Soviet Era Heavey Khimikals:1

September 27, 2008

(summary of the places we saw)

Train Yard:

Old trollycar graveyard, though it had lots of broken glass goodness was a short visit.  We were chased out by an obese yelling man in camo pants, his dog (which was the better looking of the two, even though both had the same amount of hair) and several mothers who felt obligated to add their reproches, (something about corrupting the kiddies, I’m sure) just for the hell of it.


Soviet Warehouse? Storage?

An amazing night, that started well with a trip to a grocery store in which everything imaginable was stocked in the produce section in abundant heaps of various colors, shapes, and textures that involved broccoli, spinach, and pineapple; 3 delicacies that rarely make their way to my village.   There was also an entire cooler stocked with beer which caused a moment of confusion, when upon being asked to choose a beverage I didn’t see 33’s and was at a total loss on which brand to consume. The bus ride to location was surprisingly more crowded then any Azeri bus I’ve been on (though not hotter, doubt that any bus, crowded or not can be hotter than a Symquat bus in Aug) but was redeemed by two things: I was not the smelliest person riding and was smashed up next to the hawt Aussie(s).  (The plural is for Qx’s embarrassment/benefit)  Hauling bags of tasty loot we made our way to the top, while the Kiev group, in a mixture of Ukrainian/Russian/English/Hand gestures gave us the history of the building, which I may or may not have correct.  The summary is that in the midst of building a place to house or make computers either the money ran out, they got board, someone died, the soviet era ended, or possibly all four.  In any event the hulking remains were basically a brick and concrete playground of interconnecting stairs, massive rooms, ladders, and multilevel rooftops, one of which served as the perfect host for a bonfire, roasted food, and good conversation.

Fresh work: YES!

September 26, 2008

4 days    300 people from all over the world   100’s of amazing conversations with people who are passionate about helping and empowering youth.

4 job offers

I may be in in Iran, Cameroon, Amsterdam or India next year and the idea of not having a solid plan but possibility and opportunity is thrilling.


September 23, 2008

Summer recap. (written right before i went on holiday….somehow never made it way to the public ’till now)

I love summer in the AzerBeJay Watermelon (garpuzi), long days, early morning runs, cold showers after, blinding sun, invasive heat, friendly people, Sunday morning market (like the Mpls farmers market on Nicollet, but louder, dirtier and smellier), pomidor for 40qap a kilo at said market, new HA fountain (with colors and timed music), dusk, dawn, open windows, no school, picking peaches from the yard, wearing Faux-Bans (from Istanbul), and huge awesome powerful storms with painful rain and shocking thunder followed by razor sharp lightning.  (ha and the part I just found on my f–ked computer 9.28.08)

Additionally to all the present things that make summer,  there is, in the near future, the promise of a rad 2 weeks of begin normal and and doing all the drain/photography/ninja/dirty things a girl could hope for.(in retro this is even more funny)

Since moving to my little hayet ev (yard house) I can say with absolute certainty that my outlook and productivity has improved/increased by nearly 100%, I was busy before, but now, I realized that it’s the end of July (errr actually mid August) and most of the personal things I wanted to accomplish by now, such as studying for my GRE’s, sketching at least one page a day, losing my Xerdilan roll, and learning Russian, have only slightly been incorporated into my daily to-do lists. I’ve been damm busy and while last winter I dreaded being alone, I actually have to make myself sit alone at home, doing nothing, just meditating, for at least 2 hours a week to ward off any craziness from being around people, both Azeris and Americans all the time.
For the first time in my life, I truly love my work and the youth I work with. I was very nervous about starting the photography classes, but after a few rocky weeks the entire project has gone amazingly well. Its strange being in the position of having to explain the concept of personal expression and original thoughts to 17 year olds who’s only idea of art is copying what they see in books. Though I’m only teaching one class at a time (each session lasting 5-6 weeks) there is more involved that just showing up with a lesson plan. The youth have never used cameras before, they only want to take pictures of the HA statue, the batteries must be charged, the photos printed, the costs reported, the assignments checked, the questions answered (“What does ‘frame’ mean?” “How do I photograph people?”) and constructive criticism dolled out accordingly. Next session, I’ll have one of my current students help me teach, as one day the class got stuck on the words ‘contrast’ ‘subject’ and ‘emphasis’, which even with my mad Azer/English/Hand Gestures skillz were nearly impossible to translate completely. With Mike leaving soon, I’ve been scrambling to organize all my ideas for further photo projects that will build off the classes we teach this summer. As of now, the furthest I’ve gotten is typing an outline of a documentary project that will follow students in their first year at university as they move away from the regions and into the big Vegas of the east that is Baku.

