>> Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So Qax received its first computer 2 years ago. I'm telling you this for two reasons.

1 - it will help explain to you the kind of life these awesome people value.

2 - You will know why the three really awesome blogs I wrote up on Gmail offline with pictures and everything will not be coming to your computer until I can find some reliable source.

That being said, I'm working on it and I hope you all are having an awesome holiday season!


My head was in the clouds...

>> Thursday, December 17, 2009

LITERALLY! I am so high up that my first time out of the house my head was legitimately in the clouds, best cliche ever!

Well this all began with my last week in Ceyranbatan. We had our final language test, I passed woo hoo! Then very quickly I had 2 Hub days ( all trainees in one room learning logistics and such) and then the Swearing in Ceremony. This week was really intense because my hMom & 15yr old hSis were in the hospital recovering from operations. That gave the house a very strange dynamic. But the Swearamony went really well. It was super intense and I didn't quite realize how I'd feel. Good things was that I was all sorts of emotional and because of my name I was in the front corner and the TV cameras were right on me. The 2 national anthems played (slightly teary), PST Director got choked up during his speech (some tears), someones hMom gave a speach (definite tears), acting ambassador swore us in (legit tears). Oh I was emotional alright and it was on TV. Everyone told me I was and they all yelled at the TV when they saw me.
The next day everyone moved out:( I woke up with Myriam and we went to Jess's house at 8 to say goodbye. From there, Mike joined us and we went to Myriam's to watch her pack her SMALL bags and leave. Up next Beca, we saw her for a little over a half an hour and then it was just Mike and I. We weren't leaving until Friday so Mike took me on an adventure! It was Pipe Fest 2009! We jumped on the pipes and went from the highway to the forest! It was awesome and I got to witness first hand how clumsy I am in comparison to Mr. Bionical. He could just jump around like he was supposed to be there while I flopped and flailed my way down and around the pipes. We looked at the reservoir and re-inacted scenes from The Lion King as if we were giants. AWESOME!!!!!!
Up next Bionical's hMom taught us how to roll dolma (yummy food), and then Jessica came! She was living in another training village but after seeing all of her cluster off came to spend the night at my house before we left. We hung out with Mr. Bionical's family, Nuranə, and my family. All in all a good night, but a very sad day.
Friday we had a party Maşrutka to the middle finger! We call it that because the AZ map kind of looks like a hand and my region would take place as the middle finger, we have a hand shake, be jealous. Well a group of six of us piled all of our worldy possessions on the maşrutka and were off. It was a fun ride full of food, christmas music, and a romp roaring good time. The second we peeked through a set of low mountains it was silent. Absolutely breathtaking mountains awaited us. By far the largest i'd ever seen. I was the first to leave and luckily my counterpart picked me up. Nailə is really awesome and she's helped me around the school and town. Saturday was the anniversary of Heydar Aliyev's death. The community all came out to honor him by placing a flower at the foot of his statue in their respective communities. This is where I got to see all of my school kids and the townspeople. No complaints here. It's absolutely gorgeous and the kids are all really fun. Also, the first day of school one of the teachers described what I wore to the Swearamony and then told me that she saw me on tv. I'm a celeb guys!


Walk to school in photos

>> Saturday, November 21, 2009

Let's begin with saying goodbye to my apartment and walking out past the stairwell.

Walk down the alley and say goodbye to all of the small children and Myriam's favorite cat. At the end make a left and you'll be on a very long street.

Beginning here with a slightly erie yet run down warehouse. I don't think it's in use and it looks like it was half demolished. There's all sorts of tagging on it and it is my mission to understand it all.

Note Myriam's total enthusiasm to be walking to school.

Still walking down the long street, the big pile of trash is in site so we're getting close to our next maneuver.

See, big pile of trash

Once we pass the big pile of trash we pass this very large army-esque truck. It's almost always there and I couldn't tell you why. We will be turning left before that street up ahead but Beca & Mike's houses are down that way.

We have turned left and passed the sheeps sleeping quarters. In beetween a large apartment complex and very large houses. The brown table on the left is usually under a make shift tent with loads of fruit being sold by teh people who live in that apartment.

Almost out on the road where we meet Mike, Beca, and Jess. Jess and Nurana live on this road to the right.

Now as a group, or sometimes not (It depends on how lazy we all are that day) we walk the rest of the way. Note the next pile o' trash on the right

We curve to the left around the school

We pass said school and start an incline up a narrower walkway.

This photo makes it look like the Secret Garden. I'm okay with that. Pretty much it's jsut more of the same. We have to take a huge turn around the school and pass some pretty tall aprtments.

