In answer to the general question of what the heck I’m doing, find something on this list…I never listed my dream to be doing exactly what I’m doing now, teaching youth photography and living abroad in a crazy country-I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever see that dream realized, everything else seemed easy to accomplish in comparison to what I’m doing now.

The list started in ’06 and carries on to present.

Learn 2 other languages (French, Azeri, Spanish….)

Stay proficient in ASL

Own a DSLR and all related gear

4 gallery shows (at a minimum) of my art (painting, photography, mixed media)

Have my own studio space

BASE jump into Sotano de las Golondrinas

Climb Mt. Fuji

Run the Altitude marathon at Pikes Peak

Make it through the Peace Corps

Own sufficient rock climbing gear

Proficient in swing, salsa, tango and waltz. (Learn to belly dance)

Live in Paris and photograph the hell out of the place

Spend at least 6 months photographing the wild horses in SouthDakota

Burren, Ireland, hiking.

Broadway show of Beauty and the Beast and Phantom.

Hot air balloon ride

Get a tattoo

Be a mentor to a child(s)

Masters/PHD in foreign relations/advocate /photography/communication

Campaign against human trafficking

Deep sea dive (explore an ocean wreck)

Well read in theology of Christianity and other religions

Well read in classical literature.

Flat stomach.

Lead a detoxified, organic, clean lifestyle.

Travel to every continent

Pay Off Student loans

Travel/Boat the Amazon

Travel/Boat the Nile

Rappel out a helicopter

Published photography and writing in National Geographic

Create film/photography documentary on AZBoyz HipHop Group

 Bringing the phraze ‘cuddle slut’ to a new level, Ninja lived the last 4 months of his life in lux comfort, surrounded by ‘cute animal to pet’ starved volunteers and generous quantities of 2.00AZN tins of tuna (which means his food cost more than mine).

Unfortunately, Ninja  met his end at the hands of an astoundingly stupid 10 year old boy, whose, only somewhat remarkable quality could be considered that he has, and will continue to live the cliche of  ‘mommas boy’-and the momma is worth mentioning, sporting the name ‘Latifa’  and not in any way a Queen, possessed of rhyming skillz or a sassy mouth-this ‘Latifa’ is missing most of her teeth, smells wretched and spent 40 min yelling at me in garbled Azeri, only pausing long enough at the 20 min mark to order her boy to take Ninja to the rubbish heap.

RIP Ninja!

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Ninja spent the first few weeks hiding- under the petch was pathetic optimism, as I was without heat for the first 6 weeks I had him

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However, counter tops were made for Posin Mad Stylez! 

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My Girls! L-R: Aysel, Lily,Unknown, Sevda, Gunay






                                                                                 L-R: Gunel, Unknown, Jamila, Colleen

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My Boys!  L-R: Hatria, Jessica (AZ6), Sahib, Fariq, Chavid, Rustam, Farid, with Elmira attempting  bunny ears.

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  • The Man in the Black SUV is back like the plague, appearing out of no where when I’m alone and following me home.  Somehow in spite of 2 house moves and a brief homeless stint last Fall, he still managed to find me now that warmer weather has hit. I see this as evidence of him possessing no life whatsoever as well as the creativity of a dish sponge.  In the words of DS. ‘You need a guard dog!’
  • Which bring up the issues of dogs.  In the summer gangs of dogs roll around Izzy Town (TM Dushka) barking, humping, drooling and decorating the little grass that still exists with rubbish.  Usually these gangs consist of a token little Dashand/Welsh Corgi mix that windmills his legs to trot pathetically being the big dogs that collectively resemble a hairy grunge band (Pearl Jam??) of wonky faced boxers who always lost the fight.  Unfortunately I never fail, at the end of my run, to see at least one very large dog getting ‘fresh’ (that’s for you Silo) with the midget dog(s) outside my flat.
  • Over the winter the few, the proud and the incredibly dull formed an elite group of males who were responsible for ensuring that all inanimate objects were sufficiently propped up with enough backside to last the winter.  Now that the temperature has reached the melting point, the elite group has expanded to include the incredibly stupid in uncontested membership whose only requirement is that one possesses the intelligence of a Coke bottle and the jeans tight enough to cut off circulation.  That’s just another way of saying that my walks are no longer pleasant or quiet.
  • Last summer thanks to Murad and Elnor, Izzy Town was introduced (knocked over) to the joys of bicycling.  This spring has seen the birth of no less than a dozen bikes being operated in the city center (the only place with enough paved area) by dudes/kiddies.  In a highly amusing contrast the small bikes have overgrown pre-pubescent teenagers/dudes riding them while the slightly large bikes have 6th formers who can barely reach the peddles wobbling about in circus worthy follies.  A diabolic urge to reach out and push over bike and rider takes hold of me every time a tiny bike with a big dude zooms dangeriously close to lopping off my knee caps-I have rationalized this evil by considering it just retribution for the absolute distress most of the male population causes me every time I leave the flat.
  • The resurrection of affectionate nicknames generally relating to the color red that are bestowed upon me by my girls.  The following are a few of the things (blog appropriate) I have been called since landing, ungracefully and nervously 2 years ago in the AZ:


