July 26, 2007




*!@$ toilets

July 26, 2007

Because it matters to me…When at 12 midnight I get walked in on by my ana.  I suppose it’s a matter of probability and time, when one has a bathroom that doesn’t lock (or close) it bound to happen.  Apparently, using the ‘hammom’ at midnight suddenly catapults me into the “high likely hood’ group.  I heard noises, heard someone coming, hoping they wouldn’t come in; an ‘oh crap’ moment, there I was, pants around feet, a square of toilet paper in hand.  In distress, I stood, my nice MN white skin (ever more pasty next to black yoga pants) nicely lit by the open door.  There she was, a woman 3 times my age in floral dress and head scarf, staring quizzically at me.  I gestured with my hand, still clutching my square, while I know Azri for “go to hell’, I haven’t learned “GET OUT IM PEEING!!!!!’  Somehow I communicated that I rather be left alone to finish; after a good look she closed the door with a funny smile.  Guess I’m funny when I pee.  Now every time I see her, she gives me the eyebrow.  Not sure exactly what ‘the eyebrow’ means, but it’s something.

(Sorry if it’s in bad taste, but it’s real. Tho I’m sure you all really wanted to hear about puking…)

Another day my toilet adventures continued when the electricity went off mid puking.  I tripped, pushed open the ajar door and hit the switch.  Like magic, the light flickered back on.  Back to toilet.  Semi close door. Lights off again.  Trip.  Back to toilet.  Semi close door.  Lights off again. Trip. Hit dirty toilet with leg, almost missed.  Tired of the stupid dance, I finally just left door open, praying I wouldn’t get walked in on again (The spastic electrical connection must have been done by a drunk Irishman, can one just *!$@ puke in peace when they are sick??) Besides, it was dark enough…kinda felt like I was a one person comedy show.  Amazing huh? Think that gig would work in the states?  The kicker was that after exiting the facilities, I discovered that the lights were on every where else.  Stupid Irishman!!!  (I’m Irish)

It is lame that after 1 month I miss real sit down flush toilets?  But dham, I have killer quads now. 🙂

As Donny so equilently says:  “We are in fricken Azerbaijan!!!!!”    Sums up my thoughts perfectly.

and there is more…

July 26, 2007

Things are happening fast.  In just 2 weeks we find out where our permanent site will be.  Wow.  I have been talking (texting actually) with a current PCV in a nearish city.  The low down is that this highly motivated guy has worked his butt off for a completely new project that involves teaching photography to children.  That was the simplistic way of stating the endeavor that this project has become.  M started this project from the ground, doing grant writing, raising funds, gathering equipment, setting budgets, making lesson plans and doing analysis.  In a few months his kids will present their first exhibition.  M is doing right now what I have only dreamed/hoped of doing with youth.  I spent several hours reading through M’s project information, which detailed each step necessary for enabling the proposal to come to life.  I’m really REALLY encouraged by M’s work and indescribably excited to discover if there is a way for me to build on his work and further the project.  I’m trying to find a time to visit M on site to talk over things.  I don’t want to step on toes, but swap ideas and brain storm.  Up until this point, I was rather discouraged; I felt that with an art background (in photography and painting) there might not be much for me to offer.  Silly me.  The issue is that up until M’s project not much (as far as I know) has been done to encourage creative expression in youth.  There is a void of arts based projects aimed towards youth.  Efforts have focused on teaching English and small businesses (which is 100% great) but now that the foundations have been laid, there is the chance to incorporate more arts specific programs.  There are never any castles in my air.  But I do hope that I can harness my enthusiasm towards photography and art into enabling the youth with tools/knowledge for creative expression.


We have all spent more time at the Caspian.  Countless times.  Walking with Jill in the morning.  Smoking ‘n chatting w/ FL.  Time just being.  Last night we took our discussion to the beach.  Watched the sunset.  I can be at the beach in less than 8 min, look to my right and see in the distance the rusted ship (the Satins, or National Geographic Cave equivalent).  Fascination with the Caspian…?  Prolly b/c in Minneapolis we have lakes; hard for me to think of the Caspian as a lake.  On Thursday we had a break before our meeting.  We grabbed lunch and had a picnic on the beach; spent an hour just relaxing.  The food stand nearby had a boom box blaring a Russian station, playing US pop music.  How funny, to be sitting in AZ, on the Caspian, listening to Moscow radio and hearing Limp Biskit “Behind Blue Eyes?

