…of the best kind-suddenly receiving a fresh bouquet of flowers in a mass of vibrant colors and realizing that you only have one small vase and then occupying yourself for

30 min.by transforming small containers into stunning pieces of joy/sunshine/true beauty.

Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
C. S. Lewis

new place to sleep

May 13, 2008

Most everyone knows that I was required to live with a host family for at least 6 months; at the end of which, I would be allowed to move into my own house/flat. What everyone may not know, (and I didn’t know, but do now) is that finding a house/flat for rent is damm near impossible, and would bring me to the point of tears/yelling. I had been, in top form of American efficiency looking for a house/flat since last Nov. (and naively believed that my hard work would produce a place by mid March) but it wasn’t until April 22nd that I actually moved in to a new-ish place. Think about the atmosphere right before a thunderstorm, tornado, typhoon, or the second before you jump into a big row with someone you know-that was the state of things in the weeks leading up to moving out-and just to cover my bases, I’m quite sure 50% of that tension was caused by me. All the bloody details are not worth rehashing, the details would probably confuse you, I’m still in the dark on a few points, but the summery is that, I had let myself be miserable with the host family (instead of trying to make the best out of a bad lot) and then gave up even trying to remedy the issues, as it had reached the point where nothing I did was acceptable and my very living with them became a game of avoidance and since we (the host family and I) weren’t talking, avoiding was easy and it wasn’t until the day I moved out that I got my last proper does of being yelled at. So that is, on the surface at least, over.

My house is one kitchen, one room, (though really it more of a studio/flat in size, style, comforts, location) that shares a yard with a large house that is occupied by a family. I would like to happily note, that upon moving in one of the first things I noticed was that the chickens were kept in a pen, and stayed in the pen, and except for the rooster somehow managing to hop up on the nearby tin roof to screech at 5AM (if you got that far, why not just escape?) they eat, sleep, squirt, mate and lay eggs in the confines of the coop. This is glorious, as it means I will no longer have to clean squirt off my shoes or be ambushed by crazed foul when using the bathroom at night. That I find this noteworthy, shows just how thoroughly irritating and filthy a group of chickens running around ape-sh-t wild 24/7 is.

The walls in my little kitchen and bed/living/study/hanging out room are painted sea foam green, the trim around the doors and windows is white-the effect is that of a sea-side summer cottage in a warm climate, which is almost accurate, except for the months Nov-March and that the Caspian Sea is a 2 hour ride away. I ripped pictures out of my Paris calendar, and taped up the black&white photos in the kitchen, creating a space, that is “artsy’ as said by Jody but missing any personal work-I regret not bringing at least a few of the prints I had collected from various photographer friends last winter-but I do have 2 small framed prints of Hamms and Alpha as gifts from MG, one (completely stunning in its simplicity) print from Mike’s photo project as a gift from MP, and read through el Draino (for the 5th time-I miss drains) and ripped out a few good drain snaps
(Courtesy of Ds and Siolo); all of which shall soon be proudly displayed in some fashion-though jury is still out on where the SydHarbour and AZ topographical map will go up!

My one room has 2 double beds, with normal spreads, and while I miss my 80’s adult movie star faux gold satin coverlet, I prefer function over faux and can now use my beds as couches without danger of sliding off and bruising/breaking a body part (highly likely it would be a ‘battery’ or knee-both necessary for running, and therefore important to not incapacitate). The best part of the room though, is the bookshelf, which until I properly placed books on its shelves, had functioned in storage as a hotel for a ridiculously high amount of spiders-who were killed when I brilliantly sprayed Azeri glass cleaner, called ‘Venus-YENI formula!’ on them, something about the ‘crunch’ makes it gross to smash arachnids, while I’m not in the least bit scared of them. The bookshelf is wonderful, and now holds everything from comedy, (Bill Bryson and Klosterman), and old school classics (Passage to India, and Sister Carrie) to modern pieces of easily consumed fluff (Water for Elephants and Icy Sparks) and autobiographies (The Audacity of Hope and Africa in my Blood)

The kitchen stove is a set of 3 burners on a desk, (which is, I have no doubt, a relic from the soviet times, the tiny drawers hold the few kitchen accessories I possess) while the real oven/stove appliance sits, broken on my porch (I have a porch!), no refrigerator, one small table (doubles as a desk), one chair (until a day ago when I increased my chairs by 300% and now have 3 chairs), and I am in possession of the following kitchen utensils: one knife (very dull) one fork, 2 spoons (one big, one small-there is a ‘Scrubs’ joke in here somewhere)) 2 chy glasses, one plate, a saucer, a salt shaker, and a tea kettle; all of which fit nicely inside the afore mentioned desk drawers (except for the kettle which has a perminate home on a burner) It is actually a lot to own, considering that I hadn’t owned anything kitchen related until then, and it makes things creative in that I really can’t cook a whole lot (except for things that must be boiled in water) and therefore have had a very healthy diet of fresh veggies for the last several weeks-though there is a slight snafu when I have people over, the whole sharing forks and a plate game is a bit annoying and makes eating a pain. But, I have my coffeemaker, and most importantly, privacy, which is worth its weight in gold allowing me to finally possess the luxury of walking home after a hard day to turn on Band of Horses (current favorite chill music) and to savor being alone and the ability to act normal.

