Saturday, November 28, 2009

Almost time to leave

In a little over a week we will all be sworn in as volunteers and making our way to different corners of Azerbaijan to start life officially as volunteers. I am leaving Tagiyev to work in Tovuz, which is north west, close to Georgia & Armenia. I am really excited to finally have the freedom to make my own schedule and explore a new part of this amazing country, but also know that I will be leaving the comforts I have created here and that makes me sad. I have such a great group of Youth Development trainees that it's been soo much easier to deal with the challenges of living in a foreign country. They are extremely supportive and we have had such great laughs in the past two months. My Azerbiajani family as well is better than I could have ever expected. My sisters are the light of my day and I will miss them terribly. The only good part of this is thinking about coming back to visit when I can speak better Azerbaijani to show them how much I have learned.
I have to say though I am nervous about the whole transition. A new city, new family, new counterpart, and new responsibilites. I am thankful that the Peace Corps understands the difficulities of initiating new projects and the encouragement they give for us to take our time when first at our site. Things will be slow, but for a good reason. I'm not really looking forward to the cold, but hey you can't always have things your way and it will be good for the Floridian to get a change of climate. Also, I have a great site mate who is easy going like me so I am sure we will have a lot of fun and will explore like crazy when we first get there. The area is relatively liberal compared to the rest of Azerbaijan so I am hoping my family will not be super traditional. I have been used to an all female family that allows me to be somewhat independent and they are super open minded, at least when it came to the tattoos. It is also suppose to be beautiful and very close to the mountains so be prepared for some great photos coming my way.
This week we pretty much celebrated Thanksgiving the whole time and have a big dinner tomorrow to end the week. On Thursday, most of the YD group met in Sumgayit to have drinks and it was the most fun I have had since I've been here. Yesterday, we went over to my cluster mate Eli's house and his family prepared chicken kababa's which were fantastic. I will really miss his family as well they have been great and so welcoming to me. His mom actually allowed me to help clean up, which in the states would be customary, but here not so much. The guest just sits back and relaxes while the rest of the women clean everything up so the fact that she let me help meant that I am becoming a part of the family. It was good times for sure. I'm glad we decided to take it easy this week and have some fun. The upcoming week will be really busy for us: community project on Monday, getting ready to leave, language tests, etc.... Also, to end this blog I wanted to thank everyone in my life who have been so supportive in my decision to join the Peace Corps. To those who have kept in touch and those who keep the encouragement coming.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Ideas and Recent Reflectins

I am actually taking the time to write my blog in advance so I do not feel rushed or squished into a tiny space at the internet cafe. This has been a week of many new ideas and a reflection on my experiences so far in Azerbaijan. I've lived in Tagiyev for over a month now so the daily routine is starting to feel normal and even quite refreshing even though they are keeping us quite busy. Language classes and technical sessions for Youth Development take up the majority of my time Monday thru Saturday with the evenings spent hanging out with my host family. I live for the Marshutka rides into Sumgayit for a chance to go shopping, possibly a toyuc doner (fresh baked bread with shaved hot chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, and some type of sauce), and the feeling that I am slowly getting the hang of how to act like an Azeri. Lately, I've been thinking a lot in the mornings this week on different life issues for myself and taking a look back on why I'm here in the first place. The thought of being gone for two years is starting to hit home to me as I become more comfortable with my surroundings and closer to my host family. I asked myself, “is this experience really to help others?” Probably not. This whole journey is really only about myself and I know that's selfish to an extent, but it's true. I don't know yet how I'm going to help people or if they are even going to want what I can offer right now so everyday is just about me. It's nice to only take one day at a time and not to have a million things to worry about anymore. How complicated my life used to be and for what? For the moment I'm just living....

In a week though I will find out where I will be permanently placed and in December a lot will change for me. I will be starting the foundation for my work over the next two years and that prospect is exciting. I'm nervous about living with a whole new host family though and actually quite sad to be leaving my wonderful family. I just want to start preparing myself for the area I'll be working. I really stressed to have a site mate or to be close (at least 30 mins) away from other PCVs so we'll see what happens. I was given two scenarios, one seemed really promising. In two weeks as well we'll be able to meet the counterpart / organization we'll be working with at a convention in Sumgayit so it will give me the opportunity to learn what they do and work out what my role will be.

In other news, I feel a lot closer to my cluster mates now and that makes everything so much better. We're not necessarily the closet group, but definitely feel that they are there for me if I needed them and we all like to have some fun. I have one cluster mate who is about two years older then me so we're pretty close and it's nice to have someone who thinks somewhat the same as I do. We had a Halloween party this afternoon which was really awesome. We played Apples to Apples (card game) and watched Boondock Saints, so jealous that the new movie came out and I can't see it, as well as ate sooo much candy. The one thing Azerbaijan is not lacking in is lots of sweet delicious (as my Language teacher would say). Anything from hard candies, chocolates, fresh baked breads, and a whole array of cookies. I'm going to get so unbelievably fat and happy, especially since my host sister makes at least two loafs of fresh bread every week. Literally my drug of choice. I do not understand why anyone would want to buy processed bread anymore it's just in no way the same. I also made banana raisin walnut bread this week that came out perfectly and received rave reviews from the women in my building as well as cohorts. I had one trial run earlier this week and totally failed to realize the whole Fahrenheit / Celsius factor until class the next day, I wondered why it only took about 10 minutes to cook.

I have no real strange stories to tell though or extremely funny experiences. It's been actually quite not really normal, but yet not so different either which doesn't really make sense. It's hard to explain that feeling where you know you should be like what the hell is going on, but you don't really question it or it doesn't really shock you. Then you think to yourself afterward and say wow that was more than just interesting. I think I suppress the majority of my culture shock. I just concentrate on the little successes, which include: waking up to 3 roosters crowing one after another with no substantial thoughts of murdering them slowly, mastering walking down my hill and around the streets here without stepping in any cow poop, getting the sheep at Eli's house to come up to me for food every time I stop by, stopping his dog Topush from humping me (still though working on that), befriending about 8 little girls who live around my building, making banana raisin walnut bread, going to and from Sumgayit by myself, bartering at the Bazar, staring back at little kids on the bus until they stop staring at me, the art of shuffling and readjusting on a marshutka, and hanging my clothes on a clothes line four floors up on a super windy day without losing my underwear or other unmentionables. These are the things I look forward to and the reasons I love being where I am right now.