Then we are out front of the school looking at the pipes. Door's on the right and through the school we go!

The hallways are typically filled with students screaming their hellos. The other option is by far my favorite. The kids will open the door and hold on to both handles to hold themselves mid air and ride the door back and forth. Inppropriate for school, yes. Enjoyable, yes.

Up the stairs and out the window you can see the center of the courtyard. Haven't really seen any students in it. But that's the view from our hallway.

What is the view from the courtyard? Me and Beca!

Hope you enjoyed your tour. Total walking time, about 15 minutes. If you're bionical like Mike and Jess it will take you about 5 seconds.

At my new site I will give you a classroom tour. My classroom now is reserved just for us and is quite large, so I'll wait until you can see a more average classroom.

Now you can go back to the Qobustan and Mud Volcanoe post because I added some photos. From here on out I will hopefully be able to add the photos at the same time. Next up, picture tour of my apartment!


I'm going to Qax!!!!!!!!

>> Thursday, November 19, 2009

That's right, we found out our site placements and I'll be in the awesome town of Qax! In English it's spelled Gakh , so now you can look up either spelling for an accurate map. It's pronounced (g-ah-gh, x in azeri is like gurgling), use this to impress at dinner parties. Kit be careful, on a date the whole gurgling thing isn't too attractive. I'm so excited to see what craziness Qax holds for me! The north eastern border is Russia and the south western border is Georgia. I'm in between two big regions, Zagatala and Şəki so no worries there. We call my area the middle finger, as the AZ map looks like a hand. I'll be practically in the mountains and there are a few cool historical sites there which is awesome for me. Doodle, you will be happy to know that there are some nature reserves here with bears and some sort of goat endangered species. Who knows. I've been told by many of the Azeri Peace Corps staff how beautiful my area is. It's supposed to have great air which will be a lovely change from this Sumgayıt air. Apparently Sumgayıt was on Time's list of top 10 most polluted cities, look it up (2007 I think). It's also supposed to be one of the worst ecologically polluted cities right now. Meaning that there's a lot of industry, and that plastic chair factory on my side of the tracks is probably SUPER healthy.

Speaking of health, and site announcements. One noticeably absent person today was Mary. One of the coolest girls here and also one of my first friends in the group. To make a long story short, Mary's allergies made it impossible to stay here and play us songs on her inhaler. I love her dearly and anytime we're together as a cluster I am just waiting for her to come in the door coughing and blowing her nose. It's truly amazing how close I feel to all of these people when I realize I had no clue who they were 2 months ago. It's pretty darn upsetting not to have her here, but hopefully she'll get the best country for re-assignment and I can go visit!

Today was a really cool day and I'm so excited to finally know where I am. I have a site mate, Jay, who is awesome! He will live in a village near my town, currently he's across the highway in New Ceyranbatan so we're obvioulsy besties already. There are no AZ6's placed in Qax but there are 6's & 7's in the regions outside Qax. I wasn't too worried about my site before because it felt like there was so much to do before I was actually going. Now, with only 3 weeks left and a site name I'm very nervous. I have the jitters and it feels like my hands won't stop shaking. That might be the chocolate that my family gives me, so good! One site I don't think anyone is going to, Xudat (pronounced who-dat). Too bad, could've made fun of them all 2 years!


Donuz Gripi

>> Saturday, November 14, 2009

Uh oh, here we go................Swine Flu.

That's right folks the Swine Flu has hit Azerbaijan. The first night or so of the TV spots my youngest Hsis pointed at me and said very slowly, "Lori....bad...teacher," repeatedly. I was very confused as she started talking really fast to my oldest Hsis. When translated, the teachers at the school think that the Americans all have the swine, and are telling their studenst this! If you thought the US was obsessed/scared you just won't comprehend this. Donuz Gripi is on the news every night. There are adds and loads of remedies. My favorite is all of the masks. School is super funny with about a third of the pupils in masks. Even better is when they don't have anything covering their faces and then they see Americans and hurry to put on their masks or hold a handkercheif over their faces. Beca being the doll that she is accompanied me in coughing and immediately snorting whenever we passed children with masks. Sooooo funny.
I'm pretty sure my family knows I don't have it but nonetheless we joined the garlic train. They were all eating raw garlic and told me I should too. I didn't really want to because they were nibbling it, but they insisted. So I took that big ol piece, threw it in my mouth and after about 4 chews swallowed it. They were shocked. Absolutely amazed that I could do this without any problems. Well they weren't aware of the epic battle my stomoach was fighting with itself, yet I remained super fabulous for the evening. In the morning my Hmom tried to kiss us girls goodbye but my younger sister said no when she got to me and jokingly said I had the swine. Ahhhh donuz gripi, how you slay me. *snort*