100% pure…

September 15, 2008

…Comedy Gold:

When I run in the morning the taxi drivers still stop and ask me where i’m going and if i want a ride.

My response: I’m running to America, the plane ticket was too expensive, now leave me the hell alone.


September 13, 2008

last night in Moscow

thanks to skyfi


In honor of Ram,

September 12, 2008

…who taught me how to dance India style at Notra Dame (the calculation is that 2 hours of dancing with Ram makes me a bit less white)

…Has mega curry power

…reminded me of the wonderfulness of Bollywood films

…provides translation/inerpertation for the Hindi parts of  Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom

…also introduced me to the joys of Gossip Girl (so very bad, you just must have more!)

Lift your curry, shimmy the AWE dance, and Yaxşı Yol Ram, I’ll miss you!


September 11, 2008

     Over a two days of self imposed alone time, in which I probably was more lazy than normal/proper/healthy (but did write/photograph/think/draw/create/wander a bit/drink coffee/) I came to the conclusion that I must make/own/wear a red dress similar to the one worn by Marion Cotllard in “Love me if You Dare” though, while she wears it with flats, heels would be necessary to compensate for my laughter inducing short legs.


Red: (by wiki)


September 8, 2008

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             Arrived in Kiev on 3 hours of sleep, smelling like a moldy blanket, to be greeted by hugs and handshakes from gloriously non-unibrowed, Aussie/French/British slang spewing, flip flop sporting, camera toting, bad arse mo fo gangsta/ninjas (AKA:Dsankt, Siologen, Quantum-X) who have quit their day jobs temporarly to ‘bust mad explorables’ for the next few months.  When its been 2 years, there is a lot of ground to cover and in about 5 min it was painfully obvious that I had been living under the figurative rock when it came to slang/current events/life in general, always helpful the trio made an effort to educate me, which in the next weeks resulted in awkward conversations in which I tried to use slang, only to generally horridly confuse myself, them and everyone around us.


               First afternoon spent a hilarious chunk of time wandering the undergarment sections of a large Kiev department store (think Sears or JCPenny in a historic building) in the midst of which we found several neon orange (complete with piping/trim) briefs that took a nod at Azeri bazaar shopping and seemed to be the perfect gift for hardcore ninjas; alas said undergarments stayed safely on their overly excited models awaiting their next unsuspecting/color blind victim.


                  The realization, which hit a few hours after landing in Kiev, (and sometime between  the mentioned department store trip and splashing through a fountain in a public square) that I was unremarkable, was, indescribably delicious, and while the culture shock maybe never completely subsided (the entire holiday I felt trashy wearing a old black lace tank top and had to be frequently reminded by a certain person in an effective way that showing of emotion/personality in public was acceptable/expected) the anonymity was a tasty drug (in reality, we, the four of us, were stupidly obvious as not belonging) and one that, surprisingly enough was confusing/fascinating/draining/comforting all at once.  It became tiresome trying to vocalize the differences/shocks/confusion of my silly/over stimulated brain, since nearly everything (other than the presence of a few brands of candy/fruit juice/lady speed stick) was to me diametrically opposed to what I’d been living with the last 14 months; really there are only so many times one can utter “…Oh, wow, in the ‘baijan/AzerBeeJay/Az its not like that, its…” 

