Coloring Eggs

>> Sunday, October 16, 2011

English classes were full of fun the last week of April. In preparation for our Spring Festival my counterpart and I were mainly doing dress rehearsals with each class. But I needed some help from my older kids. Metanet teaches most of the younger forms but occasionally gets an older group. This year our kids are in 8th form and they are hilarious. They've stopped being so cautious around me and now we just have a really fun time. So this final week before our big Spring Festival consisted of learning all about spring holidays. We talked about St Patty's Day, Novruz, May Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, etc. But one day we did a little activity to go with our discussion of spring holidays around the world. Coloring Easter Eggs!

The second the dye was brought out, it got a bit crazy. The kids all thought that I was weird carrying a tray of eggs and they didn't quite get why I made them bring in hard boiled eggs themselves. I did a mini demo on how to use the spoons to dip eggs and all of a sudden I was swarmed. The kids were so into it. Oh man and don't even get me started on the magic crayon. Their own pens were soon brought out and many different crazy eggs came out. Since they were so excited I won't lie, a lot of eggs ended up turning brown. But they were equally as excited about their brown eggs, hilarious. We finished up with wearing face masks and beaded necklaces talking about Mardis Gras. I'm told that they would like to have a parade next year to play in a band. Who knows?


Easter 2011

>> Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Okay I know this is about 6 months late but at least I'm getting to it right?

Just as it was last year, Easter was wonderful and spent with Nona! There was of course a midnight mass that involved a ridiculous amount of Georgians and my jacket getting a new hole and more wax from the mere proximity of all of the candles. Loki joined me and I had an amazing time. Sometimes with Georgian holidays people forget that I still don't speak Georgian so it was nice to have someone to talk to when everyone else was busy speaking noodle.

Outside the church we could see the enormous shadow of one of the altar boys ringing the bell. It was gorgeous. But now that I look at this picture it looks a bit horror film-ish. Just know that it was beautiful.
Georgian Orthodox also follows a form of Lent and the final days before Easter you are pretty much full out fasting. So the feast is EPIC. Every traditional food, wine, cakes, etc. I wrote out some toasts so I wouldn't be lost. After one huge feast we went in a huge group up to the church to pray more, light more candles and give offerings. It was nice to go during the day because it wasn't as hectic and the whole group dynamic was so joyous. Here's Natia, Nona and I leading the gang back home.

Then we landed back home after going to the church and 2 Easter feasts. I held a few babies and spent the better of 24 hours praying and yelling, "He has risen indeed!" in Georgian. Such a big crazy fun experience.


Lagodekhi Day Trip

>> Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Georgian PCV invited Löki and myself to hop the border for a day with our Georgian counterparts. He lives right across the border in a region called Lagodekhi. He has a great organization and we were frankly just there for the original introductions. The meeting started and I was rendered useless as Nona and Löki's counterparts jumped right in and began talking in super speedy Noodle Language. When the meeting was over we went to the Azerbaijani Institute and gave a mini presentation on what Peace Corps is as a whole and Tom's environmental project. At the end of the meeting and presentation we had a mini stop in the town center. Here's the gang. Then we headed over to the restaurant where all the counterparts were really awesome and big hams for the camera.We of course had to get back across the border before nightfall. It was a great end to a great day. Nona learned so much and she's been able to bring some of the stuff she's learned with some people in Qax. Great opportunities, done!


Azerbaijan #1

That's right America's country code may be #1 but in the Eurovision competition Azerbaijan came out on top! There is a competition in country to choose the singers and then they ship on out to compete. The singers names are Eldar and Nigar but they go by Eli and Nikki. Good move.

Now that we've won, Baku will be creating a big arena to host the 2012 Eurovision and I will spend the next year of my life getting way too familiar with their song. I've already brought the song into my clubs for translation and am trying to get it done before I get annoyed. For now, good song...very few lyrics so it's easy to understand. Love it!