Azeri Game

I had a discussion with my Hmom and oldest Hsis today and they wanted to know about my American house. This all came about when I was trying to remember my lesson for the day in which I learned how to say story or floor of a building. Already knowing apartment and house I tried to see if I could make some fun sentences. So I was double checking that I knew what I was doing, and was forced to describe our home, then my American home. This turned into the most beloved Azeri game, Which one is better and why? I hate this game, loathe it, despise it, want to kill it! They do that a lot around here. Ask you which thing/person is better and degrade the loser. But to them it's not degrading, just factual. I say degrade but they don't necessarily look down on the thing/person. Nope, just make a tisk tisk noise as they shake their head. Like my Hdad, he asked me if my dad drank or smoked and I said no. He said that Doodle is a better man than him because he is a smoker but is trying to stop. It is very cut and dry out here. In the house discussion, when they discovered I had a 2 story, free standing house I knew it was over. I couldn't deny that I had a big house and they informed me that their house was bad and they were poor. But my house is big and I am rich. Through a back and forth no and yes game I ended up simply stating, "My house is normal in America, this house is normal in Azerbaijan. Both are good." To this I recieved 2 tisks and a hand shooing my opinion away. Maybe I dislike this game so much because I feel no one is truly a winner. Whoever "wins" has made the other person feel bad, and the loser just lost. At least I tried!


My room is a graveyard

for dead flies!!!!!!!!!!

I'm getting so good at this! My Hmom even calls me out of my room to get them around the house. Must be all of those years living near the chicken farm. I tell Beca everyday that my room is a graveyard for dead flies and she things I'm insane. I am but that doesn't change the fact that I am staring at a pile of about 15 flies from this evening. Around my room there are also copious amounts of dead fruit flies and 4 dead mosquitos, one of which oozed blood, ergo he got me first. I'll feel that in the morning. There normally aren't this many bugs in my room but I think I left my window open, who knows. Tomorrow I'll have to clean the battlefield up because all I know is, this is war.
Speaking of cleaning up, this means baby wipes. You will not believe the copious amounts of baby wipes I go through. Getting rid of bug remains on the wall, cleaning my new Azerboots, or a myriad of other non clean items in my life. Point is, I go through more baby wipes than the nursery wing in a hospital.


Birthdays and Card Games

It was my Hmom and Hdad's birthday on the 10th of November.
I have no clue what the Azeri protocol is so I got a big ol' piece of cardboard, the end of a pack of PC friendly flip-chart paper, and drew. I wrote "Happy Birthday to You" in Azeri with Super Mama and Ata Bomba, while my cluster helped me docrate with flowers, fireworks and whatever else we could muster. I waited until they all went to bed and taped it up in the kitchen so they'd be sure to see it before they both left for work.
Apparently this is exactly what you should do for someone's birthday. I came home for lunch and my two younger sisters both thanked me profusely for it, as they took me in the kitchen to look at it just to make sure I knew what they were thanking me for. When I came home for the evening my Hmom and other Hsis thanked me as well, yet again bringing me to see it for clarification. Beca called to double check that it was their birthday as my Huncle said he thought I was wrong. Once confirmed that meant Beca had to come visit with her Hdad and Hsis. Not of course before Hdad gets home and brings me in the kitchen to show me what he's thanking me for.
I've never been in that kitchen so much in one day.
Nonetheless it was adorable and I was very happy that they enjoyed it so much, they even promised to keep it and bring it out every year. When Beca and co arrived they too were paraded into the kitchen as I found out that many families don't actually know what day people are born on which is why my Huncle had no clue it was his brothers birthday. Afterwards our Hdad's decided to teach us a card game. Most confusing game EVER! I think they were both cheating. No cards under 7 and of course odd Russian letters instead of King & Queen, with no Jacks. Well I was on a team with my Hdad and Beca with hers. It had something to do with putting a card down and the next person either put a higher card of the same suit or the same number. Then the gards were collected by the loser. But whenever Beca and I tried to play our Hdad's yelled at us saying we were giving away our best cards. By the end our Hdad's were sitting next to us blatantly playing our hand against each other until my Hdad claimed that we won! Big burn for Ms Competitive Becadir, haha. I guess it doens't really count as a win since there was cheating  going on the whole time, but I'll still claim it! Also I was under the impression that you have to collect the cards when you lost but by the end there was a huge discard pile, where did that come from? It was a super fun evening and currently my family is cleaning the entire house top to bottom for the American Party.
Pretty much they asked me to invite my cluster over and I did. But now all of the fancy rugs, tablecloths, and handtowels are appearing. There's secret silverware being polished and my Hmom was standing in the window frame mopping the ceiling. Who mops a ceiling?
I'm finding out day after day how truly awesome my Hdad is. He even joined in on the cleaning and was on hands and knees mopping the floor. He called me out of my room to show me and we laughed a bit at it. Spekaing of laughing with my Hdad, he's ridiculous! All we do nowadays is sit next to eachother and laugh, the others look at us like we're crazy but we know, oh we know. They're just jealous! Literally, the ladies in my family probably are. I'm just really happy that now he comes to sit next to me and spends loads of time talking to me, we bond over Silvester Stalone, Al Pacino, and Bruce Lee. He thinks I'm Bruce's protege. I am!
I saw my Hparents bickering about something so I did what any rational person would do. I mimicked arguing with my hands and said dog and cat over and over again. Did you know that "You fight like cats and dogs" is universal? Well it is and my Hdad LOVES it! When I mentioned it a few days later he laughed and then made a heart with his hands, pointed to himself and said Romeo, then at Hmom and said Juliet. So adorable. The best part is that you can tell they're super happy together and their bickering always ends in laughter. Also, who wouldn't love to hear an Azeri man pronounce Romeo & Juliet, priceless.


