Good Idea

>> Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's a good idea to have your parents come to Azerbaijan. Reasons being:

1 - They now will understand half of the crazy you have been sending home in emails.
2 - They won't be so terrified of this crazy thing you signed up for.
3 - There are some wonderful friends I've made here, they see I'm well taken care of.
4 - You're a Qax Star and now they can see it (as if there was any doubt).
5 - Ego! You've been speaking the language for 9 months and daily progress is mostly noted by you alone. Throw your parents who meekly say hello and thank you and you are more or less fluent. Aka use your parents to make you look oh so good!
6 - It's easier to see how happy I am when I'm laughing with Nona rather than sitting at home skyping about worries.
7 - To all of the host country nationals who still don't quite understand how or why I left home for this commitment, I'm a real girl. These are my real parents and this is our real love that passes over half the world every day.
8 - Also for host country nationals, if you have been taking care of mommy will bring you things!
So many more reasons, I'm still counting don't have to read them.

Last view of Qax waiting on the train platform. We may look serious but about one second after this was taken the sarcastic punch line was dropped and it was all smiles. Qax is magical, it does that to people.


To Lekit!

Beca and Doodle preparing for the Lekit trip.
Eventful times in Lekit this round. When we arrived Turan seemed nervous. Besti Ana was as usual ready to entertain and had a full meal placed before us in minutes. After we ate it was time to rest on the balcony with Turan and then a new twist, swimming. A young cousin, Elşen was over and he was really excited to see me for some reason. Once he went up to swim he found a turtle in the nearby area, somehow remembered that I not only liked them but I have quite a few at home and brought it to me. So I had to go see it. We all headed up to the pool and after pretend searching Beca and I joined in the swimming. After swimming I witnessed the sheep being slaughtered and prepared for the following day of kebabs and fun. Vagif Ata even let me help him hang it up on a post to drain the blood. I almost lost my fingers but it was an experience. Next I took my parents on a hike to the river and Doodle and I continued to the waterfall. He got some good shots but said it was a bit too far out of the way for his liking.
When we returned the house was buzzing. Dünya had 3 friends from university over, and Turan's old university friend brought his family up too. There were Turks, Azerbaijani's, Americans and who could forget that Vaqif Ata is a rockin' Tsakhur! Food was eaten, Vagif Ata's "compote" was drank and love filled the air for two of the dogs.
The next day was the big day. Everyone was to head out to have a brilliant time in Kotuklu. Unfortunately the weather looked pretty bad so plans were changed to an area nearer the waterfall. The party ended up in two groups, Americans on one side and everyone else on the other. We were with a cute little old man, who runs a little tea house in the summer for all of the tourists. He was so excited to talk to my parents and he took such good care of them, politely taking my father aside to explain where the toilet was as to not offend anyone. Here he is with his Samovar, that stuff makes good tea!What happened next was truly magical. Turan finally found someone who could withstand hours of questioning and still be completely transfixed with the conversation. In fact I was worried, for the first time, that the guest I brought might out talk Turan. I saw that look of admiration and love coming out of Turan for my father just as it had whenever Jason would pick up his guitar. Enraptured. But then I got to see how cute Doodle was when he finally had a student who really cared just for the sheer knowledge of it, no grades would be given here. It was adorable. Besti Ana, my mom and I just watched and giggled at how cute they were. Doodle started telling some jokes and the best one by far:
"Turan, what noise does a 500lb canary make?
"I don't know."
When he yelled that into Turan's face, which by that point was only one foot away, Turan had to hold on to his seat. He was laughing so hard that it took a few minutes to recover. Precious. Alas it was time for us to go and with a quick picture we were off. Left to right, Vagif, Doodle, turan, Beca, Mommy, Me, Besti Ana


