>> Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh My Goodness, the cheating on tests is out of control!

I was on facebook and saw that my 8th grade English teacher (Hi Mr. Hayes!) was grading papers. He was noting that he had already found 8 students who had copied their book reports off the internet. When I read this I instantly thought, "How dense are those kids? Mr. Hayes tells them numerous times that he will be checking and with all of the problems it's just plain smarter to read the lousy book?" But then I thought about my classes and how the children are not only expected to cheat but it's encouraged. With the education system and bribes and blah blah blah it's simply expected.

During my tests that I give the students I try my hardest to split the students but then they just yell across the classroom at each other and the teacher laughs. I thought this was pretty bad but I was recently witness to the most intense cheating EVER. It's time for Country-wide testing. All 9-11 form students come to school on a Saturday and take a test that can last for 1-3 hours ranging on all of the subjects they are enrolled in. A student asked one of my counterparts for her cell phone number for the test and she gave it to him. I didn't even bother asking why, it was one of those days. I didn't care.

That Saturday brought me to my club in the village. Since the older students were getting ready for the test I was just waiting for the younger kids to come. A group of 10th form girls came in and asked for my phone number.
Me: "Sure, but why?"
Them: "For the test."
Me: "What do you mean, you'll be in the test?"
Them: "If I don't know an answer I'll text you and you'll send the answer."

WHAT? This was completely normal. When I explained that I wouldn't do that they all got pretty angry with me and said that this is Azerbaijan not America and I live here. I stood firm with my no and they stomped off complaining about how I was rude and they would fail. I began asking just about every teacher I came into contact with this week and found out that they all do it. I was in shock, no wonder I can't get honesty out of my kids in class. Cheating is expected of them.

This made me cut back to America and I was even angrier with the students who cheat there because they are given these opportunities and are throwing them away. Uh oh, cut to 12th grade where I didn't study, cheated, got caught and was terribly embarrassed. After seeing this intense cheating and with that watching the learning opportunities slip away from these kids, I'm truly ashamed of that time.

My new goal is to calm down when the kids cheat because they're taught to do it. To use these new emotions and realizations to do some good and to push integrity even more than before. This is the new goal...integrity.


Remember that one time where I WIN!?!?!?!!

>> Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Well for those of you who are wondering who would be so silly as to doubt me, I will fill you in.

Around last March Mr. Big Daddy J and I were discussing food at his hFam's house. I say that surhulu, xengel, girs, qutab and mostly all dough-based azeri foods are all from the same dough. Sure they end up getting cooked in a different way but the dough is exactly the same: flour, water and salt (in the exact same proportions). Well Mr Chef (that he is), disagreed. I give in assuming I know nothing, but every time I eat any of those foods I get into mini arguments. Now it's just within my head as opposed to across the table at Big Daddy.

Well I went over to my counterparts house and made some delicious pumpkin qutab (more or less a quesedilla but with pumpkin instead of cheese). Normally food is just served to me but I've been complaining about this so she taught me. As I was standing there making the dough, that re-occurring argument I have with myself popped up. So I ask, and you know what......I WAS RIGHT! Boom!

So for your pleasure you may now watch me prepare Pumpkin Qutab using the same dough as every other dough based meal. PS Note how awesome it is that I get pumpkin qutab! It is so delicious.
The dough balls, pumpkin, flour and rolling board

Me getting the perfect thin dough, you wrap it around the rolling pin and it is super easy.

Freshly filled and pressed qutab's ready for frying.

Fry the qutab and then coat with butter!

As I have promised when something goes well for me I will develop it. As this has been haunting my meals (this is a no no folks, food is sacred) I decided merely posting developed wasn't good enough. So it's branded. Will he kill me...probably but I'm in Azerbaijan - try and catch me now!


November Holidays in Qax

>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bayraq Günü - National Flag Day
November 9

The Republic of Azerbaijan had freedom from the Soviet Union for 2 years beginning in 1918. In this time they adopted a flag and the national holiday to celebrate this freedom. It's three colors represent:
Blue - Heritage relating to the Turks
Red - Europeanization
Blue - Loyalty and relation to Islam

Then Azerbaijan was once again a part of the Soviet Union until 1990. At this time the 8-pointed star and half crescent moon of Islam were added.
Konstitusiya Günü - Constitution Day
November 12

There have been roughly 4 Constitution of Azerbaijan but this final one was accepted in 1995. So on this day Azerbaijan celebrates their constitution and yet again their freedom.