First Azeri Argument

>> Monday, November 2, 2009

The children in my neighborhood stand on the ledge outside my room and kitchen to watch me do my homework and eat, respectively. This after coming home from all of the children at school following us all and yelling hello 100 times. A very odd experience, a bit unnerving at first but in time it's simply noise.  As I was eating dinner one night with my Hmom & Hsis's they were all laughing and loving the attention that their kitchen was getting. My 18 year old Hsis asked me if I loved this, to which I replied, "no." Very perplexed she asked why, and I said it was very rude.
That was apparently not the right thing to say.
She grew very angry and told my Hmom that I said these children were rude. All eyes were on me now but no longer were they of interest and like, it was anger and confusion. They asked why and in broken Azeri I replied, "home kids no stare and yell people in windows." It made little sense, as I'm sure you can tell, but through a few more tries the point got across. I was told in my Hsis's broken English that I am from America and they have never seen an American and this is what they are doing and I should love them. I agree that this is what they were doing but it was rude to do it staring into someones home, I wanted to start small. After translating she didn't speak to me for about 5 minutes, which I assume was all the time it takes to get over something like that because now she loves me again. Problem solved?


Scary Movies

My hSis asked me if I'd like to see a scary movie with them. I said no because frankly I don't like them. Well I was studying like I had planned on and about a half an hour later I heard a familiar song. I walked into the living room to see what it was and sure enough, the super scary movie was none other than Twilight.
I watched it with them because it was in Azerbaijani and why not get my learn on! I noticed that throughout this entire movie my hFam was actually scared. Terrified all the way through the end. I personally was laughing my butt off because little Mr. Edward Cullen is instilling so much fear in their lives. When actually Caitlin knows that his 25 chromosomes are covered with butterflies and roses. Well my hFam was still mortified and aftre the film they asked me if Americans have vampires. I told them yes and explained that this movie was made in America and we have books and TV shows all about it. Well that was not the right thing to say. They all stared at me with the most terrified expressions and asked if I'd ever been bit. They think that vampires are fully real and that in America they're everywhere. After a bit more persuasion I explained that I've never been bit and the books and films I spoke about were fiction. Who knew?


Qobustan Climbing & Mud Volcanoe Plunging

This is a delayed post but Saturday, October 24th was an awesome day so hopefully I will do it justice!

First off, Qobustan. This city has been said to have drawings dating before the pyramids were built. There was a small museum and we had a tour by this really awesome Azeri man. We had one of our LCF's (Language and Cultural Facilitator) translating until we realized that he could tell us about the drawings in better English than she could. Tours are fairly boring to me so I had some help in making my time a bit more fun. Some friends and I all decided to climb. We jumped up some rocks and through some brush to a little pride rock-esque area looking out at the Caspian. The view was really amazing, and we were quickly accompanied by the PC Security Advisor telling us that we were in an area that we weren't allowed. But Jeyhun is super awesome so with a few smiles and a little encouraging he joined us!!!! We crawled through a little bit and though it's hard to describe, merely climbing/hiking around felt wonderful. We made a second climb and this time I found huge lizards. They were very close to my face and I swear these guys were at least a foot long and looked like baby dinosaurs. I'm used to the little 3 inch guys that do their push ups on grandma's porch, these guys not so much. I screamed. (Pic - Me up on the rock with creepy lizards!)

