random thoughts

August 28, 2007

I remember meeting my first host family and wanting to simultaneously puke, cry and pee from nerves.  Meeting my 2nd host family, I was a little more adjusted and knew how to communicate beyond just stating my name and love of tomatoes.  It was still a bit of a rough ride though.  I share my new ‘pad’ with chickens and various older woman, who are all called ‘Ana’ and who all have a distracting amount of facial hair.  For the moment chickens that squirt everywhere and hair is OK, b/c ISM does not have its own pollution cloud (like SMQ does), is not miserably hot, and my bed (queen size by AZ standards) has a faux gold satin spread that makes me feel like I’m in an adult movie.  (Sorry if that is offensive, it was the only way I could think to describe it.)  3 hours into introductions and answering questions (yes, I have a family, yes, I love AZ, in particular ISM, No I’m not married, I don’t know why I’m not married, yes, I love tomatoes, no, I don’t eat meat, yes it makes me puke, yes I actually have had 2 months of Azri language lessons, yes I suck at speaking Azri. no, I don’t speak Russian) I had to use the bathroom.  25 min. later I actually used the facilities.  Due to my complete incapacity to remember anything useful in Azri, I resorted to hand gestures and Azri/English to explain the idea/use of toilet paper.  I received 3 napkins from the performance, made my host sister laugh, caused most of AZ5 to snort milk/water/chy when I texted them with the story and once again guaranteed that I will be unforgettable in the AZ.

            The next few days blurred together.  Matt, Rachel and I met everyone who was anything in ISM.  At the meetings we mostly just sat and smiled while the Important Person(s) talked to our counterparts and someone translated (filtered)  You develop thick skin/coping strategies when you have to sit in a room with Important Person(s), and everyone is talking about you/looking at you, and you really only understand bits, and try to smile/nod at the correct time; then you’re fixated by Important Person’s unibrow, and try to stop looking because women aren’t supposed to make eye contact/stare, but its so fascinating you cant look away and wonder if your mates notice you noticing, then you have to itch your foot b/c of firkin mosquitoes (or nasties from the street) but cant figure if its appropriate to itch your foot and about that time Important Person looks at you saying something that you cant understand (not even bits); since you don’t know if you are supposed to nod yes or just smile, you go halves, looking interested and adjusting the half grin that’s been stuck on your face since you walked through the double oak doors 30 min ago, and finally you realize that the camera that was in the waiting room was a fake b/c the wires stop in the wall and there is nowhere else for them to go, then you wonder how much manet they’d pay the guys if there actually were cameras to monitor, this makes you think of security cameras (all 500+) of them on the U of M Campus, how you successfully avoided every single one; yet still became infamous in U of M lore because of your antics in the steam tunnels and contribution to campus ghost legends; suddenly you are tying to remember if you ever flashed the cameras and cant remember but you do remember that time (almost 1 year ago) when you were in the WaterFall Drain with the crew of ninjas and the water was really warm, and didn’t some girl that you met a few days ago say there was a waterfall nearby ISM (?), then everyone is standing and saying thank you and your trying to remember if its OK to shake Important Person(s) hand and decide not to shake because you are wearing a blinging ring, but lack hand sanitizer and get grossed out by shaking hands with out proper post hand sanitization; suddenly you are outside and very tired and desperately want a black as death cup of coffee, but slamming a coke might do the trick; your mates turn to you and ask if you are awake, you mumble something about security cameras and the Waterfall Drain; they give you strange looks that you cant understand, so you just shrug your shoulders and once again smile; there is sunlight and it feels delicious.


