holiday cheer, or something.

December 29, 2008

Upon venturing outside to visit the library in hopes that the computer had magically self-healed, I walked past a group of men, (30’s ish)…being too spineless to actually stand out, the men huddled closer, while each one took turns yelling  “how much?!”  at me.

Tis sad that some Americans I know are just as pathetic as those men.

In contrast, L and I went in search of an internet card at the bazaar.  The guy who owned the shop gave me a free 20 hour card because:  ‘Oh, you are a teacher at school#1, thank you. I know you. Happy New Year! May Allah bless you!’

So that is what I love and hate about being here.  That everything is constantly different and in the course of a day, things can be amazingly good and then frustratingly awful.  The extremes are constant, and sometimes, I almost wish I could turn off everything and myself…but then on second thought, it seems that the vast contrasts found in experiences, people, things, times, moments, and places is what makes this whole thing worth while…and one hell of a story.

2008 was a good year.

(Last few posts have been more personal than usual, have not yet identified why I have the urge to mass vent [always a bit messy] never fear, raging sarcasm, bad photos, and international delinquency are on tap along with a ‘years best’ post)


Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2008

My wonderful adopted AZ family purchased a small Christmas Tree for me.

green plastic cheer!
green plastic cheer!

(meh i know its blurry)

And, yes, I did cry when they surprised me with it.  Kindness from people, in any form, has a tendency to produced that reaction.  The reason for the gift was ‘You are too sad Colleen, this will make you happy and then you can celebrate your American holiday and you wont miss your family so much.’ 

J and I just spent the evening making glittery paper snowflakes, drinking hot chocolate and listening to Brian Setzer Big Band swing music.  J misses the non-commercial American Christmas almost as much as I do.  We have been singing Christmas carols to each other; however, of course we can’t remember the proper words, so it mostly ends up being very loud, very off key, but very enthusiastic humming.  This makes us both quite happy.



Ninja The Kitten.  It took a few weeks for me to realize, but Ninja cannot meow, the closest thing is a smokers raspy rattle that he spits out when hungry,pissed or needing attention.  This was made clear when I accidentally stepped on him…

I had been unsure about what to do for Christmas, (didn’t want to be alone, sick ness, too much work, lack of money, etc) but recently, when my stress tured into a  foul mood and broke forth in cussing, (at everything/anything within eye site/reach- similar to last year,  a habit which unfortunately, I’m neither proud of nor in any hurry to fix) it became apparent that a small break was necessary and a good life choice.

So tomorrow I’m off to a southern-ish region to be with a small group of quality friends, drink mulled wine, eat vegan food, take a breath and rest…the idea and hope of sleep is delightful.

(This was sent in an email I received earlier today from KP. The back story is best saved for one of those sharing moments we [anyone reading and I] are likely to never have, therefore, simply read, enjoy and never forget):

“ps- Jesus loves you.”

the work

December 18, 2008

I’ve been running around all crazy trying to tie up/sort out details for the youth photo exhibit in January.  (I can’t remember being this stressed out over something I enjoyed, other than the time I had to present 10 of my paintings and defend their creation to one Mr. Morgan of the UMN Art Department) 

Anyway, things seem to flying in different directions, the venue has changed only 3 times in the last few weeks, several of the youth have gone MIA (possibly due to the cold, its probably below zero), refreshments has been scrapped then added in only a dozen times (they were finally scrapped today, for good), the date has jumped around due to an important dead person having a birthday,(right now the dates are mostly set as Jan 8-10) and uncertainty reigns about exactly how long it will take the printer to make, well, prints of our photo files.  Add all of that on top of the impending holidays and things are a bit strained.  However, lest it seem like I’m whining, I’m actually enjoying everything, if the exhibit flies, it will literally be the fruit/result of 3 years of combined work from not only Nate, Mike, and me but over 40 youth from Ming and ISM.  The photos are nothing short of stunning and the kiddos really deserve this chance to show what they’ve done.  This weekend Nate Dangerous (a nickname bestowed by me from our first trip to Baku) is in town to help sort photos, meet with the youth to design announcements/invitations and sift through several dozen essays to choose a few (they will accompany the photos) that address the theme of the exhibit, ‘Is it good or bad to be different from others?’  (The photography project was designed to encourage and teach the youth how to use photography as a way to show not only their own thoughts but also as a means/way to address social issues.)  Once the announcements are made, I’ll post one with several of the student photos as well as a few snaps from the event.


 Busy is very, very, good, I’ve had little energy to remember that I’m pathetically lonely, miss my family a lot, am stressing about post PC job/wander and find winter to be dreadful without snowboarding.  This busyness induced semi-apathy has also prevented me from flying into a blinding rage with the new game the delinquent boys have made up.  Its called ‘Sand outside the Ingliss Guz’s Window in 2 Feet of Snow at all Odd Hours and Yell Loudly in Hopes that She will come out and Decide to be your Girlfriend’. 


I refuse to tell them to stop, I hope they get frostbite.


December 13, 2008

Umbrella Gentleman

Umbrella Gentleman

 My students informed me about him and we’ve been on the lookout for 3 months. And there he is, hiding inthe HA park.


Ismailli, from the graveyard on the hil
Ismailli, from the graveyard on the hil

Last October, we went with the couch surfers to this lovely spot, its just outside Ismaillli, you can see for miles and there is a huge old tree, perfect for shading picnics.