As the tour wrapped up we all looked at the plateau at the top of this mountainish landscape and figured that three time's a charm! There was absolutely no path and it was just jumping from rock to rock trying not to fall on my face. Well after a bit we ended up on the top and we all sat down to enjoy the view from the highest point at Qobustan. The first thing I noticed was the little town on the water, at least that's what I called it. The entire set up of the oil drills/wells/whatever made this little town like shape on the water. Very odd. After a few moments we walked around on the plataeu and reliazed that it was another world up top. Roman esque forms and even a shepherd with his flock moving about. It was such a great feeling that Jessi, Beca, and I all stopped just to lay down and look up at the sky and feel all sorts of magical. It was as if any frustrations we had went out the window, priceless.
The scariest part about this place was the "official" way to get down. We walked over to this metal ladder with an enclosure and at first it just seemed a tiny bit wobbly. That is because the top was more secure. After about 10 rungs you realize that now this tiny metal death tube is precarioulsy floating away from the mountain. But you continue on as your mind lovingly plays for you, the various options for your death. Needless to say I lived, but it was still a bit unnerving. (Pic - after our climb, looking out at the Caspian)

On to the pluging of arms, or in Tim's case...pants.
The mud Volcanoes are EPIC! I had heard about these, even seen photos but it is just surreal seeing this in real life. Imagine a volcanoe but instead of any remote heat, just cold. Also there is only greyish mud and dirt everywhere. There was a bit of a climb to the mud and on the way we found oil! I saw it and put my finger in it, because it seemed like the only thing to do upon seeing oil. Sure enough, it was oily. Thank goodness I had my super sweet Barbie wet wipes so it was contained on said finger.

Further on, when I got to the mud, I put my finger in that too. Such a weird feeling. I gave myself warrior face marks and wrote my Azeri name on my arm. Jessi and I wrote our names and AZ7 in the mud for bonding fun times! We were ushered further down to the tallest volcanoe. I ran up and saw that some of the boys had their arms in, I plunged mine in right after them. This has got to be the weirdest experience. You're arm is mushing around as your feet are caving in the side of this seemingly solid ground. Then you can bring your arm up and break the earth apart. I was moving the ground people! So liberating and empowering, too bad all I could say was, "This is soooo weird!" A few of us asked Tim to take a picture of us as we were way too dirty to do so ourselves. He obliged, then we turned to walk away. There was a yelp.
Tim fell into the volcanoe!
His fancy pants camera in air with the most terrified look on his face. Just as I turned I saw his other leg break through. I think at that point we all relaized that the ground we were standing on was the same that we were moving with our whole bodies hanging over. Tim's face might have made me realize that because his face said, "I'm going under." That's one way to make you realize you might want to be more careful, oh well. Tim is now legend as it was pointless for him to attempt to wash off, so he walked back to the bus waist down grey and wet. All in all an amazing day which ended in charading to my little neighbors why I was muddy. Hmom was more than happy that the first thing I said after hello was, "I need to shower. "
(Pic - Jessi, BEca, & I attempting to help Tim post plunge. Too bad our arms were covered)


Monsoons, Small Children, and Fiances

>> Thursday, October 29, 2009

So remember that one time that California is in a drought? Well I've never seen so much water in all my life. Water flowing in the street, all over my bathroom, just coppius amounts everywhere. Then I get an email from Elaine asking how the weather is, my reply "Like SoCal." I got home and it was freezing cold, then the next day I sewar a monsoon hit. It was windy and rainy and oh my goodness when I looked out the window the trees were horizontal. Whoda thunk? So ultimately I lied to Elaine, because immediately after said email it all changed. Now it's back to normal but who is the sexiest person ever? ME! Why you ask? Because I wear my thermals under my tights and no one knows! Yup, if it's chilly at all you will find me pretty darn warm!

All of us TEFL folk have been teaching this week. In the classroom trying to turn their lessons into fun hours of learning. It's going pretty well I'd say. They are all very excited to hear us talk and we love when they get into the lessons. Beca and I are a team and we've each had one meh class and 4 super fun ones! I'd say that's a pretty good statistic! I have yet to unleash teh ball of knowledge but I think next wekk these kids will see it in it's glory!

Today I was riding with my freind Mary in the marșrutka to Sumgayıt. If I haven't said it before, marșrutka's are make shift astrovans with about 16 seats and people standing on top of that. Well we were in the back and Mary was on my lap because of the lack of space. I told them a fake name and explained I have a fiance. This does not deter these men. One informed me that I will be his Ceyranbatan fiance and the other showed me a photo of a wedding and pojnted to me as the bride and him as the groom. Through awkwardness poeple were leaving and I saw our school's Dean of Students! She was awesome and tut-tutted them so they stopped! We got off at her stop and thanked her profusely and had a fun little Azerglish converstaion.