Its sad, completely overwhelming, that I find comfort on sitting on the edge of the most polluted body of water in the world, in the most polluted city in the world.  Reality is strange.


If you thought my texting addiction was finally overcome.  Its worse. Back in the states, I can now admit that I’d text and drive. (mad ninja skills here, yeah that’s right!)  Here, I walk and text, Marshurka it and text, walk to school with my ipod in, glasses on and text, even, (gasp!) cross the deadly streets and text.


It’s a way to cope, if I don’t die by Marshruka first.  Matty actually saw a guy get run over in the street.  The poor gent (or idiot, depending on how you look at it) started to get off, but the driver didn’t realize it, or didn’t care.  The guy fell, the bus ran over his legs, and the driver didn’t blink an eye or stop.  Horrid.  There are 2 very specific rules I follow when riding the ‘goddam Marshrurka’. 

  1. Get on and off fast as hell
    1. This means if you are unfortunate enough to get stuck in the sweltering back, you must launch yourself over/around 8 grumpy people, pay the doorman and save yourself from being run over in under 10 seconds.  If you are fat or have parcels, pray for help.
  2. Do not talk to anyone or make eye contact
    1. Maybe this only applies to Americans…Nate has become an American cowboy star.  If I look, I get marriage proposals and the doorman maneuvering himself to get a view of my cleavage.  My eyes have not been trained at this point, so I wear my shades everywhere.

back a bit to da 14-17

July 26, 2007

Catch up with me!!.

  Due to slow internet, I haven’t been able to get anything posted for a while.  Anyway, the site visit last weekend (July14- 17) was beyond wonderful.  4 of us PCT girls made it to the city of G. (almost epic bus journey) to visit lovely E.  Basically a giant sleep over.  A time to relax and not worry about language class, awful cooking, and dirty bathrooms.  E has a great pad to herself; we invaded in true form, taking over a room with our packs and junk.  Our first night we ceremoniously went to the market and brought beer and wine.  Just because we could.  And because nothing tastes better than beer/wine when you really aren’t supposed to have it and you prolly shocked the shopkeeper into silence.  On Sunday we had a ‘cookout’ at a AZ4’s house.  Reality: sitting on a portch, eating watermelon, taking 4 delicious long hours to cook a fresh meal, having a plastic blow up pool, with a hammock next to it, and chasing Princess the Pet Chicken.  Our topics of discussion:  What we are trying to do for AZ, sex, bowel movements and WTF(?) moments. (as Mr. T said, “this adventure is made of ‘WTF?’ moments’.) We hooked up an ipod and serenaded ourselves with Spice Girls, RHCP and Madonna (when did I ever think I’d actually enjoy hearing the Spice Girls?)  Nothing beats the ability and opportunity to completely relax, have no demands, and the option to talk or stay silent.  Knowing that one can keep ones sanity and actually have normal relationships (in context) while in PC was really a relief.  Think on what your perceptions of the PC are…did relationships with other Americans factor into that perception?


Kelli, Jenn, Kathleen and I slept in, watched movies, walked, talked about boys and in general acted like we were back in the states. Glorious.  When I have my interview, I know what I will ask for…


Back to training last Tues…the day in which Donny was the center of attention on the bus ride back from cluster…on the sole fact that he was an American guy with 6 girls in tow.


Is it normal to be both painfully happy and stupidly sad all at once, after only being here for a month?


almost epic bus journey

July 26, 2007

Dive right in.  This past weekend we had site visits.  Our FL carefully packed each of us PCT’s into a bus.  Think of a mother sending her child to camp or first grade for the first time…There we were, 55 little kids, crowding the Baku Bus platform, our backpacks on, whining for the bathroom, grumbling about needing a snack, each clutching instructions on how to find our PCV once we made it to their site.  Almost a mute point, you can spot an American from 2 miles.  With a seemingly sad smile, our FL helped Kelli and I with our packs, and made us promise to check in.  Really, though, our FL deserved a break from babysitting us and answering endless questions.  I have no idea what FL did last weekend, but I highly doubt it involved anything close to leading a pack of 5 helpless adults around. 

