point number 3: David stayed with his host family the whole time! --let me explain that one. There is a az 3 who stayed with his family for 2 years and so now i'm expected to do the same. not to mention david was fluent in three languages and david could walk on water and personally talk to god (those are slight exaggerations. u get the point).

4. My little 11 yr old brother said the following to me in English, "Israel is bad". Hard to discuss with my current language skill level. I know that he is saying this because of the current conflict between Israel and Gaza and not because he harbours anti-semitism. I know that as a fact. The Eastern world has unlimited access to news/images inside of Gaza and it appears the Western World does not. and it all looks horrid. its an anti-war sentiment. I replied, "this situation is difficult".

so, some other things going on:

i traveled last weekend to an area of Azerbaijan called Ismayili. It is further north than where i am and it is completely surrounded by beautiful mountains. The city in itself is certainly less developed, but the mountains are stunning. A bunch of volunteers traveled there bc some children from both Mingechevir and Ismayili were able to present their photography in an art show supported by a grant. I lucked out and got a free ride into town. well done Nate and Colleen! The kids were generally very interested to speak to the Americans. I brought my sketch book and for some reason people wanted to look at it. No matter how crappy the drawings might be, they are apparently fascinating to many Azerbaijanis because they are abstract. Not a common sight here, I gather.

On another side note, somebody in my neighborhood died recently. So, I am witnessing the funeral situation here for the first time. I will report on the specifics of that later for my pretend interested parties. Thus far I can see that a gigantic tent has been erected and that this a multi day affair for sure.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

random pics 'cause my mom asked for them.

me looking goofy at swear in

all of CED (community economic development) program at our last training

Monday, January 5, 2009

back to vagabond

twas a good week. i saw some sights, i met up with some people. i went from ujar to mingechevir (for less than an hour) to zaqatala to baku and back again. azerbaijan is truly diverse in its own way. ujar and zaqatala couldn't be more different. and, same goes for mingechevir. strangely, of the four places, it seems that ming and baku have the most in common: they are both modern cities.
ujar is a city in the middle of the country and it is rather flat. on a beautiful clear day, like the one i arrived on, you can see some amazing mountains in the distance. i would post a picture, but i'm an idiot and i lost my camera in baku (typical of me, i think). ujar is, for lack of a better description, just a seemingly typical azerbaijani town. it seems both heavily soviet and yet strangely middle eastern. while in ujar, an az 5 had a christmas party and for said party the volunteers bought and killed a chicken. yeah, i watched a chicken get its head cut off. it is about as fascinating as it sounds. the volunteers preceded to pluck it, skin it, and do to it whatever meat eaters do to chickens they kill. i'm proud of them though: if i were to eat meat, then i would want to go through those motions as well. i do think that people ought to know what they are eating and how it gets on their plates. however, i'm vegetarian so screw that :)
don't get me wrong though, i definitely ate well anyways.
i took an early marshrutka (small mini van) from ujar to goychay and from goychay to ming again. then i got into my host family's car about 30 min later and headed straight north to a small mountain town near russia called zaqatala. zaqatala is home to about 5 volunteers...5 lucky volunteers bc it is beautiful. sometimes, it is maybe even too quaint, but to be a volunteer there is to be a lucky volunteer. zaqatala is a liberal mountain town with good people, nice architecture, a billion places to hike around. while there i spent one night with an az 5 named donnie and an az 6 (josh). the next night i stayed with my friend (az 6) loki and her host family. her host family is absolutely hilarious...she basically has 4 brothers. luckily, zaq is more liberal than other parts of the country so being around so many young men wasn't awkward at all, just hilarious.
on the night of 30th, loki (from alaska...i actually ate some canned salmon from alaska while in zaq, hell yeah!) and i took a night train from zaq to baku. basically, that means we traveled from one corner of the country to another. the night trains are slow and it took about 12 hours. it was incredibly surreal when the soviet train pulled up. it was just so big, clunky, and...i dont know. ancient looking. we bought the cheapest beds and were crammed with a bunch of othe relatively young night riders. we got seated across from a young english teacher who was very enthusiastic about speaking english with us, but of course her english was rather poor. so, essentially she interrupted loki and i's conversation every 5-10 min or so with completely out of context questions like "i have heard of brunch. do you have brunch?" or, "do you know words to Titanic (a seriously popular movie in azerbaijan", etc. loki faced the brunt of all that...i kinda laid in my bunk and listened to the ten new albums i got in ujar from jeff (the az 5 we stayed with).
finally, loki and i arrived in baku and were greeted with quite a lot of snow. and, well...this snow didn't stop coming for the next 30 hours or so. it was approx. 8am and we needed to find our way to the peace corps office so that we could hangout in the volunteer lounge until hotel check in time. we only got lost once (damn you 116 bus! the most ghetto bus in all of baku). then eventually we made our way over to the hotel in which all the volunteers were checking in. i won't mention the hotel by name because i want to discuss its "not so niceness". man....o man. first of all, my room had a whole in the door. next, i could lay in bed and count the number of squashed flies on the wall. i also had to ask the xanims (ladies) who work for the hotel to help me in order to get heat...after they had supposedly already turned it on. also, half of the window panes were knocked out so we had half the protection against cold elements. the stairway right next to my room had a trash pile in it and a leaky roof that let water drip directly on it. there was a mattress hanging out in the hallway. and so on. i don't know, you gotta see the rooms at this establishment in order to understand. but, regardless, it housed us and it served its purpose. and don't misunderstand: this place is peace corps is safe. so, overall i was satisfied.
the day after new years baku was a sheet of ice and so no one could leave the city. this caused us all to become a lot poorer. baku is expensive! and we are all volunteers. but hell it was fun. even though i lost my camera.
on jan 2nd we were all permitted to leave (buses were running) and 6 volunteers came back to ming (on top of the 8 who already live there) just to hangout. i really enjoyed it, but it was chaotic. unfortunately, none of the az 6rs can have their own place right now. therefore, the responsibility for housing etc ended up falling on the az 5s. i feel really bad about that. i cannot wait to have my own place. but, despite that, hilarity was had.
and how, back to "normal" life: not understanding what people are saying about me and using my computer for internet access at work.

warning: this is about being a woman in az

again: if you are squeamish about the female anatomy or about periods, then don't read this post. however, for some women in my family, this has to be said and will be fascinating:

having your period in azerbaijan is rough. i mean, really strange and difficult. first of all, if you happen to actually have a western style toilet, then it is very likely that there is no trashcan in the bathroom. also, you can't flush anything down the toilets. on top of that, apparently the topic of periods is taboo in this culture, so it isn't ok to ask other women what they do when they have their periods. on top of that, i've been told that it is also taboo to show blood. so....what am i supposed to do with said tampon? the blood issue matters because, if I elect to stop using tampons and to use more eco-friendly products (which i want to do), then these things require cleaning. it is not always the case that the sink is with the toilet. in most cases, the toilet is separate from the hamam (the rest of th bathroom). Therefore, I would have to carry whatever i use from one place to another). let me also clarify: there are hardly any trashcans in azerbaijan in total. in my home, which is really nice, there is maybe one mini trashcan in the kitchen...but certainly none in the bathroom. so, if i wake up in the middle of the nite and i need to change my tampon, then i have to go outside (its FREEZING...its winter), take out my tampon, and take it....where (i have a western style toilet)? i've got a similar problem at work too. it is just frustrating. i guess this all goes to show that there are advantages to having the squat toilet.