All in all, pretty good week so far.


Trip to Agsu

>> Friday, October 23, 2009

I spent a few days with an AZ6, Rachael carter, in Agsu. It was about 2 and a half hours on a marșrutka (think astro van with seats scrunched in for 16, but people standing in the non aisles) away from Ceyranbatan. It was so much fun and Rachael made Mac and cheese, burritos, and grilled cheese with tomato soup. I did not realize how much my body truly missed these foods until she mentioned it. She lives in a cave! Not like an actual side of the mountain cave but her room is so far under the house that the sunlight doesn’t quite come in. Like a cave, super fun. We went to school and I got to see what the next two years could potentially be for me. Not as scary as it could have been. Pretty cool and her counter part was really into their co teaching which gave me loads of hope.
We took a few walks into town and on one journey the statue of Heydar Əliyev was uncovered. It was all gold and his name was not complete so it just said “Hey”. By far the best Heydar statue. But the park wasn’t quite finished so when I went back the next day to take pictures it was covered up and his name was nearly completed. ☹ In town I did find the coolest ball ever. It has the English alphabet with pictures and words to match all over it. Bear in mind that Q is Quarenden with a picture of an apple, but the rest are pretty darn close. I call it the Ball of Knowledge, and since Knowledge is Power it is also the Ball of Power!
I’m back in town and we’re on a weird schedule. On Monday I do my Practicum, which is just a fancy way to say that Beca and I will be doing supervised teaching. We have a few lesson plans but tomorrow I think we get our official topics so this weekend I will most likely be writing loads. But Sunday is Fun Day! I will hopefully be at the beach playing soccer or just hanging out with friends that I haven’t seen in a while!
So all in all Rachael was awesome, I have a Ball of Knowledgeable Power and I start teaching on Monday. Wish me luck!

OMG almost forgot. Hmom and Hsis were teaching me verbs using my Ball of Power and they got a bit too into it. Hilarious. The best part had to be when they were playing faux volleyball and Hmom wacked the ball into the light and busted it all over my room. I was crying I was laughing so hard. Super Maman had a different meaning that day.


My first squat toilet experience.

After sending this to my family and friends I realized that the world should not be deprived of this story. So here you go!
“I didn’t use a squat at the hotel, and my host family has a western style toilet. It doesn’t flush, you just take the bucket out of the tub and thrust water down it, no tp either. There’s a hose-ish thingy that you clean with and I’m perfecting the air dry method. Anyways at school I really had to pee the first day. We went downstairs and the nearest bathroom was by all of the small children. That being said, many azeri people don’t clean restrooms. They think that since what you do in there is super gross, why spend time to make it fancy or remotely sanitary? So I’ve already lost some weight and my ring can easily slip off. You may think you can see where this is going, but you do not know to what extent. I already mentioned that this was near the small children and it was so friggin gross. Well that entailed poop filling the squat area because there is no bucket of water to clean the area off. Well bad a bing, bad a boom, my ring slips off with my skirt over my head and reflex kicks in and I pick it up. MY HAND WAS IN A MOUND OF CHILD POOP! I cannot fully describe this experience, it’s impossible to convey the disgust and absolute hilarity of this event. I go to wash off my hand and of course, no soap! With the water I at least got all visual remnants off my hand and ring. Then I walked through the hallway with my hand & ring as far away from me as possible. My entire cluster (6 of us) were laughing so hard that we were crying and I had to tell my teacher what happened. She of course lost it as well and helped me get soap, dish soap in the kitchen of course. Anyways, that was Tuesday and we still randomly start laughing about this, tears and all.

So as you go throughout your day, realize that I’m fine and well looked after. And also, no matter what happens at least your hand wasn’t in a mound of child poop with a skirt over your head in a squat toilet in a country where you can’t speak the language.”

For those of you wondering, yes I’ve become more advanced with the squat, so no worries anymore!