Pomidor (tomato-due to my skillz at burning all visible skin)

Girmazi Giz (red girl-again related to sun damage)

Kamala (smart-since Colleen was tooooo difficult to pronounce)

Englissss Giz (English girl-obviously I’m English since I speak English)

When Spain scored, the guards lining the field would stand up and stare at the fans with mean looks-most ingnored them, I took pictures.

This was the first football mach I’d ever attended, and it didn’t disappoint, hard core fans painted in Azeri colors(red, green, blue), a lone friend of mine proudly waving the Spanish flag, stern guards and free reign to photo whatever we wanted based solely on the fact that we were cute foreign girls! We had the police asking us to photograph them, were nearly trampled in a crowd rush at the gate, (que’ing has never been heard of), and then I caused 2 rows of mostly drunk Azeri/Turkish/Spanish men to fall silent/shamed/shocked when I turned and cussed at a deadbeat dude who thought blowing on my neck was the an appropriate way to woo me. Top night all around!

Yea, Real Madrid is not shabby looking. At. All.
(photos…eventually, as I was shooting with a LoMo likely wont have the funds to develop film for a while)

The 2008 !!!

June 6, 2009


Jan-June ’08
Volunteer Youth Group from School #1 with the special needs children; at the HA Park.Peace Corps Insider did a story about the children. This was one of the first big projects I did with youth, and for a fresh n00bie it was a lot to tackle; the kids from school#1 were amazing and really committed a lot of time to help the children at the hospital. Story associated with this project: February 2008: Blue and Failure

The last night in Tbilisi, GA.
March ‘08
(there are no pictures left from this trip since my computer crashed…check out FB)
Spent the afternoon on the private rooftop patio of the presidential suite of a prominent hotel watching the sun set and dangling my feet 90+ feet above traffic. Set out on a wander to find the underground brothel turned restaurant and somehow (due to me) ended up discovering an abandoned metro/tube stop that was connected to a mostly abandoned underground shopping center with a few barely alive strip joints. Unfortunately the rest of the group lacked a sense of adventure/taste for the underground, but was overwhelmingly apt at stating the obvious as evidenced by this little gem uttered at the top of a stairwell: ‘Its dark down here and it smells like pee.’
*slaps forehead with palm of hand*
Resigning myself to a small tantalizing glimpse of GA possibilities, (vowing to return sometime) we carried on and eventually found brothel turned restaurant due to shortcut taken through newly found abandoned metro/tube stop. I spent the remaining evening gawking at the stunning array of fascinating characters collected in the Kinkali House. This place makes it on the list of top places to eat, 7 levels, (6 of which are underground) faux maroon velvet everywhere, floor to ceiling mirrors, the Alco/smokes menu the same length as the food and the waitresses getting high in the restroom!