August 28, 2007

     Each fresh faced noob PCT is the proud owner of a PC issued Water Filter; which is usually and affectionately referred to as “God Dam Water Filter”.(GDWF)  If the Tin Man was ever a toddler, he’d be the same size/weight/ as GDWF and be just as bloody annoying.  At midnight after attempting various ways of packing my GDWF, I finally resorted to shoving it in my suitcase.  My suitcase, tired of the strain, broke nicely, resulting in my suitcase having about as much use as an umbrella full of holes in a down pour. (Looks nice and does jack s—t)  [Later on I realize that breaking was inevitable, because, HELLO, I was trying to shove a circle (GDWF) into a square-ish-rectangle (suitcase)]  Not to be defeated, I whipped out my duct tape and simply duct taped my suitcase around my GDWF, which meant that I could now wheel my GDWF and my winter clothes.  (Charlie, in a flash of sheer brilliance, suggested that I use GDWF as a helmet or dress) 

Next morning, after arguing/pleading with the ‘Shuraka driver (in Baku) to pack the duct taped suitcase and promising to never, ever, tote such an annoying ‘thing’ again, there was 15 min. of cussing and evil looks from the other passengers as GDWF was smashed into the bus.  Eventually, after peeing on my foot, getting hit on by an odd ‘teacher’ (who excitedly called his friend, bragging about the American girl who was now his girlfriend), sweating more than any girl should be allowed to sweat, sitting down wind from the stankiest (as in ‘I’ve never ever washed, but dip my clothes in urine every day’ uber rank) man ever, and sending the entire bus into hysterical fits of laughter with butchered Azri, I made it to ISM. 

As the bus lurched into ISM, the kind woman sitting next to me (who brought me Chy at the rest stop, and made me eat bread and cheese) gave me ‘The Ring’.  On par with Nates ‘Pimp Ring’, this one was huge, gaudy, and blinging like fresh ghetto.  And I actually, really think ‘The Ring’ is beautiful; she gave it to me for several reasons:  1. it’s considered good luck to give something to strangers, even better luck if the stranger is foreign.  2. We actually had a conversation using Azri/English/Hand Gestures and 3. Her kids are grown and gone and she wants another daughter!  She gave me ‘The Ring’ and I gave her my mini bottle of hand sanitizer.  It was prolly an uneven trade in terms of beauty, (FYI: you can’t wear a hand sanitizer bottle on your hand)  but she gave something that was important to her and I gave up hand sanitizer which is the only substance that stands between me and death by wretched germs.  Every passenger on the bus waved good buy when myself and GDWF were painfully extracted and standing on the sidewalk ready for our new adventure. 

Can’t even describe my counterpart’s eyes when she saw me and GDWF.  I’ve never really been able to fully explain why I have such a contraption, but it has provoked such brilliant streams of profanity to pour from my lips that even Siolo and DS would cry, and they are the best cussers ever.

mom, dad, I’m engaged

August 28, 2007

      Matt and I attended a wedding reception at a typical Azri palace; while we didn’t know the couple or any of the other 250 guests, be assured tho that every guest KNEW us.  The Stairs of Death are polished faux marble and approx 57 steps high; they guard the tables heaped with food and alcoholic (vodka).  With the promise of dancing in front of 250 people, (vodka), no air conditioning and having ourselves forever immortalized in the (non) happy couples wedding portrait, I (we) braved certain slippage, and made it up the steps in wedge heels.  20 min, 2 shots later and nearly suffocating from heat, we went outside for a ‘break’.  I made the mistake of grabbing Matt’s arm on the way down to insure that if (when) I fell, that I wouldn’t be lonely in a body cast in Baku Hospital.  Meracurasley there was no spectacular acrobatics display, however, the bride’s brother had seen my sly arm grab.  30 min, 3 shots, 2 pictures(one smiling, one not smiling), 2 video cameras in our faces and 10 ill (wicked ill) dance moves later, we tried to exit.  The bride’s brother, mother, uncle, father and a various assortment of the groom’s family accosted us with questions, congratulations, and wishes of many children; we confusedly mumbled a mix of Azri/English answers, while simultaneously trying to figure out who/when/how/why we had become engaged/married.  (Some guests prolly still say we are married, while others contest that we are merely engaged due to me not owning/wearing any sort of bling but still in possession of all my teeth.)  The Stairs of Death allowed us lose the majority of the group at the top as we flew down them at an alarmingly fast pace considering the heat/time/alcohol/wedge heels/slipperiness/no food all day ratio.  Only the brother made it to the bottom; then stopped us dead in our tracks by asking in perfect English, “When are you getting married, where in AZ will you have the wedding, will your parents visit, and do they approve?’  Having had approx 10 seconds (while on the stairs) to pull a consistent story out of our fine behinds, we took turns responding with the following (in a serious and thoughtful manner) “Our parents really want us to get married in the States.  We don’t know when, we will be here for 2 years. An AZ wedding would be nice; maybe we’ll have two weddings?  We think our parents will visit us here, so maybe?  We don’t know really, anything could happen.”  We shrugged our shoulders, held hands, dropped the ‘honey’ bomb and in general gave the perfect picture of soon to be martial bliss.  Our salvation came in the form of an air conditioned black BMW SUV that whisked us back to Jorat.