Qurban Bayram - Festival of Sacrifice
November 16-17 *rotating

This holiday is rotating but this year it fell on November 16-17 (Which meant I also got Monday the 15th off!) Each year it is 10 days before the last. This holiday is just what it says a Festival of Sacrifice. Sheep are killed and given to the poor and those who need it. This holiday is about being good to your neighbors and keeping God in the front of your mind.
"The religious rite of sacrifice appeared after the case with the Prophet Ibrahim. Ibrahim dreamed that Allah ordered him to sacrifice his son Ismail to test his faith. As a true believer, Ibrahim was ready to execute an instruction of Allah. Ismail himself was ready to become a victim. However, according to Quran, Allah sent a sheep and it was sacrificed. "

Müqəddəs Giorgio Günü - St. George's Day
November 23

That is my own translation as it is a Georgian Holiday. It is highly important as St. George is the the St. of Georgia. This holiday is celebrated twice a year. The first being on May 6th (his birthday) and this one representing the day he slew the dragon. I celebrate this holiday with the Georgians. How awesome is that? We will eat pork and drink wine to honor the Saint who slayed a dragon. Awesome!

The day began with Stephanie and I going up to the working church in Qax to welcome the heads of church from Georgia. It was a full ceremony, absolutely gorgeous. I spent the entire service filming, per the priests request, the beautiful decadence of a full blown religious service.

Here is a woman lighting her candle during the service.
After the service we hopped in a taxi and made our way out the festival site. It's about 30 minutes out of town and the church is on top of the hill looking over the valley of Qax and Şəki. The other, 13, Americans had already made the pilgrimage. So we went to go eat. At the festival grounds there is a wrestling match and a cock-fight. The winning wrestler gets the prize rooster. This part is added by the Azerbaijani's but some Georgians also take part. Wine, pork kebabs and lots of Georgian bread make for a delicious meal.

These are some burning candles you will find on the large rocks (Temple ruins) just outside the church on the top of the hill.
This is what the church looks like a bit earlier in the day when it is pretty populated. You have to walk around the church 3 times, kissing each corner before you enter. Once inside you find a place on the wall to place your 10 candles. The Georgians have 10 candles, each representing a different person: St George, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, etc. I did a few of the Georgian ones and then added some of my own.
These are our beautiful kebabs. My Georgian hDad made them for us out of hazelnut tree branches. he is so talented! Then he stuck around to teach us how to properly kebab because we're American and we need to know how to do it right. I kept telling him to go back to his friends because he looked bored but he was in crazy Dad-mode and wouldn't leave until it was all over.
Stuffed and ready to go to the church Stephanie models the skewers. They look awesome!


Qax Düşərgə: Wrapping it all up

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final games, making friendship bracelets and picture frames brought us to Saturday. It was a nice wrap up day and I think the kids agreed that 6 days was plenty. We ran through all of our favorite games, relaxed and some new friends spent a bit more time together right before school began.
Here I am looking all Peace Corps like with the kids, getting ready for a new game.
This is a picture from Day 2 as the lovely France's were heading home to get ready for a conference. Everyone is completely exhausted since we just finished our sports day.
Final Day, They all have certificates, candy and are ready to go home. I'm dead tired as are all of the wonderful PCV's who came to help. So many lists of things to do differently for next year. The kids all promised they'd come next year and said they would be on the look out for my flyers.
I've decided to start a new theme, I will stamp any success as "developed". Not to be cocky because I know I have not developed anything, it's more or less mocking myself. So as opposed to a success stamp, I will give myself little jab and write developed. So, Qax Düşərgə 2010 is officially:


Qax Düşərgə: Relay Races

Just as Flag Football was a success, Relay Races quickly became a go to activity. We set up a course with cones and had many variations including: running, hopping, crab-walking, spider-walking, piggy back, wheel barrow, criss-cross, skipping, linked elbows, holding hands, and all of these in reverse.