Feb. BurnOut

Feb. BurnOut

Feb. ‘08
In Baku at the now demolished Absheron, a seminal moment becasue it represents that Donny was out danced by someone (!!!) and was too tired to make it into bed. Found him at 7 am while out the door for a run. Its worthwhile to know that the both of us have been talking about/planning  a biking/hiking adventure (since waaaaay back in ’07) to foreign lands with possible hostile conditions. This is also noteworthy since I rarely talk about my friends, clearly showing that I am, in spite of my protest otherwise, a typical self-centered twenty-something.


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New Flat

Old houses, New Houses :Most of Spring, Summer and Fall of ’08
Was chased out of first house by crazy yelling xanim who wanted more money.
Ran for it and deposited myself in new yard house where life seemed better until the Landlady climbed up on the roof at 7am (To dry berries. Seriously.) and peaking in my window caught me doing yoga…in a sports bra and boy shorts. (At least her spying was rewarded)
Was kicked out of yard house by yelling Landlady and son, much to the amusement and general shock of 7 small children, 5 xanims, 4 old men, 3 housewives, and 2 taxi drivers who had gathered to watch the show once Landlady and Co. started yelling and my possessions appeared in a messy heap in the middle of Side Street 4.
Finding these types of things hysterical, I couldn’t help waving and blowing kisses to the audience as I drove away in a taxi.      Was officially kicked out the night before leaving on holiday, unsure if I’d have a place to live when returning, I was a bit keen on keeping my clothing… This was not only a stupid choice but also an embarrassing choice as the result was dragging around a Awful Bloody Hell Huge pack for 2 weeks in eastern countries and then 6 weeks of meetings after…then I gave up and threw away most of my clothes. Sometimes I’m a Low Slerner. (However, due to a great climbing buddy from MN, my clothing supply will soon be replenished to a PC level of excess.) With extra space/midget beds/pillows/blankets this means the flat has become the central hotel of ISM with a revolving door of scruffy PCV’s randomly showing up. This also means I expect a few of my more adventurous friends from outside the ‘Baijan to visit in the ‘09 before I leave. Make your reservations now.


The summer photography class. L-R Back to Front: Salguk, Torgul, Farqu, Gunel, Titi, Lili, Narmine
What an introduction to inside lives of youth in ISM. It started as a photography class, but turned into something akin to The OC: ‘Summer in the ‘Baijan Edition. The essays were sharp (the youngest in the class was 15) and at times difficult to read due to subject matter. I’m not sure what’s more surprising, that the youth really threw themselves into the project (I had doubts if they would actually be interested in participating) or that they started to really talk to me about their lives. (And the lives of everyone else in ISM.) The teens in ISM have the same issues as the teens in America, they just manifest/deal in a different way. Shocking, huh? The summer ended in a bit of sadness, with half the class leaving for university in Baku and the other half reluctantly returning to secondary school classes.


Istanbul, Turkey
June ‘08

Sitting on the edge of the Bospherus drinking Effs Dark with Rob, talking, laughing and just being; then hookah and an in-depth discussion of old boyfriends/old girlfriends…Talking shit to the confused hostel owner at 3 am, pissing him off and then not apologizing, of course (somehow I see a trend here…)  Rob and I share a talent for finding bad fashion, being inappropriate at the worst/best times, being mistaken for movie stars, being really really good looking and having a love/hate relationship with members of the opposite sex. I had not expected to miss my family; was surprised when I cried myself to sleep after saying goodbye at 3 am.



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July ‘08

A hyper mix of Azeri/American girls for one week at camp.  It could have been a recipe for disaster, but instead was a wonderful time of teaching teen girls how to be strong/independent/adventurous/caring/passionate leaders.  This project took up an enormous chunk of time and the efforts of around 20 PCV’s (just to acquire funding) which is entirely worth while when the girls, ages 14-17, learn new life skills.  For most Azeri girls, this is the first time they have been away from home with out their families and introduced to new concepts of ‘self worth’ and ‘individual abilities.’