First few days with the host family

>> Saturday, October 10, 2009

Alrighty folks. I’ve been with my host family since Monday the 5th. Amazing. They are super funny and the lack of English has made for the most ridiculous week. Most of what I know from my family comes from a host cousin who is fluent in English and unfortunately has to translate everytime he is here. I still try but it ends up in a lot of possibilities, no absolutes with charades. So to begin, I live with a family of 5 (mom, dad, and 3 sisters). I call my host dad Ata, the traditional azeri for father. He calls me Lalə (pron. Lay-lah) because “I need an Azeri name,” pretty much he has a hard time with pronouncing Lori. Host mom – Maman or Maman SUPER! 18yr old sis - Ramilə, 15yr old sis – Nayrmin, 13yr old sis - Həbibə. They are all super sweet and want me to be as happy as humanly possible. Since the beginning of typing this I’ve received 4 visits to my room each with food or tea in hand. They also came to laugh at how I befriended this cat. They will not let me name it, but I call him Buddy. Everytime they hear this I am reminded that his name is psh psh. The cat may or may not be theirs but I saw Maman feeding it from her plate so I assumed I could pet it and now it loves me. Currently, Buddy is asleep on my bed, He has slept with me every night since I got here.

Speaking of animals…they’re everywhere. Cats and dogs you’re not supposed to pet or feed because most of them have diseases so I really hope Buddy is a pet but because of the language barrier I do not actually know. Chickens, hens, and geese are roaming the streets and mini yard where they stay at night, as I walk to school. Of course the dogs and cats are thrown in as well. Speaking of school, what a trip! I was told I’d be like a celebrity but this is ridiculous. As the 6 of us walk through the hallways every eye is on us, everytime. Children bust out of the classroom and yell hello or just tell us their names. It is a bit less on the streets but those hallways echo and I think my brains will pour out of my head soon. My little sister’s friends all think that they are special when I greet them by name and that is always fun.

I have had a few language classes and soooo much gets covered. I wish we could just be like The Matrix and download a language, but alas I shall study. Ramilə gave me some awesome Azeri pop and on our breaks my cluster has little dance party’s. There are 6 of us in Ceyranbatan Cluster #1 and we’re super cool. 2 bionic people who walk/run super fast and never get tired, Mike and Jess. My neighbor Myriam and I walk to and from school together, while talking about all of the ridiculous events of our day. Mary is our blonde, who definitely fell into the van we take into the city, hilarious. Beca, through host family’s is my cousin. Beca and I never stop laughing so that’s good for me and my abs! Our teacher is Nurana, and she is not only amazing and sweet but of course she’s super pretty. Pretty much this whole training thing kinda rocks.
More to come later, be advised that our dance party has resulted in the creation of an azeri music video. Be afraid


Hotel Magic Times

>> Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hello from Baku. Travels were intense and as fun as we could make it beginning with a 3-ish hour long bus ride arriving at JFK about 4 hours early. Not too bad, it gave me loads of time to talk to people, eat a panini, and watch an episode of Family Guy. Then we flew to Frankfurt where I unfortunately forgot to drink the water out of my bottle. The security guy told me to drink quick, so I did much to his amazement. "You could do so fast with beer?" "Absolutely." Tim thought I should make him buy me abeer to see if it was true but alas I let him work We hung around for about 7 hours until we flew in to Baku where we are now sleeping before training tomorrow.
The rooms are very nice and I was lucky enough to get the bottom floor so I didn't have to drag all of my things up stairs. There are some AZ6's here and we willl be geting to talk/know them for a few days. I did go all around the hotel with some cool people and we explored and found where breakfast will be (note to self: this room is also where I will receive my shots). FYI if any of you were curious, Eli can work a cat walk over water, and Aaron is very funny to follow down hallways.
All in all the two days of travel were fun and included bonding with PC folks, creating some fun memories, and making pacts. I've made two or three so far, I'm not so sure, but I will be sticking to them!
The second I got off the bus there were hugs and realization that we are actually here, so bring it on AzerbaiUruguay!

PS. I know I said I'd upload pictures but it has been 45 minutes so I do not think the internet wants you to see them. Maybe later.


Staging for AzerbaiNigeria

>> Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alrighty, almost time to go. I've finished my staging session met loads of cool people and sufficiently diminished my funds by about half in one fun last American night out. My room mate, Gretchen, is amazing and a saint for waking me up so I was not late to staging. Had great party time's with some cool people (have not jumped on a bed since I was 5), and all in all am having fun getting to know people. There is another staging group for Mozambique in the same hotel and while talking on the phone to Elaine I just said goodbye to a few of them, as they have to leave at a ridiculous hour to get there on time. Also, down the street are the Turkmenistan kids so it's a big ol' Peace Corps family Staging!

Thanks to Mr. Nich Prax I am now calling Azerbaijan anything but that. The formula goes thus: Azerbai(insert any country name). So AzerbaiSweden should be super fun times. Also Kit's lovely yet awkward Jellyfish handshake/hug combo has begun, so we shall see if this ostracizes me. It's 2:45a and I need to be downstairs in under 4 hours so in honor of the yet again most amazing person ever, Gretchen, I shall bid you all adeu. Love you all and after epic amounts of travel and shenanigans I shall update from Baku!