Making Qax more colorful

>> Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I have a big Spring Festival coming up and there are oh so many things that need preparing. Little visual aid things to accompany the many poems, songs and plays that my kids will perform. This means that pretty much anytime I'm home I'm drawing. If you've skyped me lately, I've probably been coloring at the same time. That's pretty normal as I'm constantly adding posters to my classroom but this impending festival has upped the production needed. I started getting really busy with drawing and it was cutting out the time I would have otherwise spent with friends out guesting. So I took this show on the road. I packed up my little case of markers, pens and crayons (thanks mom!) while carrying a roll of poster paper I began going to my houses again. Now I just pull out my paper and get to drawing. The best part is that I can draw the outlines and everyone colors it in for me. I had no idea that everyone here is just as excited to color as I am. So as opposed to working my butt off filling in a small child sized butterfly, I just pass out the crayons and watch people go crazy. Then we tape it up, cut it out and everyone admires the hard work. This is the great community work I do, I color. Then I spread the joy of coloring to adults that would otherwise consider it child's play. Woohoo!


Writing Olympics

>> Monday, May 2, 2011

Azerbaijan takes part in the Writing Olympics (WO) which is a really amazing way for PCV's to celebrate students creative English writing skills.

"Writing Olympics was created in 2003 by a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in Georgia. The volunteer sought to give students an opportunity for creative self-expression and to practice their English skills. Azerbaijani students joined the Writing Olympics competition in 2005. The competition initially expanded to Caucasus countries and has since expanded to 11 Peace Corps countries across the globe. Writing Olympics takes place annually during a 3-day period. On these days, students have one hour to compose essays on selected creative writing prompts. The essays are then evaluated by a panel of judges for creativity, originality, and depth of thought."

At the end of March I held the WO at my school and had six students present. Luckily one of them placed. Not only did she place but she got 1st place in Azerbaijan! She has been working with PCV's for a few years now and she is not my student so much as she is a community member who has helped me out a lot with camp last year. She is very enthusiastic about learning English which is how she found me and how she was able to come in for one hour and write a really great essay. After receiving 1st place her essay was sent abroad and she won 2nd place! Congrats Mindy!The Azerbaijan WO will have a ceremony to congratulate all of the winners, giving prizes and certificates. Mindy will be heading to Baku to accept her 1st place prize sometime this summer. WO committee s created a grant that you can donate to:

Take a look and anytime you feel a little giving, head over to the Peace Corps PCPP website and you can find many different projects from PCV's all over the world to donate to. $5 is helpful as is $500, anything is appreciated.


Random Holiday

>> Saturday, April 30, 2011

I still don't quite understand what happened on this day. I thought it was a holiday so on my way over to Nona's I saw a cousin and wished him a good day (holiday style). He looked really confused so we stopped to discuss it. Come find out, it wasn't a holiday but more of a day of remembrance of the deceased. I felt really horrible, apologized and continued on to Nona's house. Lazy butt that she is, she was still in bed. Fair play I did get to her house before noon, so I guess it is my fault. Anyways I proceed to tell her she's not cool for letting me make a fool out of myself thinking it was a holiday. True to her form she laughed at me, then got serious and told me I shouldn't tell people happy holiday until they say it first from here on out. We've Lori-proofed my well wishes. After some tea we head outside to enjoy the nice weather. It was a pretty nice day and when the sun was shining, a bit warm. Then the confusing part came. There was a swing in the yard.I had oh so many questions about this swing. The only thing the happy lady in the above picture says, "It's nice, only for today." So I try to make sense of this all. A holiday to remember the dead and happy swing day at the same time. I instantly go to something really emotional. I ask if the swing is symbolizing the freedom the dead get by going to heaven, etc. Trust me this is exactly how people think/things are explained to me. Unfortunately, this time that was not the case. Everyone had the same answer and asked me why I cared, the swing's fun, get on and stop asking questions. So I did!