Days with my Georgians

The day started off with the few of my Georgian students who stayed in Qax for the summer at my conversation club. The girls are pretty advanced and even the ones that do not speak too much were still very eager and grasped just about everything that was said. We mostly did introductions and asked lots of questions. I love having guests at clubs because it is good for the students to hear a new voice and practice speaking, but it is also brilliant for lazy bones like myself because there's practically no prep! These are my girls.
This is me teaching. We're discussing how to form the correct sentence in asking my parents how long they're been married.
This is Beca showing her mad dancing skills after she made a deal with my kids about dancing.
After club it was off to the Georgians! Nona, Misha and Julietta wined and dined us keeping a hefty amount of watermelon on the table. I could say plenty of beautiful nice things about this family but I will settle with they are truly kind to me and make my time in Qax seem like a vacation rather than work, I love them. Misha cut the watermelon in a different way and all of us American folks were enthralled. This of course made him laugh, which I had to mimmick and force Nona to laugh even louder. I just really like the way he laughs but I guess I'm the only person who ever makes fun of him. Later on in the evening Vaja returned from a boys day out of drinking and waterfall fun and with him comes the dentist! My parents were taken to see the wine storage and a little tour of Misha's garden. All in all a good day. From left to right Misha, Julietta, Vaja, me, Doodle, Beca, Mommy and the dentist.
We had to hit up the Heydar Park, which in summertime is hoppin'! Here's me and my lovely parents.
Vaja re-appeared from some unknown waterfall and refused, as always, to smile in the photo. The second take with Beca's help was much more successful. My Baly gals with Beca, Vaja and I.
Nona wasn't in the family picture because of a certain rendesvouz but fortunately I found her walking to the store with her mom. The Hello Kitty shirt was a recent purchased. We bought it together deciding white was a much better alternative to the green because of her bag. Nona = best friend in Qax. She's fabulous.


Guest-napped in my own backyard!

My mom and I went to buy train tickets, good experience. We waited for an hour to be told to came back a few days later...I think it's important that my mom saw this, it might make some of my frustrated emails a bit clearer. When I returned home Doodle was sitting in my garden and my renter was shouting fruit names and asking my to translate. He tells me he is feeding my father and giving him tea, Doodle turns to me and says, "I don't know what's happening but he brought me out her and gave me tea and is getting all sorts of things from your trees." It was awesome. Mom and I ended up joining them and spent a lovely hour discussing remedies and different ways to utilize the many things growing in my yard. Here's the lovely set up.
We headed up to my xala's house in our guesting extravaganza. She is a brilliant cook and her cakes are to die for. It was a nice afternoon with Xala and her three daughters. Xala's motto is "Why do you need badness? In this world we only need goodness." She lives by this every day and with that kind of warmth and optimism she raised her girls. I love these ladies and here they are with my parents.
Of course we had to stop by Mindy's, that's not her real name of course but she loves America and out of the M names I listed Mindy stuck! She received her gifts of a book, USA t-shirt and a USA headband in true Mindy fashion...beaming and trying not to squeal like the 5 year old she felt like. The shirt was promptly pulled over her head and she even paraded it around the street for a bit. Here's my little wanna-be American
Her mom was very excited to not only meet my parents but prepare a meal for them. She made some plov and though my parents had already eaten two different kinds on their trip this chicken-eggy goodness was a first. Here's Mindy with her mom and sister Nigar.
How could Qax exist without my lovely Russians. Almaz is a lovely woman with three stricking daughters. Unfortunately the eldest was in Baku, but she was there for a university test and education is number one so she is pardoned. Mindy came over to join in the festivities as my parents were eating some more dolma and not seeming too surprised at the cocker spaniel which makes my Russians all the more unique in Qax. Almaz kept the conversation flowing in her English-Azeri-Russian mix as usual, never forgetting to fill her yard with as much laughter as possible. When my mom handed out the scarf, 13 year old Konuş was elated, rarely get a bigger smile out of that girl. Nothing could beat the markers and princess coloring book my mom got for Diana. She's 8 and very shy, it took me a few visits to even get a hello. Of course with my parents it was the same game but the second the coloring book appeared she couldn't contain her excitement. I can't wait for a new painting to put on my wall. This is us with Mindy, Almaz and her two youngest girls, Konuş and Diana. They are all so pretty!


The smartest man and an Azerbaijani respite

What would Qax be without a trip to my hFam? After trying to give my parents a little break from so much Azerbaijani and translating I told them to suck it up and get in the cab! Off we went. The yard is now a little wonderland. I thought it was beautiful before but Ata kept his word by blowing me away. truly gorgeous and a light brought outside so there's really no need to ever use the house. It's beautiful. The conversation kept flowing as my parents had me translating their views on education and "those kids nowadays" to my extremely intelligent Ata. He was then questioning my father on chemistry and biology using so many crazy words that I ended up just explaining ideas rather than the simple sentence he said. He even knew about Kaiser Steel, quite a few Americans aren't even aware of that. He's seriously just so smart. That was one of the first comments my parents made, this was repeated a few more times throughout their visit. Here's me with my American and Qax sets of parents!