While in our swank rescue BMW, we finally figured out what started the fire.  It was the arm grab, my stupid clutch at safety, the scandalous PDA of arms touching, the blasted, innocent ‘arm grab’   Beware,

wait for it…

August 26, 2007

…the update on site, crazy antics, oscar worthy preformances, and wicked soviet factories.  I’m in fricken AZ, broke as heck, wearing bling on my finger and taking mad max style taxi rides.  Life is amazing.

A few weeks ago I found out my perminate site; the lovely place where I’ll be living for the next 2 years.

Tomorrow I leave to visit my town, spend time with my counterpart, meet the local officials, meet my new host family, and spend time in the resource library.

My new home is on the edge of Caucasus, is one the most beautiful reagions in AZ, and has mild summers (which means I wont be a nasty sweaty mess.  happiness 🙂 

There are ancient fortresses scattered nearby.  (photographers dream, drool)

I will be allowed to hike and run on the trails.

 I have rad site mates, Matt and Rachel from AZ 5

(actually, I just got BACK from my site visit, dial up is lovely, really lovely)


August 14, 2007

Life in Azerbaijan makes me smile. I dare you make it through the list!!!

I’ve been told that Americans smile too much.  I try not to smile, but I’m cursed with remembering all the funny things while I’m walking by myself.  This results in a stupidly goofy grin plastering itself on my sweaty mug.  For the benefit of those in the U S of A these are a few (many) things in the AZ that make me smile.  No particular order (this list has been building since I first landed here, so it’s quite long, and dated and new all at once)

 D–nk and climbing to the roof of the hotel then sitting on the very edge, seeing the moon and the Caspian from 18 stories.

Waking up to a text from Siolo!!!!!

Air conditioning in the hotel room

That my mad ninja skills still worked, d–nk and in heels for climbing ladders, (don’t try this at home, seriously!)

Embarrassing text sent to Matty

Actually, make that all the drunk text I sent, (come on you know you loved ‘em)

Eating McDonald’s muffin and drinking McDonald’s coffee in Baku. Tasted REALLY REALLY amazing.

A stiff long island ice tea.

Quite good techno and dancing like mad for hours!  (Katie, you and Dan would have LOVED the music)

Reviewing pictures from the weekend and finding myself in photos that I don’t even remember being taken.

Seeing 2 unlikely dancers get down

Being asked by a Scottish bloke if we were with a tour group. 10 Americans, with cameras, we stick out. At least none of us were sporting Hawaiian shirts *shudder*

My host sister cut red roses from the garden, and placed a vase of them on my desk. (I have never received red roses before)

Language lessons on the Caspian at dusk.

Sneaking a drag off Mattys cig, tasting so great because it’s on the sly.

Wild Marshurka rides

Pot holes the size of kiddy swimming pools

Flirting via text message

WTF!? Moments (as Tom says it’s what our life consists of)

Tom giving me a Kashi Granola Bar!!!!!!!!!!!!  (Tasted beyond delicious!!!)

