June Holidays in Azerbaijan

>> Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 15th - National Salvation Day
This is the day when Parliament invited Heydər Əliyev to Baku in 1993. Azerbaijan officially left Soviet rule in 1991 and they had a President for two years. So on this day in 1993 Heydər Əliyev returned to Azerbaijan and it is memorialized every June. This is a picture of the sitting Heydər statue in Qax's city park.

June 26th - Army and Navy Day
Pretty self explanatory yes? This is the day when you remember and respect all of those who have and who will be serving in the Azerbaijani Army or Navy.

June 30th - Lovers Day
Neither February 14th or June 30th is truly celebrated. I have heard mixed opinions about February 14th being a Christian based holiday which is why Azerbaijan has a separate day. However no one truly celebrates either of these days, it is more or less realizing that the 14th and 30th are here. I have my opinions on this day being "celebrated," keep on reading and you'll see why.

On January 20, 1990 Baku was invaded by Soviet forces and over 180 Azerbaijani citizens were killed. A young couple, İlham and Fərizə, were destroyed by this invasion. İlham died of multiple gun shots. Upon hearing the news Fərizə more or less went into a depression and poisoned herself. So on June 30th we remember their marriage and celebrate the anniversary that would have been. This is the picture of İlham and Fərizə on their graves.


Grossness and a full moon

>> Monday, June 28, 2010

Since becoming a PCV I have a surprisingly large amount of conversations discussing bowel movements. Whether it is about my first squat experience where I stuck my hand in a mound of another person's poo or calling the doctors with other "issues." One thing that caught me off guard is how much the other PCV's discuss toilet situations. It's getting to the point where instead of saying how are you some people prefer to inquire about your bathroom schedule. A group of PCV's are even re-writing songs to be all about poo. It has been said that you're not a Peace Corps Volunteer until you go in your pants, so I guess this discussion should be expected.

I'm telling you all this to tie into a lovely conversation I had with my Russian, Almaz, the other day. You see I thought that bathroom discussion were taboo in the AzerCommunity. While Almaz was not actually discussing bowel movements...it sure was gross advice. We were sitting in her garden and her daughter, Diana, came out to play with me. Diana is named after Princess Di. No joke she didn't have a name for 2 months and one night in Almaz's dream Princess Di came out of a painting and told Almaz to give the baby girl her name. So whenever Diana doesn't want to work, we call her a bad princess. Anyways, as we were talking she noticed that Diana had a wart on her hand. Being a pharmacist I asked her if she was going to bring home some medicine for her. This is where the story gets interesting. Almaz informed me that there is medicine but it burns and you have to apply it five times for it to work. I figured this was normal, but when she was a young girl she and her sister recieved some better advice. This is the recipe for wart removal given by an awesome Russian grandma to a young Almaz:
1 - Wait for a full moon.
2 - Before you go to bed, go into the bathroom and pee on your hand.
3 - Come outside and let your hand air dry in the full moon's beam.
4 - Once it's dry, just head on in the house and fall asleep, you know with your hand smelling of urine.
5 - In the morning wash your hand and go about your day as if nothing has happened.
6 - 10 days later, they will all be gone.

Almaz swears this works. She even showed me that she had a wart and said that she herself is waiting for the next full moon because she's done it before. Diana looked like she was going to vomit if her mom didn't stop talking about peeing. So there you have it. No need to go to the hospital, just wait for the full moon.


School's out for summer

>> Thursday, June 24, 2010

Well it's been out for a while actually. As I have been pretty inactive lately and I know you all wait with bating breath for my updates, haha, here's a big ol' fatty one.

School ended on May 31st with Son Zəng, which is final bell aka Graduation. It's very nostalgic with poems songs and heart tearing words about not wanting to hear the final bell. Then the graduates meet with 1st graders and trade gifts. For the graduates, flower arrangements and for the 1st graders, larger than life teddy bears and backpacks full of school supplies. Through a few more poems and speeches final bell is rung, the graduates celebrate and a hilarious dance party ensues. I personally spent the entire ceremony hiding behind my younger students. I really did not want to have to give a speech, I figure I have next year to do that. I was also laughing at all of my students who were hiding from their home room teachers because they did not want to stand in their appropriate sections. Personal favorite was the graduate who became bored, left the ceremony and returned eating an ice cream. Brilliant.

Right after the ceremony I hopped on the bus to Ləkit and spent the rest of the night celebrating Uzal's graduation. Good times that day, He was absolutely beaming. Jason gifted him a guitar and I walked into his house to him strumming along in his room. He called me in his room to show me something. It was hilarious. He has a whole box of silk worms and he started explaining to me how to feed them leaves and then they make silk which you can sell to make clothing. This is one thing I love about learning Azerbaijani. Since my language level is blatantly not fluent everyone seems to think that I need everything spelled out for me. I love it, so much. Great conversations in Azerbaijan. It's not condescending, so I just have a great time with simple conversations about silk worms or more detailed conversations all ending up with stating the obvious. If there's one thing I can do, it's state the obvious.

