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 pre-approved...it 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.