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Aug. ’08 

L-R: Aching, Jody, Unkonown,Rikki, Sara,Kat, Jason, Colleen

In Laich, the day I rescued London Mark from the Clutches of  Wretched Sleeping Arrangements, Overpaying, and Language Innocence (by inviting him back to ISM and then spending 2 hours on the bus trying to teach him all the Azeri insults I knew.)  Unfortunately, we both left for adventures elsewhere in distant countries soon after his one night in ISM with 10 inebriated PCV’s, several sour bubbly 33’s and one smelly squat.




Aug. ‘08  (pictures on the way…)

Kiev/Moscow/Drains/WanderingAtNight/Hookah/Vodka-IronBru/HawtMen/Partical Colliders/VastIindustrialWastLand/Dirt/Gime/RedSquare/Happiness/JumpingFreightTrains/

DodegyUndergroundStructures/Best2Weeks/Metro/Indipendence Square/Nassssty/Dsankt/Siologen/Quantum-X    



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Sept. ’08

 Jason and I give Toy posing our best effort on his last night in the ‘Bajian before returning to Americastan.  Jody and I keep it hard core reprezenting the 4’s and 5’s!!  ‘I kess’es you, miss for you’ 

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WinterPhotoClass 002Fall/Winter Photography Class

 (a few of the kid’s photos) 

These kids are from the Russian sector of School #1.  Most of the first 2 weeks of ‘class’ wasDec08 001all of us figuring out how to communicate, eventually, we recruited Lili to translate, the boys stopped being scared, the girls stopped giggling and the group started snapping amazing pictures.













Current Location

The view out my kitchen window makes waking up worthwhile…if I actually fall asleep.

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131Summie WasteLand

Oct. ‘08(this is for you Steve, though apologizes; the picture is pathetic, yelling fat man wouldn’t let us get closer. I’m sure you remember this chyxana?)

Met up with a guy who had the paper, stamp of approval, signature, get out of jail free, VIP, Leet Ninja, hard hitting pass, approved by no less than an Azeri Government Branch allowing him free reign to go above/under/around/through Baku taking pictures.  Fortunately we were able to swap stories/tales/tips and spend 2 days photographing before he left for somewhere outside the ‘Baijan.153




























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The nails

The n00bs













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Ninja the Kitten as a centerfoldjan09 018


I like small helpless animals. I do not however like feral crazy animals.  While Ninja made a good show, he is, at the time of this post….Gone.  While he did boost my popularity with certain male volunteers (!!), he was kicked out recently (last Feb.’09) due to complications with HouseTraining. (There is a follow up story to this involving my mostly toothless landlady)





FreshMeat   Dec. ‘08    (pictures on the way…)The addition of 2 hot new site mates has boosted my ISM social calander by at least 90%.  The AZ6’s hold promise, Marina has perfected her ‘I’m Disinterested, Hot and Board as Hell’ Toy Photo Smile and I have already trained Tim in the “Maxium Obatinium of Free Food from Individuals Helpless to Rresist your Good Looks” skill. 

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Christmas Joy


In the SouthRegion of Lankeron with the lovely Katie, Nate, Jane, Tor, Whitney, G-Strap and Rache.   Mimosa and the gift from Jane of a sock animal to give me someone to talk to when she is not around .


New Years! (none of the pictures are blog safe. trust me.)

Madness, of course.  It started with a French Man, stumbling over train tracks, a package, hair dye, and climbing over a fence, it ended with a Belgian Pilot, counting down to New Years 7 times, a Blizzard, a coffee shop, 2 nights on the PCLounge Floor and dressing like Xanims from the clothing stash on the bathroom floor.


JC in the AZ!!

June 4, 2009

April-May09 082 Warning: This post will be updated as we travel this summer.  The back story is too long for practical purposes, but its enough to say that Action Figure Jesus has Glow in the Dark Hands and some Loaves/Fishes.


    Close of Service at AquaPark!——>

marchapril-09-0291 Pay 1 AZN and you get a picture with a badly taxidermied wolf who has foldable legs and light up red eyes. WIN!! The wolf’s owner is a senile business genius!

marchapril-09-025 Think outside the box….

marchapril-09-016I will miss pointy toe shoes

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Walking on water is still RAD!!


March.April 09 041Wine is better…

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Pearly Whites!



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Get your smoke on…

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