AzerbaiThailand here I come!


New Address, Skirts, and DVD's

>> Friday, September 25, 2009

Just got this new address for my training. It's temporary because in December I will hopefully be moving to my new site. So here ya go!

PCT Lori Dunn
Peace Corps Azerbaijan
Azerbaycan pr. 15
Mǝrkǝzı poçt

Definitely found some AZ appropriate skirts. Not my style but with the coat, thermals, and snow boots it's quite possibly one of the funnier things I've worn in 100 degree SoCal heat. My things are nearly packed and under my weight limits! The DVD's, ebooks, and music are currently copying to the external hard drive. All is magical.


No more mail :(

>> Sunday, September 20, 2009

...well for now. I just received an email from the Peace Corps stating that the address for snail mail that I previously posted no longer exists. For security reasons it is no longer open but they're trying to get some mail going for us those first 2 months of training. Be advised that when/if there is a new training address, only letters and tiny tiny padded envelopes are allowed to be sent. So during training so don't go crazy sending me crates (MOM).

Also how weird is this, 8 days left! Well, technically 7 days since I fly out so darn early next Monday. Grandma just yawned audibly through church, and I got her a taco. Needless to say, all is well in Riverside. I haven't quite realized that I'm leaving yet so maybe on the plane I'll figure it out. Packing - too much, as is buying all of the toiletries needed. My going away party was super fun and it was great to see lots of my friends and family. I will put up pictures on this thingy somehow. Thank you to all who came, it was a fun day! I have one piece of fatty Costco cake left and I will be savoring it with all my might.

That's all for now, I'm off to find more appropriate skirts. Bit of advice, Nordstrom's sales people are helpful to a point. When you say you need a skirt they get very energetic. However they choose to not hear when you repeatedly say they have to be past the knee and able to hand wash. I think I'll wear a sign next time.


Hello All

>> Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Hey Grandma guess what?"
"What kid?"
"I just found out which country I'm going to in the Peace Corps!"
"The Peace Corps Grandma, I just found out."
"Oh good, where are you going?"
"It's called Azerbaijan."
"Spell it."
"A-z-e-r-b-a-i-j-a-n, Azerbaijan."
"Oh well you'll have to write that down for me when you get over here."
"Sure thing lady."
- This lovely transcript for those of you wondering why the blog was titled as it is. But just as a contrast read the next.

"Hey Reezin, I'm going on a super awesome trip to a country all the way around the world."
"Show me." I get his globe and show him.
"Guess what it's called... Azerbaijan."
- Imagine my sisters shocked face mirroring my own as we congratulate the smartest 3 year old there ever was. First person I've ever told who got it right without any help.

Anyways, welcome to the amazing accounts of Lori's Peace Corps experience.
This blog is for my friends family and random people who feel like reading about what fun and shenanigans I can manage to get myself into in a 27 month time period. So frequent this site, become a follower, or whatever it is that will let you see what I'm up to. I'm actually just too lazy to re-write one instance to everyone, so consider this your postcard. Every time you read it imagine a new post card arriving, then it will be even more fun!

Mini background on me:
- One year out of college with a BA in Theatre Design.
- Working at Disneyland in a job that I'm pretty darn sad to leave.
- Was nominated Nov 4, 2008 and cried like a baby in Yu's house
- Invited June 4, 2009 and cried like a baby backstage at Disneyland
- Already missing my friends and family like crazy!

Lori how, you ask, can I help you not miss me so much? Good question, visit me or send letters! The best time periods to visit are March, April, May, October, and November so check it out! If you'd like to send me any mail for my first few months as a Peace Corps Trainee....Go Ahead!!!!! If you send me anything make sure to number it as apparently sometimes things just disappear so at least we'll know which one gets lost! Also, while I enjoy lovely packages in the post it will cost both of us money and is many times lost. So lets just keep to being super awesome with our new found appreciation of stamps on letter envelopes! Well I say that now but give it a month and I will most likely retract that statement. Until December this will be my address:

Lori Dunn, PCT
AZ 1000
Main P.O. Box 77
Peace Corps
Baku, Azerbaijan

Here's a map of the world followed by a map of Azerbaijan and the basic surrounding areas.

Finally, I want to thank all of my friends and family for their support as I go to, "the toughest job, you'll ever love." (don't judge my cheesiness Elaine) I'm very excited and your encouragement keeps me positive and unafraid. I love you all!


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