Then hDad hopped on.Finally it was time for some more tea before the sun officially set. Jerry wanted to join and he showed off the mad skills I taught him. Jerry can now balance himself perfectly on the bench. He joins us like a perfect little gentlemen and waits for his sugar cube. I don't know why they give them to him, he's not a horse. But little fatty loves them.I may not have any idea what went on that day, but not from lack of trying. And when I did shut up and jump on the swing, I enjoyed myself very much. They were right. Sadly they were also right about the one day rule. The swing is gone, I guess we'll have to amuse ourselves in another way.


Nona turned 23!!!!

>> Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My girl's getting old! Stephanie was lovely enough to come to Qax and help me celebrate Nona's birthday in style. We helped set up the house and I threw Steph in the kitchen to learn how to make surhullu (special dish in Qax). Why didn't I do it? I'm the Qax Star, I can do that no problem. Actually, I've made it lots and it kind of hurts your finger. But I can make it and I have been told I'm wonderful, BAM! Surhullu is dough twisted in a special way and boiled up aka it's noodles. Depending on where you are you can have many different varieties of meat on top. The entire dish is covered in the water used to cook the dish in so it's like soup and pasta had a baby. After the pieces were all flipped and ready to boil we took a little photo op:

With the table set and family coming over it was time to sit down and eat. Coolest part of the day for me was the anniversary. You see it may have been Nona's birthday but it also marked the first time I met the family. I met Nona 2 weeks before her 22nd birthday and she invited me to her party. It's been ridiculous fun times ever since. Good year. Her birthday had lots of food and way too many jokes in Noodle (Georgian). All in all a great evening to celebrate her pretty face.


Novruz Part 3

>> Sunday, April 24, 2011

I love food and Novruz is all about that, ergo I love Novruz! Most necessary part of Novruz is the plate of grass with a ribbon tied around it. If you're going to be celebrating the holiday the right way the grass needs to be in the center of the xonça (Novruz sweets platter thingy). This Xonça has bakhlava, shekerbura, popcorn, jelly beans, hard boiled eggs, cake, pastries and raisins. To make it beautiful you throw on some candles and all of the sudden it's nice and magical. I spend Novruz in the village for one main reason - they know how to really celebrate. In the city people don't really have a sense of excitement about the coming holiday but in the vill it's like Americans prepping for Christmas. Everyone is running around wishing wellness and happiness for the coming year. It's so much fun! At dinner time we had a few guests and here's the picture to commemorate!After we ate, it was off to dance and drink my weight in tea. Then back to the house for more cleaning and drinking tea. There is one thing that I've forgotten to mention. Turan broke 3 teeth. Yup, he was walking and it was dark and his mouth met a metal pole. Boom! Front tooth shot out of his face and the two on either side are chipped in half. Does he go to the dentist? Nope, it's Novruz he'll go in a few days when it's over. Good decision bro. He continued to bleed all night and a poor pillow was sacrificed. But that boy can celebrate! Sure enough the king and queen of the vill were way too worried about their baby boy. They got so ridiculously tired that they passed out on the couch. This is a normal occurrence but during the holiday it seemed cuter. With that, day one was over.


Novruz Part 2 - Kosa

>> Saturday, April 23, 2011

I had the lovely honor of being the Kosa this year in the vill. Who is the Kosa? He's a chubby man with a beard, mustache, pointy hat and a container to hold all of the goods he collects as he sings and dances around his community. How did I land this ridiculous honor? I woke up and villMom said, "Lori today you will be the Kosa, learn the song. I will dress you up later." Ba-da-bing I'm working all day to memorize this song and do a silly little hand snappy thing. Then night time hits and here I am with the crew: Hacı - Keçal Besti - old lady Me - Kosa

After a few lessons in my song I had the approval. I was going to be great and I had dancing lessons. This is the song:
Ay Kos-Kosa gəl sənə
gəlib salam gəl sənə
çom çəni doldur sənə
kosa yola sal sənə

