Sunday, October 25, 2009

Softball Season comes to a close...with a bang!

Today was the fall tournament between my team, Mingechevir, and Ganja. I'm so proud of my kids for a number of reasons. Firstly, the season started rather slowly. We usually only play in the summer so as not to interfere with school, but due to some funding restrictions we needed a fall season. My kids rose to the challenge. They rearranged work schedules, etc. in order to play. Also, we lost our sitemate Nate. Nate was our one male sitemate and he returned to the states because his PC term came to a close. Therefore, it was just us ladies dealing with all these boys. Luckily, one kid, named Mensur, was an immense help. In fact, Mensur (aged 15?) was so reliable and helpful we made him captain of the team (and he speaks zero English!). Mensur took the responsibility to heart and literally became couch: corrected kids, helped kids, gave us our lineup, etc. He did the whole thing. I love this skills transference thing. You can tell he learned a lot.
Sadly, our second game was cut short. A group of Azerbaijani males (maybe my age) decided to play soccer on our field while we were playing. Never mind the abundance of empty fields all over the place...they specifically wanted to obstruct us. We tried to get them to leave, but a throw down nearly ensued so being the PEACE corps volunteers we are, we left. sigh. that blew.
So Ming won the first game 16-15 and the second game was cut short while Ganja was up in the count.
My neighbors were so excited about this tournament that I got inundated with questions about who won when i got home. Good stuff. We'll play again in the Spring.
Thanks again to everyone who donated money to this cause. It's a good one.

buncha new art....


Helvetica....2 of them. for no reason.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

allagash is number one!

by the way, the Allagash Brewing Company in Maine sent me a free T-Shirt!!! i was looking at their website one day trying to figure out which beer to aaron might bring me from the states on his visit when i wrote their beer an email. i wrote something along the lines of: dear allagash beer, i miss you so very much. you are quite quite delicious. sadly, no other beer compares to you while serving as a pcv in azerbaijan. i fondly remember our nights together in brooklyn, etc. Well, Allagash was kind enough to send me a t-shirt in response. SO HERE IS TO ALLAGASH!!!!

az 7 pitches in with softball

all corny puns intended

way to b

i shouldn't of used a flash with this picture...oh well

the new kids on the block

hey...this past three days or so i was host to two new volunteers. my group, az 6, is now a bunch of pcv veterans. wow. so make way for az 7...they have arrived and are in training. the two volunteers i hosted reminding me of hosting my brother and jordana just a week prior. almost everything is new and there is a lot to take in in terms of lifestyle. before you arrive to azerbaijan you don't really know how to picture your life. once you get here, you start picturing your life and you must make a decision as to whether or not it is a life you can live. the peace corps is not for everyone.
the two hosting experiences were also educational for me (not just them). i suppose i had not realized how many things i learned to adapt to. at this point i feel that my life isn't so hard...i miss the united states for a billion different reasons, but my life in azerbaijan is alright. i have my own apartment (with problems....) and this apartment is bigger than any apartment i ever had in nyc. yes, i'm going to have some heating problems (air and water), but i guess i'll cross that bridge when i get there. and i suppose this is my point: my whole attitude of "i guess i'll cross that bridge when i get there" is a change i suppose. i've never seen myself as being particularly uptight, but the whole peace corps experience has forced me into so many anxiety filled situations that i just...don't get as anxious about most things anymore. peace corps is seemingly an exercise in letting a lot of things go. if you don't let go, then well you'll be bothered and after awhile it gets emotionally exhausted being so bothered. so you adapt. so you let go.

in exciting news i'm leaving for india pretty soon. i'm trying to get all the ins and outs of my plans together. i'm also putting together a training for trainers...i'm going to do a internet training course for trainers that teach on the computers bev and i wrote a grant for.

also, SOFTBALL!! our fall season is ending this sunday. kids from the city of gence are coming to mingechevir for a blow out. i'm proud of my kids and i hope they have a lot of fun. this means that today (thursday) is my last softball practice for a while. i think i need to start a soccer team...i'm just horrible at softball. no upper body strength!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Aaron and Jordana in the 'Baij

As seen in this shot, my brother and his girlfriend, Jordana, came to visit me in Azerbaijan. I highly enjoyed the whole experience and I also learned a lot. After all, I have lived in the Caucasus for over a year now and I have not visited the States once. I forgot how being in the PC and Azerbaijan has changed me and what I have become accustomed to. Because I have been here for one year I suppose there are some things I assume my friends and family back home already know. But, now I know I'm wrong. I think there was a lot about my experience that were a surprise to the two of them. Here is a list of some:

-That I live at least 5-6 hours away from the capital, Baku. I have to take either a larger bus, small minibus (marshrutka), or train into the city. It is always an all day event that can be rather exhausting. This is why it can be such a pain to go in for medical visits, trainings, or Environmental Committees. With these events I only have one night in Baku paid for. Therefore, I might have to travel more than 12 hours in a single 24 hour span. Not so fun.
-Guys also have rules imposed upon them. Not just females. Guys have far fewer rules, but they are definitely still in place. Guys do not wear shorts. Everyone is supposed to have clean looking shoes. A lot of cuddling (or sleeping on your girlfriend on the bus) is taboo and yeah you will get stared at for it.
-A lot of our living situations are probably not as nice as you'd think. A lot of volunteers do not have running water, have sparse electricity, and squat toilets.
-We receive very little money. The Peace Corps aims to compensate us according to what the average person makes in the country of our residence. However, for Azerbaijan this is especially hard to gauge and we get, proportionally, less money than other PCVs in other countries. My thinking is that this is due to Azerbaijan's constantly fluctuating and always rising inflation rate. Dare I say....(and I could very well be wrong or get yelled at for saying this later) maybe our office of service doesn't get as highly prioritized by DC and we consequently receive less funds. Who knows.

Other info regarding the visit: We spent a couple of days in Baku in beautiful weather and then headed to my site. After two days in Ming, we traveled for the day to Sheki and ended up in Zaqatala for the night. There is at least one great tourist site in Sheki called the Xan (King/Tsar) Saray (Palace). Aaron and Jordana have all the pictures from this excursion and our gorgeous hike in Zaqatala. I will post those pictures when I get them. My friend/PCV mate Josh put us up for the night in his insane house in Zaq, but Amy and Loki also hosted us and helped us out immensely. Each volunteer we met (also Danielle in Sheki) took time off of work specifically to help us out. PCVs are great hosts, I recommend them for visits to unfrequented locations.

Lastly, thanks to Aaron and Jordana for lugging art supplies to Azerbaijan all the way from the states. THANK YOU. and for every thing else.

Now I'm only t minus 19 days until I go to India with Lexi!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

october has hit and the changes begin

work? hmmm. i wish. i'm trying to work, but i feel like i keep getting disrupted. my fall will be/has been very disjointed. i go to india in a month, my brother is coming, i moved, i got a cat, etc. i just somehow feel like i'm not getting any work done and that i cannot get work done. but, slowly i am actually getting some work done. i finished a project for my organization in regards to and i hope to get the ball rolling on a new project...however everything is slow. i need my counterpart's help for this latter project and it just has not happened yet. so, i leave for the capital tomorrow and can't work for all of next week because my brother is coming (YAY!). when o when will it all get done?
currently i'm working with two organizations: mine and my former sitemate's organization. the latter has been interesting. i feel exceptionally qualified to work with them, but i have encountered some frustrations. my counterpart is a very intelligent and engaging azerbaijani woman, but her mind is running a million miles a minute. it is very hard to get her to follow through and focus on a single idea. one minute she is dead certain she wants to work on a certain project, say a strategic plan for her organization. so i work with her and ask her to do a task. next time i see her she has not done this task and is asking to work on a presentation for other NGOs on project management. it is hard to get the idea across that to accomplish any one task we must actually begin that task first...and you know, WORK ON IT. it is also strange to have me, the younger person, be mentoring someone a decade older.
another frustration is the non capitalist mentality...or just cultural mentality. two examples:
1. The organization wants more clients. How do we get more clients? ADVERTISING. MARKETING. I'm going over step by step how to market the org and find clients and at the end my counterpart decides, "No, I do not think we should advertise. If we advertise, people will think we have no clients and we will have a bad reputation". Sort of a circle, is it not? If you don't advertise, you gain no clients. If you advertise, people will think you have no clients and this is somehow dentrimental. SIGH.
2. I volunteered for one day with a program that helps Azerbaijani youths to study for one year in an American high school. This program holds a series of tests all over the country in the English language. One testing center was in Mingechevir and as a result children from the surrounding regions traveled to my city for the test. In order to make sure these children could return home at a reasonable hour the program decided to test them first. However, the program demanded that all children arrive at the same time so as not to seem to be favoring regional kids. Or, explained differently, I said: Why don't we tell the kids from Mingechevir to come later in the day so they don't have to unnecessarily wait several hours at the testing center before getting tested? Answer to my question: Because if we do that people will think we favor kids from the regions and talk to each other about that.
Sometimes efficiency is less efficient? And sometimes, 2 plus 2 equals 5.

Lastly, the new group of volunteers arrived in country today. I will not meet them until they finish their training in December, but welcome new volunteers (AZ 7).

sitemates: Mingechevir

Sadly, the cute couple in the front left Mingechevir last night. Hooray for them! They finished their PC service. Mariko (the laaaaady) has been in AZ for 3 years. This couple (Nate and Mariko) got married during their service (met during their service). We will surely miss them. Hopefully, though, my brother and Jordana can meet them on Monday night before they fly out to Amsterdam.


i still lack a great pic, but you get all these crappy weird ones in the until then