When in comes to running in the ‘Baijan, nothing is easy.  Running through the ghetto in MPLS (which is what I usually did) pales in comparison.  If states side running is a nice drive through the country, then AZ running is the Indy500 thrown into a war zone.  I have mentioned in the past the amount of obstacles encountered, including but not limited to the following: cows appearing out of nowhere, pot holes the size of kiddy swimming pools, piles of rubbish, piles of poo, random concrete blocks, smashed rats, smashed dogs, angry geese, lack of street lights, cars driving down the wrong side of the road, and crazy bus drivers.  Until just last week, I had lived a semi charmed running life, in that I had not been attacked by dogs and have only been followed once by some guys in a white car who thought it was fascinating to watch me run. (Personally I disagree with this opinion, but oh well).  Then, straight on the heels of being target practice for 10year olds, I was running to some very angry Atmosphere (the volume up very loud-this serves the purpose that if some early morning people want to yell at me I cant hear it and my run is more enjoyable), it wasn’t until the song ended that I realized that I was being chased by a very angry dog who was uncomfortably close to my backside.  I have never been chased by dogs before, (Though there was that one time when dogs were looking for me..but that’s not a story for this blog) and strangely enough am not really scared of them-this could be due to the fact that I grew up with dogs and owned a big German shepherd for 10 years-anyway, I was being chased by a dog and I was alone and that was not my idea of a good time.  I was still mad at being shot and decided to take on the dog, I wheeled around, and charged at the 4 legged beast yelling some magnificent cuss words and waving my arms (there is a trend here that I’m not sure is so good or proper, but this seems to be my preferred method for dealing with annoyingly bad situations, such as ROUS’s and 10yr old boys with BBguns, etc.)  It worked, the dog, not expecting an angry 2 legged beast, was momentarily shocked into 3 seconds of frozen muteness and then tucked his tail between his legs and ran (very very quickly) whimpering all the way down the street, hanging his head. I have since run through that same area, and the dog is most obviously not present.

Let it be known:

Azeri Dogs: 0

PCV running at 6am: 1


May 6, 2008

The views, ideas, and positions contained herein are solely those of the author(s), and do not in any way reflect the positions of nor carry approval from the United States Government, the U.S. Peace Corps, or their members or leadership. This blog is provided “as-is” for entertainment purposes only, and no warranty is expressed or implied as to its fitness or suitability for any given purpose or application. By commenting on or otherwise contributing to this blog, contributors acknowledge that they and they alone are responsible for the content of their contributions, and that neither WordPress.com nor MCMacDonald, as Service Providers as defined in the Communications Decency Act, are responsible nor liable for the actions of their users.”

I knew, 10 min after landing in the ‘Baijan that I was walking target.  Unfortunately I had been lulled into thinking that they (the delinquent boys in my village) had gotten used to my weirdness (and the fact that I not only wear sunglasses, I also wear shades WHILE listening to my iPod.)  There I was minding my own business, reading a book, on a nice day, in an old park.; there were 4 guys who had been unsuccessfully trying to get the attention of my site mate and me.  What these guys lacked in creativity (the used such techniques as strutting by every 15 min while playing Enrique on their mobiles, climbing trees, sitting on near by benches while staring/yelling at us: soooo last year) they made up for in persistence, by stubbornly refusing to admit utter and complete rejection even after over an hour had passed.  Deciding that the benches where truly uncomfortable, we moved to a mini-pavilion and carried on with our reading. The tranquility lasted 30min and then, mid way through a memoir/essay/short story on homes and the ideas of space and time contained with in the idea of home (how exciting!) I was shot in the back by a BB, that was launched from a plastic BB gun made to look like a machine gun, that had been aimed at me by a snot nosed 10 year old boy, who was carrying out the dirty work of the rejected teenage boys who lacked the courage to actually shot the gun themselves (“look!!! An American girl, I hear its top season for them”) and were cowering behind a plastic slide waiting to see my reaction.  Being startled/surprised/angry/mad I threw my book down and ran at the boy, yelling, (choice cuss words) when I reached the boy, he tried to pass off the blame by pointing to a 7 year old boy (who wasn’t holding a plastic machine gun and had just innocently emerged from a tube slide and looked confused).  I stood there telling my self to NOT grab the gun and beat the shit out of the kid and NOT turn on the menacing teenagers as target practice for the instrument of doom replica -somewhere someone decided that making plastic BB guns that look like machine guns was a good/lucrative idea, I however strongly disagree with that person and am quite convinced that the inventor/ manufacture of said product had never interacted with/known a group of board-out-of their-minds-teenagers and a 10year boy, if they had, they would have know the likelihood of such a product being used for evil cruel purposes (such as harassment of foreign women in parks) was very high if not inevitable and furthermore placing such a thing in the hands of a boy is unleashing certain doom on various small woodland animals such as chipmunks, robins, rabbits, and the occasional squirrel (though I hate tree rats so I’m not so broken up about them, and besides they reproduce like a bad virus).  Displaying an astounding amount of self control, I simply yelled at the teenagers and the boys in a wretched mix of Azeri/English and while some cuss words may not directly translate, I’m quite positive the general meaning was perfectly clear.   After thoroughly making a fool of my self I walked away, though after 10 feet I wasn’t convinced that I’d made my point and for good measure (and to seal my doom of being a spectacle) turned an yelled something to the equivalent of “and take that you little beasts!” 