Ay üyruğu üyruğu
Var kosanı göylurğu
Kosa bir oyun eylər
Kəçini qoyun eylər
yığar bayram xonçası
kəçəlin toyun eylər

As is typical, I changed the song into a rap and claimed that the 2011 Kosa is American and this change is necessary. So here's the rapper pose:
We ran out to pick up some new people to make our posse even more epic. We went in and sang to grandpa, then headed out to all of the neighbors houses. It was so much fun and some people didn't even know I was American! That's how awesome I am and equally how ridiculous I looked.


Novruz Part 1

>> Friday, April 22, 2011

This years Novruz was just as great as the last, events wise. Unfortunately I had an epically sprained ankle so I hobbled around for most of it. But hey, Novruz is wonderful. No biggie.
villMom and I went to the big festival in the center of town. So many people were there singing, dancing and overall just celebrating this time off of school & work. The best part had to have been when a man and woman came in disguise into the celebration. It was so crazy and everyone jumped up to dance with them. Then on their retreat they both ate it and just laid on the floor hiding their faces from the crowd. Soooo good. Then we came back home and had a mini party with all of the neighbors. It's always fun out there and after the tea had been drunk it was dancing time. We weren't going to give up once we got tired so all of the pets were brought out and they had to dance around themselves. Cut to one of teh fatty cats and my little Tuziq. I don't know how he puts up with it but he does, and after he finished dancing he jumped onto my lap!


Mid Service Conference

>> Monday, April 18, 2011

In keeping theme with posting events about my PCV life in a random order let's jump back to the end of January. I headed on into Baku for the AZ7 Mid Service Conference (MSC). I jumped on a train with about 13 other PCV's, got pretty ill and spent quite some time on the couch in the PCV lounge. Cut to the night before MSC and I tested out a new bar with some friends before we jumped on a bus and made our way to the hotel.
We may have been there the latest but we had good food and this awesome picture to commemorate the occasion. This is the first time all of our group has been in one room since December 9, 2009 so it was a big celebration. The 53 of us were having a great time. I planned a game of Assassins, it was quick and intense. There was also a pretty big group of PCV's who purchased Azeri track suits and we rocked them!Our room was awesome. I was so excited to have people to talk to that I frankly didn't let them sleep. I get lonely in Qax sometimes and they did a great job in making me feel loved. Throughout the 2 days we attended so many sessions about dealing with life here, help with projects and prepping ourselves and our communities for heading out. In one session all of the Peer Support Network (PSN) Members were helping a discussion about supporting the new group. We're all so pretty! That's all of us after the session pretending to talk on the phones that we love oh so much. At the very end of the conference we all grouped together and got a nice photo including the staff present. The conference was really invigorating because it showed me different ways to solve my problems/improve what was already working. It was a great refresher and I was so proud of everyone there. There you have it AZ7 MSC, fantastic group doing fantastic things.


Nar Fest

>> Thursday, March 24, 2011

I was in lovely little Goycay in November celebrating Pomegranate! There is an entire festival dedicated to the delicious fruit translated as Nar. I love this word, I never want to go back to the ridiculous English word. Too long and difficult, Nar's good enough for me. I'm going to start this, get ready. Anyways I headed out with a group of about 8 PCV's and we had an awesome time. So many Nar themed things happening. Nar dressed dancers, a big Nar that dancers came out of, karate kids, and all sorts of vendors. Sure people continued to stare at us, but in the spirit of the festival I got kind of lost in the fun of it and wasn't annoyed with the pictures.

Many villages were represented with differnt forms of Nar. Fresh, juiced, puree, etc. At many tables we were just forced to cup our hands and then forced to eat all the Nar that would fit. We were on a public street eating like little birdies.

