Tuesday, March 31, 2009

my break...so lazy.

i had an apartment. it was taken away. then i found another apartment...but the whole process of finding another apartment meant that i couldn't really travel over this particuraly long azerbaijani holiday called novruz. oh well! at least i'm optimistic that i'll have MY OWN PLACE. however, nothing is guaranteed...as i experienced with my last potential home. this means that the days of living with a host family are coming to a close. that's an amazing feat for someone like me. it has been tremendously difficult for me to never cook my own food, to always tell people where i'm going/when i'll return, to be quiet at night when i have guests over....to not drink beer. to be told what to do and what to eat and what to wear. but, i also know not to be offended by these things. it is entirely cultural for people to tell me what to do and overly care for me. i am a young woman and a guest. the former part means i am told what to do all the time. the latter part means i don't do anything for myself. BUT, i'm hard on my host family. they are amazing. i lucked out big time and i will always be grateful to them for their amazing care. however...now i have to tell them i'm moving out. this is the hard part. they said they wanted me to/expected me to stay for two years. i told them at the beginning of my stay that i'd move out in april. we haven't discussed it much sense...due to my being a coward (i don't want to upset the people i have to see daily). but the time has come and it is time to suck it up.

just last night i meet my neighbor from new zealand for the first time. crazy! i have an english speaking neighbor who knows no azerbaijani. who knew? i guess he and his wife (who is azeri) have been traveling a great deal lately and he just got into town. he is an older oil worker who has been in and out of the country for at least a decade. it was extremely interesting to be able to talk to a non-american foreigner about azerbaijan. it is hard to find foreigners who have been to more of azerbaijan than just baku. better yet, i think his azeri wife is in mingechevir a good deal....and she both speaks english and has a somewhat more open-minded personality. woo hoo for new friends.

other recent highlights include:
visitors: danielle and julia who are posted in siyazan stayed with me for three days. the weather was beautiful, we sat outside by the water a lot and got tan.
visiting: i visited the wonderful Kat in goychay and colleen in ismaili. great ladies all around.
chased by baby turkeys: did i spell that right? i don't know. i hope to post that video soon. it was cute, i tell you.
cooking: learned to make paklava (just like baklava). its hard to learn azeri recipes for a couple of reasons....the first being that no one woman actually measures what she uses and secondly, if i ask for measurement, the system here is the european non-american one. dag nabit.

i guess that is it for now. i feel kinda flu like. enjoy america or azerbaijan or whatever country you are reading this from

my street

novruz break

sheep and a broken down ferris wheel in ming
our reservoir

at the hotel riverside in...checking out the rowing competition

ming reservoir with danielle and julia

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

it's not what you think, i got sugar in my pockets

i went to the second (or third....depends on who you ask) largest city in azerbaijan this weekend, ganja. i had an amazing time. in the photo above you'll see my fellow pcv friends charlie and elmir. elmer lives in ganja and led us on an amazing journey of sorts through the mighty rayon of Shamux. let me explain...
elmer, who's language skills FAR surpass those of charlie and I's, knew of an important Shia mescid (mosque) in the outskirts of the city. the three of us were walking around ganja deciding what to do and then took Elmer up on his offer of walking us there. he warned us that he didn't really know how to get there, but we could try. charlie and i just wanted to walk around and see the area, so we didn't oppose to getting lost. hell, why not?
first we took a bus to a train station. from there we walked through an industrial district in search of the right marshrutka (minibus). we got on a mini bus....the bumpiest slowest marshrutka in the world. we got a wonderful view of the boonies as we took the marshrutka around in a full circle and ended up where we began. the sun began to set, but NO MATTER. we had a journey to experience.
so we started walking. Elmer was kind enough to buy some cheese in advance, so we searched for hot bread along the way to the mythical mosque. we didn't actually find hot bread, but we did find bread. we walked and ate and walked and ate and joked around about how we were entering our spirit quest...that maybe there was no mosque at all, but only a destination within ourselves. it was funny at the time...i guess you'll have to trust me on that.
then the sun set. and it was dark. and we were alongside some random road. we past a couple of the same spots a couple of times, but whoa and behold! elmir spotted our destination. but would the mosque be open?
NOPE. however, elmer...with his superior language skills, rang the bell of the mosque. someone inside said the mosque was closed, but we waited until the man approached to see what we wanted. elmir explained that we are visitors from america currently living in azerbaijan and that we would love a chance to see the mosque. well, the man opened up the mosque gates right away and let us in. but it goes on...
the three of us got a full tour of all the mosque rooms. this is interesting because often women are forbidden from entering all rooms. as you can see from my picture, i was looking pretty ragged and had only my hood to cover my head with. however, they didn't seem to mind and never commented. they showed us how to pray in several different ways and actually had us pray in one circumstance. they also gave us each our own prayer stone and cloth. next the sprayed us with rose water and gave me sugar for chay (tea) later in the day. lastly, they even took a picture of us together in front of the mosque on our way out. pretty hospitable if you ask me.
what amazed me about the experience is that they were very open, non-xenophobic, and they didn't proselytize. they asked us no questions regarding our inherent american-ness. they were just incredibly hospitable. some volunteers come to azerbaijan and never see the inside of a mosque. i think we were very lucky.
the spirit quest was a success!