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!!!