I ate way too much but I didn't even care because Nar is my favorite color, sweet AND sour not to mention fun to open, when done correctly. I mentioned that there was a correct way to open Nar to my grandmother and mother and they seemed confused. So here's a news report where you can watch an awesome woman show you how it's done!


Valentine's Day

>> Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Valentine's Day was a great day at my school for many reasons. It gave me an excuse to finally get rid of the balloons and decorations from both Halloween and Christmas that my students loved. I simply re-decorated with V-day stuff and they loved it! Metanet and I had a little competition with the students. Whoever made the best Valentine's card wins. Here you can see all of our lovely contestants. The girls were very cute and whimsical while the boys...oh the boys. They are just so interesting. 2 of them made cut outs of animals. 2 wrote cute cards to their mothers. 3rd place was my favorite for many reasons. First he was sooooooo embarrassed. Then I see his cute little card with I love you's and I couldn't figure out why everyone was laughing so much. Come find out the cute little nugget had a color issue. He needed something brighter, the pop-up heart just wasn't bright and shiny and red enough. You know what fits that criteria? Mom's lipstick. Should we ask her? No, just sneak in her stuff smear it around a bit and get the heck out of there! He then proceeded to realize that this was more bronze-y than expected so he tried to move it around so it would get darker. So the finished product looks more or less like a pen was dragged through the lipstick.
In class I did a brief history, more common practices and rounded out with the best part. I taught each of the kids how to make those Norwegian hearts (you know the ones they use for Christmas) and that was their mailbox. Then I whipped out the boxed Valentines that my mom sent me and voila. It was amazing. We were reading candy hearts, sharing cards and Metanet even made a cake! It was so fun, they even locked the door at the bell so we could continue through their 15 minute break.

As per usual, I used the same lesson for all of my clubs to great success. Some of the girls even went home and made me more cards and extra heart mail boxes. I now have a stack of "My teacher, I love you" cards. Best Day Ever!



>> Friday, March 18, 2011

There once was a pig named Babe.

Unfortunately the past tense was actually used because babe has died. My Georgian hDad has been having medical issues and is currently having surgery in Tbilisi, Georgia. They've had Babe for a while now but to pay some bills they had to sell him off. This is the life of Babe:

I named him from the children story/movie when he was but a wee oinker. To keep him growing and pudgy he lived in this little house.

When he was tiny it seemed like an okay amount of space and I assumed he'd be allowed to run around once he got older. Alas he did not. When babe grew hungry you could hear him squeal and we'd pick up his bucket of food, open up his pen and the little sucker would dart out. He scared me every time he ran out because that little punk would buck around and flail about like a mad person. I get it, he's in a little house, but he's still a big porker. With the pen empty someone would head in with a shovel and clean the ground with a shovel, put the bucket of food on the floor and walk back out.
That gave us just enough time to move out of the way before the bucking bull stormed in and chowed down. An entire bucket of food, easily 15 liters would be gone in minutes. As he was eating the lock was put back up on his house. Then you'd see this cute little nose poke up.
Sometimes you'd hear him playing. At first I thought he was going crazy and the hFam was being mean so I went out to see him. As quietly as I could I creeped up to his house and sure enough, just like my dog used to, he was just messing around. I love me some Babe. Anytime I see another pig the hFam asks me who it is and I find some family relation to our good ol' Babe. first cousin, aunt, grandparent, fat uncle, etc. babe has given us a great inside joke and fun all around Qax. It's even more hilarious when other people come up to me and say that Babe just found a new relative. One of my students informed me that Babe's girlfriend from Georgia just came to stay with her the other day because it was inappropriate for them to stay at the same house. LOVE IT! I don't know what I'm going to tell people now that he's gone. Maybe I'll just call the next one Babe. Any ideas?


Decorating for New Year's

>> Monday, March 14, 2011

I headed over to Nona's house for just another day of fun, little did I know I'd be decorating! The second I walked in, unannounced, her mom jumped up "Finally.. let's go." Apparently she'd been waiting for me for a few days. She got a pack of streamers, a pack of cotton and a cup of water as she ushered me into the dining room. Setting all of the supplies down she showed me what to do.

