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)

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