and you thought I forgot how to write….

December 5, 2010

It’s just past Thanksgiving- I’ve lived in Baku for 3 months and not once have I actually felt the desire to visit Ismailli. Harsh perhaps, but, Baku with its busyness and grime and smog still has its appeal after 3 years of calm and living at a slow pace.

Teaching: There are several things that I have realized since starting work mid September. I’m once again very glad I don’t have kids. My job, when it comes down to it, is basically corralling and taming 15 5 year olds and the odd group of rampantly hormonal teenagers. As if I’d want to return home to corral more little ones? Not that I don’t like ‘my kids’ as I call them, in fact, I adore the little ones (and teens) I teach. I just like having the separation between work and home to stay that way. Although, nothing says happy like finger painting with kids and having them create fantastic monsters. Second realization is that I actually do *gasp* like teaching. In fact, I’ve taught all my 5 year olds that the proper way to greet me is ‘Hello Ms. Colleen’ followed by a knuckle bump. This has worked swimmingly well (and confused all local teachers) until the other day I realized that due to the height difference between a 28 year old woman and a 5 year old, I had basically taught a group of toddlers to give the Black Panther Salute every time they saw me. Ooops?!

Besides teaching: The 3 months of living here have been an exercise in reorganizing my life and basically trying to do everything I missed out on while in Ismailia. For example. I’m still obsessed by the availability of hot water. All. Day. Long. Please note that the last flat I had in Ismailli only had running water for 1 hour each day. Yea, that means I NOW shower a lot. Just because I can. This has also carried into the acquisition of Wi-Fi in my flat and the presence of a wash machine. Basically it comes down to me doing ALOT of laundry and showering and faffing about Facebook/RandomNoobUberXtremeExploreSite. Thankfully, I have it on good authority that being excited every time you turn on the tap gradually wears off, that wash machines lose their glitter in a few months and that Facebook/RandomNoobUberXtremeExploreSite is highly dull once you’re done insulting people. There is always hope.

I love my flat. We managed to find digs that somehow combine high ceilings/old architecture with new appliances/wiring in a wicked location-on one of the main streets in Baku, just outside Fountain Square. My room has a balcony that overlooks an Orthodox church court yard-the other balcony over looks the main street. There are 3 yard Pshiks(cats) (collectively owned by all residences) that live in our courtyard and are without doubt the fattest, happiest Pshiks in Baku. Names for all have yet to be bestowed, but in honor of the ‘Georgian Adventure’, I have named the fluffiest black/white one ‘Mishka2.0’. 🙂 Recently we held a housewarming party with enough win on several fronts to not only receive the declaration of ‘You are so hipster’ (correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the declaration of such, a negation of the compliment?) but also fund the renovation of our courtyard liquor store (who says Baku doesn’t cater to the customer? We have our shopkeeper well trained to stay open until 4am and keep Baltika9 in stock), break my bed again (Please see Mike’s statement of crushing disappointment in regards to Soviet bed construction) and restock our empty liquor cabinet-this has led to obvious cooking adventures(in honor of my favorite Frenchmen now living in Londontown): How many shots of straight gin can I take while making Hummus?(answer: I can’t count that high) How long does it take 2 people to polish off ½ bottle of tequila while eating cheese-[wait, that wasn’t cooking?!] – (answer: less time than we thought)

Since being chased by a random dimwitted gob in Ismailli last October, I’d stopped running in my town-instead running when ever I went to visit other volunteers in other regions. Now I’m back to tearing up pavement and doing my best to get back in fighting form. I found 2 running partners who regularly kick my ass damm near every morning at 6.30-the view from the Eternal Flame at 7AM never fails to make me unreasonably happy. Against my better judgment I now run/imbibe with the Hash-and as such have acquired an unsavory nickname, the ability to chug a 33 and enough mad skill to generally dodge buses/cars/chalk wielding British men. I’d forgotten how simply wonderful running is-the endorphins are indescribable (on par with climbing) and it has helped satiate my adrenalin rush addiction.

Though that is still a slight problem. During the recent construction (clusterfuck) on my street all the manhole covers and rings were pulled up and new shiny smooth, non-crusty ones were installed. There was about a week when, along the street every manhole was wide and gaping-the Sewerfresh was everywhere-alas the smell was a tease-trust me, I peered down nearly every one (much to the amusement of all pedestrians) only to discover that the RCP was too shallow to allow anything bigger than a rat further than the shaft. Fail. Though, in my runs I’ve noticed several possibilities of underground tastiness and have heard the rushing of drain water. Let’s hope they deliver. Baku has yet to be cracked, shameful after living in this country for so long…A year without drains/underground is like… (You witty types come up with something and there might be a t-shirt in the deal) Lest you think I’ve gone legit and upstanding: while Baku might not offer up her underground, she has offered up her heights, and such lovely heights they are! (standby for the required ‘Im so hardcore gangsta sign throwing, ill posing, adrenalin spewing’ snaps that couchtoppers drool over!)

A (my partner in all art crimes) and I gave our melding of artistic genius one last airing. Leaving our fine men behind-safe in the confines of a flat, surrounded by a Zombie TV show, with no chance for making out/fights-we unleashed our last collaborative set of public art-more savvy this time ‘round, we avoided awkward 2am phone calls to security personal, mortifying sound bites from my mouth, and being hit on by Baku’s (non)Finest.

The transition from volunteer to working was/has been a tad more difficult than I had thought/anticipated. Unfortunately there is a stigma associated with being a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’m tired of people referring to me as the ‘no-longer Peace Corps now working in Baku’. Hell, just say I’m a teacher and get on with it. People expect me to be bitter about PC or to have a complex. Maybe I do, maybe not, I don’t know. Besides having an epic books worth of ridiculous/asinine/shocking/horrifically funny stories, I haven’t quite sorted out how I can use my PC experience to advantage in my next adventure. What skills have I acquired: Ability to Battle rats? Check. Evade police? Check. Survive without water/electricity/heat? Check. Cuss words at the ready in 5 languages? Check….

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