Step 1: Pull out one of the streamers
Step 2: Soak a small piece of cotton in water
Step 3: Wrap the end of the streamer in the wet cotton
Step 4: Throw the cotton as hard as you can at the ceiling

Typically the process would stop here. But since I'm special I get a few extra steps:
Step 5: Yell at Lori and tell her small children can do this without it falling
Step 6: Tell her "it's okay, stop giving me that face, try again, this time not so fast"
Step 7: Breathe, she's laughing, she's your guest, don't mind that she's an idiot and can't make the simplest thing work
Step 8: High-5 her because she likes that and she finally got it
Step 9: Make your son come in and take pictures of her successfully throwing wet cotton at the ceiling

Nona and I throwing the watery cotton

Up close look at the finished product

Sparklers had to be brought out

Here's hMom, Nona, Jerry the dog and me in front of the tree.

The finished room. Happy New Year!


Ilisu, November 7, 2010

>> Thursday, March 10, 2011

A little late I know but this is one post that HAS TO HAPPEN. In my time in Qax no one has been able to make it to the fated Baths in Ilisu. Oh it's been tried. People have gone in different states of preparation, in different weather and of course different states of mind:

  • We're totally going to do this
  • There is no way this is happening
  • I don't care if we go, I just want to say I did it
  • I have to do this before I leave
  • I will destroy this legend
The outcome was always the same. NO way Jose. Sometimes the border patrol would stop people. At that far back in the mountains we are pretty close to the Azeri-Dagestani border. Many times the patrol says it's too dangerous and we'll get lost/eaten by bears/attacked by wolves/fall and die. Each time they take our passport, write it in their notebook and send us back the way we came. Well not this time. Jessica, Sean, Stephanie and I were not about to be thwarted. So we plan to go on the day of election. We figure it would be our best chance at getting past the patrol since most Azeri citizens would be voting (or at home). Our plan worked flawlessly. We all bought galoshes to help us cross the river. I'm sorry did I say all of us, well Sean thought it would be better to wear his hiking boots and then this happened. Little monkey tried to scale the mountain to find a shallower crossing. Then he changed his boots and followed us. Throughout our hike many a thing occurred. We imagined what it was like for our predecesors. Steph and I even re-enacted it and recieved an award for our great impersonations. The random like hut at the edge of one mountain turned into a mystical place where an old woman waited for us with piping hot peroshki's. IN our minds she is there all of the time waiting for travellers, always happy, peroshki's aplenty. A hummer type vehicle came and my instant reaction was to run. Then it disappeared and we still don't know if it was real. Then we came upon the two houses. They're so cute and look like a great place to come for a day (or multiple day) trip. Most Azeri's have a car drive them here. From here on out no more open car road. The mountains are even narrower than before and we couldn't see too far ahead because of how twisty the river bed was. Then I saw it.

I screamed and gave up all hope of staying dry and booked it right on through the river. I looked behind the blue tarp and saw a very dark room with very hot water running through a pipe into a bathtub. I have no clue how the heck that got there. Then I moved to the other tarp a little further up the river bed. Sulphurus water streams down the side of the mountain into a cement jacuzzi. Needless to say we stayed in the second, and we were so happy!
After who knows how long (actually about 2 hours) we decided that we had to start our return hike so we could return in some form of sunlight. I still had issues with narrow bridges so after Steph and Sean crossed Jessica cheered me on as I crawled. She might have crawled too. Almost back Jessica fell and we had a little injury. But you clear the water out of that boot and for the most part she was good. We made it safely back to my house incredibly tired. threw one of those just add water soup packets my mom sent me in a pot and we were all passed out before it was dark. Such a ridiculous tiring day. But oh so much glory. We achieved the dream and we did it with style!

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