We had been assured, by Hard Core Bus Driver (HCBD) that our venture into the heart of AZ land would take ‘4 hours maximum.’   Hummm, 6 hours later we arrived, hot, tired and thirsty at our lovely destination; but who’s counting?  In the course of 6 hours a literal epic had taken place on the bus.  These are not merely machines of transportation; the bus drivers and their smoking chariots are the stuff of legends.  Problems are solved, deals are made, and in our case hearts are broken…maybe?  (the final debris count was as follows:  1 (maybe 2) broken hearts, 3 business deals, one sleepy/sick child, 4 hot tired PCT’s, 20 empty plastic bottles, duck feathers on Bus Grill Our HCBD was the true thing, older, lacking hair, teeth, fear and charm. What he did have though was a smile, eagle eyes that could spot a 2 ton dump truck and the elite reflexes that swerved the Greyhound type bus 10 feet before a certain head on collision with said dump truck. (easy translation: a very close call) In the course of our journey HCBD successfully swerved past/narrowly avoided: various farm animals (chickens, sheep, gangsta cows [think USA cow, with bigger horns and a mean look, not really sweet milk giving Betsy from Wisconsin], ducks, and goats); cars going too slow at 10 over the speed limit (was there a speed limit?) and prolly 7-8 more dump trucks.  I was impressed.  Ummm, the 6 hour Indy 500 for public transportation vetches, eh?  Later on in the weekend, I had my first AZ taxi ride, another story…

Innocently telling a Guy my name just as the grumbling chariot was pushing off had the annoying result of both Jen and I suffering under the googley eyed stare of The Guy for 6 hours.  Oh he did eventually fall asleep, somewhere between repeatedly asking me to sit with him and hour 2 he timed out.  Facing me. Mouth open. Twitching.  When the rest of the bus started laughing he woke up.  Between hours 4-6 after randomly yelling out my name and conferring with his friend, he wanted to know if I was married.  Well, just so happens, I’m engaged, but not wearing my ring, because I’m scared of losing it and my guy is back in America, somewhere.  Funny what details *ahem* lies *ahem* you can communicate between gestures and knowing only basic phrases.  The entire bus was fixated.  News traveling to the back in waves.  ‘She is engaged, oh, women by herself is not good.  Her name is Kolin?  What?  Shameful youngsters these days carrying on in such a way.  He needs a nice Azri. Girl’ etc… I turned around to find most of the bus staring and tittering., even HCBD was laughing as well; and told The Guy the basic  ‘tough luck buddy.’ The Guy looked slightly bummed and tried on a puppy dog look, (which didn’t soften my ice cold heart); then, bored with the old news of my engagement, Guy asked what Jens name was.  Being evil, I told ‘em it was Shneqkawa (sp?).  They were surprised and spent a while trying to figure it out, gave up, and left us alone… But not before it made the bus rounds causing even more tittering and funny looks.  It was my fault really, I should not have given my (real) name in the first place.  And I need a filter.  Lesson learned.

In between dodging road hazards, we made a stop at a roadside rest.  Just like on the US Highways, there are rest stops with toilets, areas to relax, and food (not junk food, but bread, kabobs and salad).  In particular this lovely rest stop had toilet issues.  Put nicely:  The abandoned toilets in KD station, BOM, Broderick Tower (remember the Psychedelic Toilet?), Pillsbury, and the mussed fast food restaurant in Detroit smelled less and were cleaner.  Enough said.

I spent most of my bus ride staring out the window (and trying to avoid goggle eyed stare).  Our route this time took us through desert flat land, rolling hills (reminding me of the entrance to the Black Hills of S.Dak) and finally into the lush area of G, known for its Pomegranates.  Glad at the site of our bus platform/taxi stand we stepped off smoking chariot with a good buy wave from HCBD and became instant celebrates.  No less than 7 of the town’s drivers formed a line in front of us, talking about us, pointing, mentioning us to passer bys and generally doing everything that would make you uncomfortable when you stick out.  You are in front of a crowd giving a speech, they simply laugh at you; in the school playground the kids talk about you in groups while you listed in, ignoring you.  If giving a speech, I’d simply leave or yell or hit the lights; on the playground I’d brawl.  We can’t do a thing; we don’t even know exactly what they are saying.  We simply stand.  And they look.  For 15 long min.  Finally E came to the rescue; word runs fast, a block before the station they were asking lovely E who we were.