First care package from home (Never have I been so stupidly happy over receiving Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes)

Receiving my Electric Blue Pumas in care package

Noticing while walking to school that my Pumas match my iPod Shuffle

Mussing up Jill and Sally’s names all the time.

Cutting Nate’s hair with medical scissors, in the dark, with no mirror

Nate’s pimp ring (it even has tape and an eagle)

Getting a whiff of “Sewerfresh” and suddenly very, very homesick for Butt Grove Vahilla Drain and RCP

Russian Whores!!  (Every time we do something)

Culturally appropriate…yeah…

Mikey’s text message about knickers

Buying skank shirts with Katie!!!!!!  (And then chickening out at the last min and NOT wearing them…sorry bois, gotta wait until New Years to see us decked out)

The entire retail world of Baku knowing that I am ‘boyuk’ (bloody hell, there seems to be no way that I can just slip under the radar)

Uc’ the dog, greeting me at the school entrance.

Being semi attacked by a mentally challenged man (with one top tooth front and center, I was fixated by the tooth, it wasn’t gold, but surprisingly clean)

Jill telling me:  “You don’t seem like the type for PDA’s”

Ryan’s hair cut.

Matty’s stories

The Dove Statue

Reading about the underground cities in Turkey

Princess the Pet Chicken of Urcur

Underoos’  (as said by Erin)

Every time FL says “Lets get Crrrrunk!”

“You won’t believe what just happened!”   (From Nate, and it’s always the start of a good story)

“Look at my life!”  (A, when he whines about having to do housework.)

Walking along the beach at dusk.

the small things like, bright flowers in drab streets. (Goychey)

An Art Nouveau staircase on the outside of a Baku building

Finding my pictures that I thought I had lost.

Shadows from the grapevine in my yard.

Atmosphere on my iPod Shuffel

Sally telling me I was Ghetto

Almost getting run over by young kids driving little cars around the base of the Dove.

Teaching the Azri guys USA slang.

Gold Grills (the bruthers of da hood aint got nothin on the blinging Grills here)

People with all their teeth

Making Charlie laugh

I like Tomatoes’ (the first Azri phrase I learned, and seemingly the only one that stuck in my brain)

Flashing Gang Signs from the West Side in most snap shots

‘I got a hard on for classics’ (yours truly)

“Get on any bus. No fuck” (FL in response to my text stating that I had once again missed my bus)

Making my host mother laugh when I mess up another Azri phrase

“I ❤ U ” texts from Katie. P

Spending hours talking with Jill-dear about everything and nothing.

Basically, anytime I get to hang with Kate, Jill, and Sally.  Can I ask for better gulrs?

The kids in our conversation club thinking Nate and I were related.

Shopping with Katie in Baku.

Running into Jody outside Alimali!!!

Being BFF’s with Jody

Texting Hanna plumbing related questions on behalf of the J girls.

Actually being able to communicate a few thoughts in Azri.

Tripping EVERYWHERE.  I’m a walking hazard, its embarrassing, but provides amusement to everyone.

Having a good rush

My host mom calls me her “Fourth Beautiful daughter”

A group of guys ‘Purrring’ like cats at Jill and I when we brought water at a market.

Spending dusk on the Caspian Beach.

Finding out my site and cheering with my PC Mates!!!!

Mr. Matt knowing more about the MN Twins than I do.

Tom’s hair cut.

Tom losing his pants.

Tommy being the only person I know who can look dang fine at 5 am in only boxers and dress shoes.

Showers at Kelli’s

Seeing Blades of Glory and laughing really hard and all of a sudden missing Rousey.

Going to a Toy (wedding) with Matt

Having a video camera shoved up our faces while we danced for over 200 people at the Toy

“So, when are you guys gonna get married”  – the brides brother to Matt and I

“You look like Tom Cruise, can I get a picture with you?’  – a 17 yr.old girl in the conversation club to Matt

Cotton Ball and Stove Demonstration from Nate’s dad at 12 midnight.

