Friday, August 14, 2009

the good. the bad. the ugly....and a new project

i'm going in the order of the good, the bad, and then the ugly...just because i said so.

the good:
first of all, Bev and I finally received the SPA grant money for new computers. Soon we will be buying up 5 computers and 1 printer. This also means I will become increasingly busy as I live up to my end of the SPA grant bargain: I need to train the trainers and evaluate how the classes are run. Work!
Also, I will be putting together a bookkeeping training for farmers in two different cities. Each session will last about 5 hours (only one session per city).
Two of our (Mingechevir PCVs) best Azeribaijani English speakers/friends were offered jobs by the Peace Corps!! This is an amazing feat. They were offered jobs to be Language and Cultural Facilitators (LCF) to trainees in the fall.

The bad:
One of our future LCFs might not be a future LCF. There is a sad sad practice in Azerbaijan where teachers have to pay bribes to teach. You read that correctly. People are not just employed, they have to pay bribes for their positions. Similarily, kids pay for grades. Yeah.....So, my friend might not get to be an LCF, which is incredibly important for future schooling and job opportunities, because her school director won't let her without firing her. This means she'll lose out on the bribe she already paid and she would probably have to pay a new bribe to get a job again. Sometimes it is REALLY hard not to get frustrated.

My landlord came over yesterday evening for an unannounced visit. Just to be clear: she is not the person I made an agreement with to move in to her place. We work through a middle man who actually lives in Mingechevir, whereas the apt owner lives in Baku. Anyhow, the middle man guy, Ilgar, is fine. I have zero problems with him. He has generally been very helpful in every way. This landlady, however....well...there are many words I would use, but as a peace corps volunteer i'm supposed to self police. SO, let's just say we don't see eye to eye. Made for one hell of an evening. To make a long and super annoying story much shorter, I blurted out to her that I will be moving come September 1st, which was true anyways. Um, so I'm moving apartments in less than a month. I should also mention that during last night's catastrophe my Azerbaijani friend, Elvin, came over to help with translations (and he really really defended me! thank you Elvin). It is Elvin's apartment I will be moving into come September 1st. Where will Elvin be? He got a one year's scholarship to study in a U.S. University. He is one smart young man. I can't wait for my 9th floor views of the mountains :)

The Ugly:
I have some sort of infected bug bite on my arm. It sucks. So far it appears that my limb will not fall off. I also don't think I will die from this. But it sucks none-the-less. I might have to travel 12 hours within a 24 hour period just to get proper care for it. BOOOOOO. infected spider bite/mosquito bite? Why do stupid things such as these happen? WHY?

on an entirely different note, Bev and I are working on a new grant. This is our project description thus far:

Detailed Project Description:

The overall mission of RSSED is to empower Azerbaijani women through education. To accomplish this mission, RSSED will three main services: vocational training, legal counseling, and community building. The first two services, vocational traning and legal counseling, are RSSED’s primary focus, however RSSED will also provide a community space for Azerbaijani women to network, communicate, and socialize.
The vocational program is a year long and offers courses on a variety of subjects related to employable office skills. RSSED offers computer courses on Microsoft Word, Excel, internet research and database development and use. Additional courses include bookkeeping, customer service, data management, time management skills, and marketing for small businesses. Students also participate in a lecture discussing the legal rights of women within Azerbaijan.
Although the vocational program is comprehensive, women can elect to participate in parts of the program instead of the whole. In other words, if a student only wants to participate in computer courses, then she can opt to do so. However, completion of only computer courses will result in a different type of certification that indicates the student did not complete the entire vocational program. This difference will impact the RSSED’s job placement services for students, because the center will differentiate between the student specialities when looking for appropriate employers.
Also, RSSED hopes to start a small sustainable business through which vocational students can gain real work experience. The small business can also double as a source of income for the RSSED as a whole. With grant money, RSSED plans to expand in this manner and to scope small business or production opportunities within the community. We are currently researching markets within our community, Mingechevir, to determine our best course of action.
RSSED’s legal counselor primarily works with individual women on individual legal issues. However, general lectures or two hour courses will be offered regarding Azerbaijani women’s legal protections and marriage registration. Almost every Azerbaijani couple fails to legally register their marriage. Consequently, most women are left without legal recourse if their spouse becomes estranged. This situation is a common in Azerbaijan due to the prevailing cultural norm of rejecting women after wedding them if the new husband suspects the bride of not being a virgin due to a lack of hymen. Legal counseling for women in Azerbaijan is a highly needed resource for a number or reasons, but it is critical that this counseling is free because the majority of married women relinquish all their income to their spouse. Also, it is culturally taboo for an Azerbaijani women to seek legal counsel without her husband’s permission or knowledge.
Lastly, RSSED is a community center for women in general. Non-vocational activities at the center include conversation clubs, cooking and nutrition courses, and film watching. Through these activities, RSSED is provides a space for Azerbaijani women to share their ideas and like-minded concerns in their own language.

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