I am perhaps the world’s worst liar, when I try and lie, you know it. Take an already painfully awkward girl, times by 10, add in all the classic give aways of lying and there I am. I can’t do it.  I blush, laugh, act more awkward, shift eyes, knot hands, look to the left (or is it right?) shift feet, basically I do everything possible to let the person(s) I’m talking to know that I’m attempting a lie for some god only knows reason and that I feel rather bad/embarrassed about the whole thing.  (My childhood dream of being a spy has obviously been trashed)  This dramatically changed when I landed in the AZ and spoke none of the language; lying became frighteningly easy.  At first there were twinges of guilt (ok, huge piles of guilt) accompanied by all the afore mentioned signs.  I was sure in the first 9 months of AZ life someone would call me out on my ridiculous behavior.  No such luck, what I attribute to bad lying was covered by loads of cultural awkwardness and a language barrier that assuaged my icky feelings associated with lying about various personal life details. 


The lie of the fiancée, that stared as a knee-jerk reaction to being accused (within a week of arriving in ISM) of being a lose women (a mild term for what they really called me) has now grown into a monster.  At first I just told people I was engaged. But then as my language improved I couldn’t just say ‘I don’t understand’ everyone knows I reached a certain lever of competence with the Azeri language; they don’t let me slide anymore.  At first I developed a strategy of calling the FauxDude by random names that were, for lack of a better term, pulled out the arse at the moment.  This worked swimmingly until, in typical form I’d be asked by the same person what the fiancée’s name was and I’d forget and stumble around looking for a guys’ name that had lots of nicknames. (FYI Bob, Tony, Mike, Matt, Chris, Dan, have been reused favorites)  Picking an occupation was easy, there are really only a few professions that I can remember and actually say something about; these are limited to the following: Doctor, Engineer, Teacher, Computer ProgrammerDesigner, Photographer, Economist.  Problem is I’m too stupid to remember which profession he currently is engaged in, producing comic conversations that start with ‘Oh I thought Bob was a teacher?’ ‘Who is Dan?’  Once it’s established that Dan is in fact an Economist, the follow up question is naturally, ‘Where does Dan the Economist live?’  Originally my plan was to pick a state I’ve visited (NY, PA, S.Dak., Mich, Ill etc) and expound on that, which proved more difficult since the next logical question was ‘Why didn’t you get married before you came to AZ?’  (Canceling the whole point of lying and putting me back in the category of ‘lose woman’ since no proper man living in the states would let his woman travel to AZ alone)  Then I hit upon a brilliant solution, if FauxDude works in another country it’s the fail safe excuse for why we haven’t married yet, don’t have a date, and don’t really see each other.  (At all.)  I’d choose a country, at least 3 time zones away that I’d visited and knew a far amount about (i.e.; South Korea, Ireland, England, France) plunk FauxDude down in say, Seoul and then describe the country; a stunningly smooth diversion taking the spotlight off FauxDude.  The most difficult country to describe proved to be Ireland, which when pronounced in my wonky America/Midwest accent sounds like the way Azeri’s pronounce Iran-this resulted in one too many heated political conversations and near arguments, so I moved FauxDude to London, where to my knowledge he is now living a very happy life as an Engineer and misses me something fierce. 


If this sounds beyond ridiculous, it is. 


Since I’ve been building up this lie for over a year in hopes of being accepted and protecting my reputation, there really is no way of backing down now. Breaking up with FauxDude is even more scandalous than me clearly being a blithering idiot to 90% of the ISM population. Thankfully, no one has seriously called me out…yet.  What is most frustrating is that, at this point, I’m comfortable enough with my work/ reputation/language/people to just say that I’m not/never will/don’t want to be engaged/married/in a relationship/life partner.  The temptation is to just level with my close friends; admit that I’ve been lying for the past year and then eat crow.  Of course nothing is ever simple, and on top of the FauxDude there are a few other lies that make a nicely tangled knot of stupidity.  I haven’t decided what to do.


Anyway, lets face it, if your only interaction with/knowledge of American women was the shocking chicks of MTV music videos and  previous volunteers who made Mrs. Beaver look like a skank, and then suddenly, a 25 year old single woman, clearly not tall or blond, shows up in your town with a nose piercing and a 14g stainless steel bar punched through her ear, sporting trimmed eyebrows/trousers/skull shirts, and saying she is here to help your kids become better citizens…you’d jump away in fear and run for hills while tisking, but you’d be damm glad that some upstanding man somewhere was willing to bite the bullet and do society a favor by marrying her and protecting the rest of the population from her obvious ability to corrupt all males within a 10 ft. radius.

“Personally, I dislike lies” he said.  “I find that if you act them out long enough, you begin believing them.  You’ll find that lies are natural for people here.  Having a façade is normal, because being honest is such a hassle.  You have to decide what bothers you most-lying all the time, or the consequences of openness.”
 Lipstick Jihad Azadeh Moaveni


December 11, 2008

…9 months to Close of Service

Not that I’m counting down or anything.

First snow falling right now.

Seems like not enough time to do everything, to make real friendships, to reach a place where I can leave with the knowledge that I did something positive.


It suddenly really hit me.  When done here, I’ll have the ability, freedom, opportunity to go anywhere, and do basically whatever I want.  It is astoundingly, mind numbingly selfish.  Lacking a house, car, kid, significant other person, I could close my eyes, spin a globe, drop my finger and then GO…

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