Consider that less that 2 blocks from the Moscow hostel there was not only a sushi restaurant (affordable) but also a Pizza Hut (not Pizza Hat, though, I do admire the sly Baku nod to mass distribution of western consumption), and  boutique clothing store (with handbags the size of me and tops that would only fit a skeleton) and within a 2 min walk of the Kiev hostel a real honest to God over priced pretentious coffee shop (the kind which I sheepishly admitted to frequenting alone in the Americanstan days), a park with green grass (in/on which people engaged in all sorts of PDA/drinking/talking) and a grocery story that sold cheap bananas (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  Of course as we, I, were only tourists, the perspective was/is entirely limited (as to the true economic/social state of said countries/cities) but being offered the chance to engage in normally forbidden simple happinesses was not something to let slip by, and with the eagerness of a child on her first big adventure, I did my best to make up for 14 months without by partaking of the following: (in no particular order)

Walking around (in public) in muddy clothing with a headlamp

Shameless PDA (everywhere)

Night wandering ( and not getting followed)

Photographing decay, graffiti, tunnels, drains, ‘lonely chairs’, abandonments, people et. all

Drooling over black knee high leather boots

Making grand exits from drains (video, security guards etc)

Thumbing my nose at cops

Eye contact with males

Sewerfresh (TM: Siologen)

Road trip  (ok, ok, it was a tiny one, but we got lost and had to make a 5 mile turn around; I’ll make it count for now, though Ds will likely disagree)

Good sleep

Waking up in the best way  (not involving a disgruntled rooster at 5am)

Climbing dodgy underground structures,

Buying alcohol (then drinking)

Rooftop views

Underground parties

Assisting  Siolo, Ds, Qx in drain shots

Jumping a freight car (first time!)

Drop Bear Animal Crackers (unexplainably funny)

started when…

September 5, 2008

… prompted by Dsankt, I realized that I lacked the necessary thigh rubber (aka thigh high waders) for mad explorable drains/sewers/rivers etc of the cities of Kiev and Moscow.  Rather than leave to fate the purchase of said footwear in strange eastern European cities, I braved the shoe bazaar with my site mate in a stupidly optimistic quest. Of course it was futile, the end result of a 3 hour wander (dodging hairy hanims, rabid dogs, ferial cats, smelly proshkie, piles of rotting meant/fruit/veggies and neon green plastic hammon slides) was that not only did I scandalize myself by hopping while trying on a pair of children’s rubber boots, but my hopping was caught by an elderly gentleman (who also happens to be one of my bosses) who stopped dead in his tracks to watch with his mouth hanging open, which he managed to only close long enough to basically ask “What in the @#!% are you doing?” shooting for a casual mood, I simply replied “I’m shopping for waders, what are you doing?” as if it was the most natural thing in the world, which prompted him to turn to the next closest vender and announce “She’s looking for waders!?”  And soon in a horrifically quick game of telephone, my quest was announced to not only the shoe bazaar but also the dairy, liver, herb, bolt, wire and nail vendors in turn.  In a moment of brilliance I decided I’d risk buying thigh rubber anonymously and made my exit, amid stares, shouts and whistles.  Duly Noted: Do not attempt to buy waders in ones own village.


With that as my final big event in my village, I made my escape via dreadfully bumpy taxi, sharing the back seat with a nice lady, her pooping chicken and a man who stubbornly insisted on rubbing his non-deodorized armpit on my shoulder every time we hit a bump (considering the wretched state of the road, this occurred every 7.5 min).  Arriving in Baku, I realized, that, ironically, my shoulder had now acquired a pit stain and that my laptop had gotten into a fight with the taxi boot,(that’s for Siolo and Ds), lost miserably, and was now somewhere hovering between the heaven/hell of computer after life.

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