Last weekend was stellar…

I’d say being a super white USA girl (and Christian) in a smaller town in an Eastern Europe/mid east country recovering from soviet oppression makes me a minority.  Except for the PCV’s, I haven’t seen any other Americans, Europeans, or Asians.  No joke, not even in the nearest town.  I stand out.  By the way I walk, dress, do (or not do) my hair; everything.  Crossing the road and making myself a target for the banshee taxi driver is nothing compared to just being who I am walking through the town.  There are rules; I cannot hurl insults back at the men squatting and smoking cigs when they yell nice *sarcasm* things like, ‘ooooh, so pretty, I want you, what are you doing here? Stupid American, go back to your own country, sexy, merry me, kiss me etc.’ I cannot make eye contact with any man on the street; doing so would mean one or both of two things: 1. ‘I’m a whore and want a trick’ 2. ‘I want you, bad, please follow me home and ask if we can be married, I’m desperate.’   As mentioned, I stand out, each morning when I walk to school I must deal with the above mentioned issues.  Something like the following goes through my head:  (Apologies to any PC staff  or otherwise who are reading this and find it awful, at least I’m bluntly honest)  ‘Ok, sexy glasses in place, iPod  on, ignore 5 men gathered at park table gesturing at me, they cannot be looking at my backside these pants make me look fat, maybe they like that here, pisser, I cant win, look at ground while passing man on right, he is ALWAYS there, wonder if he’s holding up the wall? What!? Kissing noises? Please let those be for the mangy cur trotting 10 feet a head of me, that driver is NOT coming towards me, stupid f—er, hanging your head out the window while honking your horn and yelling does not make me want to marry you, besides, apparently my ovaries are frozen anyway, tough luck, bloody hell, don’t they have anything better to do than watch me waddle my way to school, I’ll play ‘dodge the filthy syringe’ to give me something to look at on the ground, I wonder, if I flip off a guy in J—-, does it count if the PC doesn’t see me? Don’t trip, don’t trip on the trash, don’t body slam the random trees, man at 1 o’clock, maybe I can give him a death stare through my glasses, I will not yell back, will not yell back, for crying out don’t laugh at the man tripping as he looks at you, its not funny, not funny, dammit its farken hilarious you silly man, learn how to walk, yeah, I love Atmosphere, homework, huh, homework, conjugated verbs, what the hell am I’m doing here, nutz, I forgot my toilet paper, how will I not fall asleep today?’ 

So I finally woke up today at the decent hour of 6.30.  I literally snuck out of my house in my yoga pants and Rob Dobi shirt (k8 and dan’s perfect going away gift) and texted Jill that I was ‘on my way’.  Up till this week any sort of physical activity resembling running was not such a hot idea.  Jill’s host sister slowly woke up, then the three of us were on our way.  Past trash heaps, silent homes, trucks coughing exhaust, the neighborhood dog posse, cross a divided highway, dodging buses…our feet hit rough sand sharp with shells.  We were at the Caspian.  The sun had risen, but it was still dawn, and appropriate for us to be out exercising.  After leading our sister quizzically through stretches, Jill took off jogging, while I walked.  The beach is hardly flat, cut up by numerous pipes, dumping brown liquid into the serf.  There were fishermen, sporting nothing but banana hammocks on the beach, and out in the waves, up to their armpits in water, casting lines.  A really bad, dank smell; think the inside of an abandoned building, but more fishy.  A huge view.  There was a moment when I thought, ‘God what am I doing here, so far from anything I know, full of flaws, utterly pathetic, do you think it I can do it God, do I deserve this chance?’  I supposes that may be seen as slightly doubting, or implying that I lack confidence…its more that I’m overcome with the heaping measures of grace and mercy that have been granted me and I know God knows what He’s doing, ‘cause its sometimes hard to see. 

7.30 am walking on the Caspian, not a bad way to start a Wednesday.


I find it highly amusing that men are allowed to wear banana hammocks on the Caspian Beach. But are considered *ahem* gay if they wear shorts anywhere.   In fact, a friend demonstrated the utter lack of self consciousness that men have in regard to the hammock issue by dropping trousers and frolicking around one night in the serf.  Hammocks should never be worn by any male not swimming in the Olympics.  However, women are considered to be lose if they: show their shoulders, skin above the knees, cleavage, midriff, wear anything really short, tight or deity forbid, spaghetti strap tank tops.  IMO, it’s worse to have boys, guys and men prancing around in nasty grundies than women showing a scandalous thigh.