Next morning I headed into Baku. My friend Münevver gave Jason a pill for his stomach which was a little strong because he passed out. Not before he caught some sweet air as the bus hit a bump at a pretty good speed, he woke up hovering in mid air. I love traveling here. hDad says that anytime I'm on a bus something goes wrong, you know what? He's right. About 30 minutes outside of Baku the bus broke down. We waited about for a little over an hour while all the men folk messed around with the engine. Whatever they did worked well enough because we made it there! More about traveling, after Baku I headed down south to another PCV's(Clarissa) region, Neftçala (Oil Pit). I helped out at the Sports Week for their Summer Camp. I haven't quite left Qax in some time so it was fun to be hanging out with other PCV's. I made some cool friends with Clarissa's camp kids. They all enjoyed my party trick pants. Pretty much my mom sent me some fancy pants which are waterproof which apparently means that they are also air proof. So when I go from a standing position to a squatting position the air is forced out a small area at my knee and creates a brilliant farting noise. Classy. Whenever we got bored I'd just do a stand squat dance and see how many different sounds my pants could make. Of the campers Elnur in particular was my favorite as we traded friendship bracelets. We even pretended to be rappers. I'm Eminem and he's 50 dollars (he's too awesome to be worth a mere 50 cents). This guy was really cool. Clarissa's hFam is wonderful and her hMom is so intelligent. I could listen to her talk all day. All in all Oil Pit has some great people and is not so bad...just hot.

From this camp I headed a bit further south to Lənkəran. Eli lives near the Caspian Sea so we caught a little bit of the sea breeze as we journeyed about. Ate some pretty good food and spent more time with yet again some people I haven't seen in a while. It was great fun and then I hopped on another 8 hour bus to Mingəçevir. It stopped 2 times for a few minutes so the driver could check on something aka it broke just a little. When I told hDad I'm told him it broke, I can't translate aka yet. Well I can translate therefore which I did but he still agreed that I broke it. In Ming I went to the softball game. That was so much fun. Some PCV's have been creating or upholding softball teams in their regions. So a few regions came to represent and after the games there was another game with the volunteers and the remaining Ming players. I made a nemesis in this game. His name is Elvin but in my heart he will always be #3. Beca and I were co-base coaches in a region game and I spent my time trying to distract him, aka I cheated my butt off. You know, teh second someone hits a ball I try to get him to look at a myriad of made up objects I spot in the sky. I also made a little sing-song, it's jsut me singing number 3 in as many different voices as possible. When it came time for the volunteer game I made sure I was on his opposing team. He may have had some pretty wicked home runs, but when I made it to first base on my measly hit I had an even more wicked victory dance. He's my nemesis.

Final travels included being about 5 minutes late to catch a Qax bus and heading up to Zagatala for some good food with Löki and Jessica. The bus to Zaq didn't break down but it was only 3 hours or so, the other ones were longer. I made it back to Qax safe and sound after about 2 weeks of Baku, camp and softball. Qax is still here and it's amazing how home sick I was for this place. Now it's time to get in gear and get some projects I've been thinking about up and going. Slow and steady out here but you bet I will be drinking a lot of tea and trying to make these things come to fruition. Here we go!


The Caucasus Climb with my boys

The Coach, Big Daddy J, D-Rig, Qaçmaq and I spent a day and climbed to the top of a mountain in Qax! We beagn in Ləkit and climbed to Kötüklü (a little village about 7 kilometers north of Ləkit. That hour and half trek drenched us.
The mountains in the horizon was the goal for the morning, that night only about 30 minutes left.
I packed 3 liters of water but Turan, the robot shepherd, seems to think that only tea is necessary. Once you finish a hike, nothing while actually physically exerting yourself. So as I was zipping up backpack he decided to pour out half of it, punk. At one point Jason, Derek and Turan huddled under an umbrella while Josh smoked solely under the protection of his poncho. Classic.
Up in Kötüklü we stayed in an empty village house. The American boys yelled about politics outside while Turan and I translated Fizuli with one of the cousins. You can always count on Turan to be reading poetry and trying to teach me some meaningful lesson. You would think this is ridiculous enough but no. Derek fell off the balcony into some ginger type plant and had itchy marks all on his back. Great way to prepare for an uphill hike. Some would sleep but Derek is better than all the rest. Next morning we went to the top. This is us about an hour north of Kötüklü. A few more hours and a few walking sticks to find.
As was expected the boys were all far superior to me in hiking ability so I'm going to say it took us about twice as long to do the hike because they were all nice enough to wait for me. Towards the very end it got really hard for me to make it up, thin air and such but we made it to the top! First thing I did was lay my fatty behind down after panting my way up a mountain, word.Derek looked like a pretty princess at the top. This was the mountain we climbed and behind him is the ravine with more villages and more mountains that would get one to Daghestan.This is the view of where we came from, right where the two nearest mountains meet is Kötüklü. So that was our morning walk.
It was EPIC! We ate loads of bread and eggs and chicken. The boys hit rocks off the mountain with our walking sticks, had a fake sword fight and the dog stayed with us the whole time.
Speaking of the dog named Topuş(chubby), he's a punk. As the boys are continually waiting for me to hurry up Topuş ascended about 5 times. He kept reappearing with a look on his face that was truly mocking me. Just me, not the others. I swear that dog just had mocking eyes for me. Good thing he went the other way down the mountain otherwise he would have seen me win The Lori Award many times. The Lori Award is only given to those select few who deem their backsides too clean and decided to butt slide down a mountain as opposed to simply walking down. I.E. you fall you get my award, the boys all got it too, even Mr. "Country" Boy himself - Jason.

Here's The Coach perched on a cliff, he decided to go there at some point during our descent. I don't really know why but he's kind of a mountain goat so I just go with it. We all ended up joining him anyways.
Finally this is Derek's video of us at the top of the mountain. Note me lying down because as I said, I needed to after that hike just so I could breathe.

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