Talking with Nate about things no one else would understand.

“Problem var!”

A pink, flowery, glittery, oversized birthday card from my parents.

Dancing with joy at Nate’s Birthday

“I Can Be Your Hero” as Uzeyar’s mobile ring

Singing ‘I Can Be Your Hero’ with Kelli

A post card from Alyssa.

Eating Mcdonalds French fries and actually enjoying them…then puking because they were so dreadfully nasty.

Raphiel stopping the discussion by looking me dead in the eye and saying “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you. Where have you been?’ in response to my question about AZ’s ecological future. (perhaps something was lost in translation?)

Having black feet after sitting on the beach.

Being sick and using a stupidly needy amount of Konturs to text Matt about everything.

Katie Snow calling me and finally able to hear about her STELLAR wedding.

Missing the above Katie soooo bad and needing to have a good girl talk.

Charlie getting stuck in the ‘OUT’ door of the Alimail

warning: emo

August 14, 2007

The Baku Trip.


We, I, survived.  Despite my tendency for mishaps, complete klutziness and hankering for streaking when drunk, I made it home with out major incident.  This is both a good and bad thing.  Good, because, really, I’m not here to have drunken wild antics and act like another directionless USA girl.  I have agreed to act in a certain way, and back in the states I haven’t had drunken wild antics since…uhh, a long time ago.  Cleaning up has been a long process and one I hope I stay with.  Besides, there is no reason to risk my work and reputation here for one night of blowing off steam.  Bad, because, I haven’t had an opportunity to blow off steam and let loose.  And I don’t really have an exciting story to brag about involving midgets, bribes, and the Russian Mafia   Back in the states, I’d go climb a crane, run through the Lab, or drop into the Waterfall Drain (all while pretending to take pictures he he :-).  Sometimes, doing something completely stupid is exactly what I need to get me back on the right track, I learn the hard way.  I know this about myself, which is why I was on top of the Hotel at 4am sitting on the edge, dangling my feet off.  Perfectly happy to be pushing boundaries, while justifying in my head that I was not being dangerous. I had no light; there were no lights up there.  I thought about girl that died in MN near my apartment and the ensuing panic, when before full information was released, people were scared it was me that had fallen to her death. The only light she had was her mobile.  I wanted to do something thrilling, and decided that the familiar territory of a rooftop was a way to get my fix for heights, not risk being sent home and toe the line of exciting.  If I hadn’t been on the roof top (which to me was safe) lord knows what I would have been doing. In a drunken, ruckus causing brawl with other hot headed Irish lads/lassies?  God forbid streaking?  Attempting to open city manholes? And nothing happened, I spent a long time just looking, trying to see the Bay and the Cityscape in the moonlight.  It felt like I was back in MPLS, on top if the Carlyle, thinking everything and feeling almost nothing.


Back in the city of J on Tuesday night, (after Baku) I needed to roof the Carlyle, sit on the very edge and just be.  I needed to climb a MPLS crane and be scared.  I wanted to sit in the Bridge Room and have my heart race at 100mph.  Do something that would take away stress, make things focus in sharp perspective, let me be 100% imperfect and stupid and fearless.  All I really did tho, was turn on Atmosphere loud, and bite a hole in my lip so I wouldn’t cry.  And I didn’t cry. So it worked.  Every day here is a rush, and a bumbling series of mistakes.  I’d forgotten that unfortunately I’d brought myself with me on my feeble attempts at making a difference.  The language barrier, cat calls, “Channam Kimi Isti’ weather and culture shock, pale when compared with attempting to improve myself.

*”Channam Kimi Isti” = hot as hell.  The other Azri phrase that has stuck in my head J*


August 2, 2007

Today stated out with a call from the Country Director.

No one in my family was hurt. Thank God.


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