In desperation, I simply resorted to gestures and random sounds.  I had to tell my host mother that its not that I didn’t like the meals served, it’s just that, I simply cannot eat that much.  My sister, good at summarizing, said ‘so basically you are scared you will be fat if you eat that much?’  Yeah, what took me about 20 min. of stupid gestures, she simply uttered and solved the problem with my host mother trying to stuff me like a prize deer.  Before I left I was on a cheap diet of 99cent Clif Bars, apples from target and the food the roomie didn’t want (pretty much trail mix and fresh spinach).  Being force fed 4-5 times a day is not working in with the whole ‘stay healthy and don’t gain so much weight you are unrecognizable when you take a holiday’ plan.  A little explanation, guest are treated with utmost respect, it’s a cultural habit to serve them food.  Dinners with family are very important; having a meal with them is a way for them to show you respect; similarly it means they trust you to a certain extent.  Being constantly fed is a way for my host family to show that they care for me.  Its nice being loved, even in this odd way. 

*i shall try image shack for pictures… dial up makes me want to cry!!!*


July 16, 2007

After fielding numerous questions as to what exactly I’m doing here in the ‘Baijan this is the best explanation I can give.  You may skip ahead to the next paragraph if you really don’t care to know.   

Right now the whole lot of us is in our 3 months of training.  We are taking the all important language classes, (4 hours a day, M-Sat) attempting to absorb the culture and getting ‘comfortable’ with interacting with the community.  Additionally, twice a week we have meetings, bringing all the YD volunteers together, for sessions on how to work with the AZ youth, professional development for working with various organizations, and understanding where we fit in the community.  Along with all that, we have various books and resources that we read (are supposed to be reading…) detailing the demographics, issues, organizations, and people who have worked with/done assessments of youth in AZ and other countries.  We are given numerous mini projects, everything from planning out the best way to connect with a community to suggestions on how to gain trust with the AZ people. (Family is very important, and building relationships is done through talking and drinking Chy for hours).   And then each of us individually is required to asses our own strengths and weaknesses and how they relate to what we can offer the youth.  Did I mention the conversation clubs?  I’ll be working with four 15 year old kids, 3 hours each week until Sept when they go back to school.  My responsibility is to introduce them to English in a fun way, involve them in enriching projects and develop a meaningful relationship with each one.  Seriously.  I may have mentioned this, but I have to detail everything I do with the club; tracking what works and doesn’t; compiling all my info at the end; when by then my scribbles will have resulted in valuable information for my permanent assignment.  To clear confusion, I’m not in my permanent site, the language lessons from FL will not continue past Sept, nor will I be living with the same family.  I don’t find out for a few weeks where I’ll end up for the next 2 years.  Once at my site, I’ll be living with a host family for 6 months; at the end of 6 months I’ll have the option to find my own flat or stay with the family.  Did I miss anything?


To top it all off my body refuses to adjust to ‘Baijan time, so I find myself unable to sleep at night, then unable to wake up.  (I’ve never liked waking up anyway, b/c usually, right when I’m supposed to wake, is when the best dreams are happening).  I had a funny experience when I first got to my host home.  In the confusion of awkward sleeping arrangements, going from Matt’s to Parents, plane to hotel, bus to plane (and being propped up against Ryan, and DeeMoe with Katie sprawled across us all, violating every airline safety regulation on proper sleeping behavior), bus to new hotel, bus to new home, I work up and though I was back at Matt’s convinced the last 4 days had been one hella dream.  Thankfully, it wasn’t just a dream.  Tho I do kinda miss Neko!!

Ending the 7th of July on the Caspian.


I mentioned conversation clubs…  To have a club, we needed the OK from our school director; so on Sat. we went to ask permission.  Quite happy to see us, he wanted to know if we’d gotten our pictures developed from the 4th of July celebration a few days earlier…he also wanted Sally to sing.  We received permission; with director insisting that we incorporate an activity, such as photography, or dancing.  During this request he pantomimed the Hokey Pokey, causing Sally and I to cringe at the Beast of Bad Dancing and Singing that we had released into the school.  None the less, I’m wonderfully excited at having the OK at doing photography.