My hSis was also there and when my mother so kindly gave her the teddy bear she brought a tiny child came out of her. I love my cute little Gülçün and when she acts like a kid it's even cuter! The bear was tossed in the air, spun in circles and copious amounts of hugs and kisses were laid upon the bear before he was ceremoniously placed on her bed. This is the cute little thing pre-teddy bear.
Best picture ever! Ata kept calling Doodle "my friend, my American friend" with one of the warmest smiles I've ever seen. He always greets me so kindly but having my dad there sent him over the moon. My goal is to get a hug out of him before next Christmas, he might be buttered up enough!
After so much Azerbaijani, and loads of confusion on my parents part I gave them a little break with my counterpart. Nailə's English is pretty great so no translation was needed. The education talks resumed and after about an hour Nailə realized that she was holding her own in English and didn't seem so shy to respond. It was great watching her realize her own strength in the language she taught herself a mere six years ago. She's quite impressive and as always her dolma was delicious.


The day my dad pulled a muslim woman in for a hug

I know it sounds like the beginning of a bad post, but it's actually quite hilarious.

My parents came to visit me in Azerbaijan! It's great because I officially have made a sizeable dent in Peace Corps Goal #3:
"Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans."

Mommy and Doodle learned quite a bit in their whirl-wind tour. First day I tuckered out my dad with a quick jaunt around Baku to buy train tickets. Then I dragged my parents to Ceyranbatan. The house was very made up and drinks upon drinks were laid out for the esteemed guests. Super Mama even told her boss that she would have to be late after the lunch break because, as she said it with a flourish, "she has guests from America." This worked out pretty well. My parents were thoroughly confused and were told to continue to eat more once they had their fill. True to Azerbaijani customs Ata Bomba asked me why my parents did not enjoy the food. Yet again I explained that Americans don't eat six heaping plates of food and our measly three would have to do. Literally have to, ask my tummy was protruding and my dad looked at me like I had personally shoved it all down his throat.
Unfortunately Super Mama had to leave for work but not before a quick picture. This is where it gets good. The two dads got all ready, and right in on the side hug, but Doodle seemed to think that he needed to extend this gesture to Super Mama. So what does he do? Reaches right on out and pulls her into a big old side hug. She was so tense and the girls were staring at her wondering what to do. She played it off laughing so the girls wouldn't say anything, but she was uncomfortable. Ata Bomba looked quite impressed and had a cute little grin that I almost caught on camera. Here is the picture of the family with my dad still not knowing he should not be holding this woman and her trying to politely keep her distance.

After this picture another hour or so passed where Doodle and I taught the girls Go-Fish and then it was time to leave. Here's the picture my own personal paparazzi (otherwise known as my mom) took of my dad and I waiting for the bus on the side of the highway.


two girls and a boy

>> Thursday, July 8, 2010

You heard it first, I'm having two girls and a boy. Here's how I came to this conclusion:
On my way into Baku to pick up my parents (woo hoo!), I stopped at my old hFam from training in Ceyranbatan. It was great to see them and yet again it makes me feel like a rock star. My first day here I knew about five words and they were so kind to me and loved me like their daughter anyways. So now when I come back and I can actually understand them it's shocking all around. I find out new things about their personalities and how they came to live here. hDad still dances about like a fool while hMom does all the work and the hSis's watch TV. Yet the dynamics have somewhat changed, they even tried to argue while making their body language look relaxed. Apparently that used to work but now I got it all, snaeky punks! I get so much praise that I think my ego will fly off into space. It's always nice after being surrounded by the same people, who sometimes ask me why my language is still so poor (I mean come on I've been here for nine months I should be fluent), to come back to this house and feel welcomed even if I couldn't even say one word.

Well anyways I was sitting outside with about 10 girls and 5 women all going around and around asking the shiny American questions. For the most part I got it all, which is a definite improvement for me. Everyone started talking about my hair and next thing I know it's being taken down, and one hair is plucked. This hair is then threaded through a ring of a married woman. Unfortunately my thin hair broke. Have no fear, they just took out a little chunk next time. With quite a few hairs freshly passed through the ring I put out my right hand and the ring was placed in my hand. The married woman pulled the ring out of my hand and dropped it back 4 or 5 times by the hairs. Then the ring hovered over my palm and depending on which way it turns I have either a boy, girl, or none. Through a few more spins I find that I will have two girls and a boy. When asked if I believed this to be true I had to say yes. By then all of the girls were tugging at their ponytails and exlaiming they wanted the same as the American so how could I say I didn't believe in it? So I guess I'll have 3 kids, feel free to start spoiling them now.

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