Baton races were a part of these many races. They look so intense. So much screaming and look at her face. She is in it to win it.She picks up quickly. I teach them how to brag well. The winner of one of our many races.

Representing for tiny Georgians everywhere. Megi hops along to finish out the race.
Unfortunately this wheel barrow was too heavy for the operator. It made for a great round.


Qax Düşərgə: Dancing

We needed something for Surprise Day and as the Russian, Georgian and Azeri's all have their own National dance, I decided it would be a great time to share cultures. It ended up having an abrupt end with some slurs being said and some campers asked to leave. But before it got that far most of us were having a great time. I even had a chance to teach them the basic steps for salsa!

The tiny ones getting their latin grooves on.
Brother and sister bonding time. She slows it down for him so he feels included.
Teaching teh basics with my little dancing queen.
Random group dancing
Finally a video of the Salsa dancing. Watch the tiny little nuggets shake their bums. It is so adorable. *If you hear the kid yelling something to me at the end he's telling me that there's a fire in the stadium. I check, and sure enough they're burning leaves and trash. It was really cute that all of the kids got excited and said we needed to save the eggs! yay for remembering.


Qax Düşərgə: Theatre fun

For theatre day we played some games and made sock puppets. Everyone paired up and either by hands or hand to face we mirrored each others movements. Then it was time to make sock puppets and do little performances. My favorite was the girl who discovered her mom wasn't her real mother, met her mother the gypsy, the dad left his wife for the gypsy and the girl meets her brother. Such happiness.

Here are the girls stretching each others limits all the way to the floor.
Stephanie testing out this kids spine. Pretty flexible, he probably does yoga just like Steph.
Hey Romiko! Way to make that kid flip around.Diana spent most of these games laughing and barely being able to keep up. It was just so funny that she was doubled over laughing.
Socks on hand, imaginations and markers at the ready.A Turkish drama of love.
A re-creation of a Russian fable. I was so proud of this group. The only group to combine Russian, Georgian and Azeri kids. They even chose themselves.
Here they. The Drama King and Queens present The Gypsy Drama.
The whole group showing off their art.


Qax Düşərgə:Egg Drop

Guys we have a problem. There a big fire and all of the chickens left their eggs. We have to sell those eggs at the bazaar tomorrow. But they have to be dropped from very high up. You have to make very secure box to protect these eggs because I have to thrown them before they cook.

Thus ensued the egg drop. 4 girls teams and all of the boys ganging up together for the 1 boys team.
2 boys team representatives holding their pride and glory. Unfortunately it was the only one to break.
One of the girls teams looking very proud and ready to win.
Looking sassy and posing with their winning Egg Drop Box.
Finishing up the last minute touches on a very sturdy, parachuted piece of equipment.
Jessi and I dropping the kids creations off a ledge from about 2 stories up.
Expectant faces! So much excitement.


Qax Düşərgə: Hike to Qum

It was the perfect day for a hike. With food and kids in tow we headed off through the valley, as the mountains had too many branches and dangerous pokey's to lead a group through.

Here's the first shot of the day, leaving the village to the trail at the foothill of the mountains.
Quite a few stops occurred so we could see all of the frogs, and the boys even attempted hitting them with rocks. Oh joy.
Our big one hour in break. It took a good 10 minutes to get everyone together, as the girls were happier strolling as opposed to actually hiking.
Re-juvenated and ready to see the river. We are already in Qum but have about 6 more kilometres to get up the hill.
Break on the road. It's a slow incline but it takes it out of you.
Sweaty but happy to be sitting.
The boys did not want the break so they found a friend to give them a joy ride while we all took a break.
In Qum at the river. We just finished eating. The boys are all swimming in the river. We are pretty far away from them as they all stripped down to their tighty-whiteys as soon as they saw water. We ran ourselves to this beautiful little sitting area and ate away.
After lunch we went to the Georgian/Albanian Church ruins. Here's a shot of just the PCV ladies. At least those of us who were present on Wednesday.
Last up, a group shot of the troopers who worked their butts off. The return trip had a bit more drama. It was the longest amount of time we were together so it was expected. Luckily we all look happy here. This picture is how I remember that day.

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