Before our 4th of July Party on the 7th, Kelli agreed to accompany me on a hunt for sandals at the Bazaar (which besides having an overwhelming amount of shoes, is also home to a species of Name Brand Aviator Sunglasses). Successfully demonstrating self control and not dumping 2 weeks worth of PC ‘wage’ on Sexy Glasses, I found a par or sandals I liked at an agreed upon cheap price.  Then I tried to pay for the footwear.  Bad idea.  Yelling loudly (in Azri) shop person #1 called over 4 more merchants, then shop person #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 started yelling/gesturing at Kelli and I.  The 5 attracted another 5, who called over their friends, who called in back up…Obviously, neither Kelli or I speak enough Azri to yell back ‘shut da f—k up’, even if we had it might not have been wise; we were now surrounded by over 25 yelling/gesturing/sweating/smelly ugly Azri men.  They only increased their volume/speed when I simply gave them my meanest look and refused (for the 8th time) to pay 3 times the agreed upon price. After about 6 min, the smell was wretched beyond expression and my ears hurt, I shoved the blasted footwear at shop person #1, grabbed Kelli and pushed my way out of the reeking mess.  I’m guessing that at least 6 or so guys were yelling the equivalent of ‘stupid b—h’ as we marched away.  Intent on leaving an even more lasting impression, I had the fortunate (unfortunate) fate of tripping and falling AGAIN while walking up the stairs that lead away from the sketchy shoe shop. The yells turned to even louder laughter.  I give myself a shiny gold star for NOT flipping off the whole lot ‘em.  I’m actually quite confused.  In all the dangerous things I’ve done (climbing cranes, walking beams in crumbling mills, stupid roof top antics etc.) I’ve rarely tripped or even hurt myself.  But yet, stairs and seemingly flat pavement presents the biggest challenge to my balance, and coordination.


Us crazy Americans finally had the chance to celebrate Independence Day on the 7th.  In true form we had a gathering at Kelly’s house complete with USA food like PBJ’s,hotdogs, pickles and bubbly, fermented beverages.  With much toasting and many cheers we feasted on our American food, trying to explain to the Ariz’s the significant and importance of a PBJ in our lives.  Our FL brought his friends along to observe/laugh at our antics; much like the 3 Amigos they coolly observed us, until, Jill and I broke the ice…by offering to teach them American slang.  (This has not failed us yet, but I highly doubt this would work in the US as a pick up/opening line)  We imparted such gems as ‘Smack that’ and ‘Bootylicious’, complete with correct context, such as:  No, you would not tell your mother, teacher, or grandmother that they were ‘Bootylicious’ nor would it produce a positive result if used on an American girl at a club.  However, telling Joel (a PCT who everyone looks up to and its over 40) that he is ‘Bootylicious’ is completely acceptable.  Joel was a good sport and merely responded that he would call his wife and let her know.  The guys in turn taught Jill and I the Azri equivalent of ‘ass hat’ and ‘I want to eat your soul.’  Fair play I‘d say.

Disclaimer.  I actually do have meaningful conversations with the Ariz’s I meet.  And I have taught them English that does not involve slang.


After Kelly’s, we drove to the Caspian.  Dusk was coming on, so we didn’t have much time.  There is a long stretch (1/2 mile?) of broken concrete blocks that points into the sea and out to the badly rusted hulk of a wreaked ship; someone has scrawled ‘Titanic’ in white paint on the brown hull.  Sally and I, with the help of 2 Azri guy friends, braved the slippery blocks, and made it 3/4ths of the way out to the ship.  The last ¼ of the way is a combination of rotting beams/rusted pieces of metal supported by rocks/concrete blocks.  I wanted to keep going, but the Azri guys thought it was too dangerous (which I explained was exactly why we should try;  [I think they were a little put off by that?]). No fuss, we sat on the rocks, surround by the water, away from the beach, almost in the shadow of a ship wreck; a vast panorama to soak up.  We smoked a cig and experienced that instant of perfect calm that comes rarely.  Memorable.