I really was quite angry.  And I was thinking, I can’t remember the last time (in the last 3 or 4 years) back in the states, or anywhere, that I was harassed or picked on.  I don’t consider the spectators at the Twin Cities or Boston Marathon yelling/cheering as a form of harassment, I wanted/needed people to cheer, and it wasn’t done because they didn’t like my clothes, or thought I was an easy women, they were actually encouraging me to run faster(although, if you’ve ever ran/watched a marathon, us runners do look pretty damm funny with short short shorts, race numbers, and sweat involved)  I understand those boys wanted a reaction out of me and were pushing to see how a far they could go and while I hate to admit it, I’m guilty of needling people as well; for some strange reason us mean little humans like pissing people off.  In my head, I’m of course able to justify my own bad behavior (for various reasons, such as thinking the other person deserves it etc), but fly into a tizzy when a dull group of raging hormone teenage boys are able to justify their behavior based on the face that I don’t belong, am American, wear sunglasses, and was very obviously asking for attention by sitting in a park on a nice day, (why else would I be sitting in the park reading?) [That was sarcastic]  I know that, more than anything else, I hate thinking/feeling that I have no options or ability to retaliate, and the situation in the park was one of those times; me against 6, the odds are bad, and really nothing would be gained by kicking their arises (though that’s truly what I wanted to do).  Its not so much the BB Gun, its that on a daily basis, I have to just duck my head and take the yelling, kissing/teeth sucking/tisking noises, rude gestures, nasty gossip, and shoddy treatment all while the general consensus is that, by being different, reading in the park, wearing sunglasses, I deserve it.  Now, it might seem logical to simply stop those things, but, the problem is that, weather I wear sunglasses or not, I’ll still get yelled at becasue it will be something else, or simply the fact that I’m a single American woman.  And, from my viewpoint, which I consider valid, even if I am being awkward, it doesn’t justify the bad treatment.  I  am aware that there are things I shouldn’t do to be culturally appropriate, but, but, Azeri women go to the park with their girl friends, and wear sunglasses, while because American women are perceived as being more ‘loose’ I can do the same things and its considered bad.  This is extraordinarily annoying, since on one hand, I can understand that perception: most of what the Azeri’s in the regions see of American culture and women in general is from music videos by Madonna, Beyonce (sp?), Rehanna (sp?) and various other pop/faux hip hop groups in which the women are over sexed (Madonna) or objectified (50Cent) and welcome the degrading attention of males.  So then, not only is this silly behavior seen as normal, its encouraged.  On the other hand, there is no logical way that how I dress and act can even be compared to the teasing of oversexed American pop stars,(not to mention my hair, which is almost always in a pony tail and unless I’ve been asleep for the past 6 years, pony tails don’t scream pop-star sexy in any culture) lest I be taken as culturally insensitive, I do act correctly and follow the rules, but, really, when the sun is blinding bright (as it already is in ISM) I’m going to wear my sunglasses, and when it’s a nice day, I’m going to walk in the park with a friend.  I was having this conversation with someone who I respect, and she made a point along the lines, that this was the only time in my life when people would like I looked like a rock star or model or Pamela Anderson and I better enjoy it while it lasts… (Though we can talk later about Ms. Anderson)   Now the issues is that by acting just like a typical Azeri women, the repressive treatment is encouraged, by acting like a free American, I offend culture and ruin my reputation.  And here I am trying to be a role model for the youth, and exactly, where do I find the balance between brashly flaunting my free American values and buckling/bowing to a system that disrespects and limits the freedom of women?   (Meh.  I know, I know, America culture isn’t innocent and Azeri culture is not all bad)   So that’s what I have to figure out on a daily basis.





%d bloggers like this: