Shaking off the Titanic doom cloud wasn’t difficult-good parties/conversation/wine having a tendency to do that-and I tripped into Monday with enough optimism to annoy the generally dull.  This lasted until Tuesday mid morning when upon answering the door, I was greeted by my landlord and had the following conversation:

Landlord: (looking down) Can you move tomorrow morning? I have just sold the house to another family.

C: (shocked) No.

L: (exasperated) Why not?

C: (scarcastic) I don’t have another house.

L: (confused) Why not?

C: (exasperated) I didn’t know I needed another one, I live here.

L: (stubbornly) This is my house.

C: (internally screams ‘no s@#$ Sherlock’!) I know.

This comedy of each of us having a separate conversation on different topics carried on for 20min-L refused to believe that I didn’t have another house and I refused to just leave after having paid the March rent. Eventually, as it happens in most conflicts, each side thinks its won by letting the other side thinks it’s won. We parted on pretend compromise with him promising to help and not kick me out until another flat was found. Closing the door, I was oddly enough not thinking about where I would eventually have to move, but that, it was certain now, there was no hope left for the laptop; how could there be? 

L told me that my co-worker had indeed died in Baku.

Computer Whiz Russian Guy wasn’t on hand when I walked  in to collect what I hoped to be a marginally functioning computer.  It was alive, in the sense that Zombies are alive- lacking any brain activity but a desire to consume my data and make unintelligible error messages.   Its worth noting that was the first time (and everyone hopes the absolute last time) I cried  in public in front of AZ men; men who’s leers quickly became looks of confused puzzlement -common reaction among men of both AZ/USA citizenship when females unleash the eye fountains.  Sheepishly embarrassed I mumbled something about ‘very bad cold allergy tired much have’ whereupon the confused trio of geeks fell over themselves to rummage for napkins-I left soon after, clutching a wad of snotty napkins and my computer bag.

What to do?  Running clothes in ISM.  My headlamps as well. The ability to smile reduced to an annoying desire (developed in the 30 min walk back to TheFlat from the computer repair shop) to verbal vomit my woes to anyone within ear shot. Adrenalin. Heights. Fine Men. Running. Photography. Public Art(aka graffiti-before you get the shap-shaps in a bundle, lets be clear, I’m not talking about scrawled genitalia  on phone booths,  various scrawled nicknames for genitalia, cuss words rendered abstractly on already dirty surfaces or any of the piss paint ‘’ that clutters every reachable surface- I’m talking art. Good art.  In public.) All the top choices to let my troubles go are usually/mostly inaccessible in Baku and AZ at large.   However upon returning to TheFlat and digging out my sketchbook, a solution presented itself that could include at least 3 of the previous mentioned stress reducers.  A and I had planned for just such a time (in case life was going arse over tits or swimmingly) by making sure we had various pieces for a collaboration (the genius spawn of creativity) at our fingertips.

Gathered around drinks and taking stock later that night/early the next morning around 5am, we were pleased to discover that Adrenalin, Fine Men and Public Art combined nicely, though not in the way we, or our Fine Men had expected.

Thanks to Eye and Ear Candy from my Frenchman, the next weeks were a downpour of fresh sights and sounds covering up (in the waking hours of down time) the demented chickens and crying puppies occupying  the rubbish heap outside my kitchen door. Feril animals who have precisely timed the launching of their rows to occur between 2-6am at 30 min intervals.   With spring springing, my dreams have been fussed up wildly by visions of chickens with fangs, dogs in flack jackets and screaming shadowy figures.   The upside to this is that my outpouring of creative juxitiposions of images/objects (in photography/college/drawing) has expanded to include a new series highlighting my absolute distaste for fowl and the mistreatment of animals.  Coming soon to a public place, where you are not.


The days leading up to a holiday are always drawn out:  electricity is out, flat is frozen, which hasn’t diminished the smell of rat piss and insta-concrete newly splashed into the holes in my floor, opening my kitchen door to the yard I nearly fall into a fresh pile of chicken squirt artfully arranged on my stoop, I hate chickens, they eat the rubbish spilling from the sad metal trash bin, which no one is skilled enough to actually aim trash into, too bad the cross eye cat doesn’t live near by, I contemplate the ramifications of cat napping a cross eyed cat and letting him lose on my rats, the cat being the only thing I will ever miss from what I have decided to call the ‘H0H0House’ due to my sterling, yet fictional reputation and skill (again false) to be in 2 regions at once, do actual ‘LadiesOfTheNight’ get this much crap(?), likely not, as they provide a ‘valuable service’ (according to collective thought)  to the ignorant and repressed, even the taxi drivers provide a valuable service, without them , I’d have nothing to cuss at, nothing to blame for bad days and the fact that I’ve been standing, looking out on a field of trash, feral animals, concrete blocks, car skeletons and a lone cow for over 15 min, in danger of contracting some hideous disease from the chicken shit due to being barefoot since the laundry I washed 4 days ago refuses to dry, and who can blame it, I have no heat, and being a girl lack the wrist strength to effectively ring out wool, in the next 15 min my lower half goes numb from the rotting wind and I’m still staring, my mind wandering to the cash one could have by inventing: (1.) quick dry wool socks, (2.) vodka that didn’t make you vomit, (3.) rat poison that disposed of and killed the rat, and (4.) taxi drivers with all their teeth; the black puppy that has chosen my stairwell as home starts crying, running, and barking, the neighbors, cry, slam and run overhead in response, I haven’t met them yet, have tried not to meet them, have imposed a barrier of a bent head, a low hat, a loud ipod to prevent an introduction, there is no need, 6 times before I have been nice, made cake, drank tea, looked at pictures, taken pictures, smiled and listened, 6 times before I have been vilified, trashed, laughed at, wrongfully accused, gossiped about; have been retold, invented and created into a person that not even closely resembles me, even if all adrenalin seeking antics from my pre AZ life are accounted for, there is no need for me to be nice anymore, perhaps its bitter, perhaps I’m burnt out, perhaps I’ve learned, three cups of tea be dammed, I cannot be perma-nice, though, given the current dressing trends, it is possible to be perma-stuck-in-a-bad-80’s-fashion-vortex, I might even like chickens if they had blue spiky hair, it would at least brighten up the view, little blue blobs running everywhere, my toes are now blue, and the sky gray (how cliché) its too depressing to sand here anymore, its only 1 week ‘till its all faded a bit and I’m home and home for a month of the easy, predictable…clean…warm…


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

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.

Jellied Wasps

I had noticed several dark chunks floating around in the amber colored sugary delight, but assumed they were cloves. And then it happened, a crunchy bit, a bitter taste…and the horror of realizing the dark bits were not cloves but Wasps!!(Or possibly some other flying Azeri insect of doom) I gagged and ran to the trash, but my stupid body (again) wouldn’t puke on command (at this point, 7 months in, I’m convinced my body is waging war against me and would like nothing better then to make me miserable for the next 2 years by refusing to vomit nasssty (that’s for Ds and Siolo) substances that accidentally go down) I was left standing helpless, with dreadful images of evil wasp legs clinging to the insides of my stomach. All of this wouldn’t be so bad, (considering my past tussle with worms) other than upon digging around in the mass of jellied figs on my plate, I discovered damm near an entire hive (complete with more wasps, larva, legs, and wings) floating in suspended animation on the plate. Unfortunately, I had told my host mom that I really liked the jelly (which I did, minus the flying insects) and the next morning she sat me down and commanded me to eat a plate of jelly. It was hard to not eat it when she was watching (I knew there were wasp body parts lurking that had cleverly disguised themselves as cloves) so I tried not to gage and only eat a pin size dollop which only drew attention to the fact that I wasn’t scoping massive quantities of jelly into my mouth with wild abandon, which then offended my host mom, and frustrated me because I don’t know how to say: “I cant eat wasps!!” So to avoid a repeat situation all together, I stopped eating breakfast (for 2 weeks) until the jelly was gone, because every time I’d see a dish of the jellied figs all I could think about was Wasp legs flossing my teeth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Horney Chickens

The chickens are fascinating, really, the amount that they squawk, mate (almost as frequently as the ROUS’s), run about, squirt (on my shoes), and attack, leads me to believe they lead very busy, if not easy lives. Since my first initial accidental observation of the chickens mating, I have been privileged to witness on no less than 5 occasions, the naughty chickens horney shenanigans. I find this annoyingly hysterical and virtually impossible to avoid/ignore, since they literally wait until I’m looking out the window, or walking to work to start up a scene complete with blood curdling clucking, wing flapping and hopping. At some point in time I shall become scarred for life, but for now, it still sends me into peals of laughter. When considered, I’m sure that admitting that chickens mating is funny, not only discredits myself, but also speaks to some long buried awful sense of humor and paints me to have the maturity level of a 10 year old. I guess, I’m alight with that since I’m making it very public, and that on most occasions, if not laughing at the absurd Chicken Porn, I’d be crying in dismay at how strange my life is

December: Iki

February 14, 2008

My holiday started out with me looking up mid motorcycle/moon boot zip up to see the chickens mating in my yard.  Fascinated in a ‘its so strange/weird/awful/wretched/awkward/funny that you cant look away’ way I remained transfixed for a good 30 seconds until my host sister walked out the front door and collided with my bent over ‘battery’ (my host sisters way of saying ‘Butt’) and nearly caused me to tumble down 5 steps to the yard.  Not sure if this was a sign of things to happen, or simply the naughty chicken’s way of saying goodbye, (either one being rather disturbing if you think about it) I finished zipping my boots and made all sorts of haste to the Avtovaqzal.  Safely on my bus to modern Baku, I was suddenly struck by the thought “Chickens hop when mating, weird, weird, WEIRD!!!!’ and then I laughed.


Considering the start, my holiday was free of anything abnormally strange.

I spent a nice Christmas Eve with Matt, and drank bubbly adult beverages.  Christmas was a combination of sadness (which I couldn’t explain then, I don’t want to be back in MN and want to be here, why be sad?  But which in retro was simply me missing the atmosphere of spending the holidays with my family and friends and not being on display) and joy (having a family in all of AZ5).  Christmas morning I sat with Matt in a coffee shop watching Baku residents stroll by (I’m perfectly fine with sounding cliché since that’s exactly what we did, and saying: ‘We reposed on sofas while imbibing warm café lattes while observing the diverse populace of Baku meander their way to various destinations’ sounds even worse) and then in the afternoon I was with Katie Amazing in an Azeri salon.  After much talking, a bit of yelling, and the help of Shams via mobile, both Katie and I were able to convey what we desired for our lovely locks.  I had red RED streaks put in my hair and Katie chose a combination of brown, blond and a bit of copper.  The color was simply gorgeous, however, while Azeri salons may have the hair dye down, (I have never seen so many shades of red) they are sadly stuck in BIG 80’s hair (think Metallica, Guns and Roses) when it comes to trimming ones mane.  I think the cut Katie received could be worked with; she however, was not convinced, voicing something about ‘layers all over and a long euro trash mullet.’  Christmas night was spent in the hotel lounge with the rest of AZ5, we listened to Christmas music, drank champagne, exchanged gifts, ate (real) pizza and generally acted like Americans far away from home who are letting their hair down a bit.


In all, showering (mostly) every day, being warm, talking with American Friends in English, and having time to think was so wonderful, I didn’t have time to be down and enjoyed the time to be/act myself/relax which included but was not limited to the following: talking with Donny about books,(Three Cups of Tea  is required reading for those of you who understand there is a purpose to your life beyond making money to buy things) cooking Mexican food with Maria, Kat and I smooching Ram, watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with Steve (and having Ram insert random facts about Indians), defending Coffee against Tea, wearing my favorite skull shirt (I look hot, alright.), talking with Siologen about drains, sending champagne influenced text messages to everyone at Azeri New Years, getting nasty sick in a Taxi, dancing with Mariko, winning the Horseradish Mustard Eating Contest, opening Christmas Boxes with Katie Amazing, hugging Joe (and providing band-aids)and sleeping as little as possible.

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