*postscript, I’ll be on that tasty rusted hulk soon enough to photograph it*

massive update

July 9, 2007



…The beat goes on…


Language is going alright.  The Azri language is difficult for me to learn.  Really, I’ve been told to give myself a break, its only been 1 week of lesions.  But its so frustrating to not understand a daham thing.  Much like English and French, I can speak much better than I can write.  Grammar, rules and proper spelling, fusses my head.  However, as we were told today by Zoltan (country director) at Hub meeting: “You are your biggest challenge and hurdle.”  I’ve know that I’ve always been my worst enemy.  What is hard now is fighting the overwhelming excitement of a new country, side by side with culture shock, and still focusing on language and my reason for being here.  As Ryan said ‘This is a marathon.’  I agree 100% and I did 2 marathons.  This is just another challenge; the price for doing something right and correct.


If you want some gritty details, email me. However, I finally was able to rinse my hair.  After walking back to my room, my host sister came after me talking loudly and upset.  She informed me that rinsing my hair with cold water will make me wretchedly sick.  It was prolly around 80 degrees at that point in the day.  It took several minutes to convince her that I was fine.  I don’t think my Azri is good enough to explain that when I was in college, I’d walk out of swim practice in below freezing cold with a wet head and walk home. 


Also heaven forbid a female sit the ground, or floor or anywhere besides a chair.  Beside that most places near the ground are filthy, the general population believes that if a female sits the on the ground, her ovaries will stop working, or she’ll get sick in an awful way.  OK.  I can accept that. Ground dirty.  No good.  The ovaries freezing part…that’s a little hard to believe.  Now to provide comic relief, we text each other asking ‘are your ovaries frozen yet?’  Maybe you had to be there.


We have talked much about the concept of home, going back, moving forward and how we shall adjust.  I don’t know exactly what I think, now.  I don’t think one can ever ‘go back’.  There is no way to return to previous state and resume life in the same way.  A blessing and a curse.   We were told today that on average, 25% of volunteers leave before the full term of their service.  I will not be in that 25%.


Enough mushy stuff. I finally found a place to develop my film.  I have 4 more shots on my first roll with the Fed 2 Rangefinder. Many prayers from me that I’ve done an OK job.

My goal is to have enough material and film to do a decent exhibition whenever I’m settled for a bit (back in the states or somewhere else). In the mean time, all prints or film will be sent back to the states to prevent them from being ruined. Unlike Siolo and Dsankt, I have a knack for wrecking important things, like film and cameras.


Through the course of our Hub meeting (where all training clusters come together for group sessions) I found out that Baku has a few problems.  It is up there in rankings as a city for human trafficking and prostitution.  Since AZ has only recently been an independent country, this seemingly has flow under the raider.  Now tho, organizations that deal specifically with that issuer are taking notice.  I will seriously consider, at my close of service, the possibility of work with such an organization.


Next week I’ll be leading a conversation club.  This is both exciting and a little nerve racking.  Since I’m an American woman, it’s a just a tad difficult to connect with the youth; who view me as more of a walking freak show than an intelligent accomplished, strong woman.  Its gonna take a little work to develop trust in this host community; but it will be an invaluable exercise in understanding what sort of challenges I’ll most likely face when I get assigned my permanent site. 


Lat night Mariko (current PCV who is staying with me for a few days) introduced me to the joys of hand washing clothes.  2 hours later, dripping sweat and soaking wet with soapy water, I hung my clothes on the line.  Thanks to rock-climbing a decent amount (and therefore having strong hands) I was able to make it through the entire pile of clothing and avoid the usual bloody fingers.  Midway through scrubbing I reached into my laundry bag to find a nasty (big, 2 inches long) Beetle of Doom sitting on my socks.  I hate beetles.  Not as much as I hate ticks, the kicker is they (the beetles) fly, dayham things.  It reminded me of the time I was in Trinidad. I came back from the shower with only a towel wrapped around me to find a HUGE, (really huge) spider perched nicely on my clothes.  I grabbed a paper towel tube and chased it around the room with another guy.  Wet hair flying, trying not to drop my towel, throwing shoes, random objects and swiping at it with the tube.  Eventually nasty spider met its mangled end.  It wasn’t until later that I found out it was a Tarantula.  So maybe finding a Tarantula in Trinidad is not the same as finding the Beetle of Doom in AZ, but the startle factor is still the same.  I can hear my Southern and Aussie friends, to whom nasty size bugs are regular, laughing at me.  Beetle of Doom met his awful end through my host sister, who smashed him to pulp with a wooden rod.


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